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Monday, February 24, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Guest Post By Amy

Hello, lovely peeps!  Eva very kindly invited me to guest post for her A Tale of Two Cities week, and since I'm a big fan of the musical, I agreed without reservation.

Sadly, I've only seen the concert version and listened to the cast album-- I've never seen the whole show live.  (Someday, though.  Someday.)  But then, most of us haven't had a chance to see any more than that, so I'm just as qualified as any of you to discuss it, yes?  And the thing I'm here to discuss today is the similarity between ATOTC and The Best Musical That Ever Was.

....Les Mis, guys.  I'm talking about Les Mis.

It is a truth universally acknowledged (I've got to stop using that line, I use it way too much...) that Les Mis and ATOTC have a lot in common, and those of the more cynical sort have sometimes said that ATOTC is just a ripoff of Les Mis' success.   Now, I'm not going to deny that I'm a bit of a cynic at times (though I'm not as bad as Grantaire) and I've been known to point out the similarities between the musicals with my own fair share of snark.  And though I don't really think ATOTC is ripping off Les Mis, per se, I do find amusement in comparing the two and having a little private giggle now and then.

So.  Let us do this.  

Comparison #1 
"Until Tomorrow" vs. "One Day More." 

ATOTC on Broadway, 2008 and Les Mis on the West End, 2004-- yes,
that's Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras.  :D

 This, I think is one of the most obvious correlations.  Take a listen to the concept cast recording of "Until Tomorrow"-- Defarge sounds an awful lot like Enjolras there in the beginning, yes?  Well, maybe more like Enjolras in "Do You Hear the People Sing?," but it's the same thing, basically.  (Yes, yes, it is.  Shush.)  One more day before the storm, and all that.  And if you're not sure what you're supposed to be comparing this to, go listen to "One Day More"-- I mean, the idea of being all hyped about something when there's just one day left is an age-old concept where musicals are concerned... just think of "How Can I Wait" and "Tomorrow" and all that.  The choreography, too, is very similar, and I can't deny that I have wondered if maybe the producers ripped off Les Mis just a teeeeeeeeeeny bit.  I mean, they practically do the famous "One Day More" step.  That can't be coincidental.  But
"Until Tomorrow" is still a cool song. :D 

Comparison #2
Marius and Cosette vs. Lucie and Charles

Simon Thomas and Brandi Burkhart in the PBS concert - Alistair Brammer
and Emily Bull (?) on the West End in 2010.

Now, I'm not really comparing the two couples' storylines here.  Sure, they all end up with their true loves and in both cases there's an unrequited third party languishing out in the cold, but Marius/Cosette and Lucie/Charles are two very different romances.  M/C is a love-at-first-sight deal, whereas L/C takes a little longer to develop (in my opinion, at least).  Here, I'm just comparing the couple's portrayals in general. When my sister and I first heard Simon Thomas as Charles, we looked at each other and went, "He could TOTALLY play Marius in Les Mis."  It's that head-in-the-clouds, romantic male lead type of voice.  Heehee.  And Cosette and Lucie are rather similar in temperament and voice type... high sopranos with generally sweet personalities.  Lucie, I think, goes through a lot more character development in her musical, but Cosette would too if she actually had more STAGE TIME.  Ahemmmmmmmmm.  (I'm Team Cosette, in case you didn't notice. Do not hate on Cosette.)  

Plus, both musicals feature the scene-where-the-suitor-asks-the-father-for-the-daughter's-hand, though of course in Les Mis' case, it's Valjean who's trying to confess his past to Marius, and in ATOTC it's Charles attempting to tell his story to Dr. Manette.  Heehee.

Comparison #3
Sydney Carton vs. Grantaire, Who Doesn't Have a First Name

Sydney Carton James Barbour in the PBS concert and
Hadley Fraser in the 25th Anniversary concert

Um, they're both alcoholics who cry about how hopeless they are and die by the finale, the end.

All riiiiiiiight, I'll elaborate.  Sydney really does remind me of Grantaire, though Sydney is in the end a much more admirable character.  Yes, yes, Grantaire dies with his friends (or with Enjolras, depending on whether you're watching the stage show or the movie or reading the book) and gives up his life for a cause he doesn't believe in, but it didn't really benefit anybody... I know, I know, heresy, but it's TRUE.  But Sydney's sacrifice in the end enables Charles to live with his family, happily ever after, while Sydney goes willingly to the guillotine because he wants to spare Lucie the grief of losing her husband.

Be right back, have to go bawl in the corner.

Comparison #4
Father-Daughter Relationships

Unknown stage production, snagged from Google Images, and
Hugh Jackman and Isabelle Allen in the 2012 film

Dr. Manette and Lucie are biological father and daughter-- Valjean adopted Cosette when her mother died.  Dr. Manette and Lucie were reunited after years of being apart, and ended up having a good many years together after that-- Valjean took Cosette in when she was eight and died when she was sixteen.  (Wahhhhhh.)

Comparison #5
Sacrificial Lullabies

James Barbour and the little girl who played Lucie in the concert, Ramin
Karimloo on the West End in 2012

"Bring Him Home" is not, on the surface, very similar to "Let Her Be a Child."  Both are prayers, yes, but one is for a young man who's passively "threatening" to take away the singer's daughter, and the other is for a little girl whose father's life is in danger.  And yet they're both completely selfless.  Valjean literally offers up his own life in exchange for Marius', while Sydney spends the whole song pleading with God to protect little Lucie from fear, repeating the theme of how "she mustn't know what we know."  (I prefer this version of the song, by the way-- the one from the concert with Charles Darnay duetting is also lovely, but the first one is just more gutwrenching.)

"Save grief for somewhere years away-- just not today, not here."  // "He is young, he is only a boy.  You can take, you can give; let him be, let him live."  
"Show me some way to give this gift to her!"  //  "If I die, let me die.  Let him live, bring him home."

It's also worth pointing out that both Valjean and Sydney realize that if they do nothing in a particular situation, the man taking away the girl they love will die and she'll stay with them.  And yet they both choose the harder path.  

"What if he can’t be saved?
What if he dies? 
What if she turns to me?"
"This is the day that most I feared
Now a young man has appeared to change my life
This Marius will take away the treasure of my autumn day to be his wife.
He could die tonight...
I must find this boy."

Comparison #6
Tragic Yet Uplifting Endings

'Nuff said.

"I can't recall a sky so clear.  The heavens seem an inch away and not unfriendly after all-- if life was never quite this sweet, I can't recall.  It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever known."

"Will you join in our crusade?  Who will be strong and stand with me?  Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?  Do you hear the people sing?  Say, do you hear the distant drums?  It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!" 


Caroline L. said...

Well, I started out reading the post, giggling to myself that SOMEONE can't NOT mention Les Mis, even in a post about a completely different musical (hehehe ;] ), and ended up with my heart in knots and my feelings going everywhere. Lovely comparison post, Amy. I had never even occurred to me that Valjean and Carton had similarities.

Mònica said...

Reading all these posts, I suddenly realize that I have GOT to read A Tale of Two Cities. It sounds really good!

Miss Dashwood said...

Ha, for some reason I missed this when it got published and I was wondering why it never appeared... and look at that, it DID. Oops. Anyways, thanks so much for asking me to guest post, Eva! I had a lot of fun with this. (Bahahaha, Caroline... I guess you know me a little too well. :P)

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