30 September 2012

I Dreamed A Dream...


By Danny

I grew up listening to the musical Les Miserables.  My mom had majored in French in college, which led her to study and subsequently fall in love with the book by Victor Hugo.  Much later, when the musical production made its way around the country and through my hometown, my mom and dad excitedly purchased tickets and attended.  They returned telling us kids that it was one of the most magical things they'd ever seen.

I think that's when the cassette tapes for the musical made it into the regular music rotation in our family.  It was played repeatedly on every single family road trip that we took, with my mom vividly telling us of the powerful scenes behind each song and the backgrounds on each character so we could better understand the context of the music and the power of the underlying message.

When the musical came through my town for a second time my mom decided it was important for us kids to go see it.  I was very young, there was still plenty I didn't understand, but I LOVED it as I listened to the music I now knew so well and as I saw my mom's descriptions come to life on the stage.  It was truly beautiful.

In college, my longtime fascination with Les Miserable made it so the book found its way into my must-read list, and so during my summer internship in Boston, I made my way to a Harvard bookstore and found a copy.  It didn't take me long to devour the book, and to this day it remains one of my all-time favorites (you can read of its near universal praise and buy it here).  It's difficult to think of another book that has moved me like this. 

The summer after Mara and I married, we backpacked through Europe for 5 weeks.  One of my favorite memories from our time there came when we were in Paris.  It was a Sunday morning, a day when Mara and I usually find ourselves in church.  But with a tight schedule, we ended up planning a day to Versailles instead, with the desire that the day could somehow still take on some spiritual significance for us.  On our way to the train, I looked through my iPhone to see if there was anything genuinely uplifting that we could listen to.  The second my eyes came across the musical, I knew it was perfect.  And so for the next 45 minutes we sat on a train, listening to songs of mercy, songs of love, songs of courage, songs of hope, songs of sacrifice, songs of pain, songs of redemption and the beauty of life, even in the face of life's darkest moments.  And we cried.  And we smiled.  And we held hands and thought how, in the smallest of ways, the music and the story represents some of our own journey, and most likely the journey of all of us.  That was one of my favorite days in Europe.

All these thoughts came to my mind this week when I saw an ad displayed for the new Les Miserables movie/musical being released this Christmas (see article here in the Huffington Post).  For a moment my heart fell just a little bit.  I worried that they wouldn't be able to do it justice, that although movie musicals can be wonderful, I've never liked them as much as the real thing.


I followed the link to the trailer to see if my fears would be put to rest.  I watched it once with headphones on.  Half way through I was already telling Mara she needed to come over and see this.  When she was at my side, I replayed it for us both and felt the stirrings of every good memory I've ever had related to this story.  This little clip has been on repeat the last few days...Mara plays it once or twice an hour because it is so moving, so powerful, and in some ways haunting.  Anne Hathaway sings a song I've known for years with such conviction that it makes me rethink it entirely and hear new meaning in familiar words and melodies.  I quickly searched to see if there was anything else I could listen to and found an extended first look that put all my fears to rest.  Unlike other movie/musicals, all actors are singing every take live instead of singing to prerecorded songs...allowing them to act and sing with greater power and conviction.  It doesn't hurt that this is being done by Tom Hooper, who did The King's Speech, which we absolutely loved!

I couldn't be more excited. Take a look, below, at the extended preview and see for yourself.

Les Miserables comes out Christmas Day 2012!

What about you?  Do you have any memories tied to this great work of classical literature or to one of the greatest musicals of all time? Do you remember what it felt like when you read it or saw it for the first time?  Do you have a favorite song or are there lyrics that have stuck with you?  Did you get chills watching the clips below?  We'd love to hear your thoughts.


35 comments:

  1. You took the description of Anne Hathaway's version, straight out of my own heart.

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    1. It's not like I didn't know that she was singing of broken dreams before, but I never got as much of the feeling of despair and longing as seems to be conveyed by the little snippets shown in the preview. If that kind of emotion and depth gets added to the other songs (which the extended look suggests is exactly the case), I think this could be one of the truly great movies.

      I already know the general story and music are great, and it's looking like they could have an interpretation that matches the greatness of all the other pieces already in place.

