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mezzo_soprano

FANTINE (All sorts of help needed)

So some of you might have seen my audition post for the role of Fantine in a play of Les Mis. Well I GOT THE PART!

So now I need to call on you guys again! I want to look at some potrayals of the role to see what can be done with it.

So who are your favorite musical Fantines?

What are some Les Mis movies with good Fantines?

What are some characters in other stories similar to her?

What should I know about the time period?

I am also looking (strangely enough) for movies and such where someone is dying of TB, as in the play, Fantine is coughing and suffering the whole time, obviously rather ill from the factory on.

Thanks for any help you can give me!
jackissensational

Daphne Rubin-Vega.
mezzo_soprano

Thanks Jack. Glad to know I can count on ya. Wink

I was actually going to look at her, as I heard her acting was great, it was just the singing that didnt fit fantine.
Vanessa20

CONGRATULATIONS!! Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

1) Ruthie Henshall is always popular, and her TAC performance is easy enough to see. As for stage Fantines, I know I liked Lea Salonga (plenty of videos of her on Youtube), and I remember enjoying Joanna Ampil too: I think she was fairly similar to Lea, but less weepy, more "brittle," and more clumsy and staggering drunk as a prostitute. Even though they weren't blonde, those two were probably the closest to Hugo's Fantine I've seen. (Ruthie, fine as she is for the musical, is possibly a little too strong and aristocratic to be Brick!Fantine, though I may only feel that way because her hair and costume stay pretty throughout the concert.)

2) I still haven't seen any of the movies except for part of the 1935 one (don't go for that one), but I've heard that Uma Thurman is supposed to be pretty good in the 1998 one, as is Odette Florelle in the 1934 French one, though they've both been accused of scenery chewing.

3) I once wrote about this in another thread: I've always thought of Marguerite in Dumas fils' "Camille" (a.k.a. Violetta in the opera "La Traviata," and also a prototype for Nicole Kidman's Satine in "Moulin Rouge") as being like a glamorized, romanticized Fantine. She's also a hooker with a heart who gives all for love, is reduced to poverty and loneliness, and ends up dying of TB. Of course she's much higher class and gives all for romantic love, not love for a child, but I still can't help but notice the similarities. As for another abandoned, degraded girl who becomes a self-sacrificing mother, I'd point out Madame Butterfly/Kim from "Miss Saigon."

4) I'll leave this one to someone like Orestes Fasting. I'm still just learning about the time period, apart from what I've read in the Brick.

5) There are the obvious ones, i.e. Greta Garbo in "Camille" and Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge." For something less prettified, though, I've read that Dustin Hoffman dies of TB in "Midnight Cowboy," and unless you have an aversion to opera, another great actress to watch would be Teresa Stratas in Franco Zeffirelli's movie of "La Traviata." She has the advantage of having actually had the disease as a little girl, so I think she knows just how to act it.
Orestes Fasting

I'd avoid the temptation to base Fantine at all on Marguerite/Violetta or Satine, because "high-class courtesan has no problems with banging rich men for money until her True Love comes along and suddenly monogamy is chic" is a completely different narrative. One with more of an element of choice, and more themes of sin and redemption, rather than inexorable degradation by outside forces. I'm not 100% sure because I never got more than fifty pages in, but you might want to look more along the lines of Sonia in Crime and Punishment.

Info about the time period... unmarried women who'd had sex were looked upon as morally equivalent to prostitutes. Money makes no difference, "I was in love with him" makes no difference, "I was raped" makes no difference, "I was faithfully devoted to him for fifty years" makes no difference (poor Juliette Drouet). The high and mighty arbiters of morality aren't going to care if Fantine is driven into prostitution, because what else is A Woman Like That fit to do? Obviously this is part of the attitudes Hugo was writing against, but it's something to be aware of.

The other thing that a lot of people aren't aware of is that prostitution was not illegal at the time. Prostitutes enjoyed an especially humiliating and degrading status in the eyes of the law (registration, regular VD checks, etc), but Javert can't actually pick Fantine up for being a streetwalker; instead he arrests her for hitting the man who assaulted her.
Vanessa20

Orestes Fasting wrote:
I'd avoid the temptation to base Fantine at all on Marguerite/Violetta or Satine, because "high-class courtesan has no problems with banging rich men for money until her True Love comes along and suddenly monogamy is chic" is a completely different narrative. One with more of an element of choice, and more themes of sin and redemption, rather than inexorable degradation by outside forces. I'm not 100% sure because I never got more than fifty pages in, but you might want to look more along the lines of Sonia in Crime and Punishment.


