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Tear Jerker: Les Misérables
Fantine's reaction when Valjean orders Javert to release her and promises to take care of her and Cosette. Shocked that he's being so kind to her and overjoyed at the prospect of being reunited with her daughter, she starts to sob, falls to her knees, kisses his hand, and faints.
The scene when Valjean wrestles himself on whether he should turn himself in and let an innocent man go free or continue to be a highly respected mayor and let the man die is heartwrenching enough. One of the issues he brings up is what will happen to Montreuil when he is arrested. It is even more heartbreaking when we discover that he was right. The town, Montreuil, falls to ruin because no one believes that a convicted man could ever be that good and the next leaders don't have Valjean's strong ideals.
The scene where Cossette is going to get water. There is a lot of build-up, spelling out just how terrible her life is. Her running through the woods from the monsters in her head, only to break down, terrified both of the forest and failing the Thernardiess...Followed by "mysterious stranger" Jean Valjean literally taking the burden of the matter off of her and comforting her. The kicker? She knows immediately that she can trust this man.
When Valjean sees Mme. Thénardier not letting Cosette play with Éponine and Azelma's doll (and this is after the sisters tell on her), he goes out and comes back with a brand new one, and offers it to Cosette. Cosette asks Valjean if the doll really is for her. Valjean, moved to tears, says it is, and she takes it in her arms and names it "Catherine."
When Valjean first adopts Cosette, she's so used to being beaten that she runs away in confusion when he kisses her hand.
Cosette's longing for the mother she never knew. At one point, she imagines that her mother's soul passed into Valjean when she died: "When he was seated, she leaned her cheek against his white hair, and dropped a silent tear, saying to herself: 'Perhaps this man is my mother.'" *sniffle*
Fantine never sees her daughter Cosette grow up. Cosette never knows her own mother. Cosette was perfectly happy being raised by Jean Valjean, but in a way that almost makes it worse, considering everything Fantine did for her...
When Marius, just seconds after finally reconciling with his grandfather, Gillenormand, after a feud that lasted for years, storms out after Gillenormand inadvertently insults Cosette. M. Gillenormand, in his nineties, sits frozen in shock and despair before flinging himself at the open window, yelling for Marius to come back because this time he knows he won't return.
M. Mabeuf. His fate is absolutely heartwrenching as he slowly descends into absolute poverty, until he has nothing left.
Je(h)an Prouvaire, the sweet poet who liked flowers and clouds, dying alone. Even worse, his friends can hear it happen.
From the book, Éponine's last words: "And then, do you know, Monsieur Marius? I believe I was a little in love with you." Then she dies, in the middle of trying to smile.
When Marius kisses her forehead after she dies, because it was Éponine's final request.
When Enjolras and Grantaire die: Grantaire had been asleep the entire battle, and maybe could have hid through the end and gotten away, but woke up just as Enjolras was about to be executed. He stops them, walks up to Enjolras, and then declares, in front of the National Guard and Enjolras, his belief in the Republic - which he has disdained for the entirety of the novel. Quote from book: "Enjolras took his hand and smiled." And then they are shot.
Just Grantaire in general. He gave his life and death to a revolution he didn't believe in so a man - who it seemed couldn't care less about him, and insulted him frequently - wouldn't die alone. His devotion to his Apollo (or Orestes, pick whichever allusion you like) was just as tragic (if not more so) as Éponine's to Marius
Everything that leads up to Javert's suicide. He gets back from the barricade, where he was captured, sentenced to death and tied up standing for a sleepless night alongside corpses, only to be freed by Valjean, the last person he expected to show him kindness; after this ordeal, he returns to the police station only to be immediately put back on duty; he runs into Valjean again, and, bewildered, helps him save Marius and then just lets him go. It's extra-heartbreaking to think that the consequent storm of an epiphany that follows - which basically boils down to, "There is more to morality than law, and sometimes they are mutually exclusive things, and I don't know how to do the right thing any more" - might not have been fatal if the man had just had a chance to rest.
Chapter 1 of Book 7 of Volume 5 (in which Jean Valjean decides to tell Marius the truth about his past) is heartrending. After 'The Sleepless Night' there isn't really that much breathing space for non tear-jerker moments. And there's still 100 or so pages to go.
When Jean Valjean is in the Rue de l'Homme Arme laying out the eight year old Cosette's clothes.
After Valjean confesses his identity to Marius, he begins to distance himself from Cosette, insisting that they call each other "Madame" and "Monsieur Jean". Cosette is hurt by this and asks if Valjean is angry with her because she's happy. Valjean then says to himself, "Her happiness was the object of my life. Now God may sign my dismissal. Cosette, thou art happy; my day is over."
