The Radio Times logo

Why is nobody singing in the BBC's Les Miserables?

Are we dreaming a dream? Or is there really no singing in the BBC's major adaptation of the beloved story?

Published: Friday, 31st May 2019 at 12:51 am

Do you hear the people sing in the BBC adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables?


Well, in short, no: the latest adaptation of the 19th century classic tale is totally non-musical.

Dominic West (Jean Valjean) won’t be singing about his plight as prisoner 24601 or begging God to bring Marius (Josh O’Connor) home in the new drama from War & Peace screenwriter Andrew Davies.

David Oyelowo (Javert) will have to find some other way to encourage someone to tell him quickly what’s the story, who saw what and why and where. And his victims will have to refrain from breaking into song when they answer to Javert.

Lily Collins (Fantine) will have to dream an entirely non-musical dream and her on-screen daughter, Cosette (Ellie Bamber), may need to find another way to tell Marius that she’s got a heart full of love for him. And Eponine (Erin Kellyman)? Well, she really will be lamenting her situation on her own – she won't have any music to accompany her.

Perhaps most disappointingly, Olivia Colman and Adeel Akhtar (Madame and Monsieur Thénardier) will be doling out the charm, ready with a handshake and an open palm, but they will NOT be breaking out into song either.

Why is the BBC's Les Misérables not a musical?

Oh my friends, my friends don't ask me, what this particular sacrifice was for...

Andrew Davies has decided to go back to the source text and take a different approach with the classic novel from French author Victor Hugo.

"This is such an intense and gut-wrenching story and I am delighted that this esteemed ensemble of actors will be bringing it to life – led by Dominic West and David Oyelowo in the iconic roles of Jean Valjean and his nemesis Javert," Davies said.

More like this

"In Valjean, we see the terrifying anger and resentment against society but also the tenderness that is hidden deep in his complex psyche. And in Javert, the ferocious dedication to duty that takes him from obsession to madness."

The musical adaptation fans know and love was never entirely faithful to the source text, omitting characters, changing the nature of others and tweaking a few plots along the way.

Will Davies' drama prove to be a more accurate re-telling of the original novel?

We'll just have to wait and see...

Les Misérables airs on Sundays at 9/8c on PBS Masterpiece


This article was originally published in November 2018


Sponsored content