Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Does Eponine Have to Cut Someone?

 Gustave Brion's depiction of Eponine

Les Miz fans are probably well aware of the Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) movie musical that's happening. The cast still isn't completely finalized, so rumors abound. However, it's looking pretty final that Taylor Swift will be Eponine. I am not the only one annoyed by this by a long shot (I like Best Week Ever's Michelle Collins's take-down here).

Generally, Taylor Swift doesn't bother me much. I find the "I hate Taylor Swift because she is the virgin in the virgin/whore dichotomy and I think women classified as whores are way superior because I have completely missed the divide-and-conquer tactics of the patriarchy" people more irritating. She just feels so, so, so wrong for the role. She's squeaky clean with little-to-no acting background. Eponine, even in her more romanticized Broadway form, is still ragged and streetwise. Look, she's a career criminal who is going to dress up like a dude and run through a damn battle zone for the guy she loves, not write her fifteenth song about how he's dating someone who's not her as a single tear runs down her bisque porcelain cheek. Actually, Swift would be perfect for pretty and not-quite-bursting-with-personality Cosette, who will most likely be played by Amanda Seyfried. And here's the thing: I'd be really excited if Amanda Seyfried were Eponine! Seyfried we know can act, and has a good range at that. It seems so obvious just to switch these two actresses.

I'd love an Eponine that gets back to the non-fluffy roots. She's one of my favorite Victor Hugo characters. When my mom took me to the musical after I finished Les Miserables, I worried she would be cut completely (if you've read the gargantuan novel, you know why this might be a concern), and was thrilled when she was a major part. She's an interesting character, especially in the book. Wry, clever, a little crazy, very tough. After being presented as spoiled and domineering as a young child earlier in the novel, she adapts when her family's fortunes turn. A valuable member of her father's criminal gang, and assumed to be headed for common-law marriage with fashionable criminal Montparnasse, Eponine still hopes for something more with Marius, even though she's starkly realist. Her speech to Marius on which "On My Own" is based is disturbing and touching, revealing an intelligent if damaged girl who has soldiered on.

At least they didn't cast Nick Jonas as Marius. Yes, Nick Jonas has played Marius on stage. He actually kinda works for book-Marius, because book-Marius is a young douche. But you gotta love this awkward version of "A Little Fall of Rain," where he can barely bring himself to touch talented Samantha Barks's Eponine. Kyle did it better with the Mole in South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut. I know it's a concert version, but come on, Michael Ball and Lea Solonga had great chemistry (and shared a mic) in their 10th Anniversary concert. 

That's how you do it.

As for the rest of the cast, the only disappointment I have is that the original rumor was that Geoffrey Rush would be Thenardier, and I would have loved to see him take this role opposite Helena Bonham Carter's Madame Thenardier. However, it looks like the role has gone to Sasha Baron Cohen, whose ability to do over-the-top buffoonery with a hint of malice makes him a good choice as well. Honestly, I can't wait for Bellatrix and Borat to steal the show as Paris's worst parents (not mentioned in the musical, but Gavroche is just one of their several kids they decided they couldn't afford).

Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe having a manly man-off as Valjean and Javert should be fun, although the racially ambiguous Javert could have lent some diversity to the production. Anne Hathaway as Fantine is fine. At least she probably won't sing "he thlept a thummer by my thide," like the otherwise great Daphne Rubin-Vega. Regardless, I know I, and tons of other fans, will definitely see this. And who knows? Maybe Swift will surprise.

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