My love of musical movies was supplanted by a love of musical stage productions. Because of South Africa’s apartheid-isolation from international arts, we had to be content with hearing recordings of the musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice rather than seeing them. I learned the words for Joseph, for Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Phantom of the Opera. In 1984 Jenny and I visited London, and were blown away by the live stage performance of Evita, followed a few nights later by Cats. We were hooked on live musicals – and as South Africa opened up to musicals we have enjoyed everything from Chicago to David Kramer’s District Six. But my all time favourite is Les Misérables.
Les Misérables , first published as a Victor Hugo historical novel in 1862, is a reflection on the tension in live between Grace and Law. My friend Alan Brews bought Jenny and me tickets to see it in Cape Town, and we were deeply moved by its message of hope in the love of God. I was privileged to see it again in New York with my friends Charmaine Morgan and Sidwell Mokgothu. Again I was moved to tears. Now it has come out as a musical film, and I intend seeing it. Will keep you posted.
PS: I am intrigued to discover that the lyricist for the English-language musical adaptation is South African born Herbert Kretzmer. Born in Kroonstad in 1925 of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants William and Tilly Kretzmer, he left South Africa to become a journalist and theatre critic in London. He turned the original French words into the English version that – as of the end of 2012 - has become the longest running musical in the West End.