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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: Character Differences Between The Musical & The Brick

Les Miserables Character Guide-- an excellent diagram to show all your petty confused friends while you give them the hour long lecture on the plot ;D

Several of the characters in Les Miserables (the brick) are quite different from Les Miserables (the musical).  I'll be listing every character, with the differences - and similarities - between their portrayal in the brick and in the musical.  I might miss a few things, though, so if you can think of any other points for the characters, please comment and let me know.

Les Mis (2012) | Who am I? #24601. Hugh Jackman (Valjean).
  • Jean Valjean - In the musical, Valjean is portrayed as a saint, sometimes almost too perfect.  While most of the time in the brick, he is like this, there are several differences.  For example, the song 'Bring Him Home' is actually quite brick-inaccurate.  Valjean actually hated Marius, even when he was dragging him through the sewers.  It was only after Cosette married Marius and they had a happy life together, that Valjean found any kindness in his heart for Marius (which I sort of don't understand, because Marius shuns Valjean like the plague when he learns about his backstory).  I do understand the limitations in having a 1,200+ page book being turned into a musical and I think the musical actually did an excellent job capturing Valjean's character.  They just ironed out all his bad points and threw in a few new amazing ones for good measure :)

    'Do not forget me, do not forget my name.' - Javert
  • Javert - The character of Javert is changed quite a bit in its transition from book to musical.  Sure, Javert is the same obsessed police officer in both mediums, but in the musical, he's wayyyyy more religious.  I mean, 'Stars' is a hugely religious/Catholic song if you think about it (he's basically trusting in good works - finding Valjean and putting him behind bars - for his salvation).  I think that's one of the reasons 'Stars' makes me feel so sad at times.  And, of course, his suicide.  All Javert's ever known about right and wrong and God has just been shattered beyond being recognizable and he can't handle it, so he kills himself.  In the book, Javert only views religion as an authority only slightly higher than the law, and while he shows due respect to priests and nuns, it's not the focus of his standards.
Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables 2012
  • Fantine - Well, besides Fantine's part being so small in the musical (unlike the brick where she has a whole backstory and book dedicated to her), I can't think of very many differences - if any.  Except for the fact that she's always played by actresses/singers who are too old (not counting high school productions), which actually doesn't count at all.  Fantine was only twenty-five when she died, which, of course, adds to the tragedy of her story.  But the musical conveyed everything about her character really well in the twenty or so minutes it allots for her.
Thenardiers  les-mis-les-miserables-2012-movie-33779843-1366-740.png (1366×740)
  • Thenardiers - Again, hardly any differences between the book/musical, besides the fact that there's almost no comedy in the book concerning the Thenardiers and the musical focuses hugely on that ("Let's not haggle for darling Colette."  "Cosette."  "-Cosette.").  And I don't want to spend too much on this post on them, so, moving on...
Marius is awesome but the problem is that he falls in love with a girl (Cosette) right when he saw her and his best friend (Eponine) has been in love with him forever at first site and he didn't know... Until Eponine died. SAD!
  • Marius - Soooo...Marius.  I think the musical is to blame for a lot of the hate Marius gets.  In the musical he basically has his head in the clouds the entire time, only talking about Cosette and not really caring that much for the revolution.  I'll admit that he's the exact same in the book, except he has a huge backstory that always makes me like him, he actually does fight at the barricades quite a lot (even though he does it so that he'll die because he can't marry Cosette), and there's just so much more depth to him in the brick than in the musical (well, that goes for all the characters, but especially Marius).  Seriously, if you don't like Marius-in-the-musical, read the brick.  You'll like him a lot more.
Eponine is by far the best character in Les Mis
  • Eponine - Let me just say right off that Eponine's a whole lot nicer in the musical than in the brick.  In the brick, she has an extremely rough voice and manners, she drinks a lot of alcohol, she talks to herself in a weird way, and she's all around creepy.  I still like her ('cause she does get a lot better as the story goes along), but it always shocks me when I first read the description of her, no matter how many times I do.  In the musical, she's a lot better.  She has an amazing voice, great songs, and she just generally endears herself to the audience.  I definitely like Eponine better in the musical (who doesn't?), but her character is richly complex in the book, and that's why I like her in both the musical and the book.
This is one of my favorite quotes from the Brick!
  • Cosette - Ahhhh, Cosette.  One of the most disliked literary characters ever (I'm really going to have to write a post defending her sometime soon).  Again, I believe it's the same case with her as with Marius.  She doesn't get fully developed in the musical (in fact, her character's rather flat), but in the book, she really is amazing.  I'll save most of my thoughts for that defense post I mentioned, but she really is the embodiment of Fantine's dreams.  And if you don't like her, at least find a little place in your heart for Cosette because of Valjean's sake :)  Note: If you want to watch an incredibly well rounded musical portrayal of Cosette, watch Amanda Seyrfried's.  She gets the character of Cosette beautifully and it's a real joy to watch her performance.
Before I saw the movie, when I would watch the 25th anniversary concert and listen to the soundtracks, I never understood why Enjolras was so popular. Then I saw Aaron Tveit in the movie and I realized why. I think every Les Mis fan loves a certain  Enjolras from a production. You just have to find him(;
  • Enjolras - *sigh*  I really didn't mean to leave Enjolras till last, but that's the way I always list the characters, for some reason, so I'm just sticking to it.  Just think of the phrase 'saving the best for last' :)  The only real difference between brick Enjolras and musical Enjolras, is that I can see musical Enjolras shipped with Eponine, but definitely not brick Enjolras.  He's way more severe in the brick.  Especially with Grantaire.  Note: All the barricade boys are portrayed pretty well in the musical, although if you read the brick, you'll discover all sorts of new amazing things about them.
What do you think of my analysis?  Do you have anything to add?


Miss Jane Bennet said...

Awesome! You hit most of them right on. Especially Enjolras...*siiiigh* And I actually dislike Marius much more in the brick than I do in the musical, although I prefer his character because it's more well-rounded. Cosette has always been one of my favorite characters.
But about Eponine...did you read my post on her? I actually prefer the brick version. :)

Anonymous said...

I think you are spot on Eva! Spot on!!! I can't wait for you to write your defending post about Cosette. Someone ought to. (Excluding me, because I already have) Cosette is pretty flat in the musical, and you're right. People really need to read the Brick if they've seen the musicals and the movie.
~Hannah S.

Sierra Bailey said...

Eva I loved this post. You're always so good at explaining all the characters.

Anonymous said...

What about Gavroche? Gavroche is Eponine's sister, isn't he?

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