While I have a high regard for the Hugo novel, even more do I love the musical version of Les Miserables. One of my favorite memories of nights out on the town was when WB, Big Chilly and I went to see it in Minneapolis along with our dates. The three of us had seen it before, but none of the girls had so Big Chilly and I went armed with plenty of Kleenex for them since we’d remembered how all the women in the audience were crying their eyes out by the end. Chilliette nearly needed to be rehydrated afterwards, as she started in even before the second song which has to be some kind of record.
My date lost it during Fontine’s death, which was respectable, but I was impressed how WB’s girl was holding out, until I heard some sniffles to my left after Gavrosh was killed. I offered a fistful of Kleenex to her but she patted my hand and told me she was fine. I started to bring my hand back when suddenly this big hand reached over from across her and snatched the lot from me. I was laughing so hard that I was shaking, but it was a totally inappropriate moment so I buried my head between my knees and tried to keep it quiet.
But when my date gave me a there-there pat on the shoulder, it was too much. I lost it entirely which also set Big Chilly off laughing; fortunately the music kicked in right then so we didn’t ruin it for anyone.
So, here’s the question. Which is the best song from Les Miserables? I love “Do You Hear the People Sing” as well as the confrontation between Javaer and Valjean that ends with that dual promise, but upon further reflection, I have to go with “Stars”. The deep bass, the rectitude masking desperate self-loathing and the tragedy of a man being destroyed by that which has made him successful simply sets it apart from a set of songs that are lyrically excellent as well as amazingly well-crafted – though admittedly simplistic and emotionally manipulative – from a musical point of view.