Erika’s Favorite Songs from Les Miz

by | Mar 30th, 2011 | 12:14PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Hum Along, In My Humble Opinion, Movie Lists, Movies

les miserablesLast weekend I told my husband how excited I was that my favorite musical of all time, Les Misérables had a 25th Anniversary DVD out — a DVD that had made its way to redbox. His response? “I’ve never seen Les Miz.”

WHAT?!?!  How could this man be my husband?  How could I have never shared the Les Miz experience with him in all of the years that have passed since we met in 1999? I decided to remedy the situation immediately, and we hunkered down in our comfy recliners for a Saturday night viewing of the three-hour-long production.

During the show, which was performed at London’s 02 Arena by a special 25th Anniversary cast (including the one and only Nick Jonas as Marius), I realized I knew every single word of the musical.  Every last one! That’s what comes from listening to the soundtrack for decades, I guess. Since I know I’m obviously not the only huge Les Miz fan out there, I thought it would be fun to list my favorite songs from the play and get your reactions.  So here it goes:

Erika’s Five Favorite Songs from Les Misérables:

5) Who Am I? – The Trial (by Jean Valjean) — I love the melody… but the truth behind this one making the list is that for some weird reason I’ve always gotten a huge kick out of the name “Jean Valjean” — it’s like I can’t NOT giggle when I hear it. Considering the lines near the climactic end of this tune, it was bound to be one of my faves: “Who am I…. who am I… ? I AM JEAN VALJEAN!

4) A Heart Full of Love (Cosette, Marius, and Éponine) – One of the shorter numbers in the production, but simply lovely and unforgettable. This is the one I’ve found myself humming ever since Saturday.

3) One Day More (Chorus) - Absolutely brilliant in its use of so many intertwined melodies (from other songs and character themes in the production) and cast members singing different lyrics and tunes all at once. Every time I listen to it, I notice something new.

2) Do You Hear the People Sing? (Chorus) – Some of the best, most stirring lyrics ever written. I still marvel at how its message can be applied to so many present-day situations around the world. I challenge you to NOT leap out of your seat with revolutionary fervor at the end. (Even if you’ve got nothing to revolt against!)

1) On My Own (Éponine) – No question here whatsoever. This is not only my favorite song from the musical, but it’s also one of my favorite songs of all time. It never fails to bring a tear to my eye, and I think this is the song that deserves all of the hype usually reserved for “I Dreamed a Dream.” That’s right Fantine, I said it!

Les MizWhat do my fellow Les Miz fans think of my list?

I should add a few words about the 25th Anniversary DVD while we’re at it:

  • If you’ve already seen the musical live, then you’ll probably enjoy the DVD. There’s a really cool part with the original 1985 cast at the very end, and the cast of this special production was stellar as well (yes, even the Jonas Bro — who I read was dating the chick who plays Éponine for a little while!). There’s a very fun DVD extra called “A Whiz through Les Miz” that I highly recommend watching after you’ve seen the main show — it’s got snippets of the original cast included, which makes for some fun “then and now” comparisons.
  • If you have never seen Les Misérables, this might not be the best introduction, simply because the 25th Anniversary show was not performed as the musical normally is. There aren’t really any sets and the characters do not act out any scenes. It’s basically just all of the cast in costume, standing and singing at microphones. So you might be a little lost if you’re not already familiar with the story line. For example, I needed to tell my husband who had been shot, who was related to whom, who was dying, etc., as he would’ve never been able to figure it out otherwise because of the lack of interaction amongst the cast. However, if you’re up for getting the gist of Victor Hugo’s story and hearing what might just be the best musical score and soundtrack of all time, then don’t delay — pop it in!

Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary is now at redbox. Reserve a copy!


13 Responses to “Erika’s Favorite Songs from Les Miz”

  1. RVASarah
    Posted on March 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    What? No love for the 10th Anniversary Concert featuring “The Dream Cast”? 16 years later and I still can’t forget how phenomenal that show was.

  2. Jennifer Sci Fi Friend
    Posted on April 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    For me, Singing in the Rain, West Side Story and Les Mis all rank number 1!!! However, Les Mis has that just right emotional punch that gets you hooked forever. Sigh…

    I love your list with a couple additions. My number one is “Bring Him Home”. When he hits and holds the high note, I am done emotionally. One of the most beautiful songs sung by a man, I think.

    Then we must include the rowdy just pure fun number of “Master of the House”. A good sing along drinking song. Such fun.

    Then rounding out my list would be “At The End of the Day” and “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables”. Two very dramatic songs in their own different way from each other and the rest. I love the ensemble singing setting the stage for us for Fantaine’s story. And the Empy Chairs just oozes with poignancy.

    I have to say while Joe Jonas tried his best, I think he fell short in his performance and did not have the vocal chops to be Marius. Not everyone can sing Broadway. Takes a special voice.

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Carol S. Cole
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 1:59 am

    I have seen Les Miz 9 or 10 times, and EVERY song is a show-stopper. I rate it the #1 musical. Sometimes I will see a musical, and when I leave the theater I can’t recall the tune of any of the numbers. With Les Miz, one could be humming any one of the tunes. They are all memorable.

  3. Tori
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Seriously? No “Master of the House”? Boo on her.

  4. Odette
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 8:03 am

    I totally agree with you about “On My Own”!! I’ve never understood why it wasn’t more popular. One mention though: Fantine sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” not Cosette. I’m sure it was just a typo, with you being such a fan and all.

    I agree also with Jennifer Sci Fi Friend on two accounts.
    First that Nick Jonas couldn’t really hang with the big boys on Broadway/West End. He did his best and even did well, but you could tell he wasn’t up to their level. I understand why they had him sing it, but I wish they could have had someone who would have at least matched Valjean in the “Who am I?” Reprise.
    I also agree that “Bring Him Home” should be included in any top list of Les Miz songs. That one makes me melt every time!

    I also love Valjean’s “FLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!” in the prologue. That’s how I tell whether or not the Valjean is any good. Alfie Boe was just incredible for that one! So, I knew I was in for a treat! He did so well, the entire concert. You should watch this if for no other reason than to hear his incredible voice!

  5. Marie
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 9:30 am

    “to love another person is to see the face of God.” Love that line.

  6. Erika Olson

    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Oh geez, Odette, thanks for the catch! I changed Cosette to Fantine — it was definitely just my mind being elsewhere… probably still back on Cosette’s big ol’ head! : )

  7. JohnR
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I’ve only seen Les Miz twice on Broadway, but have listened to the soundtrack thousands of times and seen it performed by numerous community and school companies. It is, without a doubt, my favorite musical of all time (and I have seen my fair share!)

    Choosing my 5 favorite songs from Les Miz is a daunting task. I will be honest, I am not a fan of Cosette’s songs in the musical. I think they are great, but certainly not among my favorites. As such, “Heart Full of Love” is probably my least favorite song in the musical. Additionally, I don’t care much for the darker songs by the Innkeeper, such as “Dog Eats Dog”. Again, on it’s own I think it is a good tune, but when in the company of the others songs in this musical, it pales in comparison in my opinion.

    Before I state my 5 favorites (or at least attempt to do so… I will probably change my mind more than once) I want to make a few notes on the 25th Anniversary Edition. I think casting Nick Jonas as Marius may not have been a huge mistake, but his unfamiliarity with the music was painfully evident. He appeard to be reading cue cards during many of the songs, and Marius is a key role in the second act. I beleive Nick Jonas should have spent more time studying the music before attempting to perform it. Overall, the 25th cast was superb. I especially loved Valjean. With the encore appearance of Colm Wilkinson, who will probably always be the epitome of Jean Valjean, there were huge shoes to fill, but he did it admirably. Although no Colm, he was an amazing Valjean nonetheless. And my other two favorite roles were well cast: Eponine and Javiert. I thought Fontine and Cosette were effective, but overall lackluster.

    Ok, now the difficult part… my 5 favorite songs from Les Miz *deep breath*…

    #5 – The Bishop
    While there is nothing particularly outstanding about this song, presented early in the musical, “The Bishop” marks, what I believe, to be the pivotal plot-setting turningpoint of the entire musical. It is the short scene surrounding this song that literally creates the Jean Valjean we get to know and love. Because of its powerful emotion, this song slips into my top 5.

    #4 – Empty Chairs and Empty Tables
    There are so many songs in Les Miz that evoke extremely strong emotions, but this song seems to wrap up some very powerful feelings while providing a deep sense of understanding into Marius’s emotional state. The lyrics and the images they portray in this song are powerful enough to propel this song into my top 5.

    #3 – The Confrontation
    I absolutely adore the the “dialog” between Valjean and Javiert here. This song defines the crux of the conflict between these two men, and gives us insight into the emotions that drive them. The lyrics and emotional climaxes make this song impossible to not listen to over and over trying to pick out each word. I love it.

    #2 – Stars
    One word: breathtaking. This song defines Javiert without question. If you’ve gotten to this point in the musical without understanding Javiert, you now do. The lyrics are powerful and mesmerizing, the melody is beautiful, and overall this is one of the most amazing pieces in the work without question.

    #1 – One Day More
    I cannot stop listening to this one. As stated previously, you can hear something new every time you listen. Each character tells his or her story over one another, and in this climactic moment of the musical, everything comes together and sets us up for the amazing ride in the second act. As this song concludes, one cannot help but feel their heart pounding in their chest with excitement, and when the curtain drops after the last note, signalling the end of act 1, you don’t even want to move but want the next act to begin immediately. As all of the characters bellow the final “one… day… more!”, the emotional rollercoaster reaches its peak.