You're right.

I was just thinking that they're both "women despised by society who sacrifice everything for true love" (whether romantic or motherly love) and in both cases their purpose is more or less to say "F*** you, high and mighty arbiters of morality, Women Like That are better than you." And I get annoyed by the fact that Marguerite/Violetta is such a beloved character while Fantine is so underrated among fans of the musical, when Fantine is arguably just as noble and suffers even more. Dang pretty clothes and soppy romantic love story. Evil or Very Mad
Orestes Fasting

Quote:
in both cases their purpose is more or less to say "F*** you, high and mighty arbiters of morality, Women Like That are better than you."


Hmm, is it really? In Marguerite's case it was more like "True Love can redeem a fallen woman from her state of moral degradation," which accepts the high and mighty arbiters' basic premise that Women Like That are lesser, degraded creatures. It only really diverges in positing that redemption is possible through True Love, as opposed to, IDK, spending the rest of your life in a Magdalen laundry.

With Fantine, there is no redemption because it's unnecessary: Valjean is speaking for Hugo when he declares that Fantine has never ceased to be virtuous before God. Her degradation is entirely physical and imposed on her from the outside. As for the original "mistake" that brought Cosette into being, Hugo's point is more along the lines of "F*** you, high and mighty arbiters of morality, Women Like That are no worse than the successful, socially-accepted, indulged men who bang them." Or, in Fantine's case, better--not only does she take full responsibility for the kid and keep her act clean for as long as she can while Tholomyès is living it up in the provinces and continuing to keep mistresses, she expiates her fault a thousand times over with nary a word of complaint.
marlalp

Hey, congrats on getting the role! I don't have much advice on Fantine, but I'm curious where and when this play is going to be. It sounds quite interesting.
What you own

Congrats!!

I wish I could help you more..But...

By the way you said your Sister was tryign out too? What part did she get?
mezzo_soprano

Wow! Thanks to all who posted! My thoughts on the above:

ALL: I am so thankful for your help. I do not have to deal with becoming a prostitute as the play glosses over that (damn Sad ) I don't know if we are totally ignoring it, or implying it or what. However this is Fantine's part in the play. (The play is a combanation of an old script and bits that were added.)

Opening: A Narrator introduces Les Miserables and its themes. Starts on the setting. Many characters are frozen. When the narrator mentions a problem involving a character, they come to life and plead their case. EXAMPLE: The narrator says, "where crying children cling to mothers who cannot feed them" Fantine and young Cosette come to life. Fantine pleads with the narrator to help her daughter. She asks, "why am I powerless to care for the one I love?"

Leaving Cosette: Fantine stops at the Thenardiers inn w/ little Cosette. SHe and Mme. make small talk. Asks her to take care of cosette. . blahblah blah. Scene ends with Fantine forcing a smile and going inside to work out the details.

The Factory - Factory at lunchtime. Workers gossip about M. Madeline. Fanchelavant relates the tale of the mayor saving his life. Fantine comes in. Workers complain about her cough, her work, then they tell the boss she has a child. Fantine pleads her case, is fired. (My real life coworker plays Mme. V, Fantines boss.)

I got to go for now, Ill continue my thoughts later.

Thanks for all the help!
mezzo_soprano

Okay Im back.

Fantines downfall - (basically Lovely ladies and Fantines arrest) Fantine comes onstage after having sold her hair and her back teeth. She comes to see her friend Margurite, the flower seller. (Played by . . . .My sister)
She has fallen behind on her rent and is sick and coughing, but refuses to see a doctor or pay the landlady with the money. She insists the money is for Cosette. She moves away, coughing and dabbing at her teeth. Bamatabois comes, says she is hideous now. Steals and rips her shawl. She hits him. then comes javert with the nightstick of justice. Arrests her. . .yaddayadda. . jvj comes. Fantine spits in his face. He forgives her, orders javert to let her go. They get into a arguement. Fantine exits and the policeman comes back to say she has fainted. JVJ orders for her to be taken to the hospital. Javert says he denounces vj, but the real 24601 has been caught. enter court room scene. (FINALLY! a breather. my first since leaving cosette)

More Later again. The coffee shop is closing.
Eppie-Sue

Hm, it's sad that the play starts when Fantine's situation is already miserable ... you don't get to play happy!naive!Fantine that way... but it's the same in the musical, so, ah, well. I would certainly show the way her pride is being destroyed and how everything she has cared for - her beautiful hair, her health, her propriety - goes down the drain because of the unconditional love for her child, how she's falling apart ever so slowly, without questioning it.

