Sunday 13 April 2014

A - Z Challenge: L is for Les Misérables

Most of the music that makes me think of my childhood is Mozart, Andrew Lloyd Webber (especially Jesus Christ Superstar) and Les Misérables.

I had seen Les Mis live twice before I was seven. (A note to parents: you really don't have to worry about most 'adult themes' when your children are watching something. All the prostitution and death and general...Misérables-ness went right over my head! It was years before I realize how fucked up it really was). It's been a sort of background presence in my life since I was very young, with occasional flares of devotion.

My sister and I went through a really intense period of Les Mis fanning when we were thirteen or so. Our parents bought us each a copy: my sister got one in French (she was in French immersion at school. I now own her copy, and I occasionally use it to look up something in the original French), and I got a fancy, hardcover, gold-embossed version. We spent hours listening to it on CD and singing along. I read a (very abridged) version in preparation for reading The Brick, as it's fondly known among fans. I started but didn't get very far.

When I was in grade eleven, my high school got discounted tickets to go and see Les Mis, and of course I had to go. I spent most of the show gripping my friend's hand very, very tightly and moving as little as possible. I started crying at "Drink With Me" and kept crying until the end. After the show, there was a Q&A with the performers. Most of my classmates sat further back, but I saw someone in the front row who I knew on sight, so I sat next to her.

Long story short:
- we dated
- I finally finished reading The Brick
- I loaned it to her and she carried it around in her backpack so now it looks like shit and I'm still pissed about it
- it was good and then it was Misérables
- I once pointed out a guy who looked like Valjean. She jumped into his arms and yelled, "Daddy!" and I was briefly horrified. It was her stepdad

As soon as I got home from seeing it, I looked up Valjean/Javert and never looked back.

My wife loves Les Mis, too, or we wouldn't be married! She's read the original French version, making her even more hardcore than me (and, you know, someone who had to read it in school. She was also in French immersion. I went to a high school reunion and told them I'd married a French girl. No one was surprised.)

Our former high school did a production of Les Mis (two years after I graduated, thank you very much Mr. K who I only begged every year to do Les Mis...) My wife and I brought flowers and gave two to the guy who'd played Grantaire--one for him to keep, and one for him to give to the guy who played Enjolras because I ship those two even though they're horrible for one another. And it's canon.

We saw the new movie together. In theatre, which was really stupid. I had to bite my hand because I was sobbing and I didn't want to disturb the people around me. We were emotional wrecks afterward.

Of course, we had to buy the DVD.

We have unwrapped the plastic from the case.

That is the closest we've gotten to watching it.

I have multiple recordings on CD and on my computer, including the full French version. I very, very, very seldom listen to any of them because they make me sad.

Other fandoms come and go, but Les Mis is always lurking in the background, waiting for an opening.

(Funny side note: I asked my mom to tell me the story when I was five or so, because we'd listened to the music so many times and there is but one soundtrack (the CSR or complete symphonic recording [and yes, I did have to look up what it's called, it's been a few years...]) that tells the whole story. Not even I own that one. Anyway, many years later, she asked me to tell her to full story! My explanation took much, much longer.)

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