LES Miserables is a musical phenomenon, still showing in the West End after over 25 years and beloved by fans all round the world.
After two anniversary concerts and Susan Boyle making I Dreamed A Dream so famous, it was only a matter of time before the musical was turned into a film.
Only two big problems remained in adapting it. Firstly, it’s such a huge project, with a plot spanning decades and a massive ensemble cast. Secondly, musicals have not done well at the box office for a long time.
So how do you make a film full of death, misery and singing successful?
The solution was to hire Tom Hooper, the director of Oscar winner The King’s Speech, and one of the best casts in recent memory, including the Isle of Man’s very own Samantha Barks.
And successful it is.
With an A-List director and actors as talented as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and of course Sam belting out the iconic songs, this epic, complex musical translates beautifully to the screen.
Where most musicals record the songs in a studio before the actors mime on set, Hooper filmed all the actors singing live.
This gives the cast the opportunity to put their whole heart and soul into the performances, and while their voices are not quite as polished and theatrical as stage performers, they are certainly more dramatic.
Fans of the musical will be pleased to know that very little has changed in the transition to screen.
All of the major songs have remained, though the order has been changed to make the plot a little easier to understand.
The biggest successes are Anne Hathaway’s heartbreaking rendition of I Dreamed A Dream (expect her to win many awards for this) and the dramatic ensemble piece One Day More which will surely stir the audience to revolution.
And Sam, the island’s success story who emerged from TV talent show I’d Do Anything, achieves something quite remarkable.
Although this is her first time in a cinematic role, she performs with the confidence and skill of a seasoned actress. Her experience playing Eponine for the 25th Anniversary Concert means she is familiar with the role, yet this is nevertheless an impressive debut. She sings On My Own so emotionally and powerfully that she outshines most of the more experienced cast. It’s an incredible transition to cinema for Barks, and it’s safe to say she does the island proud.
Les Miserables will not be for everyone, as its rather long running time will seriously test those who don’t really like the genre.
Yet this is one of the most mature, moving musicals on film ever, featuring some unforgettable tunes and the start of an exciting cinematic career for the superb Samantha Barks.