Tom Hooper's Les Misérables adaptation may be the culmination of a cultural moment that has been building for several years. Featuring an A-list cast and expensive production values, the movie is generating a buzz far outside the insular world that usually defines the boundaries of a musical theater fandom that has long been exiled to uncool.
If the 2005 film adaptation of Rent cracked open the door, than the hit song-and-dance TV series Glee smashed through it entirely. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's trademark oddness, applied to a big-screen version of Stephen Sondheim's murderous masterpiece Sweeney Todd, introduced many new audiences to an entirely unfamiliar genre of musical.
Legally Blonde made the successful leap to stage (by way of MTV), and so did South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with the wildly popular Book of Mormon.
Les Mis is a musical of a different breed. Long a staple of both the New York and London theater scene, the enormous, traditional-style show is exactly the type of emotive cheesiness popular culture has shunned. Winner of the 1985 Tony Award for Best Musical, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil's show might find easier company with 1961's best, The Music Man, than this year's winner, Once--which, of course, is also a film-turned-stage-show.
The film stars Hugh Jackman, probably best known for his performance as the brutal superhero Wolverine in Marvel's X-Men franchise, as the reformed thief Jean Valjean. Russell Crowe plays his nemesis, the Inspector Javert; Amanda Seyfried is Cosette, Valjean's adopted daughter, and Anne Hathaway plays Fantine, Cosette's ill-fated mother.
The cast also includes Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (Thénardier and his wife Madame Thénardier), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) and newcomer Samantha Barks (Éponine).