March 28th 2015

Today I saw a West End musical. The ‘Les Miserables’ West End musical to be precise. 

I’m not a guy for musicals, nor the West End, but it’s Alice’s birthday so her parents have taken us to see Les Mis. 

Now here’s why I don’t like musicals: 

I don’t think that via song is a very efficient way of telling a story. Then the story becomes more about the song than that’s being sang. I struggle to hear the individual lyrics over the band, and the ensemble. 

Of the few (film) musicals I’ve seen (Grease… Rocky Horror… Mamma Mia… High School Musical… And the episode of Scrubs that’s called “My Musical”) the songs are part of the film, but they don’t define the film. Without the songs there is still a storyline, a plot, and characters. Take away the songs and most of the time it’s still a standalone film. 

Les Mis is different. 

If you take out every single song from Les Mis you’re left with the curtain raising, the performers bowing to applause, and the curtain falling with an intermission half way through. 

The story is told completely through song, and for me, through song is not the best way to tell a story. 

But that doesn’t mean that I disliked Les Mis. I’m glad I saw it, I’m glad I went. The music was very, very good. The individual singers sang beautifully. So beautifully that those around me (Alice, among others) were reduced to tears. 

For me it wasn’t entertaining, it was more impressive. 

The timing, and production, and the performance was incredible. 

What I concentrated on, instead of the singing, was the stuff that went on behind the singing. I don’t think you’re supposed to notice it, but when you look it’s easy, but I liked seeing the stagehands run on and off the stage, carrying tables and chairs to and from where they have been, or are going to. 

Obviously a stage play is two lots of, say, 90 minute halves. And something is going on, across dozens of sceneries, with dozens of characters at all times. And the stage, and the props and the characters are always rotating and changing. 

And it’s so impressive. 

It’s seamless. Nothing goes wrong. It’s incredible. It’s perfect. It’s practiced. 

I think I liked it for the same reason I loved watching Birdman. Because I was impressed by it. Impressed by the amount of thought and planning and practice and perfection that must go into every act and scene and half and performance. And they do it nine times a week. 

I’m off to sleep now. 

Until tomorrow, I dreamed a dream. 



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