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Les Miserables the Musical

Updated on December 19, 2015
Les Miserables marque
Les Miserables marque

Why I'm making this page about Les Miserables the musical

I'm making this page about Les Miserables the musical because I saw a performance of it and was simply blown away. And, even though the one I saw was the school edition, you really wouldn't know there was any difference. The director told me afterward that there was only about 20 minutes cut from the original version, and you never notice it.

It was a moving and Spiritual experience. Schonberg is a musical genius, whose work aptly showcases Victor Hugo's wonderful literary masterpiece and makes it come alive in great new way.

Now that I've seen the movie, I appreciate it even more.

NOTE: This year (2014) I saw a performance of the complete version and was even more blown away. The music stays with you for a while.

The book itself, as I have noted, was a masterpiece of French literature. It was written by Victor Hugo, a former Catholic and deeply spiritual free thinker, who, had he lived in Luther's time might have joined him in the reformation. (for more details read the article in the link list "Victor Hugo's religious beliefs" below*.) Despite it's slight vulgarity in parts, Les Miserables has deep Spiritual significance and meaning, as I will point out shortly.

What makes this musical unique?

Why do I choose it over other Broadway musicals?

Of course I love all Broadway musicals, but Les Miserables is special for several reason:

It's actually more like an opera than a Broadway musical, as there is almost no talking. Yet the music is far from operatic, but is catchy and moving. The music and the quick movement of scenery both serve to keep the show moving right along without any lapse and without any loss of understanding what is going on.

But the thing that makes the show really outstanding is Shoenberg's music. Not only are there memorable songs, but they flow right into one another, making the show a complete musical experience. The musical themes are repeated often with different emphases or in different keys. For example much of ValJean's music is also used for Javar but in a minor key. This sets these characters aside as the two main protagonists and marks Valjean as the hero and Javar as the villain. It is a very clever and musical trick which most viewers would probably not even notice, but which nevertheless does add to the beauty of the show, even though we may not know why.

Jean Val-Jean, prisoner 24601
Jean Val-Jean, prisoner 24601 | Source

THE STORY BRIEFLY: Jean Val-jean is released on parole, after 19 years..

..on the chain gang for stealing a piece of bread and trying to escape.

He must by law display a ticket-of-leave, pegging him as an outcast. Only a saintly Bishop treats him kindly and Val-jean, embittered by years of hardship, repays him by stealing silver. Val-jean is caught and brought back by police, and is astonished when the Bishop lies to the police to save him, also giving him two candlesticks, asking that he use the silver to better himself.--it was, he says a ransom for the soul of val-jean, who in shame repents.

8 years later he is a factory owner and the mayor of a city. One of his workers, Fantine, has a secret illegitimate child. When the other women discover this, they cause a ruckus, demanding her dismissal. Val-jean turns the matter over to his foreman, whose advances Fantine has rejected, who in turn fires her.

Desperate for money to pay for medicines for her daughter, Fantine ends up becoming a prostitute. Degraded by her new trade she gets into a fight with a prospective customer. She is about to be take to prison by Javier when "The Mayor" arrives and demands she be taken to a hospital instead.

The Mayor rescues a man pinned down by a cart. Javier is reminded of the abnormal strength of convict 24601 Jean Val-jean, a parole-breaker he has been tracking for years, but who, he says has just been recaptured. Val-jean, unable to see an innocent man go to prison in his place, confesses to the court that he is prisoner 24601 and runs away.

At the hospital Val-jean promises the dying Fantine to find and look after her daughter Cosette. Javier arrives to arrest him, but Val-jean escapes.

Cosette has been lodged for five years with the Thénardiers who run an inn, horribly abusing the little girl, while indulging their own daughter, Eponine. Val-jean pays the Thénardiers to let him take Cosette away and takes her to Paris. But Javert is till on his tail..

Nine years later there is unrest in the city because of the likely demise of the popular leader General La-marque, the only Government official left who shows any feeling for the poor. Among the street-gangs is one led by Thénardier and his wife, which sets upon Jean Val-jean and Cosette. They are rescued by Javier, who fails to recognize Val-jean until after he escapes. The Thénardiers' daughter Eponine, who is secretly in love with the student Marius, reluctantly agrees to help him find Cosette, with whom he has fallen in love. .....