(and a random question: Was it really necessary to open three threads about this?)
mezzo_soprano

(To Eppie: I thought I opened 2? my sister had one that I commented on. and I was going to just revive the audition one, but it had sunk down, and I decided it was best to make a new one.)

Fantines Death: Kinda in between the book and the musical. Sister Simplicity is there. Fantine knows she is dying, gives JVJ her locket for Cosette, and makes him promise to take care of her. She then hallucinates that she hears Cosette and dies.

(REALLY LONG BREAK)

FINALE: basically like the musical.

Fantines I have looked at: Lea (THAT WOMAN IS GOD!), Ruthie. I must find some stuff on Joanne. (its ok that they werent blonde! I wont be either!!!)

Movies: I really liked Uma in the 1998 movie (She is one of the best things in there. I must watch that again) Anything else? Thats the only movie I have seen.

Characters: on a random wikipedia spree, I found out that Fantine is classified as a Grisette. So I think I might check out some characters on the list they have. Mainly Mimi in La Boheme as she fits the next catagory too.

TB: I am going to watch Moulin Rouge, but the only part of Fantine that will be based on Satine is the death and disease. (my friend has wanted me to watch that movie forever) Also maybe La Boheme.

So thanks for listening to my sermon. Anything else you can tell me would help! (thanks especially to OF for the help on the time period. Anything else I should know now that I have a summary up here?)
Vanessa20

mezzo_soprano wrote:
Characters: on a random wikipedia spree, I found out that Fantine is classified as a Grisette. So I think I might check out some characters on the list they have. Mainly Mimi in La Boheme as she fits the next catagory too.


Keep in mind, though, she's just as different from Fantine as Marguerite/Violetta/Satine is. She's just an ordinary sweet girl who experiences heartbreak, gets involved with more than one man, and then dies (I'm talking opera!Mimi here, not the original Murger!Mimi or Rent!Mimi). Apart from her illness, she's more like Fantine was pre-Cosette, except slightly older, not quite so innocent (though still lovable) and less naive.

Opera geek moment: If you end up watching "Boheme," the Baz Luhrmann DVD is always a good choice for newbies, but there's also a great version from the Met with Teresa Stratas, who I mentioned before. It's out of print at the moment, but you can watch it on Youtube.
mezzo_soprano

LOL. My director would KILL me if I played Fantine as RENT mimi. Must find a way to do that for the parodies we do backstage.
Ulkis

Quote:
2) I still haven't seen any of the movies except for part of the 1935 one (don't go for that one), but I've heard that Uma Thurman is supposed to be pretty good in the 1998 one, as is Odette Florelle in the 1934 French one, though they've both been accused of scenery chewing.


If it was any other scene or character I would probably cry scenery-chewing too, but by the time Fantine is arrested, she is hysterical. She is SUPPOSED to be scenery-chewing.

Here's the description of her from the book when she's arrested:

Quote:
She dragged herself across the damp floor, among the muddy boots of all those men, without rising, with clasped hands, and taking great strides on her knees.

She spoke thus, rent in twain, shaken with sobs, blinded with tears, her neck bare, wringing her hands, and coughing with a dry, short cough, stammering softly with a voice of agony. Great sorrow is a divine and terrible ray, which transfigures the unhappy. At that moment Fantine had become beautiful once more. From time to time she paused, and tenderly kissed the police agent's coat.


Although do I think Florelle overacts in other scenes.

mezzo-soprano, here's the big scene where Fantine pleads with Javert from the 1934 movie if you want to see it.
mezzo_soprano

Anyone have something to say on Angela Pleasence as Fantine? I saw a cheap copy of the 1978 film with her in it. and wondered what people thought. (It has Anthony Perkins as Javert)
lesmisloony

Are you talking about the Gollum of Monteis sur Monteis?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qya5VxNxUZ8

Tip: DON'T do that. For the love of God.
mezzo_soprano

I dont know?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077936/

This one.
Vanessa20

Yes, the one in the above clip is Angela Pleasance. She's certainly different in this role than she was as the Ghost of Christmas Past in the George C. Scott "Christmas Carol!" Laughing

I understand why they had her play the role that way, I suppose it's a valid different interpretation, but I agree... it's not how I imagine Fantine at all.

