STAGE TO SCREENS: Looking at Les MisÚrables Through a New Lens; Recapping the Movie

By Kenneth Jones
12 Dec 2012

Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne
Universal Pictures

In a behind-the-scenes advertising featurette that appeared in movie theatres in recent months (and later on the internet), the creatives, cast and producers of "Les Miz" talked about the revolutionary idea of the actors singing live as cameras rolled, guided by a hidden earbud that transmitted music from off-site pianist. Using "What Have I Done?" as an example, Hugh Jackman explained in that lavish advertisement (repeated word-for-word in a "60 Minutes" interview Dec. 9) that singing live on set (rather than perfect lip-synching to a pre-recorded track) allows the actors to lead the tempo and create of-the-moment, naturalistic emotion.

The idea is an extension of the approach employed when producer Mackintosh hired new directors, designers, orchestrators and music directors to reinvent Les Miz on stage for its 25th-anniversary U.K. tour. That version is, musically, much more conversational than the original (more formal and vocally legit) 1985 version of the show, which is still running in London's West End. The tour's new orchestrations are by Christopher Jahnke, with musical supervision by Stephen Brooker. Mackintosh enlisted Brooker to be the film's musical director. "The complete new orchestration that we've done [for the stage]…is actually the basis of the film," Mackintosh told Nov. 30, adding that there were other music partners on the film (Anne Dudley is orchestrator-music producer, Stephen Metcalfe is orchestrator and Becky Bentham is music supervisor).

That revised stage version — directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell — is currently touring the U.S.; Mackintosh told that he's going to bring it to Broadway in the coming seasons (something Playbill reported back in September).