Hello again, readers! With a virtual show of hands, how many of you were beyond excited to see the new Les Miserables movie? Me too! Not since Chicago in 2002 have I anticipated the release of a movie musical as much as I have with Les Mis; and well worth the wait I might add.
Initially I was drawn to the film for the amazing cinematography which is truly a delectable feast for the eyes. However, I learned through previews and movie featurettes the actors were going to sing the tracks live on set; ear pieces would be worn to feed a piano accompaniment as they sang. A more common practice for Hollywood musicals is to pre-record the songs with an orchestra and then lip-synch them on set. Les Mis director, Tom Hooper, knew in order to keep the character's emotions authentic, the only way to adapt the legendary musical for the big screen was to make all the actors sing live. Hooper called this technique "groundbreaking."
Wait....what? Readers, are you questioning that this is the first time something like this has been done in movie musicals? Good for you, because it's not the first time!
The movie's press would have us believe this is a completely new concept to filming movie musicals, but that is simply not true. Bette Midler sang live in The Rose; the 1979 movie loosely based on the life of tragic rock and roll legend, Janis Joplin. The film became a massive hit and turned Midler into a star almost overnight, as well as earning her an Oscar nomination. Barbra Streisand was not a fan of lip-synching for the 1976 remake of the film A Star is Born and recorded her music live. Other movies we can add to this list are At Long Last Love and The Love Parade.
I do believe Les Miserables adapted beautifully from the stage to film; "groundbreaking" singing techniques or not. The film’s multiple nominations for major awards including BAFTA (9 nominations), Oscars (8 nominations) and Golden Globes (4 nominations) provide the best evidence to my above proclamation. But in respect to my fellow theatre thespians, I leave you with this cheeky tweet from Michael Cerveris who is appearing in Evita on Broadway:
"Inspired by Hollywood, actors all over town ARE SINGING LIVE today and tonight. 8 times a week. Every week. No second take."
Well said, Michael. Well said.
Until next time,