Thanks for Noticing: Does Russell Crowe really need to sing?

I finally saw “Les Miserables” the movie. It was a good movie that reminded me how great the Broadway soundtrack is.

Somehow, I’ve never actually seen a staged production of “Les Mis,” despite a degree in theatre. My higher education was too busy exposing me to relatively obscure shows like “Ruddigore,” apparently.

But I always enjoyed the “Les Mis” soundtrack, and I still prefer the non-Russell Crowe version.

That seems to be the main flaw these days in adapting musicals to the big screen—the producers think they need big names, too. Big names don’t always have big voices.

To be fair, Crowe was at least competent as Javert. He could have been much worse. Clearly, though, singing is not his strong suit, which begs the question…

Of all the numerous, talented people desperately trying to make it in Hollywood, the director couldn’t find a better fit for the part than Russell Crowe?

The other big name, Hugh Jackman, also seemed more focused on the acting than singing. The celebrity women fared better.

However, the best singing came from the lesser-known actors, such as Samantha Barks as Eponine and Eddie Redmayne as Marius. They weren’t cast for their names, so they needed to bring the full range of talent to the table.

The movie succeeded in delivering an epic feel, and the orchestration sounded great. The most obvious flaws stem from the Hollywood mentality in which they try to lure people to their product rather than create a product of such superb quality that it can lure people on its own merits.

Did they really feel “Les Mis” the movie wouldn’t draw an audience without a Russell Crowe?

They know Crowe has been in successful movies. Therefore, he must inevitably boost “Les Mis” ticket sales! Because a long-running Broadway hit like “Les Mis” can’t possibly have a built-in audience already.

Seeing the movie did compel me to obtain the original “Les Miserables” novel by Victor Hugo.

I enjoyed the music so much, you see, that I simply had to read the thousand-plus-page book.

It cost nearly an entire dollar to download those hundreds and hundreds of pages to my Nook. You can’t beat the value of e-books. (I do have something of a vested interest in their success.)

I started reading it, and I like it so far. However, it’s certainly a different style than today’s novels.

Before we ever read the first word about Valjean, we have to learn every last detail about Bishop Bienvenu. And then we have to take the occasional break from the plot for a history lesson.

Perhaps it’s fortunate that Broadway didn’t go for a strict interpretation.

And perhaps that’s just what happens when you adapt a play that was already adapted from a book. You get a singing Russell Crowe.

Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 10:26 am