Castles on a Cloud: Les Mis Has A Lot to Live Up To

I grew up in a family that sang. My mother was in choir at the church we grew up attending, as were each of my brothers and I when we could carry a tune. Road trips had specific soundtracks depending on the age and musical tastes of the passengers, and when my middle brother turned ten, he was bitten by the musical theater bug causing my first brushes with entertainment that existed outside the covers of a book.

I was dragged along – quite willingly – to play practices and performances, and the road trips suddenly had soundtracks that included Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Pippin and Phantom of the Opera. I learned every word and sang along with gusto.

When I was in my early teens, musical theater wasn’t a thing that classmates or friends looked up to or down on. It was just a thing that happened. There were plays at school, in the community and downtown for us to attend and cassette tapes that were nearly worn through we listened to them so much. And let’s not talk about what happened when I discovered Rent at seventeen. Just know that my parents still tell other parents about what they went through, and I was notorious for cross-country travels in the fandom just to see one specific traveling cast.

My brother always said that Les Misérables was ruined for him because my dad took him to see it the night after they went to see Phantom of the Opera during a business trip to Toronto. They separated at intermission, one to the concession stand and one to the bathroom, and came back together both humming the title theme from Phantom rather than being swept away by post-revolutionary France and the student uprising.

Being younger than my brother, I was not along for this trip, and would not see Les Mis or Phantom for a number of years still, but I gobbled up the soundtracks like it was going out of style. By the time I did see the shows, I knew every word and getting to see my imagination come to life was both thrilling and disappointing.

Les Mis was always my favorite though. I was swept away by the romance and history in each storyline, the magic of families created by comrades rather than blood, and the dastardly things human beings do to each other during times of war. I’ve worn my way through first the double cassettes, and then a double CD of the soundtrack before I went digital. I saw the movie when it came out. I own the novel. One of the few anecdotes I share from the summer I lived abroad in London is the night I exited the Tube to a madly ringing mobile and a friend gasping, “Where are you RIGHT NOW?” in my ear. It was 6:50 PM, and I had just arrived at Tottenham Court in central London.

“Run! I got us second row tickets for Les Mis for ten quid, but the show starts at seven.”

Readers, I ran.

The theater wasn’t far. It was actually just a few blocks. And the seats were obstructed view, but I didn’t care. Les Mis. In London. Second row. It was incredible.

Needless to say, a small part of me squeals with joy every time I pass the posters in the subway for the upcoming movie, and last week I text-messaged my dad with the following:

“So, we’re seeing Les Mis at Christmas, right?”

The text was really a reminder that he better not go see it without me. Nevermind that it opens after I arrive home for the holiday. I don’t care. There aren’t a lot of family members I can drag to the theater for a 2.5 hour musical theater experience, and I do not want to go by myself. Besides, Dad was the original instigator of the Les Mis obsession from the moment he took my brother on that trip, so it’s only right that he reap the rewards of fostering a fangirl now that she’s full grown.

Do you think the other moviegoers will get mad if I sing along?

Image via Wikimedia

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