I remember when the Beatles masterpiece Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. I still have my vinyl copy. The music was revolutionary, but what made the album itself unique was tucked inside: a sheet of related cut-outs. A picture of Sgt. Pepper, a fake moustache, sergeant stripes: It was like a membership kit, proving you were a member of the band.
I had the same fan-girl reaction when I opened Les Miserables From Stage to Screen, by Benedict Nightingale and Martyn Palmer. In the interest of full disclosure, I've never seen Les Mis on stage, though I know people who have seen it dozens of times. Now I must find out what I've missed.
Any behind-the-scenes book must satisfy rabid fans, and this one won't disappoint. Nightingale and Palmer are nothing if not over-achievers. The statistics alone are staggering:
Over 11,000 performances in London's West End alone
Worldwide, over 100 companies have performed 48,000 times in 42 countries and 318 cities, for a total audience of over 60 million people.
A record 15 productions running simultaneously.
The show has been translated into 21 languages and has won almost 100 major awards.
There is, in fact, a school version.
The larger question, of course, is why? And why now for a film version?
Why did the character of the Artful Dodger, in a 1978 revival of Oliver! remind Alain Boublil of Gavroche in Victor Hugo's epic Les Miserables?
Why did he and Claude-Michel Schonberg believe they could succeed where even Puccini failed: to bring a 1,200 page novel to the musical stage?
Why did Cameron Mackintosh believe they could do it?
The detail in this book is close to overwhelming. At times reading like a how-to guide on creating a masterpiece, it also contains a wealth of little-known facts. It's an entertaining read.
From the original concept and staging in Paris, to London's West End, to Broadway and beyond, you'll have a front-row seat to the challenges and joys of adapting Les Miserables to stage and screen.
Victoria Noe has been a writer most of her life, but didn?t admit it until 2009. After earning a Masters from the University of Iowa in Speech and Dramatic Art, she moved to Chicago, where she worked professionally as a stage manager, director and administrator in addition to being a founding board member of the League of Chicago Theatres. She was a professional fundraiser, raising money for arts, educational and AIDS service organizations, and an award-winning sales consultant of children?s books. She also trained hundreds of people around the country in marketing, event planning and grant writing. But after a concussion impacted her ability to continue in sales, she switched gears to keep a promise to a friend to write a book. Her freelance articles have appeared in Windy City Times and the Chicago Tribune, and her first in a series of books on the experience of grieving the death of a friend will be published in January, 2013. A native St. Louisan, she?s a lifelong Cardinals fan and will gladly take on any comers in musical theatre trivia. Her website is www.friendgrief.com. |