Do You Hear The People Sing?

Singing the song of angry men, it is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums. There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.

All the way in the far distant land of Europe lies a country known to the modern world as France. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the citizens of this nation had a tendency to revolt a lot. I’m sure you’ve heard of their most famous one, the French Revolution. There’re others too that all happen in relatively quick succession. Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables takes place in this era of social unrest. I won’t focus too much on the novel as I’m only 10% into it, but this 1400 page novel has a massive scope of social commentary on the plight of the working class. It presents a fictional account of some characters and their involvement in the 2-day June rebellion of 1832. However, that’s not my focus, my focus is on the musical of the same name.

Les Miserables was made into a musical in 1985. Initially just a French collection of songs, the songs were adapted into English, made into a musical that was almost an opera, and opened in London. The musical loses many of the themes and character nuances from the book due to how much shorter it is. However, the basic point remains; the people of France have a legit beef with the way things are going. The revolutionary students revolt in anger to help the people get a better lot in life. However, they don’t fare particularly well. This revolution affects every single character in the play yet it is not the only plot. There is also the plot of Jean Valjean, the reformed convict who is endlessly pursued by the obsessive Inspector Javert who wishes to see him back behind bars, ignorant to any possibility that Valjean may not be the depraved individual he imagines.

Before I slip into a plot summary, which wouldn’t be concise, I know, I’ve given plot summaries to some of the people I’m working with on stage crew for my school’s production, I’ll go into one final thing about the show I wish to talk about. The music. The music in the show is simple, but therein lies the beauty in my opinion. Every tune in the show is repeated at some later point. In some cases it is a character’s leitmotif that signifies his appearance on stage, in other cases it is a reprise that is meant to contrast the situation with the previous occurrence of the tune. These subtle nuances to the music are difficult to hear; I’ve heard the show constantly over the past month because I’m working on a production and I have developed an obsession with it and only this week did I realize these things about the show. The music is an integral part in the telling of the story, without it the show would be worthless.



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