Les Misérables (2012)

Released: December 21, 2012
Label: Universal Republic

Cast: Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Russell Crowe (Javert), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), Marius (Eddie Redmayne), Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), Eponine (Samantha Barks), Thénardier (Sacha Baron Cohen), Madame Thénardier (Helena Bonham Carter), Isabelle Allen ([YOUNG] Cosette), Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche), Colm Wilkinson (The Bishop)

Libretti by: Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schönberg
Trevor Nunn & John Caird (English adaptation)
Lyrics by: Alain Boublil & Jean-Marc Natel
Herbert Kretzmer (English adaptation)
Music by: Claude-Michel Schönberg

» Act One

01. Look Down *
02. The Bishop
03. Valjean’s Soliloquy *
04. At The End Of The Day *
05. The Docks (Lovely Ladies)
06. I Dreamed A Dream
07. Fantine’s Arrest *
08. Who Am I? *
09. Fantine’s Death *
10. The Confrontation *
11. Castle On A Cloud
12. Master Of The House
13. The Bargain *
14. Suddenly *
15. The Convent *
16. Stars
17. Paris / Look Down
18. The Robbery *
19. ABC Café / Red & Black
20. In My Life *
21. A Heart Full Of Love
22. On My Own
23. One Day More *

» Act Two

01. Do You Hear The People Sing?
02. Building The Barricade
03. Javert At The Barricade
04. The First Attack
05. Little Fall Of Rain
06. Drink With Me
07. Bring Him Home *
08. The Death Of Gavroche
09. The Final Battle
10. The Sewers *
11. Javert’s Suicide
12. Turning
13. Empty Chairs At Empty Tables
14. A Heart Full Of Love [REPRISE] *
15. Valjean’s Confession *
16. Suddenly [REPRISE]
17. The Wedding
18. Beggars At The Feast
19. Epilogue *


An asterisk (*) denotes a song featuring Hugh.

» Synopsis

The following synopses are for the film adaptation of the musical, Les Misérables.
Although the film is not split into two acts, I’ve summarized them in the same style as the stage show.

ACT ONE. In Bagne prison in Toulon, France, in 1815, the prisoners work at hard labour (WORK SONG), hauling a massive ship into a dry dock. After 19 years in prison (five for stealing bread for his starving sister’s son and her family, and the rest for trying to escape), Jean Valjean, “prisoner 24601,” is released on parole by the policeman Javert. By law, Valjean must display a yellow ticket-of-leave, which identifies him as an ex-convict (ON PAROLE). Valjean is turned away by many people due to him being a convict. However, The Bishop of Digne offers him food and shelter. Overnight, Valjean steals silver from the bishop, and the police catch him. The Bishop lies to save Valjean and not only lets him keep the silver he stole, but also gives him two more valuable candlesticks. The Bishop tells Valjean that he must use the silver “to become an honest man” and that he has “bought [Valjean’s] soul for God” (VALJEAN ARRESTED, VALJEAN FORGIVEN). Ashamed of what he did, yet humbled by the bishop’s mercy and kindness, Valjean follows the Bishop’s advice and tears up his yellow ticket, breaking his parole (VALJEAN’S SOLILOQUY / WHAT HAVE I DONE?).

Eight years later, Valjean has assumed a new identity as Monsieur Madeleine, a wealthy factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. One of his workers, Fantine, has a fight when another worker discovers she is sending money to her secret illegitimate daughter, Cosette, who lives with an innkeeper and his wife (AT THE END OF THE DAY). Fantine and the worker fight, and the Mayor breaks up the conflict but asks his factory foreman to resolve it. The other women demand Fantine’s dismissal, and because she had previously rejected his advances, the foreman throws Fantine out. Desperate for money, she sells her locket, her hair, and her back teeth before becoming a prostitute (LOVELY LADIES). After sleeping with her first customer, Fantine reflects on her broken dreams and about her lover, who left her and her daughter (I DREAMED A DREAM). When she fights back against an abusive customer (Bamatabois), Javert, now a police inspector stationed in Montreuil-sur-Mer, arrests her (FANTINE’S ARREST). The Mayor arrives and, realizing his part in the ruination of Fantine, orders Javert to let her go and takes her to a hospital.

