Happy hump-day, internet. We’re halfway through the week, and halfway through our selection of musical numbers. Today, we’ll look at a song from the soundtrack for “Les Miserables”.
So far this week, we’ve managed to keep our selection fairly diverse. On Monday, we looked at Lin Manuel-Miranda’s hip hop-infused “My Shot”, from the Broadway musical “Hamilton”. Yesterday, it was the black humor in Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Priest” from “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”.
Today, we move on to “One Day More” from “Les Miserables”, a large, choral ensemble piece that brings out motifs and themes from several other songs in the musical. But first, some context.
“Les Miserables” is a musical based on the 1862 novel of the same name written by Victor Hugo. The musical premiered in 1980, with music written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, and French lyrics written by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. The lyrics for the English version were written by Herbert Kretzmer.
“Les Miserables” is set in 19th Century France, and follows the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant with a desire for redemption after serving 19 years in jail. After breaking his parole to start a new life, Valjean is pursued by the police inspector Javier. Valjean adopts an orphaned girl named Cosette, after making a vow to her dying mother that he will protect her. Together they flee to Paris, still pursued by Javier, and live a cautious life. But along the way, Valjean and a cast of characters are swept up in the revolutionary period in France.
That’s about as concise of a summary as I can provide, and I’m still leaving plenty out. The Broadway production of “Les Miserables” was nominated for twelve Tony Awards, winning eight including Best Musical and Best Original Score. A film adaptation was released in 2012, and went on to win three Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, and four British Academy Film Awards.
“One Day More”
“One Day More” is the big, swelling choral piece that ends the first Act of “Les Miserables”, featuring many solos from the main characters. These solos intertwine with one another throughout the song, calling back melodies and motifs from songs of the first Act.
Every main character in “One Day More” looks ahead to the next day, as a turning point in their lives. Valjean remains worried about his past catching up to him, “Tomorrow is the judgement day”. At the same time, Javier turns his attention to the growing revolution. “One day more to revolution / We will nip it in the bud. /We’ll be ready for these schoolboys / They will wet themselves with blood!”
“One More Day” culminates with each character singing their part to a different melody at the same time. While this is a bit overwhelming, it remains an impressive compositional feat.
While “Les Miserables” might be the most tragic of musicals we cover this week, it’s also often parodied. At least, “One Day More” is. From South Park, to Simpsons, to Key & Peele’s “One At A Time” (my favorite), there seems to be something incredibly satisfying about poking fun at drama. Can’t say that I disagree.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at our last musical for the week. I’ll give you all a hint now: it’s a comedy.