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.

LA DEVISE DU CABARETIER (MASTER OF THE HOUSE)

“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 chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. 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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