Soon afterwards, the Mayor rescues Fauchelevent, who is pinned by a runaway cart (THE RUNAWAY CART); this reminds Javert of the abnormally strong Jean Valjean, whom he has sought for years for breaking parole. However, Javert assures the Mayor that Valjean has been arrested recently (actually a man named Champmathieu). At first, Valjean thinks the man could be his chance to escape his past life, but unwilling to see an innocent man go to prison in his place, Valjean confesses his identity to the court (WHO AM I?). At the hospital, a delirious Fantine thinks Cosette is in the room with her. Valjean arrives and promises to Fantine he will find and look after her daughter (COME TO ME / FANTINE’S DEATH). Happy upon hearing this, Fantine dies. Suddenly, Javert confronts Valjean. Valjean asks Javert for three days to fetch Cosette, but Javert refuses to believe his honest intentions. They suddenly argue, and it is revealed that Javert “was born inside a jail” (THE CONFRONTATION). Valjean wards off Javert with a “sword” fight before escaping.

Meanwhile, in Montfermeil, the rascally innkeepers, the Thénardiers, have been working and abusing little Cosette, while indulging their own daughter, Éponine. Cosette dreams of a better life, and imagines “a room that’s full of toys” full of “a hundred boys and girls” and “a lady all in white” (CASTLE ON A CLOUD). Mme. Thénardier arrives and angrily accusses Cosette of “slacking,” and orders Cosette to retrieve water from the woods. Afraid of going alone, Cosette does not leave. Mme. Thénardier warns her to go or she will “forget to be nice,” so she leaves. The Thénardiers cheat their customers in various ways together, despite Mme. Thénardier showing contempt for her husband (MASTER OF THE HOUSE). Valjean finds Cosette in the woods and accompanies her back to the inn (THE WELL SCENE). He offers the Thénardiers payment to take her away, and informs them of Fantine’s death (THE BARGAIN). The Thénardiers pretend to have concern for Cosette, and they tell Valjean his “intentions may not be correct,” so he pays them 1,500 Francs to let him take her away. They accept the money, and Valjean and Cosette leave for Paris (THE WALTZ OF TREACHERY). Hearing word from the bargain, Javert catches up to Valjean and Cosette, chasing them. After they evade his capture, he stands before the Notre Dame de Paris and promises his ongoing quest to return the convict to prison (STARS). Valjean and Cosette seek refuge at a convent, where Fauchelevent now works.

Ten years later, Paris is in upheaval because General Lamarque, the only man in the government who shows mercy to the poor, is ill and may soon die. The young street urchin Gavroche mingles with the prostitutes and beggars on the street, while students Marius Pontmercy and Enjolras discuss the general’s imminent demise (LOOK DOWN). The Thénardiers have since lost their inn, and Thénardier now leads a street gang. They prepare to con some charitable visitors who are about to arrive, who are Valjean and Cosette. While mingling among with her father and dispensing money to those in needs, Cosette finds Marius in the crowd. The two lock eyes and fall in love at first sight. Valjean is ushered in by Thénardier for donations, and Mme. Thénardier immediately recognizes the visitor as Valjean. With his gang, Thénardier ambush him. Javert thwarts the Thénardiers’ attempt to rob Valjean and Cosette, not recognizing Valjean until after Valjean takes Cosette and escapes. Thénardier informs Javert that he recognized the man as Valjean (JAVERT’S INTERVENTION). Meanwhile, Éponine remembers Cosette from when they were children. Marius persuades Éponine to help him find Cosette. Despite her own romantic feelings for him, she reluctantly agrees to help (ÉPONINE’S ERRAND).

At a small café, Enjolras prepares a group of idealistic students for a revolution (THE ABE CAFÉ – RED AND BLACK); a plan further exacerbated when Gavroche brings the news of General Lamarque’s death. At Valjean and Cosette’s house, Cosette thinks about Marius. Although Valjean realizes that Cosette has grown up, he refuses to tell her about his past or her mother’s. Éponine leads Marius to Cosette (RUE PLUMET – IN MY LIFE). Marius and Cosette introduce themselves and declare their mutually strong and true romantic love feelings for each other, while Éponine sadly watches them (A HEART FULL OF LOVE). She suddenly sees her father and his gang attempting to rob Valjean’s house, and stops them by screaming (THE ATTACK ON RUE PLUMET). Valjean hears the scream, and Cosette tells him that she was the one who screamed. Valjean, believing that Javert was outside his house, tells Cosette that they must flee the country. Éponine, having observed the courtship between Marius and Cosette, reminisces as she walks to the café brimmed with students (ON MY OWN).

