In case you need to be impressed today, here is the cast of Les Misérables performing all their musical numbers live

You might be a cynic when it comes to movies adapted from Broadway musicals, and that's fine. They're not for everyone. But no matter what you might think of Les Misérables or its cast -- Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, among others -- you will undoubtedly be impressed by the approach taken by director Tom Hooper and the other filmmakers. Because they had their cast perform all the songs from the musical tragedy live on set, as opposed to being pre-recorded in a booth and then cleaned up later for a lip-sync on-set. It brought the actors to a different emotional place than a lip-sync ever could. (For example, let's just give Anne Hathaway her Oscar now.) But mostly, it makes this musical make sense.

Go ahead -- let this extended preview of Les Misérables shake your Grinchy core. You might need this today.

(via YouTube -- Thanks, Jess!)


  1. Not to rain on anyone’s parade here, but the Beatles movie directed by Julie Timor did the same thing, and had an amazing effect. It was not as well received because it was perceived differently. But it really does kick you in the guts when you actually see someone inhabiting their role so completely. 

  2. i worked on this for a few weeks – helped sculpt that shipwreck and bizarrely, a huge elephant. the main street set was built in pinewood’s new sound stage, and i have to say it looked fucking epic. at the time i thought i’d avoid this film like the plague, but there’s something about the way they’ve approached the acting and singing that i rather respect, despite my total dislike of musicals.

    good lord. i might even watch this.

    1. They used the elephant? Superb! I take it you man the one Gavroche hides in, the one made for Napoleon?

      1.  A pity that the elephant is cut from the musical but one can only include so many symbols in a staged work.

    1. The difference is respect — respect, precisely, for the hard work it takes to inhabit a film musical performance without syncing, as well as the extra resources needed to get the right takes, space out actors’ work to preserve their voices (Only Crowe and Jackman, I think, have done the 8-shows-a-week bit)… it’s not shabby, and it’s a leadpipe cinch to be featured on the Oscar telecast.

      1. Of course they deserve respect, but the amount of work it takes to get a live performance spot on without the chance for repeated takes deserves just as much respect, in my opinion. In other words, I don’s see any reason to be any more awed by live recording in a film environment than in a live stage performance. I suppose “I don’t see what is so especially amazing…” is more precise. 

        1.  The flipside of needing to get it right in a live show is that if you don’t, it’s usually not recorded for posterity. (If you blow it on opening night, you’ll get a bad review, but that’s it.) Also, in real musicals you don’t need to act in close-ups.

    2.  actors in musicals and operas do this every day

      Yes, they do, and more power to them. However, actors in filmed musicals do not (did you watch the video?).  They typically record their songs alone in a booth months before the movie is actually filmed.  This means that months before they meet their castmates or work their parts with the director they have already set in stone their characterisation during the song.  That’s it, no changes, even if the director would like it done a different way or if the actor would like to experiment – can’t do it, they must lip sync to the pre-recorded material. 

      Doing it this way is groundbreaking for filmed musicals.

      1.  Hardly “groundbreaking.” Musicals were made like this into the 1950’s and in 1975 Peter Bogdanovich did the same thing with “At Long Last Love.” Yes, it’s unusual, but there’s nothing new or groundbreaking about it.

  3. Virtually all musicals filmed between 1928 and 1932 or so were recorded live on the set, so it isn’t exactly “something that’s never been done before”. Peter Bogdanovich tried it again with At Long Last Love in 1975 (to disastrous results) and while every other actor in the film of My Fair Lady is dubbed/pre-recorded, Rex Harrison was not. He couldn’t be, as he was not able to sync to his own pre-recorded performance; each take was different enough that director Cukor had to film Harrison actually performing live to an orchestral track.

    But a film performance is a vastly different animal that a stage performance, so it will be interesting to see the result of this particular hybrid.

    1. Rex Harrison wasn’t a singer and didn’t really sing his musical numbers in My Fair Lady.  In interviews, he called it “speaking on pitch.”

      In other words, Rex Harrison was a rapper.  And a damn good one, if you ask me.

      We all know rap “fans” who think the Sugarhill Gang was where everything started.  Except for the few who are willing to stretch the definitions of “rap predecessor” back to mid-1960s Muhammed Ali poems, even the best informed historians generally don’t trace rap further back than 1970 and The Last Poets.

      I like to piss ’em all off by pointing out that Blondie charted first with a rap song and that an old white guy named Rex was rappin’ up a storm on the big screen in 1964.

      Then again, they usually don’t get pissed off.  They usually just look at me like I’m crazy…   :-)

  4. That clip of Anne Hathaway singing “I Dreamed A Dream” just guts me every time.  While there have been dozens of amazing versions of such a classic, I’ve never seen a performance where the actor portrays the absolute brokenness and hopelessness that Fantine is feeling.  I agree that everyone else in the Supporting Actress category should start practicing their fake smiles now because Anne Hathaway has got that locked down.

    1. Agreed. I have only eve heard one really good version of I Dreamed a Dream, and could never find it again (every version I can find sounds so fake). I suspect I may finally have me a definitive version.

      1. Lea Salonga’s version from the 25th Anniversary Concert in London is pretty great, but still a powerhouse vocal that doesn’t really match the despair of the lyrics.

    2. I think this is exactly the kind of thing she is good at – she’s always seemed more of a “stagy” actor anyway. And she’s a massive luvvie as well- she talks about “the craft” and “the job” in interviews.

      1. Honestly, I’m not really a fan of hers because she seems a little pretentious about acting, but she does have some chops and it looks like they’re on full display in this film.

  5. I so hope that they eventually release it with the piano accompaniment instead of the orchestral version. Watching the preview, the scenes with the simple piano track were much more emotionally charged than the orchestral versions which felt over-produced.

  6. I always resisted seeing the musical because I loved the book so much.  Everyone I talked to who said they love Les Misérables had only ever seen the musical and not read the book.  But I will see this.

    1. The musical is outstanding.  It’s a different experience than the book, so much less ambiguous — as you would expect in a 3 hour, versus a thirty hour, work of art.

    2. i feel the exact same.
      i will see this.

      making Hugo’s novel into a musical seemed insulting to me. A Musical… but I can never seem to remember that A Musical is nothing but an Opera in one’s own language.

      i will see this.

    3. I may be slightly biased since the Les Mis performance I saw was Colm Wilkinson’s last show, but I didn’t feel it detracted from the book. If it helps, think of the two as separate works of art that happen to share a name.

  7. Wide-eyed and trembling, Hollywood stumbles towards a day in which everyone in the movie musical can *actually sing.*  

    1. I’m not sure which I find weirder, Angela Lansbury (who would go on to win three singing Tony awards) being dubbed in The Harvey Girls or Julie Andrews being dumped for (non-singer) Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Or Rosalind Russell doing Gypsy instead of Ethel Merman (for whom it was written).

      It would almost make you think that Hollywood doesn’t think that music is an important part of a musical.

        1. I got to see Marni Nixon, and hear her sing, at a classic film festival here in Athens a few years ago.  She still had a beautiful voice.

  8. This is much more impressive for me as a severely hearing impaired individual since, as much as I love to sing (and I do it well) I can’t make out parts of the singing/dialogue in live performances due to my cochlear implant.  The fact that they are doing the audio this way with something that is subtitled is going to be sublime for me.

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