BOOK REVIEW: Les Misérables: From Stage to Screen (Benedict Nightingale and Martyn Palmer – 2013)

I was recently approached by the lovely folk at Carlton Books who sought to make me aware of one of their latest publications, Les Misérables: From Stage to Screen by Benedict Nightingale and Martyn Palmer. They kindly asked if I wouldn’t mind reviewing it for them.

Of course, as a massive musical theatre fan and reviewer, I absolutely bit their hand off and promptly danced around the apartment, waving my duvet above my head like it were the red flag from the very barricades themselves!

Please be assured that all views in this review are entirely my own, and have been in no way directed or suggested otherwise – there’s no agenda to it other than to share my thoughts.

Over the last 27 years, Les Misérables has played to audiences totalling more than 60 million in 43 countries and is now a dazzling, multi-award nominated film set to bring the story to millions more.

Beautifully illustrated with images from behind the scenes of both the theatre and film productions, Les Misérables: From Stage to Screen tells the story of the phenomenon that grew from a modest Paris production into an award-winning show, from the challenges of adapting Victor Hugo’s novel, to character studies and details of those who have played them, its international incarnations and the 25th Anniversary Concert.

Including interviews with Les Misérables film director Tom Hooper, the cast and crew of the film, set designs and photographs, the book also includes 20 items of facsimile memorabilia, such as: Original stage and costume designs, a first-night party invitation and the poster for the 25th Anniversary production at the Barbican.

Les Misérables: From Stage to Screen is a unique vision of the world’s longest running musical and the stunning new film, and a must-have for every fan.

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Having previously reviewed The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook for Carlton, I absolutely knew that this new title was going to be epic, and that it would be wildly better than even I could have hoped that it would be.

First off, I must say just how striking this book is – it’s a very decent sized hardback, and if left out on a coffee table or similar, it just begs for passers-by to pick it up and have a flick through.

The interior front cover flap of the book shows the very first image of a young Cosette, with the rear cover flap showing the most recent and striking image of Cosette from Tom Hooper’s film adaptation, which is still playing in cinemas at the moment. I love the sense of journey and adventure that something so simple as the placing of these two images is able to invoke in the reader, and to that end, the book is genuinely an exciting page turner – from the very beginnings of the show, right the way through to the present day!

I happened to be reading through this book last night during the, for me, less entertaining bits of the Oscar ceremony (though yaaaay – go Anne, Sound Mixing, Make up and Hairstyling!) and it made me absolutely value the 2012 film adaptation even more than I had done previously. I love that this book has most likely come about as a commercial venture owing to the film adaptation, but that it actually devotes more of its time to telling the history of Les Misérables, and genuinely does a thorough job for the hard-core fanboys, such as myself, for which I feel that it should be especially commended! It just goes to show that diversifying the medium of musical theatre, whilst it may not be to everyone’s tastes, can have a positive benefit in many other ways across the community.

The images contained in the book are simply fantastic, and any fan will enjoy poring over them with immense delight. There are also the addition of several envelopes with several pull out ‘trinkets’ and reproductions of various things – I have already decided to buy a few picture frames and frame the re-production posters, such is the quality of them.

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Having read the book, there really is every little bit of information that could ever hope to gain about the production. The interviews are a joy to read, and it’s great that this book additionally comes with a foreword from Sir Cameron Mackintosh – showing that even the man at the absolute pinnacle of musical theatre and of the Les Mis brand itself endorses the quality and content of this official book.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the show a countless number of times, and have even had the extreme privilege to go back-stage at the Queen’s Theatre and also have a go on the iconic revolve, however, this book more than compliments my past experiences and gives me a little piece of Les Misérables to take away with me as my own, which makes it more than worth its weight in gold!

If it is a choice between feeding yourself this week, and buying a copy of Les Misérables: From Stage to Screen, then I’d implore you to give serious consideration to the book. At worst, you could nibble on some of the pages, and ration that it’s all for the love of your craft, making for several ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ style moments too! (‘cos it’s not just me who belts this out in the shower each morning… erm… is it?!) 😉

Les Misérables: From Stage to Screen by Benedict Nightingale and Martyn Palmer, £30.00 is available from www.carltonbooks.co.uk, out now.

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About Gari

Thirty-Two year old northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

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