'Les Miserables' mania: No matter whether on stage or film, classic musical is 'very moving'

'Les Miserables' mania: No matter whether on stage or film, classic musical is 'very moving'
Anne Hathaway, left, as Fantine, is shown being thrown out of a factory in a scene from "Les Miserables" in the motion-picture adaptation of the musical. The stage version of "Les Miserables" continues to be popular and will be performed at Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore in April. (AP FILE PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Hugh Jackman and his chiseled physique received an Oscar nomination.

So did slender Anne Hathaway with her hair still growing back after it was chopped off for her "Les Miserables" role.


"Les Miserables," the big-screen musical, garnered eight Academy Award nominations Thursday, including one for Best Picture.

"Les Miserables" has pulled in more than $185 million worldwide in theaters since opening on Christmas. The soundtrack topped the sales charts the first week of January, according to Nielsen SoundScan data.

The film is an unequivocal success in almost every measurable way. It's the sort of publicity that will generate new interest for the 25th anniversary stage version of the musical, which won eight Tony Awards in 1987.

Except that stage version doesn't really need it. It's a tough ticket no matter what. When "Les Miserables" returns to the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center for a one-week Baltimore run in April, president Jeff Daniel expects tickets to be a hot commodity.

It would have been that way regardless of if the movie came out before the stage performances or not, he said.

"It's interesting," Daniel said. "I think the movie is spectacular and a huge success. But we've rarely found there is much crossover one way or the other when a movie is out."

Daniel first saw "Les Miserables" while studying abroad in London. Before seeing the stage show, he studied the script about an ex-prisoner named Jean who is hunted by a policeman for years. After a factory worker dies due to being malnourished, Jean agrees to care for her daughter.

Now, "Les Miserables" is being introduced to a completely different audience through the Universal motion picture.

Past musical motion pictures based on stage productions have flopped at the box office. Those musicals had actors lip-synching to a prerecorded soundtrack.

"Les Mis" features the actors actually singing while the cameras were rolling, adding a more personalized effect to the compelling storyline.

"I've had some [fathers of drama students] fall in love with musical theater after seeing the movie," Liberty High School drama instructor Tony Cimino said. "They have come up to me personally to tell me they have a new appreciation for what we do on our stage."

The story's had that effect for generations. The musical is based on the historical novel written by Victor Hugo in 1862.

It's easy for an audience to identify with the characters, Daniel said. And that is not likely to change, regardless of whether "Les Miserables" is being shown on the big screen or performed on stage.

"It's very moving," he said. "You can't beat a great story."