Friday, May 11, 2007

Empty Chairs

Michael Ball as Marius in the original London Production (1985)

"Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" is in my opinion possibly the very saddest of the songs from Les Misérables, but also very powerful. While I've always thought it was a great song (especially if the performer is great), it wasn't until I saw a live performance of Les Miz (last summer), that I really felt I "got" the song. The effect of seeing the dead students appear in the shadows behind the grieving (and singing) Marius...and then see them fade back into the shadow is really memorable.
It's rather ironic that Marius, who was the student who seemed least interested in the rebellion, is the only student to survive. He watched his friends dream of a better tomorrow, and really give everything they had to make a difference, yet Marius seemed to have doubts for a really long time, before finally deciding to join it.
But although he seems very grateful to have been saved (by Valjean), and to be back together with Cosette, he still of course has a lot of saddness. It's a very dark moment when we see Marius back at the now empty ABC Café... and hear him sing about how he misses all his friends.

Oh my friends, my friends, forgive me
That I live and you are gone.
There's a grief that can't be spoken
There's a pain goes on and on.
There has been A LOT of great "Mariuses" ... some of my biggest favourites would be: Niklas Andersson, Mike Sterling, Michael Ball & Jon Lee - all amazing singers who were perfect for the part!


Blogger Jessica said...

Empty Chairs is really powerful!! I know what you mean, when you see the whole setting for yourself, the song gets such a depth and become even more meaningful and emotional!!

May 11, 2007 8:44 PM  
Blogger The Darkest Night said...

Thanks for your comment!

Yes, it's one of the most powerful moments on the show! While many of the singers do a wonderful job portraying the saddenss "only" through their voice, actually seeing Marius act out the part on stage of course makes it even more real...and more sad and moving.

Also the whole way the play out that scene, the clever way of using the shadows on stage (just like the song hints "Phantom faces in the window. Phantom shadows on the floor") is really memorable.

May 11, 2007 11:39 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I very much agree. I have loved this song from the very beginning (Michael Ball in TAC does an amazing job with it!!), but it becomes so much more when you actually see it being performed on stage.
They do a lot with the song as well - like you pointed out, the shadows on stage - the lighting is absolutely beautiful - and it becomes so effectful to see the "ghosts" of the dead students in the background - Marius is after all singing the song to them:
"Oh, my friends my friends forgive me, that I live and you are gone!" ...

(On a separate note; Philip Quast was once asked in an interview what part - apart from Javert - of Les Miz he would like to do, and he replied he'd like to do Marius just because of the beauty of this song ... unforturnately Marius is a tenor, and Mr Quast is a barritone, so I guess it will never happen ...)

May 13, 2007 10:33 AM  
Blogger The Darkest Night said...

@yes, I agree - Michael Ball does a wonderful job with the song in TAC! I have 3 or 4 versions of this song with him, and I think the TAC one is for sure the best! He seems SO moved by the song!

Aw..the "ghosts" on the stage is my favourite part! Such a cool and clever idea! I was SO surprised when I saw them! I had no idea they would appear... made it all much more real and sad....

Cool about Philip ! I had no idea!

May 13, 2007 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Dakota said...

First of all I must say:
I luv this blog! :)

Empty Chairs... is such a powerful & sad song.
You can really feel Marius' pain as he sings.

I'd love to hear Niklas Andersson sing it someday.


May 13, 2007 10:23 PM  
Blogger The Darkest Night said...

aw..thanks Dakota! I'm very happy to hear you like my blog! I will try to write in it more often :)

I really hope Niklas will someday release a CD that includes Empty Chairs! :) I think I've only heard him sing part of the song...

May 13, 2007 10:39 PM  
Blogger Jexxie said...

tack för kommentaren på min friends blog

July 16, 2007 2:19 PM  

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