Beyond the Musical: Les Miserables

Musicals speak universal truths as well as literature—this I have come to learn after being inspired by musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. The art of musicals is not in the mere music, but in how, through the musical score and the actors’ performances, it touches the audience’s heart. A musical, I believe, is a successful one if, by the curtain call, the audience realizes that they hold a bond to characters.

Les Miserables the Musical, so far, is the one I hold most dear to my heart amidst the fact that I have just come to love it last year. Its entrancing orchestrations and flawless songs have once again rekindled my desire to be an orchestra conductor – but that’s only half of the story. After having watched the 25th Anniversary over and over again, I realized that I hold a bit of each character inside me. I have come to sympathize with Fantine and her crushed dreams, join Javert and his inability to forgive, share Jean Valjean and his desire to change, and even relate to Eponine with her unrequited love.

Jean Valjean“For I have come to hate the world, the world has always hated me.” After being released from prison, he has a negative view on the new world he faces. His distrust in the society reflects his distrust in himself – that he can never change. He has come to believe in people’s words that a man such as himself is incapable of being a better man. The Bishop comes and changes Valjean’s view by offering him freedom. Valjean, shamed by the Bishop’s act of mercy, vows to start anew. He comes later at a crossroad whether or not to keep silent or tell the truth about his past – he ends up telling the truth: “Who am I? 24601!” He faces another crossroad whether or not to take revenge on Javert – he ends up freeing him.

We see Valjean in ourselves—our desire to change in an unforgiving world. Sometimes, we just need someone to show us that we are still human beings and that we deserve respect as anyone else amidst our faults.

Inspector Javert“Those who follow the path of the righteous shall have their reward.” Commonly misunderstood as the story’s antagonist, we tend to overlook how he is just a man who holds strongly to his belief: justice. His inability to forgive Valjean starts in the first act until his suicide, where he begins to doubt his belief. Perhaps this characteristic of being unmerciful of his comes from his past which, unfortunately, is stated in few lines: “I was born inside a jail; I was born with scum like you; I was from the gutter too!” We can see that his past has made him this way: the inspector who cannot find it in himself to see people beyond their actions, in their hearts.

Our pasts made us who we are today. Some of us may have been scarred thus, becoming paranoid, unforgiving, or even distrustful towards people we cannot bring ourselves to forgive. However, we forget that we have the ability to change. We forget that we have a future.

Fantine “Life has now killed the dream in me.” When she was younger, she looked forward to a bright future. A man enters her life, filled her days with wonder, and in the end, left her life at a time she needed him the most. Slapped with the reality of life in France, she realizes that life is cold and cruel – killing dreams as they come. Still, she dreams.

There is a Fantine in all of us – there will always be a point in our lives when we realize that our dreams and hopes were nothing but silly because of the reality we live in. Yet, we continue to dream. We continue to hope for the best, but we have already come to expect the worst.

Cosette“In my life, there’s so many questions with answers which somehow seem wrong.” Having faced with a horrible past of being abused by the Thernadier family, she has come to forget all about it in her older years. However, she wants to learn the truth from her ‘father’, Valjean, of the dark and deep histories he shelters her from. In fact, she’s been sheltered throughout her life and it makes her feel lonely – thus, develops a desire to be loved. She takes her chances with Marius, a student revolutionary, and finds herself in this love.

All of us want to be loved.

Eponine“Little you know, little you care.” She puts on a brave face in the face of upcoming revolution and even in front of Marius, the one she loves. However, no one sees the real Eponine: a normal French girl who loves someone whom she knows will never love her back. Still, she stays loyal to him and even goes through the pain of leading him to Cosette’s home.

We tend to love beyond loving even when we already know that we are the ones who get hurt. Once darkness comes, we realize that we’ve always been on our own, with the will to love someone wholeheartedly but without anyone to love us.

A musical is beautiful – from the point of view of someone who listens to the music and looks at the sets and costumes.

A musical is your life – from the point of view of someone who listens with his/her heart and looks beyond the sets and costumes.

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