STAGE TO SCREENS: Aaron Tveit, Atop the Barricades in the Les Miz Movie

By Harry Haun
25 Dec 2012

Tveit in "Les Misérables."
photo by Universal Pictures
The tricks of making movie musicals go down in this day and age vary with the decade, it seems. With 2002's "Chicago," the last musical to get a Best Picture Oscar, director Rob Marshall resorted the Benihana quick-cuts and cerebral voice-overs to hide the fact that somebody just broke into song. With "Les Misérables," director Hooper stands that theory on its head by having characters step up and sing out earnestly — and he has them doing just that live on film, bringing reality to the scene.

"Tom is such a progressive filmmaker in the way that he shoots things," said Tveit. "This is nothing different than telling a regular story or another movie, except that the way these characters communicate happens to be in song. The fact that the characters break into song — this is the way we live and breathe and communicate.

"I think that gives the film an immediacy than sometimes movie musicals don't have. When you're in the theatre, you go on that emotional ride. It's the music that ties you in, but I think that there's a disconnect sometimes in movie musicals when people start singing and you sit there as a member of the audience and think, 'Oh, they're singing now.' I think what's great about this movie is that doesn't happen because we sing live and it's the language of how these people communicate.

Tveit in "Les Misérables."
photo by Universal Pictures

"This is just my first movie musical, but I think that the reason it's better to sing live is that there is no longer that moment where you can actually sense that the track clicks in and you can tell that they're lip-synching and all of a sudden it pulls you right out of the story. Here, because you're singing live, you go on the same emotional ride that you would if you were in the theatre watching a play."

Of course, it's not the easiest trick in the world to pull off, and only practiced stage people need apply. "It's very difficult because you might do 15 takes of a song in a given day. You're doing it over and over and over again. Luckily, because I'm used to an eight-show week and what it takes to keep that kind of stamina on stage, I think I was able to prepare myself for that. I knew that the grind was going to be very hard.

"In essence, I treated it as I would treat any new musical that I was working on. I like to show off [on] the first day of rehearsal, having done all the work already. I know it musically, so, as soon as I got this job, about three or four months before we started filming, I got to work. I always want to make sure when I get there that I am focused on telling the story and what I'm doing as an actor, and I don't have to worry about the singing. I try to get to the point where I've done all the technical singing work to protect myself and I've learn how to sing it before I get there, so I treated it in the same way. By the time I got there, I didn't have to think about the singing anymore."