My first introduction to the musical Les Miserables came at the age of 12. I was in the school choir, and for a performance at the local theatre we sang a selection of songs from the musical. I wasn't sure about it at first, but after a school trip to see the stage show in London I was completely hooked. I saved up my pocket money to buy the three cassette box set of the Complete Symphonic Recording, which I have listened to countless times. I've seen the show on stage several times, and I was lucky enough to see the 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2 in 2010.
I've been waiting for the film version of the musical for about 20 years, so I was really excited to be able to watch it on the day of release. I was very apprehensive as to how it would turn out - but I'm pleased to say that I loved it!
I am very familiar with the lyrics and the songs, so I did notice where the film differed from the stage show. There were songs moved about, lines swapped, and new lyrics added. It didn't detract from the story, but I didn't always agree with the decisions made.
The casting was good, I thought that all the actors could sing in tune, although I would have liked to see a bit more passion from Russel Crowe. The orchestra was sometimes a bit drowned out by the singing and the background noises - I did feel that the drama of the opening notes was lost somewhat in the sounds of the wind and sea.
The best solo has to be Anne Hathaway as Fantine singing I Dreamed a Dream. It appeared to be shot in one take, and the emotion in the song was depicted perfectly. Close second would be Samantha Barks singing On My Own.
One thing that I really liked about the film was how elements from the book had been included to flesh out the story a bit and give a bit more background. In particular, scenes were added to show what happens to Valjean and Cosette after they leave the Thernardiers, which I thought worked really well. There was also a shot of Gavroche in tears following Eponine's death - in the book they are brother and sister. In many ways, watching the film brought the book to life for me as well as the musical.
I'd really recommend watching Les Miserables, especially if you are a fan of the musical or the book, you won't be disappointed!