While it may be a little-known fact in my life here (meaning
in the internet TARDIS online) there is a story i love with the same fervor and devotion i have for Harry Potter. The format of this tale, though originally bound in book form, has been with me for my entire life through something unique to words encased in precious pages. Since my childhood – in fact, since some of my earliest childhood memories – the musical adapted from Victor Hugo’s masterpiece has painted a backdrop to my inner and exterior life.
I am speaking, of course, of Les Misérables.
It might seem – well, frankly – okay. Let’s be real. Les Mis is hardly material appropriate for a six year old to listen to on repeat with such frequency she goes through three Compacts Discs by the age of twelve. War, terror, suicide, unrequited love, poverty, wrongly accused over-punished criminals, treachery, and a steaming pile of misery as only Hugo can deliver. Les Mis is, easily, the most complicated and intricate modern musical in existence – in plot, musical composition, and in subtext. It is so elaborate that every time i have listened to the soundtrack in my humble nineteen years, i find something new; be it meaning, musical decision, or enlightened understanding of the story, the story’s breadth captures the whole of my being.
I’ve not been quite so public with my passion for this musical as i have with, i don’t know,
SherlockDoctorWhoHarryPotterJohnGreen every other unhealthy relationship i’ve developed with fictional characters or story lines. In some ways it is because, despite my best efforts, every insignificant blog post i slave over does little justice in my mind to these “obsessions.” (It’s in quotes because the word dirties my mouth with its negative connotations. Also, i’m in denial; i’m fully aware of this, at least).
At the risk of sounding horrifically redundant, though, my love for things like Potter and John Green may be intensely personal – and yet is supported by community. For the vlogbrothers, it’s the nerdfighters who are made of awesome and with whom i can talk about intellectualism and the celebration of discourse through social media. It’s a shared love for philosophy as professed by angst-ridden teenagers in his collected works. In the case of the Boy Who Lived, i’ve been dressing up with scars on my head and a wand in my hand at least two or three times a year since i was seven (and i was only characters from the books for halloween, uh, twice). Clutching hands in movies over wordless scenes, hopping from foot to foot in the line for the final pages. Potter may exist in my mind as my own, but this love is upheld in a community of like-minded freaks.
Les Misérables is not supported by such a community. Well, at least not for me. Sure, i spent 70% of every day in high school living and breathing and thinking about theatre, but even then i rarely spent the hours i’ve devoted to unpacking Alaska’s motives or Snape’s devotion mulling over the Bishop’s charity or Fantine’s tragedy. The musical, for me, is of equal weight and measure in the art by which i interpret my truth as aforementioned arts – but its also been for a much smaller community.
It’s my mother lovingly explaining to me the PG-version of the plot at age seven. It’s Becca and i generating stage directions for our eventual elementary school production of an abbreviated version of the show (sadly, our efforts never came to fruition). More intimately, it is singing along to Eponine when i was fourteen and fancying myself in love for the first time. It is Javert’s tragedy. It is Valjean’s redemption.
The only reason i am poorly articulating this now is, well, i wanted to process and there was none to process with. In an act ironically so symbolic of the musical’s meaning to me, i am going to see the 25th annual re-staging of Les Misérables on Wednesday night. Alone.
It was not, initially, intentional; a dear friend of mine let me know the show was in the are at all. Alas, our schedules conflicted and so she couldn’t accompany me – but the lure of seeing the so highly acclaimed reinterpretation of the story so beloved to me since my youth was inescapable. With a little encouragement from the roommate, i called the box office and claimed the last ticket available for Wednesday’s show. Though first filled with trepidation at the prospect of walking into the glamour of the theatre, alone, for what is promising to be the most depressing and beautiful and gutted-out-longing show, i’m slowly warming to the idea of a night alone. In a room of strangers, there will be nothing between me and the music. Call me crazy, but this solitude gets more appealing by the minute; while there won’t be anyone to analyze each detail of the show with after curtain, the musical will be – in a totally selfish and esoteric way – only for me.
In the last year, i’ve been taking more and more of my what my roommate most aptly and crudely and brilliantly refers to as “mastra-dates.” Yeah, they’re pretty much exactly what the name implies: taking yourself out as a treat in an activity socially expected to be done with a partner. Going for noodles in the town over-the-hill, seeing a film, taking a walk on the mountain. Sure, there’s no foot-popping kiss in the rain at the end of the night, but there’s also no horrifically awkward conversation about what you’re going to do with a religion major when you graduate, either.
The older in soul i grow, the more i live into my introverted-ness and the more i seek out times to replenish my solitude in mind. Part of this is college; living in a dorm guarantees that those hours spent on my own in a house with no one around when i was younger are obsolete. It’s lovely, but exhausting. And, being the educated young feminist that i am, i don’t need to wait around for a potential partner to take me out – nor is my worth determined by whether or not i’ve got someone to share the popcorn with in the movie theatre.
So, damnit, i’m going to see Les Mis on my own. I’m going to ball my way through all of Act II without a thought for trying to impress anyone around me. Sure, the drive will be a little long and a little lonesome. Undoubtedly, i’ll text Becca at intermission with incoherencies like: “GAVROCHE. MY HEART. THE FEELINGS. BECCA.” or, better yet: “WHERE IS THE BINDER WITH MY CHARACTER SKETCHES OF ENJORLAS AND COSTUME IDEAS? CLEAR YOUR SUMMER SCHEDULE, THIS CHILDHOOD DREAM IS GETTING F$@#ING REALIZED AND YOU’RE MY MUSIC DIRECTOR.” And, yes, the most isolating part of the night will be when i want to turn to someone after curtain and share that look of the deep, my-soul-has-taken-flight-for-these-past-three-hours-but-now-to-resign-to-reality eyes paired with a heaving sigh. In some ways, though, i rather relish the idea of walking out with no company but the music in my ears and thoughts in my heart.
But my soul will still be taking flight. And this might be the wings it needs in this winter slump. I’ll just need to remember to bring my own tissues and bottle of water.
Wish me luck.
current jam: “on my own” from the 10th anniversary cast recording.
best thing in my life right now: the above. also, cats.
things i did elsewhere: revamped muh tumblr. there’s a new travel page, if you’re so inclined. also, a vlog about how freaking awesome coretta scott king was.