Apparently, the Cranky Book Reviewer is not finished yet.
After closing up that last post, and reading it over, I really started to consider more about the stage-musical-on-the-big-screen phenomenon. The silver screen is all well and good. Sure, I'd like to be able to watch my favourite movies whenever I want, and a movie theatre (or, let's face it, my couch and a dvd) is a lot more accessible than a theatre theatre. The cast would never be having an "off" night, and a raspy voice or distracted mind would never ruin a good scene, but... in changing format from stage to film, there is magic that is lost.
The very experience of seeing live theatre always touches me. I cry at happy, at sad, at beautiful, you name it. I am drawn in to the story in a way that I never have been at the movies, and the experience stays with me, with all its nuances and flourishes, for a long time afterwards. Maybe it's just because I've seen SO many movies (not that many in theatres, lately) (thanks, Hufflings) that the magic is lost, but I don't think so. In the theatre, you can suspend your disbelief more easily. The people on the stage really are people, not Hollywood stars,* and you know that what you're seeing and hearing has not been produced or auto-tuned to make it sound or look better.
I think I was in grade nine when I saw Les Miserables on stage in Toronto. It was a Sunday afternoon matinée. I remember that we took the subway to downtown, and that I was a bit miffed that I wasn't going to see The Phantom instead. Who cared about the French Revolution? What was the point of going to see a show about something I knew nothing about, with music I had never even heard before, and characters that I wouldn't be interested -- or able -- to follow or relate to? Three hours later, I emerged into daylight, awed. I don't often throw around the term "transcendent", but I had been completely swept away by the artistry, the music, the emotion and the story.**
Do these incredible classics really need to be transformed into just more 120-minute movie experiences? I guess I didn't have to go see the show on the screen (as I did with Phantom, Pirates, Evita, Joseph, Hair, Mamma Mia...ok, I'm a sucker), but as with the others, I found that after the cinema, although the score was stuck in my head for weeks again, the visuals and the memories would be from the stage version.
There is value, perhaps, in making the story of Les Mis more accessible (unless you're a student from Quebec) (badum), but although I enjoyed the experience to the full extent that I could with a small infant, and sobbed at Valjean's death (oh, spoiler alert again) (sue me), I didn't walk away lifted. I admit that the 2-cd set is in my car right now, and that I sing along heartily (yet terribly), but the connections I have are to what I saw on the stage, not what I saw on the screen.
* Possibly not people. See also, Tom Cruise.
** There was (and still is) a large question about why everyone involved in the French Revolution had British accents, but whatever.