My Favourite Musical Songs #11
11. One Day More from Les Miserables (Version included is the 1995 10th Anniversary Concert recording, performed by the Dream Cast (their words, not mine!) lead by Colm Wilkinson)
One of the most recognisable scores in musical history, and easily the strongest ‘Enjoy the Interval!’ song I have ever heard, ‘One Day More’ is a wonderful way of bringing all the characters together as they reflect on what is still to come in Act 2.
We could have read the book but…Nah.
If ever a musical could be described as epic, it begins and ends with this bad boy. In this song alone there is romance, revolution, old grudges, brotherhood, prayer, grimy thieves, and hope presiding over all. The sheer power and scale of this song just slaps you round the face. It is so iconic, and has been imitated more times than I can count, but never bettered. And that includes the efforts of composer Claude-Michel Schonberg and producer Cameron Mackintosh both of whom have worked on shows that lazy reviewers such as myself can point at and loudly state: ‘Poor Man’s Les Mis!’ before disguising my outburst as a cough. Because I have manners and that, bitches.
So yes, ‘One Day More’ and ‘Les Mis’ rule all and are untouchable. Although ‘La Resistance’ from ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut’ did a pretty good homage because Trey Parker is a clever man:
Going back to ‘Les Mis,’ The impact of ‘One Day More’ and how well it is performed causes every hair on my arms to stand to attention. And it just…well…It makes me want to go start a revolution. While ‘Do you Hear the People Sing?’ possibly edges this out as the song that people go to when they think of rabble rousing anthems, I have always preferred ‘One Day More.’ Mostly because it incorporates nearly every character in a way that really maps out what is at stake for each of them and everybody is just so into it.
It is not possible to pay tribute to every great moment, but I have to give a shout out to my favourites: We have 1:19, Eponine longing for Marius, 1:45 Marius wondering if he even has the nerve to stand his ground, 1:58 Val Jean belting One Day More as Javert intones impressively how unimpressed he is with the students, the wonderful Madame Thenardier at 2.20 whose voice carries even though she is about a foot down from her microphone and the chorus of voices, each with their own message, struggle and need from 2:47. I like to think the actors are competing at this bit in which case Michael Ball as Marius wins. Gosh he’s loud.
Even if you don’t know the music or have not seen the whole thing on stage (Despite owning both concert versions and having been in two different productions, I have never seen ‘Les Mis’ live. It is on my bucket list…) you will recognise the iconic costumes or the earworm melodies and, quite simply, the fight. The fight is what makes ‘Les Mis.’ The characters live and breathe in a way that many musical creations just can’t because their longing becomes our longing. We are not just rooting for Val Jean: We can see the perspective of all of them regardless of stage time, from the naïve Enjolras, to the heart sick Eponine to the obsessive Javert all the way to the hard on their luck but ready for change ensemble. They all want their ‘something’ so badly…It is relatable. Not everyone will live to see their dreams realised. That too, is relatable.
OTHER NOTABLE VERSIONS: Take your pick. Seriously I don’t even know where to start here because there is ALWAYS someone I consider a weak link in the cast and then people I feel who just nail it, and I think it all comes down to personal taste, given the size and scope of the ensemble. You may notice the same faces popping up over and over but I am writing this based on the different versions of the song that are out there:
I am going to be honest and say I am not that familiar with any of the non-commercial versions (ie ones not in the English language) but that still gives me a lot talk about.
The original London cast are pretty swell, and come together every 5 years ago to belt out ‘One Day More’ and it never fails to impress me. Even though I feel some of the cast members have been replaced by better actors over the years, respect where it is due, these guys still deliver.
The 25 year anniversary concert cast leaves me cold to be honest, but that by no means suggests they are bad just not my favourite Les gang. The individual performers are pretty good, except for American Disney pop star Nick Jonas’s Marius who only has one facial expression and it is constipated. Although there is an argument to be made for a skinny, awkward teen being a better fit for the role than the roly-poly Tenor-Monster that is Michael Ball. Still Jonas is so one note that it just screams ‘We want children to come to the theatre! Because they legally have to be accompanied by adults with credit cards! Please spend money on London trips!’ What’s next? Justin Bieber as The Phantom? Oh God…It’s going to be Justin Bieber as The Phantom isn’t it?
Seriously. Watch his little face. Acting is just sooo hard.
Right. The film cast. Got to get this out there…Rip it off like a band aid…Fuck me, I hate them.
Hugh Jackman? Talented but wrong, wrong, wrong for Val Jean vocally. The vibrato is out of control and the control is out of vibrato. Russell Crowe? I can’t even…Not remotely right for the part. Even he knows it.
He may have tried to hit back at critics by saying they were not aiming for technical perfection but trying to capture real emotion…But real emotion can be carried through good singing and his interpretation of these wonderful rich lyrics fall so far flat it nearly comes round to being funny. If you were moved by the performances (and hey, they are not ALL bad) then good for you. But I can’t bear this cast. There is a smugness that perforates the air of the thing, like they believe they are making film history just by showing up.
I find the soundtrack unlistenable and the visual work even worse…The direction is appalling. But anyway. This is turning into a review of the film and I don’t want that. Like I said, personal taste. But here is the cast performing at the Academy Awards like it is an awkward school assembly. You should watch it if only to see the marvellous Helena Bonham Carter looking embarrassed to be there and like she would rather be anywhere else while sporting an ill fitting tux/gown. Never change, HBC. Never change:
(One Day More begins at 0.48)
I am going to include Channel Awesome’s tribute to ‘One Day More’ because of their jab at Russell Crowe’s vocal and equally because it is actually directed better than the Oscar winning film:
(One Big Song begins at 0.48)
The ‘Hey Mr Producer!’ concert celebrating Cameron Mackintosh finished with this beauty, which almost has the same cast as the 10th Anniversary version except they have a stronger Cosette (Sorry Pocahontas but you are a mezzo and y’know it!) and weaker Thenariders/Enjolras. So it balances out:
(One Day More begins at 1.35)
But which is my favourite? While I would love to make my own dream cast (Anyone want to compare Dream Cast, casts? I am so up for this…Anyone?) the 10th Anniversary gang are pretty spectacular. You have to hand it to a cast who get a standing ovation at the interval.
BEST BIT: The line: ‘Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store…’ There is something so powerfully ominous about this. This is not ‘Annie.’ Not all of these characters are going to make it to the end.
It is called The Miserable Ones after all.