Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe To Empire!
Save up to 69%
Empire
Film Studies 101
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

BOOK DETAILS
Released
28 February 2013
Author
Martyn Palmer
Publisher

LATEST BOOK REVIEWS
John Hughes: A Life In Film
3 Star Empire Rating
Why Acting Matters
4 Star Empire Rating
In The Company of Legends
3 Star Empire Rating
Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return
3 Star Empire Rating
Chappie: The Art Of The Movie
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Saturday Night Live: The Book
5 Star Empire Rating
Grand Budapest Hotel, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Becoming Richard Pryor
5 Star Empire Rating
75 Years of Marvel
5 Star Empire Rating
Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy
5 Star Empire Rating

Les Miserables: From Stage To Screen


submit to reddit

Review
It is apt that Les Miserables should be given a book treatment akin to a superhero blockbuster. Cameron Mackintosh’s juggernaut of a musical has become one of entertainment’s biggest brands, generating the stats (48,000 performances in 218 cities in 42 countries seen by 60 million punters), devotion (superfan Sally Frith has seen it 957 times — at an average of £30 a pop, that’s £28,710) and critical snootiness (“Euroschlock!” “turgid panorama!”) accorded the biggest film franchises. This glossy ‘making of’, augmented by removable memorabilia, arrives as Les Mis is topping the (UK) box office, gunning for Oscars and getting bigger 27 years on. Les Mis: The iOS Game (Barricade!) can’t be far off.

Kicking off with a foreword by Mackintosh, who argues the show is a “contemporary mirror of ourselves”, theatre critic Benedict Nightingale and film journo Martyn Palmer (of this parish) trace the show from Victor Hugo’s novel, to the disastrous French staging (a transmitter from the Eiffel Tower caused havoc with the radio mics), to the infamous four-hour RSC debut (Michael Ball remembers how the backstage call for the evening performance came before the end of the matinée) and its subsequent renaissance in the West End at the hands of the public. The book is good on the kick-bollock-scramble nature of the show’s creation — Stars and Bring Him Home were last-minute additions, On My Own’s lyric was hastily rewritten in Covent Garden restaurant Joe Allen — and is a powerful testament not only to the tenacity and vision of Mackintosh but also the creativity of composers Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer.

Once the show has opened, the book lacks a bit of narrative drive, analysing the characters, the international adaptations — when the show opened in the US, union rules meant that ensemble performers couldn’t be replaced, meaning that some of the students turned 50 years old as the musical ran and ran — Susan Boyle and the various anniversary celebrations. Things get back on track with the movie version, throwing up insights from all the major players and great trivia titbits, such as director Tom Hooper dressing his cameramen in period costume so they could mingle with the crowds carrying small cameras.

If the book falls down, it is that it offers little in the way of analysis of the success itself. As original stage director Trevor Nunn says, “It has ‘miserable’ in the title, 29 onstage deaths, no dancing and is about French history,” yet there is little here that gets to the heart of why it strikes a chord with so many people. Still, for the fanbase, the facsimiles of memorabilia — programmes, tickets, costume designs, John Napier’s astonishing set design, prop lists — are invaluable, the writing enthusiastic and the production values upscale. A worthy overview.


Reviewed by Ian Freer

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
General Election 2015 Photoshop Special: Empire's Movie Cabinet
Vote for Smaug!

Chris Rock: Role By Role
The comedian talks us through his hits and misses

Film Studies 101: Being A Location Manager
Avengers: Age Of Ultron's Jamie Lengyel shares the tricks of the trade

10 Avengers: Age Of Ultron Secrets
Exclusive: Joss Whedon spills the beans on Empire's spoiler podcast

Updated! Stan Lee’s Marvel-lous Cameos – Now With Even More Cameos
From Daredevil to... Daredevil?

11 Of The Silliest Sesame Street Film Parodies
From Aveggies: Age Of Ultron to Big Birdman (and back again)

Richard Armitage Bids Farewell To The Hobbit
On goat-riding, keepsakes and saying goodbye to Thorin

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Subscribe now and save up to 70%

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire Digital Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe now and save up to 69%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)