On the eve of the 1832 Paris Uprising, Valjean prepares to go into exile; Cosette and Marius sadly part in despair; Éponine mourns the loss of Marius; Enjolras encourages all of Paris to join the revolution as he and the other students prepare for the upcoming conflict, building weapons; after pondering whether to follow where Cosette is going or join the other students, Marius eventually joins the other students and informs he will fight with them; Éponine, planning on infiltrating the barricades, bandages her breasts to help disguise herself as a boy; Javert briefs the soldiers under his command while he reveals his plans to spy on the students; and the Thénardiers hide among the students while taunting their efforts. Everyone ponders what this “tomorrow” will bring (ONE DAY MORE).

ACT TWO. Inspired by the news of General Lamarque’s death, the students march into the streets to rally the people into joining their revolution (DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING?) As the students begin a barricade, Javert, disguised as one of the rebels, volunteers to “spy” on the government troops. When he returns, the disguised Javert tells the students that the government will attack (JAVERT’S ARRIVAL). Gavroche exposes him as a spy, and the students detain him (LITTLE PEOPLE). After hearing soldiers approaching, the students man themselves at the barricade. When asked “Who’s there?,” Enjolras answers “French revolution,” causing the army to attack. Seeing that Marius is about to be shot, Éponine throws herself in front of the musket and takes the blow instead (THE FIRST ATTACK). Marius threatens to blow up the barricade with a barrel of gunpowder, which prompts the army to pull back. He then discovers a wounded Éponine, still disguised as a boy. As Marius holds her, she gives him the letter written by Cosette and assures him that she feels no pain despite the gunshot, then dies in his arms (A LITTLE FALL OF RAIN).

After reading the letter, Marius writes a response and recruits Gavroche to deliver it to Cosette. Having opened the door to great Gavroche, Valjean receives the letter first and reads it, where he learns about Marius and Cosette’s romantic relationship. He then vows to protect Marius for Cosette’s sake. Disguised as a soldier, Valjean arrives at the barricades in search of Marius (NIGHT OF ANGUISH). He is not trusted at first, until he signals a sniper on the roof and saves the students’ lives. Valjean asks Enjolras to be the one to kill the imprisoned Javert, and Enjolras grants his request. As soon as Valjean and Javert are alone, Valjean orders Javert to leave the barricades. Javert warns Valjean that if he releases him, he will still arrest him. Valjean says there are no “conditions” to letting him go, and holds no blame toward him. Valjean gives his address to Javert, and Javert leaves. Valjean shoots his weapon in the air to make the students think he had executed Javert. The students settle down for the night and reminisce. Marius mourns over Cosette, and Valjean overhears him (DRINK WITH ME). As Marius sleeps, Valjean pleads to God to save Marius from the onslaught that is to come (BRING HIM HOME).

As dawn approaches, Enjolras realizes that the people of Paris have abandoned the rebels. He informs the rest of the students that they are the only barricade left and encourages those who wish to leave the barricades (DAWN OF ANGUISH). Because of damaged gunpowder from the evening rain, Gavroche climbs to the other side of the barricades to gather ammunition for the students from the dead bodies strewn about, but – after some teasing – is shot dead by the soldiers (DEATH OF GAVROCHE). Enjolras and the students realize that they will likely die. The army gives a final warning to surrender, but the rebels vow to “pay for every man.” A battle ensues. As the soldiers close in on the barricade, the students seek safety from locals, but are locked out to fend for themselves. They eventually get chased into the café, where most are shot down. Valjean seeks out a wounded Marius and drags him to safety. Only Enjolras remains at the top floor, standing before the open window with red flag in hand, when the sleeping Grantaire awakens and joins him in their united death (THE FINAL BATTLE).

Carrying Marius on his back, Valjean escapes into the sewers. Javert inspects the carnage from the battle, noting the young dead bodies — notably, Gavroche. Observing the open sewer gate, he correctly assumes Valjean’s escape route. Thénardier, also in the sewers, has been looting bodies. He takes a ring off Marius’ “corpse” as Valjean is passed out from the fall into the sewers, and is then demanded directions for the exit when Valjean startles awake. When Valjean reaches the sewer’s exit, he runs into Javert, who has been waiting for him. Valjean begs Javert to give him one hour to bring Marius to a doctor, and Javert reluctantly agrees. Because Valjean saved his life, Javert cannot bring himself to arrest Valjean. Unable to fit Valjean’s behavior into his own strict code of right and wrong and good and evil, Javert commits suicide by throwing himself into the Seine (JAVERT’S SUICIDE).

