A Tale of Two Thénardiers

By N Mark Castro

Multi-awarded comedian SACHA Baron Cohen has taken on the role of Monsieur Thénardier in the latest film adaptation of Les Miserables. Sacha is known for the four popular characters he’s created: Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, Brüno Gehard, and Admiral General Aladeen, so it’s quite refreshing to see his own take of the character Monsieur Thénardier.

And this University of Cambridge graduate delivered quite well with his performance as Monsieur Thénardier

The Thénardiers

The Thénardiers are both described as being very ugly people. Mme. Thénardier is described as “tall, blond, ruddy, barrel-like, brawny, boxy, huge, and agile” while M. Thénardier is described as being “a skinny little runt, pale, engular, bony, rickety, who looked sick but was as fit as a fiddle…”

They are ordinary working-class people who blame society for their sufferings. In earlier parts of the novel, they own an inn and cheat their customers. And although they seemed like sinister people in the book, they’ve become comic figures in the musical, a presentation completely at odds with Hugo’s novel, perhaps to keep the show from being too depressing.

Mme. Thénardier disdains her husband in the musical, but is willing to work with him to further their collective schemes; in the book, she is worshipful of him in the beginning, and their relationship cools as the plot progresses.

Composer Claude-Michel Schönberg said “in the middle of a dramatic and very sad story we decided to turn the Thénardiers into a kind of comic characters…to relax the audience because it’s a very heavy show.” Though they remain the real villains of the story, the Thénardiers provide more or less all of the laughs in the show, and are therefore some of the show’s most popular characters.


“Master of the House” is one of the better-known songs of the musical and one that provides comic relief. It introduces the Thénardiers and the crooked way that they operate their inn. The song is preceded by a lengthy introduction sung largely by regulars at the inn and Thénardier himself, which is cut from almost all recordings, but you can imagine its original French version.

But the penultimate performance for me would be Alun Armstrong’s adaptation of the character.

And worry no more with this cruel trick of nature because if you think he looks familiar to you …

It’s because Alun Armstrong has been fodder for TV, Film and stage since the 1970s.

And that’s why he’s the Master of the House


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on January 16, 2013, in General, Music and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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