When Jean Valjean keeps on trying to make the journey to see Cosette and can't quite do it, and then the journeys get shorter and shorter.
Valjean's death. The whole chapter. "No doubt, in the gloom, some immense angel stood erect with wings outspread, awaiting the soul." Especially when he's asked if he wants a priest and he points upwards and says "I have one".
The haunting description of Valjean's final resting place, with this line regarding his tombstone: "No name can be read there," and the words that were etched there but have now been erased after years of exposure: "Il dort. Quoique le sort fut pour lui bien etrange, Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n'eut plus son ange. La chose simplement d'elle-meme arriva, Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s'en va." (He sleeps. Although his fate was very strange, he lived. He died when he had no longer his angel. The thing came to pass simply, of itself, as the night comes when day is gone.)
Pretty much any part where the Bishop sings fits both this and Heartwarming Moments. His kindness in the face of the grimness of the rest of the musical, and especially to Valjean, who has only known hate, is absolutely gutwrenching.
"On My Own." "Without me, his world will go on turning..." *sniff* poor girl.
This trailer for the film shows a clip of Marius's wedding to Cosette during that line. It is devastating. Lea Salonga's version delivers that line with an absolutely perfect amount of bitterness.
The saddest part is the fact that Eponine realizes that she's not in love with Marius, she's in love with theideaof him. And worse still, she still pursues him because she knows that he's the only thing that makes her life worth living. There's nothing else left for her, so she holds onto the one good thing left in her life.
And its musical partner, "And tell Cosette I love her - and I'll see her when I wake..."
Four words: "Little Fall of Rain" "You would live a hundred years if I could show you how: I won't desert you now..."
The French lyrics: Mais tu vas vivre, 'Ponine, regarde-moi!: But you are going to live, Eponine, look at me! Somehow "look at me" is more poignant than "dear God above," as if she's slipping away before his very eyes.
In the revival, the ending is so heartbreaking, because Éponine goes in for a kiss, and dies just before she reaches Marius' lips.
Marius's horrified "Oh God, it's everywhere!" as he realizes she's covered in her own blood.
"Hush-a-bye, dear Eponine, you won't feel any pain...I will stay with you til you are sleeping..."
In the production this troper saw, Marius whispers, "No...No..." and desperately tries to stop the bleeding as Eponine starts the song, and his voice is audibly shaking as he sings. When Eponine dies, he breaks down crying and cradles her body to his chest.
What got this troper was Gavroche's reaction to her death in the 2014 revival considering she is his older sister. He freezes when he realizes it is her and then runs her as she is carried away and is stopped and comforted by Courfeyrac.
And four more: "My friends, my friends..."
"Here they sang about tomorrow... and tomorrow never came..."
This song is often performed as a tribute to AIDS victims. Which makes it even more wrenching.
Phantom faces at the window / Phantom shadows on the floor / Empty chairs at empty tables / Now my friends will meet no more. Gets this troper every time.
When the ghosts of Enjolras and the other students come out to stand around Marius as he sings "Oh my friends, my friends, forgive me...", and when they leave and Enjolras gives Marius (and the audience) one last look before departing.
"Oh my friends, my friends, don't ask me/What your sacrifice was for..." and the accompanying crescendo... He can't face that they may have died for nothing.
And it gets worse (yes, worse) in the German-language production, where Marius will say their names to the empty air in turn as he limps around the café.
"To love another person is to see the face of God."
"Did you see them lying where they died? Someone used to cradle them and kiss them when they cried. Did you see them lying side by side?"
"Where's that new world, now the fighting's done?"
"Do You Hear the People Sing", especially this verse:
Do you hear the people sing? Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the Earth, there is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
Particularly because it's the ghosts of the dead singing it. Really elevated in the film, where this number is in an afterlife consisting of the Paris they all dreamed of.
"Now life has killed the dream... I dreamed."
I Dreamed a Dream is pretty much the quintessential Tear Jerker in the show, really, with On My Own as a close second.
"He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when Autumn came..."
Anne Hathaway's rendition of the song, even when abridged for the trailers, somehow fills it with more raw anguish and despair. Most renditions end up with the singer showing off her voice — and let's face it, it's a fantastic song for that — but Anne Hathaway just sounds straight up broken.
Javert's death. If this scene does not reduce at least some audience members to noisy, glubby Inelegant Blubbering, the actor in question is probably doing it wrong.
"The world that I have known is lost in shadow..."
The worst part is hearing the orchestra during that final "Onnnnn!"- It's the only reprise "Stars" gets in the show.
Norm Lewis's version in the 25th anniversary concert is particularly heart-wrenching.