A group of idealistic students prepare for the coming revolution.

scene from Les Miserables the musical
scene from Les Miserables the musical

Upon news of La-marque's death, they, stream out into the streets to whip up popular support. Only Marius is distracted by the thoughts of the mysterious Cosette.

Cosette is consumed by the thoughts of Marius, with whom she has fallen in love. Val-jean refuses to tell her anything of her past. In spite of her own feelings for Marius, Eponine sadly brings him to Cosette and then prevents an attempt by her father's gang to rob Val-jean's house. Val-jean, convinced it was Javier who was lurking outside his house, tells Cosette they must prepare to flee the country. Cosette and Marius part in despair of ever meeting again; Eponine mourns the loss of Marius; and Val-jean looks forward to the security of exile. The Thanardiers, meanwhile, dream of rich pickings underground from the chaos to come.

The students prepare to build the barricade. Marius, noticing that Eponine has joined the insurrection, sends her with a letter to Cosette, which is intercepted by Valerian. Eponine decides to rejoin Marius at the barricade.

The barricade is built and the revolutionaries defy an army warning that they must give up or die. Javier is exposed as a policy spy. Returning to the barricade, Eponine is shot and killed. Val-jean arrives at the barricades in search of Marius. He is given the chance to kill Javier, but instead lets him go.

The students settle down for a night on the barricade. Val-jean prays to God to save Marius from the coming onslaught. The rebels are all killed except Val-jean and Marius, who is injured.

Val-jean escapes into the sewers with the unconscious Marius, meeting Thénardier, who is rubbing the corpses of the rebels. Val-jean emerges into the light only to meet Javier once more. He pleads for time to deliver the young man to a hospital. Javier decides to let him go. His unbending principles of justice having been shattered by Val-jean's own mercy, Javar kills himself by throwing himself into the river.

unaware of the identity of his rescuer, Marius recovers in Cosette's care. Val-jean confesses the truth of his past to Marius and insists that after the young couple are married, he must go away rather than taint the sanctity and safety of their union. At Marius and Cosette's wedding the Thanardiers try to blackmail Marius. Thénardier says Cosette's "father" is a murderer and, as proof, produces a ring which he stole from the corpse in the sewers the night the barricades fell. It is Marius' own ring., and he realizes it was Val-jean who rescued him that night. He and Cosette go to Val-jean, where Cosette learns for the first time of her own history before the old man goes to his eternal salvation, joining the spirits of Fantine, Eponine, and all those who died on the barricades.

For more on the story... - ...Read the book

Les Misérables (Modern Library)
Les Misérables (Modern Library)
In this major new rendition by the acclaimed translator Julie Rose, Victor Hugo's tour de force, Les Misérables, is revealed in its full unabridged glory. A favorite of readers for nearly 150 years, and the basis for one of the most beloved stage musicals ever, this stirring tale of crime, punishment, justice, and redemption pulses with life and energy. Hugo sweeps readers from the French provinces to the back alleys of Paris, and from the battlefield of Waterloo to the bloody ramparts of Paris during the uprising of 1832.

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo | Source

Spiritual references and implications in Les Miserables:

Since Victor Hugo was a deeply spiritual free thinker, there are some obvious spiritual references in this work as well as at least one glaring implication which may or may not have been intended by the author.

  1. I will start with the obvious. In the opening scene at the prison, one prisoner prays "Dear Jesus, hear my prayer." This is answered by another prisoner saying: "Dear Jesus doesn't care." So we have the conflict between faith and skepticism right from the start.
  2. Then there is the scene at the home of the priest, where the priest gives Val-jean the silver, telling him to use it to better himself and that he is buying back his soul. This is a beautiful picture of redemption, since silver in the Bible always represents redemption (see Numbers 3:47-50). Val-jean is touched by the fact that the priest said he has a soul, a fact of which he was previously unaware and the realization of which causes him to repent and give his life to God.
  3. Val-jean's redemption and eternal salvation is shown by his subsequent changed character and acts of kindness.
  4. Then there is his heartfelt prayer to God for the dying Marius, "Bring him home."
  5. Although probably not intended by the author, the fight between the students and the establishment on behalf of the poor could represent the ever going fight between good and evil -- between God and Satan. The death of La Marque should have been the rallying cry, as the death of Christ should be our rallying cry. Unfortunately the people were apathetic as many are today. The only difference is that their fight ended unsuccessfully, whereas as Christians, we know that we will win in the end.
  6. Finally, there is Val-Jean's own dying prayer at the end where he prays, "Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory."

