While the announcement of any major movie musical comes with a great deal of anticipation and--in equal parts--trepidation, the forthcoming decades-plus-in-the-making big screen adaptation of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's tuneful take on Victor Hugo's Les Misérables perhaps even more excitement and curiosity surrounding it. First, it assembles a wide range of A-list acting talent including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Helena Bonham Carter for one of the most wildly successful and enduring phenomenons in all of entertainment, much less the stage; second, it marks director Tom Hooper's first film since his Oscar-winning The King's Speech; and third, Hooper's rather unconventional approach to filming the material: namely, having the entire cast sing their parts live on set as opposed to miming to studio-recorded playback vocals.
Universal has wisely recognized that last point as being as much of a potential selling point as the first two, and a new four-and-a-half-minute featurette released to Regal Cinemas focuses solely on this simple yet revolutionary new wrinkle to making a movie musical, with Hooper and his cast lending insight to the creative freedom and in-the-moment emotional authenticity live, on-set vocals bring to the piece. But as enlightening and undeniably fascinating as the talking head interview segments are, what really makes this featurette (pardon the pun) sing is the taste it offers of the results. While Jackman (as escaped parolee Jean Valjean), Hathaway (as long-suffering single mom Fantine), Seyfried (as the adult incarnation of Fantine's daughter, Cosette), and big screen newcomer Samantha Barks (as tragic young heroine Éponine, a role she's played on the UK stage) are all proven singers, hearing their fresh, unpolished takes on familiar melodies is genuinely thrilling and a bit revelatory--though not as revelatory as hearing the glorious voice of Eddie Redmayne (as student revolutionary Marius), whose singing talents have heretofore been unknown. Amusingly (and perhaps tellingly?), the vocals of the biggest musical question mark, Crowe (as Valjean's obsessed pursuer Inspector Javert), are still being kept under wraps, but given the demanding acting and singing challenge Hooper has posed to all of his cast members, one is easily able to give his musical prowess the benefit of the doubt.
Les Misérables opens in cinemas in December.