Yes, it’s the same story. The actors play the same characters. They sing the same songs. But the Les Misérables movie is not something you should compare to the Les Misérables performances onstage.
The movie was not meant to be the stage musical in film. Phantom of the Opera this is not. The songs were not meant to be sung as Claude-Michel Schönberg wrote them (I will refrain from making the obvious Russell Crowe joke at this point).
Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne and Hugh Jackman were not hired for their ability to hold a note and belt it out in front of a room of nearly two thousand people. They would be the first people to tell you that their performances are not to be in considered in the same league as Patti Lupone’s or Lea Salonga’s or Michael Ball’s.
Stop complaining that Anne Hathaway’s I Dreamed a Dream does not hold a candle to Ruthie Henshall’s. Or that Eddie Redmayne and Samanth Barks’ A Little Fall of Rain was faltering. Or why Hugh chose to speak, and not sing, some words.
Just stop, please.
Because you’re missing the point of what Tom Hooper tried to do. To be more precise, what I think he tried to do (I won’t assume to understand the inner workings of an Oscar-winning brain), which was to make the singing feel more real, at least as real as you could expect conversational singing to be. Because, let’s face it, we have to suspend a lot of disbelief not only because Eponine is still singing as she lay dying, but also because she is still singing so damn perfectly.
Tom and the actors and the hard-working pianist playing into the actors’ earpieces did a lot of the work for us. So, now, in I Dreamed a Dream, Anne’s Fantine practically made me feel as if it was MY world that was falling to pieces, versus just me knowing that her life was. And it did feel like Eponine was fatally wounded in A Little Fall of Rain instead of me just knowing that this was her death song. Sam’s voice was breaking and she made it seem like she was struggling to get her words out, like she was actually, well, dying.
And Sam, Hugh, Eddie, Anne and Amanda could pull off doing that for the movie, and not for the stage. It’s probably impossible (not that I would know for sure) to have your voice artfully break, falter, stutter or whisper AND carry to the last row of a theater. On the flipside, actors could also manage to belt out the notes on the West End because they only doing it once, max twice, a day. Whereas during filming, each song had to be performed between 20-30 times on a shooting day.
So, again, just stop.
Do yourself, Tom Hooper, Victor Hugo, Schönberg, Boublil, etc. a favor and stop analyzing and comparing and nitpicking. I know that it’s natural, and actually fun sometimes to do that but just stop. Just sit back, take it all in and just appreciate the fact that we’re lucky enough to have such a powerful story told in such different, remarkable ways.