7.There is also the following somewhat enigmatic statement made by Val-jean:

To love another person is to see the face of God

— Victor Hugo (made by Val Jean at the end of Les Miserables)

One writer suggested that this goes along with IJohn4:12 (No man has seen God..., [but] if we love one another, God dwells in us and His love is perfected in us.) Thus the statement may mean that if we truly love someone as God loves (with agape love) we can see God in the person, since we are made in God's image and agape love only sees the best and the potential of another (ICor 13.5c-6).

OR as another person wrote on another lens: "I don't think it was meant to literally mean seeing God's Face, but as an analogy. Simply telling us that if you could see God he would look like love, Love is not something you can see either, you can see manifestations of love, physical demonstrations, but love is how we feel and think and you can't see thoughts or feelings. I think Victor is referring to this in what he says. So it's a play on words, he is comparing something you can't see to the face of God something we as mere mortals can never see."

What do you think? - DO YOU AGREE about this meaning of the quote?

What do you think it means that "To love another person is the seee the face of God"? Do you agree with either of the above statements, or do you have another different interpritation?

Do You agree?

What does the statement, "to love another person is to see the face of God" mean?

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Spiritual Implications continued...

8. The ending of the play definitely shows that Val-jean does go to heaven, as Fantine and Eponine appear at the end to take him there. Their appearance back from the dead may be a carryover from Hugo's earlier slight dabbling in spiritualism, but it does serve to cement the reality of life after death, eternal salvation and heaven as the final reward of the true believer.

Val-Jean and Javar
Val-Jean and Javar

A final Spiritual implication:

9. There is another Spiritual implication which can be drawn throughout the work. Whether it was intended by the author or not we can only guess, but I tend to think that it was as it fits with Hugo's renunciation of Catholicism with it's emphases on works for eternal salvation. The implication I'm speaking of is the conflict between law, as represented by Javar, and grace as represented by Val-jean. St. Paul tells us we receive eternal salvation by grace and not by works. Val-jean's redemption was an act of grace and his life demonstrated grace from then on. Javar, on the other hand represented the law in the strictest sense. He was so fanatical to strictly follow and enforce the law that he just could not deal with Val-jean, the "man of mercy.In the end, grace did away with law, as it always will. Yet, as Val-jean's life was now far from being lawless, but rather exceeded the demands of the law in that it was a life given to helping others, so grace does not produce lawlessness but rather the fulfillment of the law in the highest sense. (See Galatians 2:16-21, Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 8:3-4 & Hebrews 10:15-24.)

Do You Agree?

Do you agree that Victor Hugo had all of these Spiritual implications in mind when he wrote the book?

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So, go see the musical:

If you haven't seen it on stage as yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. It's quite a moving experience. If you're planning a trip to New York anyway, sometime in the near future, don't miss this opportunity. You can actually bid for a code to get cheaper tickets on tickets on eBay. The listing below is for a discount code to buy tickets online or over the phone. Tickets are as low as $37.00

Movie Poll:

The movie has been out since Christmas day (2012).(See the above listed hub.) I saw the movie and really enjoyed it, even though it did leave out one song from the stage play (See my other lens: Broadway Musicals, Stage to Screen.)

Have you seen the movie, or will you go see it?

Have your seen or will you go see the movie?

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The movie is now available on Blue Ray - Watch it in your home tonight.

It's one of the best movies of a musical I've seen. It's perfectly cast. The acting is great and fits with the music quite naturally. Only one sing is missing from the original and it's not noticeable.

The combo pack listed below includes the film on Blu-Ray & DVD as well as a Digital/Ultraviolet copy! This combo pack is brand new & sealed!


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