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  2. Years ago, my husband and I took a car trip across the country and back again. We live on one coast, and our destination was on the other coast. We drove long days and some nights, not stopping except to sleep, to get gas, or to switch drivers. While he drove, I read the entire book of Les Miserables to him. We both loved it. He said it was like watching the story unfold on the windshield before his eyes. My voice grew hoarse, but I continued until the last chapter, when he cut me off. My husband couldn't bear to hear it. So I sat and quietly read the last chapter through my tears, and then told him quickly how it ended. All in all, a wonderful experience. A favorite story, and a beautifully written book. My brother who learned French, said the book was even better in French.

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    1. That sounds a lot like how I felt when I read the book. Each night, and every day on the train to and from work, I was completely absorbed and didn't want it to end. It shocked me that I could care about fictional characters so much.

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  3. Oh my gosh, I too grew up listening to this soundtrack! I think that as I got older, I was able to grasp and understand more of what was going on. As a child, I was able to understand Castle on a Cloud, but as I got older I was able to understand and appreciate its meaning, along the meaning of so many of the other beautiful songs. I was fortunate to grow up near NYC and saw the musical on Broadway a number of times (without question - my favorite show!) and am so excited for this film. As soon as I saw this trailer a few months ago, I decided it was time for me to finally read the book and so it's on my must-read list in the upcoming weeks so that I can finish it before the film comes out.

    So glad you posted about this - it truly is a beautiful and magical story.

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  4. I love Les Miserables as well, I love the book, the story, the characters, as well as the beautiful soundtrack from the musical. I was also transfixed with the magic of the production. My favorite lines speak the tune of this blog,

    Take my hand, and lead my to salvation.
    Take my love, for love is everlasting.
    And remember, the truth which once was spoken, to love another person is to see the face of God.

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    1. Jane -

      Definitely one of my favorite lines as well. I have a feeling that as I continue to grow in my capacity to love, that I will also come to know God in more meaningful ways than I do already.

      Perhaps that's one of the reasons Mara and I are excited to be parents. Raising kids is one of those ways to "Love another person and see the face of God".

      Thanks for the comment.

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  5. I have to admit, I've never seen or read Les Mis, but know several friends who, like you, are completely moved by it and experience it every chance they get. I was so moved by the above trailer - warning, do not watch at your desk! - that it's jumped to the top of my holiday movie list, and I'd love to read it as well.

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  6. My grandmother opened my eyes to the world of musicals. (I remember rewinding the video to Bye Bye Birdie so I could learn the dance scenes!) From there my musical tastes soared and one of my all time favorites is Les Mis.

    Right after we were married my husband surprised me with tickets and I think I cried through the entire thing and had to restrain myself from standing up and belting out the songs with the characters! :)

    "Bring Him Home" makes me cry no matter how many times I hear it. Such a beautiful song (out of the many in Les Mis).

    I, too, was worried about the movie adaption - but the trailer seems to have nailed the spirit! I'm looking forward to it!!!

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    1. Mara, I have a dear friend who lost a son in his sleep at 20 months old (no known cause of why). She posted that song and it made me bawl my eyes out. She wrote about that experience here;

      http://sunshinepromises.blogspot.com/2011/03/song-that-says-it-all.html

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  7. Are you guys still answering emails!

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    1. Anon - I'm sorry if we missed an email that you sent to us. Yes, we are still trying to respond to all emails, but it is getting more difficult. Sometimes a week gets so busy that a few emails fall through the cracks and then we never have the time to go back. It only got more difficult when Mara was asked to help lead a women's organization and the amount of email coming in daily nearly tripled.

      We certainly are trying, and I again extend an apology if we missed your email (and others for that matter, it has definitely happened).

      If you are still hoping to get a response, feel free to resend the email and make sure to copy me as well. Thanks!

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  8. I AM SO EXCITED!!! I too grew up listening to this soundtrack. My parents took me to the musical in Salt Lake when I was 8 and I decided to tackle the book at the ripe old age of 13:). It is such a powerful story of forgiveness, of overcoming trials. I want to try and re-read the book before December- if the movie is anything like the trailer than they will definitely do justice to this beautfiul story:).

