'Les Mis' for Dummies

With both the film and the musical playing in the city this weekend, which should you choose?


 

There’s a reasonable argument to be made that Les Miserables has become the most popular — or at least pop — musical of all time. The London production is still in its original run, which has been underway since late 1985. The Broadway version claims the fourth-longest run in New York history, at over 6,500 performances — and three years after it closed, they brought it back and did it another thousand times. Touring productions are a staple, even in concert performance; well over three million copies of the soundtrack, in various incarnations, sit in American homes. And, of course, the long-awaited film adaptation has been nominated for eight Academy Awards; it’s already grossed over $130 Million.

It’s certainly an unlikely phenomenon. An unwieldy classic novel about the French Revolution is hardly ripe material for a Broadway hit; nor was the earliest version of Les Mis, a French-language concept album, an easy candidate for translation and staging. Even the legendary West End production received a cool welcome from critics on its debut. Popular sentiment, however, was behind the epic musical almost immediately; 27 years later, there hasn’t been a moment when the show hasn’t been a cultural force.

This weekend, Les Mis has the run of the city, with the film playing at every cinema worth mentioning and the acclaimed (and, surprisingly, revised) touring production — rumored to be gearing up for the next Broadway revival, in 2014 — playing a second weekend at the Benedum Center.

So what to choose? I’m assuming that if you’re a diehard fan (and there are many), you’ve already seen both. To the curious, the casual, the confused, a guide:

If you’re familiar with the show, go to the movie
Counter-intuitive, I know, but even the once-a-year theatergoer has likely seen Les Mis two or three times. The film breathes new life into the show, in a number of ways. The storytelling is more clear; the ability to, you know, actually change locations helps a lot, particularly in the second act (which always suffered a bit from rushed storytelling.) The intimate performances — famously recorded live on set, rather than in a studio after the fact — bring the emotional wallop of the titular misery home in a big way, in contrast to the occasionally-operatic style of the stage version. And the production is beautifully done, with every set and scene imaginative and vivid.

If you’ve never seen it, go to the Benedum
Sales figures and speculation aside, Les Miserables is among the best musicals ever written, and maybe the greatest. Songwriting this good rarely collides with Broadway, frankly, and there isn’t another hit with the quantity of gems found here. While many of the moments are indeed more personal, larger set pieces like the building of the barricade are impressive on stage. And, yes, the voices will be a hell of a lot better here than at the multiplex — though the complaints about the Hollywood types have largely been overblown. Most of them do just fine. Except for Amanda Seyfried. Girl can’t sing a lick.

If you’re prone to obsession, go to both
Whereas most musicals are easy to move on from — no one ever listened to the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat soundtrack non-stop for a week — Les Miserables tends to inspire slavish devotion. If you’re the type who gets really into stuff, save yourself the time and knock both out while it’s easy.

If you don’t like singing, stay far, far away
They sing every line. Every single one. Seriously.

For tickets and info on the touring production, click here. For movie showtimes, click here.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.
Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

If you’re on the hunt for Friday night plans with a purpose, consider sleeping outside to benefit those in Pittsburgh who have to spend every night on the streets.
The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

More than 80 years after its demise was erroneously reported, the David McCullough Bridge still stands as an engineering and architectural highlight among the city’s many spans.
Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Their tic-tac-toe passing would impress Mike Sullivan.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

It's the third year running for the concept, which was created by Simon Huntley of Pittsburgh's Small Farm Central.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

The one-of-a-kind night of bingo, trivia and madcap monologues returns in a new spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

The Hanson Brothers and other stars of the classic hockey film will return to Johnstown this weekend for a 40th anniversary celebration.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Chalk It Up

Chalk It Up

Doodle while you dine, or let your imagination run wild, with chalkboard placemats from Pittsburgh-based Chalk Lots.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Breaking down what we know and only think we know about the 2017 Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments