Friday, December 14, 2012

Is Les Miz: The Movie...musical?

I've seen several clips from stars of Les Miz touting the movie on talk shows. And as usual for movie musicals, they cast stars and had them sing rather than casting singers and having them star.

That's why you saw the astonishingly beautiful Natalie Wood open her mouth in West Side Story and Marnie Nixon's astonishingly beautiful voice would emerge.

AutoTune has made this less necessary.

And of course you have many actors dubbing themselves, especially when they're required to sing while they're running around.

Now we have the most anticipated movie-of-a-musical in decades, Les Miserables. In which a selling point is that the performers are neither other-dubbed nor self-dubbed. What you see is what you hear, so to speak.

Which would be great if what you heard was what we've heard in its stage productions.

It's so not. Take Amanda Seyfried's Adult-Cosette. She is gorgeous, can act, and looks the part. She can sing on pitch--I'm no expert on detecting AutoTune unless it's done on purpose, but it doesn't matter, because what's wrong with her voice, AutoTune can't fix. Her voice is as un-beautiful as her face is beautiful.

Her tone is not better than what you'd find in the average church choir soprano, plus she has one of those high-speed quavers that I find nearly unlistenable to.

And this isn't a bit part. It's Adult-Cosette.

I heard Ann Hathaway too. Someone I'd be delighted to have in the choir of the church I attend. But Fontine? Uh-unh.

They showed a bit of Hugh Jackman speak-singing his way through a duet with Cosette.

I was just stunned. Les Miz has some of the best music of any musical since the Richard Rogers/Frank Loesser days. The music isn't incidental to Les Miz--it's the heard and soul of it.

They could have done a movie of the book, using the same cast as this movie, and I'd have had no complaints.

And the emotional honesty of the story does call for the voices you hear emerging from the mouths you see.

Just not these voices.

Maybe the other parts fare better, but thus far my impression is that Hollywood picked Hollywood's own for the cast. They could have had their pick of Broadway stars for this, but instead we get...what we got.

I hope and pray that the few snippets I've heard are the musical exceptions to a better rule.

I doubt it.

And if I'm right, I have to ask: why do a musical if you don't care about the music?

Normally Hollywood botches musicals. It "opens up" the setting, taking the extreme artificiality of people bursting into song every few minutes, and superimposing that artifice on realistic settings--on location or on big sound stages.

But at least Hollywood used to make sure you heard really good singing, whether from someone who had the complete package, like Shirley Jones, or a team who divvied up the whole package between them, like Natalie Wood/Marnie Nixon.


What I don't get the most is that Les Miz's creators are still alive. And they've overseen Les Miz being produced all over the world. So it's not like they don't know their way around a contract. So how did they let this happen?

Wouldn't it be interesting if, a decade or two from now, someone re-did the soundtrack of this movie, dubbing in the voices of great Broadway singers, offering that as a viewing option?

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