"I am reaching, but I fall... and the stars are black and cold..."
The reprise of "Drink With Me," where all the students are now fully aware that none of them are gonna live to see the next day. They solemnly raise the bottles and have one last drink together, and then get ready to fight until the end.
In the original concept album, that song, "Souviens-Toi (Remember)," combines with a soft instrumental reprise of "Castle on a Cloud", just the first eight notes. The connection to childhood and nostalgia and lost wishes is painful, and it's something I wish had been kept between the two shows.
It seems that early versions of the English-language show did keep that instrumental bit; the Complete Symphonic Recording of the show includes it at the end of the "Drink With Me" reprise.
Also, it's kind of reminiscent of Chopin's Funeral March.
Grantaire's verse of "Drink With Me" is especially heartbreaking. "Will the world remember you when you fall?/Can it be your death means nothing at all?," directed at Enjolras. Grantaire couldn't care less about his own life, or even the Revolution, really. It's the thought of Enjolras dying for no reason and no one remembering that he fears.
The little-known reprise of "Who Am I," also known as "Valjean's Confession," which appeared in the 25th Anniversary and several other productions, when Valjean decides he must leave Cosette behind. It was heart-wrenching enough in the book, but when set to beautiful music...
Valjean's death at the very end, just as he gains everything he'd longed for.
"What Have I Done", in which Valjean has a slight mental breakdown over how low he has fallen (having just actually stole something for his own good (the Bishop's candlesticks) for the first time and then having experienced the Bishop's goodness). The song first chronicles Valjean's shame and self-loathing over his behavior and then continues on to show his transformation into the awesome, benevolent man we all know and love. When done right, lines like "He told me that I have a soul,/How does he know?" can move an audience to tears.
The same melody returns near the end of the show in the form of another character's BSOD Song, "Javert's Suicide", which mirrors "What Have I Done?" throughout. Javert's last stanza begins "I am reaching, but I fall, and the stars are black and cold/As I stare into the void of a world that cannot hold"; Valjean's parallel line is "I am reaching, but I fall, and the night is closing in/And I stare into the void to the whirlpool of my sin". The inspector's whole world view - that criminals can never be redeemed and can never do good - is being destroyed. Valjean has been taught the same thing, so the Bishop of Digne's trust in him and willingness to believe in the possibility of a convict becoming a good man is quite jarring for him.
And then there's "Bring Him Home"...
"Castle on a Cloud". It seems like this really innocent, sweet, childlike song about a daydream. Then you realise what it says about Cosette's life — people shouting at her, being used as a servant girl, being made to cry, etc. — and how that's all she knows.
Valjean's part during the reprise of "A Heart Full of Love" where he gives Cosette away to Marius:
"She was never mine to keep"
"She is youthful, she is free"
Fantine to Valjean when he stops her arrest and offers to help her:
Monsieur, don't mock me now, I pray
It's hard enough I've lost my pride
You let your foreman send me away
Yes, you were there, and turned aside
Along with Valjean's reaction: "Is it true what I've done?/To an innocent soul?"
"Lovely Ladies." It's a high energy number about prostitution, with the actresses over-exaggerating their movements and voices, seemingly having the time of their lives despite their unfortunate circumstances. The music switches to a slow, ballad type after the prostitutes practically scream out "All it takes is money in your hand!" The final verse, sung by Fantine after selling herself into prostitution is absolutely heartbreaking.
Come on, Captain, you can wear your shoes Don't it make a change to have a girl who can't refuse? Easy money, lying on a bed Just as well they never see the hate that's in your head Don't they know they're making love to one already dead?
The instrumental version of "Bring Him Home" after the final battle, culminating with the swell of music as the barricade spins around to reveal Enjolras's body hanging on top of the flag.
"Bring Him Home" is a Tear Jerker as it is, but the story of Dudu Fisher, who originated the role of Valjean in the Israeli production, and later played the role on Broadway and the West End, is even more heart-touching. Fisher saw the show in London with a friend. After "Bring Him Home", he turned to his friend and said "When this comes to Israel, I will play this role." There was, as it happens, a Hebrew version of the show in the works, and Fisher managed to get the role, despite never having acted in his life (he is a trained singer and cantor). During this whole series of events, Fisher's son was serving in the IDF, so "Bring Him Home" had an intensely personal note to him. In concerts, he has said that when he sings the song on stage, for him, it is as if he is singing the prayers in the synagogue.
The moment it sinks in for you that the only character who gets an unambiguously happy ending in any faithful adaptation of this story is Thenardier. That's right, the one character who gets everything he wants in this story is the villain. It makes you think about how truly unfair the world can be.