Women mourn the deaths of the young students as they clean the bloodied streets (TURNING) as Marius mourns for his friends (EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY TABLES). Cosette comforts him, and they reaffirm their strong, blossoming romance. Valjean realizes that Cosette “was never [his] to keep” and gives them his blessing (EVERY DAY). Shortly thereafter, Valjean confesses to Marius that he is an escaped convict and must go away because his presence endangers Cosette (VALJEAN’S CONFESSION). Valjean makes Marius promise never to tell Cosette, and Marius makes only a half-hearted attempt to hold him back. Marius and Cosette marry (WEDDING CHORALE). The Thénardiers crash the reception in disguise as “The Baron and Baroness du Thénard.” Thénardier insinuates to Marius that Valjean is a murderer, saying that he saw him carrying a corpse in the sewers after the barricades fell. When Thénardier shows him the ring that he took from the corpse, Marius realizes that Valjean saved his life. Marius strikes Thénardier, the newlyweds leave, and the Thénardiers are dragged out of the wedding (BEGGARS AT THE FEAST).

Meanwhile, Valjean prepares for his death in a convent, having nothing left to live for. The spirit of Fantine appears to him, thanking him for raising her only daughter, and tells him she’s taking him to Heaven. Cosette and Marius rush in to bid farewell, so Valjean thanks God for letting him live long enough to see Cosette again. Marius thanks him for saving his life. (EPILOGUE – VALJEAN’S DEATH). Valjean gives Cosette his confession to read all about his troubled past and her mother Fantine, and the spirits of Fantine and the Bishop of Digne guide him to Heaven, where those who have died at the barricades ask once more, their dreams now realized in the afterlife: DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING? [REPRISE]

» Do You Hear the People Sing Live on Film?

It has always been my dream that if Les Mis ever became a movie the actors would sing live, ever since I saw Alan Parker’s great film The Commitments and discovered that several sequences were recorded live as indeed were three scenes in his film of Evita. Indeed, as recording technology has become so sophisticated, I have stopped recording my stage musicals in studios and now record the productions live in the theatre with terrific results. The very first show that I recorded live was the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995. However no one has ever tried to do this with a complete musical film before. Normally the actors and the orchestra reared the dongs before the film starts, and during filming the actors lip-sync to the previously recorded tracks — usually exciting musically but often dramatically uninvolving when in a non showbiz context. With a story as dramatically visceral as Les Mis, the old way simply wouldn’t have worked as the actors needed to be recorded in the dramatic moment. When director Tom Hooper approached Working Title in 2010 to say he was interested in directing the film I was thrilled when he told me that he too passionately wanted to record the actors live.

Though it was a visit to the original production of Les Mis at the Queen’s Theatre that sparked off Tom’s interest in turning this legendary musical into a film, it was the contemporary bite of the new orchestration for the 25th Anniversary production that convinced him to make them the basis of the film’s musical soundtrack.

When Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and I had our first proper working meeting with Tom in New York in the summer of 2011, the first surprise we had was Tom’s insistence that we get involved in delivering all the changes he wanted to make for the film, and that screenwriter Bill Nicholson’s new material be folded into the show’s original musical structure rather than vice versa. Over several months we all worked with Tom around the piano pulling the show apart, adding new scenes, sharpening up and fleshing out others, adapting the score and even adding a new song. None of us wanted to simply put the show on the screen, but rather to reinvent the material as a movie in its own right. Easily said but harder to achieve, as the driving force of our musical adaptation is Claude-Michel’s extraordinary and dramatic score that is truly operatic in structure. The end result was a new piano recording of the film version that was ready by Christmas 2011 which Tom took into rehearsals.

To gather the live performances, brilliant sound recordist Simon Hayes chose a tiny earpiece that could receive enough sound for the actors to hear the electric piano as they sung on set, but ensure the microphones would only pick up the voice. Each number as it was filmed was recorded 10/15 times in a day, over and over, meticulously click-tracked and policed by sound editor Gerard McCann so that Tom could edit between the huge amount of takes and camera angles he demanded from his actors. It was painstaking and grueling work for all concerned but the end result was something unique and gritty, in its way as revolutionary as Victor Hugo’s original story. Once Tom had completed his first edit it became clear that we were in a “chicken and egg situation”; we needed a final edit to ensure the film score felt as seamless as it does in the theatre, yet Tom and his extraordinarily gifted editor Melanie Ann Oliver couldn’t finesse their final cut until the score was driving the movie. However wonderful the visuals and performances on the screen, their power and effectiveness could only be released through the music; conversely, the orchestration needed to be fine-tuned to reflect the wonderful performances and drama on the screen. So bit by bit the process inched its way back and forth, as however much preparation and synthesised prototypes we had, it wasn’t until we were in the recording studio with our superb musicians that we were able to ascertain what really worked and what didn’t.

