Listening to the cafe theorists transform into revolutionaries as we saw Les Miserables for the first time, I flashed back to another musical turned movie and another song as a rallying cry for political change — the clear young voice shimmering from a beautiful blonde boy as he declares Tomorrow Belongs to Me. A bucolic country moment turns into one that sends shivers as Germans of all ages join in song and we realize the deepest danger isn’t from the Nazi leaders; it’s from the people who stand with them. It is more chilling in many ways than the ugliness we will see later because it makes that ugliness possible.
The anti-royalist revolution in Les Miz is not the one that succeeds but ultimately fails itself, choking on blood and power lust. It follows that French Revolution by decades and it fails as it begins. We fear what’s ahead from the singers in Cabaret. In Les Miz, as Do You Hear the People Sing? and its message about “when tomorrow comes” continues the call to revolution started with ABC Cafe/Red & Black, we fear for the lives of Enjolras, Marius, Gavroche and the other brave, naive revolutionaries. It helps that their most visible foe is an army, not the less powerful.
We want to believe in the people manning this barricade and we grieve with Marius over the results.
A thin line.