'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 Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Two Pittsburgh Restaurants Closing; Kings Leaving the Family

Two Pittsburgh Restaurants Closing; Kings Leaving the Family

One of the eateries has been a staple in Bloomfield for more than a half-century.
Who's Carson? Why Does He Have His Own Street?

Who's Carson? Why Does He Have His Own Street?

Some of the names synonymous with Pittsburgh have surprising histories behind them.
Aviary Determined to Have Dwindling Condors Leave the Nest

Aviary Determined to Have Dwindling Condors Leave the Nest

The National aAviary is working to send ’Burgh-born birds back to their natural habitats to boost endangered populations.
Are You Missing Out? Why More People Love Life in Butler County

Are You Missing Out? Why More People Love Life in Butler County

Cranberry Township is crammed, but people still are flocking north.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh

Our exclusive list of the region's 584 leading physicians across 76 specialities.
Endless Challenges: 48 Remarkable Hours with 8 Pittsburgh Doctors

Endless Challenges: 48 Remarkable Hours with 8 Pittsburgh Doctors

Follow eight physicians over two days as they perform surgeries, consult on end-of-life care, treat accident victims, discuss hospital programs –– and then reset and do it all over again.
The Commoner — Too Much of a Good Thing?

The Commoner — Too Much of a Good Thing?

Chef Dennis Marron designs a menu of modern-American fare at The Commoner in the downstairs space of Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh.
What Inspires Ray Gastil's Careful Plan for Pittsburgh's Future

What Inspires Ray Gastil's Careful Plan for Pittsburgh's Future

How will the city’s new planning director stoke Pittsburgh’s next generation of developments?
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Two Pittsburgh Restaurants Closing; Kings Leaving the Family

Two Pittsburgh Restaurants Closing; Kings Leaving the Family

One of the eateries has been a staple in Bloomfield for more than a half-century.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
The 'Burghy Mother's Day Gift Guide 2015

The 'Burghy Mother's Day Gift Guide 2015

Plan ahead with this list of 10 locally made must-haves for Mom.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Into the Wild: How to Be a Good Forager

Into the Wild: How to Be a Good Forager

Before picking and consuming foraged items, read up on the basic rules.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Locally Owned Clothing Stores That Sell Locally Made Wares

Best Locally Owned Clothing Stores That Sell Locally Made Wares

Independent boutiques and local designers abound in the 'Burgh. We bring you five of the best.

Comments


Bar Exam: How to Tell A Good Hotel Bar from a Bad One

Bar Exam: How to Tell A Good Hotel Bar from a Bad One

The recently renovated bar and restaurant inside the Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square is doing everything right.

Comments


Make This Now: Fudgy, Rich Chocolate Velvet Cake

Make This Now: Fudgy, Rich Chocolate Velvet Cake

Whip up this chocolate cake (with a secret ingredient!) to celebrate spring.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#GottaHaveIt: Chic Wallets Made of Vintage Turkish Rugs

#GottaHaveIt: Chic Wallets Made of Vintage Turkish Rugs

Give your wardrobe a touch of international glam with an Artemis Design Co. wallet made from Turkish Kilim rugs.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
Phipps Premieres Its Tropical Forest Congo Exhibit

Phipps Premieres Its Tropical Forest Congo Exhibit

See colorful, rare specimens at this East End institution.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Sweet Tips for Extraordinary Desserts

Sweet Tips for Extraordinary Desserts

For the couple with a sweet tooth and eclectic taste, we bring you five tips to make your wedding-day dessert original and delicious.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Tour: Admire Downtown's Striking Architecture on May 1

Tour: Admire Downtown's Striking Architecture on May 1

Join the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation next Friday for an hourlong walk focused on downtown's most beautiful structures.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
It's Spring Carnival Time at CMU

It's Spring Carnival Time at CMU

Carnegie Mellon's popular event, running Thursday through Saturday, combines buggies, bots, booths and more.

Comments


Thinking outside the box (score)
Everyone Expects the Penguins to Lose. Perfect.

Everyone Expects the Penguins to Lose. Perfect.

Maybe this is exactly what the team needs –– to win.

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments