Gelzon de la Cruz

Why Les Miserables Begs To Be Shared

In Society, Updates on January 31, 2013 at 10:36 am

Have you seen Les Miserables? A sincere question when spoken by most. Not a mere kicker for other queries about where you saw it—at the Mecca of London’s West End, among the new world cousins of Broadway, maybe at a local production that just barely managed to pay the franchise, or now finally at a nearby cinema. The question does not lead to any measurement of the cost or quality of the performance you watched. Only a probing of how deeply you have been immersed in it. Because seeing the musical is like finding religion. Not a particular one but the salvation that all religions offer.

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Do you hear the people sing? I am fond of the song and its refrains. But I cannot peg it as my favorite. Not when I am drawn by so many others that cause all sorts of different tremors: Master of the House, hedonistic boast of the hilarious Thenardiers; Stars, the beautifully terrifying oath of righteous yet barren Javert; On My Own, the triumph of unloved though loving Eponine; Drink With Me, the lament of rebels who would know greatness but are certain too of their imminent end; Bring Him Home, Valjean’s soulful prayer for a stranger loved by a daughter not wholly his; and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Marius’ guilt-laden eulogy for friends he was fated to join but was blessed to outlive.

Do you hear the people sing? I do, but the song is too overt, brandishing a central struggle and filled with bravado that, even so, melts at the end of each of their remaining days. Like a curtain of plush velvet, red and arterial with promised spectacle, I cherish it as it is sung and pulled aside to reveal these other songs–each a portrait of men and women who are, each one of them, convicts of their convictions, without hope for parole but with souls tightly grasping slim chances at redemption.

And so, for all, there is One Day More–the hope of those who are pursued by duty, desires, destiny and doom. One more in the everyday, with feet thickly mired in their frailties, as they aspire for the divine. Small steps in journeys that stretch for millennia: it is the history of the world in bite-sized vignettes. Like finding religion I said: it is why we seek others who have seen, even entreat them to watch, Les Miserables. Like glimpsing the salvation offered by any religion I said: we seek to share it with others, for salvation is a terrible thing if attained alone.

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