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In Defense of Les Miserables

            It seems that the musical Les Miserables gets a lot of negative comments "theater folk." I've heard arguments against it ranging from "a score made up entirely of reprises," to "performers get swallowed up in the spectacle." The thing is, I think that "Les Miz" may arguably be the most well-crafted piece of theater this side of Sondheim. Yes, it has its faults – that damned recitative, for example – but even that fiasco is outweighed by the incredible music score and dramatic craftsmanship that threads it's way throughout the play. .
             People often lump Boublil and Schonenberg in the same category as Lloyd Webber, a categorization that I think is unfair. After Evita, fame got to Lloyd Webber, and he stopped thinking dramatically and started thinking only in terms of spectacle and of music for music's sake. He began to routinely sacrifice dramatic integrity for pretty melodies. Boublil and Schonenberg, however, are in a class closer to that of Sondheim. Yes, that Sondheim. Heresy, I know – but hear me out. First, in Les Miz, there's the matter of the overall score. It's huge and bombastic and in a word, epic. That's what many of the show's detractors cite as one of its major faults, conveniently ignoring the musical's source material. .
             For Victor Hugo's fourteen hundred-page novel is an epic in every sense of the word. Originally published in 1862, the novel spans five volumes. Each volume was divided first into "books", and then into individual chapters (365 of them, to be exact). It covers the entire life of one man, ending with his death of old age. Hugo pauses the action for lengthy discussions on, among other things, religion, politics, and society. He even devotes multiple chapters in a step-by-step description of the Battle of Waterloo. This is the type of material that cries out for a rousing, larger-than-life score. Can you imagine a Les Mis with a chamber score (i.

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