Florelle in that 1934 clip is another story Very Happy Yes, I understand the scenery-chewing complaint, but honestly, apart from the slight '30s-China-doll look she has going (I don't know if it's makeup or if she just had the type of face that was popular then), she's like Hugo's Fantine stepped off the page.
mezzo_soprano

Hmm . . Now might have to get the movie as a guideline for what not to do. Or the lolz
mezzo_soprano

What about the 1952 movie? And what is les mis stage by stage? (if you cant tell, im shopping ebay)
MlleTholomyès

mezzo_soprano wrote:
What about the 1952 movie? And what is les mis stage by stage? (if you cant tell, im shopping ebay)


1952 I think is the one that ripped everything off the 35; not quite sure about that one. Stage by Stage was a documentary of London Les Miz in the 80s.
lesmisloony

The 1952 was kind of a remake of the '35, but it also went in and added some wonderful, cracky things. Like Robert. And Valjean's prison boyfriend.

Heck, I need to watch that one again. I haven't seen it since I first bought it two years ago.
mezzo_soprano

Ulkis, thank you so much for posting that vid. I havent had a chance to watch it till now. I think it will help me a lot. (we are working on that scene tomorrow)

Sad Nothing from the 1998 movie on youtube. I have to get a copy soon, but I hoped to have it sooner. C'est la vie
Barberous

Small question about musical-Fantine: what does she mean when she sings "He took my childhood in his stri(iiii)de"? What kind of childhood?
Vanessa20

I assume it's a euphemism/metaphor. She means her virginity, and with it her innocence, her "purity," and thus any chance she had in her younger days for a better life.
Barberous

That's a pretty likely explanation, thanks. What confused me is that I've only heard the phrase "taking it in stride" used to mean coping brilliantly with something that's unexpected or inconvenient... and virginity wasn't, in that day and age. So I thought she might be saying that he overlooked her lower-class upbringing, or something like that. Translation disease, perhaps...

Just looked up a Google translation of the French lyrics (from http://www.frmusique.ru/texts/m/miserables/javaisreve.htm), and got "And then one day he left / Seeing me in my childhood stolen." (Et puis un jour il est parti / En m'ayant volé mon enfance.) Looks like your interpretation is on the money. It might also mean that he took away her freedom to be carefree.
Vanessa20

Barberous wrote:
So I thought she might be saying that he overlooked her lower-class upbringing, or something like that.


That makes sense too... I wonder how Herbert Kretzmer actually meant it?

(I ask myself that question often, about various things.)

I always interpreted the line as meaning "he carelessly took my virginity and innocence, without a second thought about the outcome."
lesmisloony

A more trustworthy translation of the French is "And then one day he had gone / Having stolen my childhood" or something to that effect, if that helps you any.
mezzo_soprano

Another q, as the answers on this one conflict.
Was cosette born before Felix left Fantine? As the book states time, she was. But my spark notes says no . .. . .

And I dont imagine Him sticking around if his mistress was pregnant.
MlleTholomyès

Cosette was around two by the time he and Listolier and the others left, because when she's walking up to Madame Thenardier, they exchange "pleasantries", and she says something akin to "my oldest is two", to which Fantine replies, "As is mine. Something to that regard, anyway.
mezzo_soprano

Thats what I thought. I just couldnt imagine him staying with a pregnant Fantine.

Oh well. It doesnt even really matter.
The Guard

I have one request. Pay attention to the moment's potential to move people, not just the music's ability to do so. Do not scream all your singing dialogue. Especially when you're supposed to be dying.

There are some lines that every actress who plays Fantine seems to feel the need to scream or belt, when it should really be underplayed. It then becomes incredibly cheesy. And frankly, I don't care how it's written in the music, as I assume the composer had a brainfart if they wrote some of these moments to be loud and intense. Mostly during the song about how she can see children playing while she's checking out. I always shudder when that song, which should be beautiful, is belted by a dying woman.
Eppie-Sue

... um, I might be mistaken, but they are not doing the musical. In any way.
The Guard

Oh. In that case...don't scream all your dialogue, period.
mezzo_soprano

Yeah No musical.

And I have 72 lines, only a handful are screamed or shouted.

Mostly in Fantines arrest.
Ulkis

Quote:
Heck, I need to watch that one again. I haven't seen it since I first bought it two years ago.


It's on tomorrow (sunday night) on TCM. My channel guide gave it 3 stars, crazy.
mezzo_soprano

IT ISS?????????
mezzo_soprano

UPDATE:

So I am now totally blocked (except for the Finale part) and mostly off book.

So my focus is now totally on character. (and losing some weight I want to lose before the show, if possible.)
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