Jonathan Melville: Proclaim the rebirth of musicals

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LAST week saw the release in cinemas of Les Misérables, the latest attempt to revive the musical genre which effectively died in the 1960s.

This time the big guns have been wheeled out in the shape of Hugh Jackman as convicted criminal, Jean Valjean, and Russell Crowe as his nemesis, police inspector Javert.

The pair roam revolutionary France as Jean Valjean attempts to make a better life for himself, all the while hounded by Javert. The pair sing their lines and look grim for most of the film, understandable when death and loss is never far from them.

At almost three hours it is overlong but it’s rarely dull.

Whether Les Mis will lead to more musicals being greenlit is unclear, though new versions of Annie, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Star is Born and South Pacific are promised.

That last one is of particular interest to me as I starred in the last remake of South Pacific, made for US TV back in 2001 in Australia.

When I say ‘starred’ I mean ‘was an extra’, but as I sat in a crowd scene watching Glenn Close mime her way through Honey Bun I realised how much fun musicals could be, larger than life and a perfect escape from reality.

It’s one reason I’m hopeful the upcoming film of Sunshine on Leith, adapted from The Proclaimers musical, is a success. The stage version was a hugely entertaining night out and if this one’s a hit later in 2013 then we might all be dancing down Leith Walk to celebrate.


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