'Can we hear the people sing please?' Viewers turned off by lack of songs in BBC's 'Les Miserables'

(BBC)
(BBC)

When the BBC built their festive schedules around one of the greatest novels of all time, adapted by one of the greatest screenwriters, they must have thought viewers would proclaim it an instant hit.

But nothing’s ever sure in the world of entertainment, and it turns out that a fair few people didn’t realise Les Miserables was not originally a musical.

The 19th century Victor Hugo novel has been adapted into an ambitious six-part series by Andrew Davies, the screen genius who brought us Colin Firth in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, and more recently Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

However, it wasn’t quite good enough for an audience more familiar with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway belting out the West End stage numbers in the musical film version, leading to disappointment and confusion.

Tory MP Anna Soubry led the flurry of complaints, sarcastically remarking that it was a ‘barrel of laughs’ and ‘not even a song to enjoy.’

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Davies had promised that his version would “rescue Victor Hugo’s novel from the clutches of that awful musical with its doggerel lyrics” in an interview with The Telegraph.

The work’s more enthusiastic fans were in full support and frustrated that people were overlooking its incredible plot because of the lack of a few songs – as well as being glad that actors weren’t murdering any songs.

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Despite the sad faces at missed opportunities to sing along with the big show numbers, some viewers realised that they could still have fun by providing their own musical commentary.

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The BBC One version of the tale stars Dominic West as ex-con Jean Valjean, and David Oyelowo as the jailer Javert who is intent on stopping Valjean from redeeming himself.

Davies’ adaptation added in a sexual tension element to the cat-and-mouse chase as he represented Javert as being attracted to Valjean, as well as being set on destroying his life.

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Lily Collins, daughter of Phil Collins, stars as Fantine, with Olivia Colman and Adeel Akhtar as the Thenardiers.

Viewers have plenty of non-musical drama to get used to, as the series is set to continue for a further five episodes into the New Year – and they won’t Hear the People Sing even once.

Read more
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MP leads chorus of complaints about lack of songs in Les Mis