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  9. I've always loved musicals, but this one, like for so many others, is high on the list. The first time I saw it, it was just a high school version, but it was done so incredibly well. Then in high school, my choir and theatre classes went to the Broadway tour version that came through town. I watch the 25th Anniversary concert version over and over again like it's nobody's business. And now, I watch these two trailers almost daily. I cry every single time, so I just know I'm going to be a wreck through the entire movie.

    I've read the abridged version of the novel, and have had the unabridged version sitting on my shelf for almost a year. Last week, I decided now is the time to conquer it. It's slow-going, but I really want to finish it before the movie comes out.

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  10. I also had a lot of doubts about this but the trailer has left me a believer. Of all the tragedies in this piece of work, for some reason it's always Eponine's "he was never mine to lose" that gets me every time. I have a thing for underappreciated characters that are victim to circumstance who still keep giving.

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  11. How crazy that I read this post an hour after watching the trailer for the first time! Yes, there is something so transcendent about this story and the musical. It's absolutely magical.

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  12. Only cause you asked... I went to see the musical on a first date with a guy. I remember little about the show, the music or even the guy's name, well, except that we had lousy seats. The bad seats probably wouldn't have mattered if it was a good date. After looking over my shoulder through most of our pre-theatre dinner, he fell asleep as soon as the lights went down and snored softly throughout the show. I was tempted to sneak out, but I would have had to climb over an entire row of tightly packed patrons to make my exit.

    Needless to say, I turned down a second.

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    1. HAHA. This was awesome. Made me laugh. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. I'm tempted to publish this comment under anon....but here I go. I have no attachment to this play, book, movie, soundtrack. I know my mom liked it (and every 3rd person in the world) but she didn't read the book and didn't pass on the songs and the story like your mom did. So when I had the chance to see the play on Broadway, in New York city....I was...sorta, eh. (i know! forgive me). But seriously, I was bored. (I'm sorry!)

    BUT this movie looks AAAAAMMMMMAAAZING. And with your description, and your childhood story about it you've convinced me to read the book. I want in on it and to make my own memories and attachment to it. I mean that movie, and the live singing...that just looks amazing. Oh Anne. Perhaps there's hope for me afterall...

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    1. Miggy - I love you for writing this! haha. Guess what? When I first saw the play I felt the same way about it...I don't think I was following the story that deeply - and I guess the theme of redemption was not yet the most beautiful thing in the world to me yet. Fast forward to years later, after having all the experiences that taught me greatly about life, I saw the Les Miserable movie - the one with Liam Neeson - and I flipped out over it. I could finally see that it was one of the most beautiful stories ever. Go rent it ASAP! I want to do the same. We both LOVED it. I think it's on Netflix! xo

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    2. Oh thank heavens I'm not alone. But I think instead of watching the movie I'm really going to read the book first. Danny seriously sold me on it.

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    3. Miggy - sounds like it's time for you to become a believer :)

      If you do read the book and you get the unabridged, do be patient. Like many classics, it starts out kind of slow. Books nowadays are supposed to have you hooked in a single chapter, but that's not how it was for this one. People often say they read over 100 pages or more before the story really begins, and they often wonder if any of it is necessary...only to later realize that those first pages and chapters set the stage for the whole book.

      Basically...be patient and let the masterpiece unfold.

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  14. I loved this post!

    I am so excited for the movie that is coming out. It looks so well done! I was 5 when I first listened to the Broadway soundtrack (on cassette tape!)and had the entire play memorized within weeks. I basically thought I was young Cosette and sang "There is a Castle on a Cloud" over and over and over again. For our Christmas gift when I was six my older sister and I went to NYC to see the play in our new fancy outfits. When the actor playing Jean Valjean did not take the high note at the end of "Who Am I?" I told my mom, in a voice that was much too loud for being in a theater,"He did it wrong!" I also dropped my M&Ms all over the theater floor when Eponine died.

    I have seen the play several more times throughout the years and it means something different to me every time. It means something more to me every time. Ultimately it is about love and the power it has to better people and to change lives. Love. That is a crusade I will gladly join!

