About “les Miserables.” First, Let me say that it is a great show. I have read the book twice and have seen the Broadway show once. I also have the soundtrack. So it is not like I am unfamiliar with the whole gig.
There are, however, some problems with the story. First, the characters are just not believable. I mean, why is Javert even tracking Valjean now? It really makes no sense. Valjean was properly released! The theft from the Bishop was dismissed and the issue with little Gervais was minor to the point of irrelevancy (and not even mentioned in the stage show). Like most characters in the production, Javert is just a distorted caricature, and a grossly exaggerated caricature at that. Have you ever met anyone like him? Nor have I. I’m not sure that such a person even exists now or ever has. Same with Valjean and Fantene. The Thenardiers are exclusively horrible. Everything is geared to pull the heartstrings, and it is frankly manipulative. How their daughter (Eponine Thenardier) turned out to be good is a mystery, and it’s probably a manifestation of a biological reductionism (and probably rooted in the thinking of 1862, when the book was first published).
Second, there is kind of a juvenile and nonsensical black-and-white thinking throughout the entire production. Valjean whines that he was imprisoned for “stealing a mouthful of bread,” but this is pure malarky. In truth he broke into a house and stole someone else’s property. It was a “hot” robbery. He was imprisoned for short time because of this crime, and then repeatedly tried to escape. Uh, NOT innocent. Yet in the story you are either with the “good guys” (Valjean) or the “bad guys” (Javert) There’s no nuance at all. Yes, that is related to the first problem.
Third, the whole setup is to justify bad behavior and disparage good behavior. Talk about turning things on their heads and calling good evil and evil good! There is no vice (other than Javert and the Thenardiers), only misunderstood virtue (see: Fantine). Javert and the Thenardiers are really the only evil ones in the story.
Finally, the production is unabashedly (and unapologetically) leftist. Jacobin, really (what else would you expect from Victor Hugo and a story about the French Revolution?). That’s part and parcel of the third objection, above.
That’s not to say it is NOT an entertaining show. It is (though I thought the stage production was better than the book, which I found to be quite tedious). But let’s not think that we get truth value out of it–we don’t (or at least none in the overarching themes). I’m glad (the fictional) Valjean changed, but let’s face it, this is an argument for the perfectibility of human beings–a common theme of the left.
While I can like the music, I should not be confused about this yielding truth. There is a lot of art that I like that is either false or otherwise bogus.