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    mmagnan
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I am overjoyed to see that Les Miz is available on DVD. I had enjoyed the wonderful 10th anniversary show and saved it on VHS tape, but it is no longer available to me. This is such a remarkable event for those of us who have truly embraced Les Miserable as a compelling story and with the songs that are woven throughout. I have seen the show performed 6 times and have dragged everyone I could with me. I love every single song in the show, but my favorite song is “Bring Him Home” – right from the first piano melody. A heartbreaking song timely for today’s heros.

  8. JohnR
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Erika, I have to agree with you on so many points… especially about “On My Own”. That is the most powerful ballad in the entire musical, and Eponine is my overall favorite character in the musical. I think her role is underplayed in the story, and would imagine that most people who see it don’t even realize the subtleness of what she adds. It was amazingly difficult not to include “On My Own” in my top 5, and just as difficult to omit “A Little Fall of Rain”.

    Also, “Who Am I?” should possibly have been on my top 5, and on many days may even have been my #1. I absolutely love the last line… “Who Am I? TWO FOUR SIX OH ONEEEEE!” It gives me chills every time!

    As for “A Heart Full of Love”, even though one of my least favorite songs in the musical, I am enthralled with Eponine in this song, though again she is underplayed in the scene. I think the most powerful line in the song is “little you know… little you care…”

  9. Susan
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Also a huge fan of Les Mis…I saw the original broadway cast, from row 4 of the theater. I think I cried through the entire show. Since then I’ve seen it in several other countries, in other languages as well as every time possible to see it here in the US. It is without question the best of the best in my mind. It is also nearly impossible to pick just the top five songs. But in the spirit of this little entry, I will try…

    #5 BRING HIM HOME. Mostly this one is here because it is seared in my mind of Colm Wilkinson standing downstage, barely moving, but with such emotion and so prayerfully singing those high notes. I don’t think I took a breath through the entire song.

    #4 STARS. Javert is such a complex character. This song really shows his own internal conflict over always doing what he believed was right and God’s will with having been saved by this person whom he believes to be evil….just too much for him to justify. Beautiful.

    #3 ONE DAY MORE. I love the excitement of this one and picking out each characters part when they are all singing their own part, each with their own story to tell as to what the next day will bring.

    #2 DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING? Always inspires me to want to join hands with the world and do some ‘good work’ with my neighbor, friends, community – whatever that might mean to each. The lead in to the chorus as the finale is one of my favorite lines of all time….”to love another person is to see the face of God.”

    #1 ON MY OWN. No doubt.

    I’m sad to leave off A Little Fall of Rain, Red and Black and the Bishop’s song and Who Am I…but what can you do? (Next time give us the top 10! haha.)

  10. Michael
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Fascinating take on a most marvelous topic. I’ll have to go rent this DVD as I missed it on PBS.

    Living so far from Broadway, I haven’t had as many opportunities to see Les Miserables as I would like (twice with tickets for a third this May). My brothers introduced me to the London Cast recording when I was just barely 11 or 12, and I had to read the book to get the full story. I’m amazed at how well the musical follows the storyline of the book with a minimum of necessary edits.

    That said, the music is phenomenal, and as has already been stated, makes it practically impossible to whittle down to a top 5, but here is my attempt:

    5. On My Own – Eponine & Cosette have such an amazing twist in fortune and fate, both circling around the same circumstances and the same emotions for Marius (but for different reasons). This is the ultimate tragic loss of love for the outcast in a love triangle. Sad.

    4. Stars – Javert is a tragically heroic figure whose only flaw is his strongest attribute as a police officer, an absolute trust in Justice. This song captures his essence so perfectly.

    3. I Dreamed A Dream – this sums up the tragic character of Fantine so perfectly. It’s the first hint of just how powerful the music in the show will be.

    2. Empty Chairs At Empty Tables – grief never sounded so good.

    1. Bring Him Home – To me, this is the climatic apex of the music in the show, especially if you include the symphonic reprise shortly after the barricade falls. Phenomenal.

  11. Closeted Musical Fan
    Posted on April 5, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Applause to JohnR for bringing “Bishop’s Song” into the discussion. Most people see this as a love story, but the higher story line – and one that I think was Hugo’s deeper intent – is the affect one man’s small act of redemption can have on a community and a nation. The bishop’s small act of kindness and Godly, unconditional love changed the heart of a man headed for a life of crime, which in turn changed the fate of the workers he employed, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, etc., etc., etc. One never knows the outcome of one pull of the tapestry yarn.