    "To love another person is to see the face of God"

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  15. It's my favorite musical, based on my favorite book, by my favorite author. But the best part? My two daughters (13 and 16) both want to see this movie. At this age, nothing mom suggests is worth watching, reading, listening to. They saw the preview and are both sold. Thanks Anne Hathaway!

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  16. I was so excited to see this post. This is my all time favorite production. I saw it originally in NYC when I was a teenager and still to this day am in love with the story. I have seen it several times since then and take any chance available to see it again. I remember how moved I was by the story and still get that way every time I have the opportunity to listen to the soundtrack. The stories within it and the meaning of love and life are always worth being reminded. It allows me to remember through all life's struggles things are still possible.

    While I am a fan of live theater, I am excited to see the movie and to know others who haven't seen or heard the production will have the opportunity to experience what I did years ago.

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  17. This show has always been my favorite. I've seen it more than any other Broadway show. I've sung the songs in talent shows. And feel more connected to it than any other show. Thank you for feeling the same way.

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  18. I instantly wanted to read the book after this post (well listen since I am an audiobook user). I went to see my hometown's high school version of Les Mis. I was 13 and part of the middle school's drama program and literally fell in love with theatre after that play.

    Reading the other stories about Les Mis was so great!

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  19. I remember seeing the Broadway musical when I was quite young and then again in London with my Dad when I was sixteen. It was my favorite musical by far and I have always loved the music. I didn't read the book until after I was married and my love for the characters deepened. Jean Valjean's character is so incredibly inspiring. We named our third daughter, Cossette (with the extra S to give it a more American-friendly pronunciation and to make it her own). She is now a year and a half old and it fits her so well, though we usually call her Cozy. My husband and I just went to see the musical for the first time together this year and it was unforgettable. Thank you for sharing your own love for this beautiful story. It brings so many positive thoughts and feelings back. I can't wait for the movie!

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  20. I got chills before the clip even started. What an amazing story to frame our Christmas 2012 in....courage, mercy, hope, pain, sacrifice and love! I can't wait!

    You two are a delight. Thank you for being, together, one of those lower lights. As read about your experiences and God's mercy shines upon you, I am renewed to shine the best that I can.

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  21. I love Les Mis so much. I've seen it on Broadway twice and the cassette was the soundtrack to my high school years. The second time I saw it, our seats were so close that I literally had dreams about the play for days, I couldn't get it out of my head. I don't think I've ever read the book, though, so I will do that this fall! I had the same fears about the movie, which were promptly put to rest once I watched the extended trailer earlier this week. I got chills, too. I cannot wait to see the movie. It seems to be perfectly cast (at least from a looks standpoint, but more importantly from an acting standpoint as well).

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    1. also, I took my 5 year old to see Mary Poppins on Broadway this summer, and she LOVED it. We often listen to the "Mary Poppins" station on Pandora, so she is exposed to other (appropriate) musical theater music. I can't wait until she's old enough for me to introduce her to Les Mis. It will change her life.

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  22. My obsession with Les Miserables, began very similarly. It's hard for me to listen to the music and not get emotional. It is by far and away my favorite musical and one of my favorite stories of all time. It is incredible. I love the line toward the end, "to love another person is the see the face of God." How beautiful and profound a message...

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  23. This is danny's big sister, Laurie.... and I am balling buckets!!! This book, music, and score touched my life like it did danny's. I am grateful to our mom for sharing her insights. Each of her children love this and have learned great lessons from it. I remember that when we were young she had a quote on the fridge, i don't know by whom, but it said Les MIserables was the closest thing to scripture in a novel form. I can't wait for this film! What a powerful way to show love, forgiveness, charity, and redemption to the world.

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  24. I'm SO EXCITED for this to come out. We are absolute lovers of this story. I actually posted a quick blog about our love and my 3 year old little boy's love of this music.

    http://brihoopes.blogspot.com/2011/04/les-miserable.html

    I was so excited to show my husband the trailer to the new movie. When it was done he said "They got it right". We cannot wait. It truly is a work of art!

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  25. Gah! I totally agree with you and have been thinking of doing a post just like this, minus your personal experiences with it:)
    When I first saw the trailer I had tears in my eyes and when my husband first showed me the behind the scenes clip I was crying. And you have inspired me to read the book before the movie comes out.

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