Thanks to Claude-Michel tirelessly adjusting his composition and creating new music with his brilliant orchestrators Anne Dudley and Stephen Metcalfe (adapting his own O2 concert orchestration) we went into Air Studios (on a hairily tight schedule) with some of Britain’s finest musicians, conducted by the film’s outstanding Musical Director, Stephen Brooker, and a thrilling and different orchestration. Even at this late stage Tom’s film was still evolving and during this orchestration process he remained indefatigable — forensically prodding and driving the team to find the specific qualities that the final cut demanded.

Our orchestrators sweated and the copyists had many sleepless nights as our tireless music recorder and mixer Jonathan Allen at Abbey Road raced against the clock with his team, masterfully pulling out the best of the live singing takes and orchestral performances until Tom and I were satisfied we had the very best of what had been recorded.

Now it was time for Andy Nelson, one of the world’s greatest film sound mixers, to pull everything together; music, vocals, sound effects, adlibs and atmosphere, and deliver the final soundtrack that you will hear in the cinema. In a very short time, Andy, his team and Claude-Michel achieved miraculous results and just before the last week of November, Tom finally had the film he wanted and we were able to switch our attention to this cast recording.

In preparing this CD we can’t have the film’s stunning and emotional visuals and therefore the soundtrack recording has been slightly remixed by Lee McCutcheon and Stephen Metcalfe. We all very much wanted this album to stand alone and be different from all the previous stage recordings, reflecting the fresh approach that this film has taken in putting Boublil & Schönberg’s legendary score and Herbert Kretzmer’s timeless lyrics onto the screen — brilliantly captured by the magnificent, heartfelt performance of our outstanding dream cast who, I am proud to say, are predominately from a musical theatre background. Les Misérables has always attracted exceptional talent and our film is blessed with the best of the best.

— Cameron Mackintosh

» From Stage to Screen

From the start we knew that the stage version would not make a film and that changes would be needed: at the theatre the curtain rises on a world suggested by the set and the Overture and the convention of singing, which is where the evening’s journey begins. We are at first distant spectators of what unfolds, until we warm towards the plot and the songs. Lighting, the set and staging direct our attention to where it should focus.

In a film the camera acts as our eyes; it cuts right to the heart of the action, allowing us to share in the flicker of a smile or a trembling hand. At the cinema you do not project towards the auditorium as in a theatre, so the behaviour and thus the words have to be delivered differently. At the theatre the voice has to carry to the upper circle; on screen Eponine can “whisper” her agony to Marius. No set changes on the big screen, no theatrical coup like the opening of the Barricade. The links are as short as you wish sand the effects you can imagine in a screenplay limitless. As an example, an old dream of ours found its place on film by making General Lamarque a real character and having his funeral one of the high points – rather than mentioning him in passing in the show like the guiding ghost of the short-lived 1832 Paris students’ revolution – while giving the “Do You Hear The People Sing?” anthem its natural cinematic expansion.

All of these thoughts inspired the screenplay which we co-wrote with William Nicholson and Herbert Kretzmer, along with several new scenes drawn from Victor Hugo’s novel, which were finally able to find their place. In addition we wrote a completely new song, “Suddenly,” created for Hugh Jackman, whose voice was a blessing to its creation. We also discovered how Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit could re-shape the songs that we thought we knew and make them their own. All of this compelled us to reconsider our score: its construction, its orchestrations and the necessary interstitial dialogue during a long process. Little by little the new version took shape in close collaboration with Tom Hooper and Cameron Mackintosh. Our objective was to protect the spontaneity of the drama and the unity of the musical work, reinventing them as if they had been written this way in the beginning. Add to that the challenge of putting down the live recording of actors and making the orchestrations after shooting, and you have a picture of how exciting the journey has been.

Once again our aim with this recording is to offer a visual and powerful evocation of Les Misérables – The Movie. While listening, we love to visualise the scene — so make yourself comfortable, put on the CD, close your eyes, and “watch.”

— Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schönberg