Details on the 1980 Paris production
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Author:  Orestes Fasting [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Details on the 1980 Paris production

I have finally fallen upon a source for the real OFC--the whole show, not just what was on the official recording. If I told you more details I'd have to kill you, etc., but I thought I'd put this up because it's part of the history of the show.

I'm not going to try a transcription of all the lyrics, because (a) that would take a lot of work, (b) my French isn't good enough, and (c) the recording, though excellent quality overall, has a couple spots where the tape must've decayed a bit and it's hard to hear. So this is basically a summary.

Prologue: a man's voice reading Victor Hugo's preface to the novel ("...books like this cannot be unnecessary")

La Journée est finie: as on the recording

L'Air de la misère: as on the recording

La Nuit: Similar to Lovely Ladies. Sailors and prostitutes coming out at night to do their business. "La nuit, la nuit, on est maître à bord / maître de la ville pendant que le bourgeois s'endort..." Sailors get a verse, prostitutes get a verse, then "Les beaux cheveux que voilà" as on the recording. Then the sailors and the prostitutes sing a verse together (similar to "Lovely lady, fastest on the street..."), then the whores in unison sing something loosely akin to the "Give me the dirt, who's that bit over there?" part, then one by one for the "Come on dearie, why all the fuss?" lines. ("Et si l'homme est parfois cruel entre tes cuisses, ferme les yeux, pense à ton amoureux...") And instead of the sudden return to the upbeat music when Fantine runs off with a sailor, we get...

J'avais rêvé d'une autre vie: As on the recording, but has the intro: "Doux Seigneur, que vous ai-je fait / Pour que plus je tombe et plus vous me laissiez tomber? / Doux Jésus, que m'avez-vous fait? / J'ai perdu tout ce que j'avais, je n'ai plus que moi à partager."

L'arrestation de Fantine: After the "La Nuit" reprise that's on the recording, Bamatabois shows up and the scene plays out almost exactly as in the London version, except that the male chorus joins in on the last line of his rant, and the female chorus (presumably the whores) tries to calm him down. Lyrically there is a LOT more emphasis on the "worthless guttersnipe just mouthed off to an Honest Upstanding Property-Owning Citizen, by god I'll teach her some respect!" aspect. After Javert's entrance it plays out as it does on the recording.

Fauchelevent: there is no stupid runaway cart music, but there is a longer version of the "Look at that, look at that, it's Monsieur Fauchelevent!" part, with multiple instances of Valjean begging someone to save Fauchelevent or he'll do it himself, and the chorus responding with, essentially, "Don't do it, it's not worth it, his life isn't worth yours, he has no one on earth to regret him." The rest of the scene is pretty similar to the London version.

Javert: is a suspicious bastard as usual, and the scene plays out almost exactly as in the London version, except that this time the ante is upped: Champmathieu will be executed if Valjean doesn't intervene.

Comment faire?: Oh yes, this is in there. Has a lot of the same lines as the PRC lyrics. Except Valjean gets a nice Time-Out For Exposition in the middle, to the tune of Valjean's confession, about how he stole a loaf of bread and spent 19 years in prison and there was this really nice bishop who... okay you all know the story. And how he became mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. And then we go back to normal "Who Am I?" except that for the last line, "Jean Valjean c'est moi," we get a dramatic low note instead of a dramatic high note.

Mort de Fantine: Offstage, apparently? There's a narrator-guy who speak-sings "La Fantine est morte sans famille / En disant, 'Mon Dieu, sauvez ma fille'" and that's it. Then, to the same recitative as Runaway Cart etc., Valjean asking Javert for enough time to go fetch Cosette, Javert going "Bitch PLZ," and the chorus in unison telling Valjean to run for it.

Mon Prince est en chemin/Mam'zelle Crapaud: As on the recording.

Maître Thénardier: Has the intro with chorus in unison, including the male chorus recounting Thénardier's, um, questionable heroism at Waterloo. Then Thénardier enters and everyone asks him to entertain them for a while by explaining the tricks of his trade, and the song goes on as usual.

La Transaction: As on the recording (no well scene).

Valse de la Fourberie: As on the recording. Followed by a long orchestral interlude that doesn't really resemble ANYTHING that's currently in the show, except that the first few notes sound like a variation on the La Misère theme maybe? (And no, it is not the same as the Barbican sewer chase music.) It's kind of peaceful and probably shows the passage of time as Cosette grows up.

Donnez: Weird dynamics here, odd crescendo on "donnnEZ!" that might actually be tape decay. I can't tell. After the orchestral part (the part that, in the current version, is used for the sewer chase), the chorus gets a unison part that's similar in form to the "what d'you think you're at, hanging 'round my pitch" part, and similar in substance to the "when's it gonna end, when're we gonna live?" part, and repeats a few times to develop on the general themes of poverty and misery. Then Frenchboys come in as usual to talk about Lamarque, Thénardier's gang plots the robbery, etc. Everything is normal up through Eponine's "...pour que ce soir on ait à manger."

THEN. YOU GUYS. MARIUS AND EPONINE GET A REPRISE OF LA MISÈRE. It starts with Marius angsting about Cosette and despair and how he never sees her in the Luxembourg anymore and moooore despaaaair. And Eponine coming in with... actually I'm not entirely sure what she's on about. And then they start singing together in harmony what might be the best undiscovered lines in the whole damn musical:

La misère, comme une fille publique
Dans la rue enfante la République

And it comes to a fantastically cheesy 80s climax and oh god I need to transcribe the whole thing someday. I can't understand the last couple of lines but they definitely manage to rhyme "abîme" and "sublime" and... DUDE, this is on so much crack.

And then there's the robbery, with the slight twist that Marius already knows the old guy is Monsieur Leblanc and is all "EPONINE DO SOMETHING" and Eponine is all "WTF DO YOU WANT ME TO DO." And Javert intervenes as usual, and apparently Valjean doesn't have a brand on his chest but a tattoo on his arm.

No Stars, just Gavroche being a smartass in direct parody of Javert's lines. And no Eponine's Errand, since they kind of covered that in the "WTF DO YOU WANT ME TO DO" section.

Trumpetty ABC Café intro music, cut straight into a never-before-heard verse of Red and Black. Somebody (maybe Grantaire?) is telling Marius to lighten up and take his inspiration from Molière instead of Shakespeare, because it's more fun to be Don Juan than Romeo. To which Marius responds sulkily that life is not an opera. Red and Black continues as on the recording, is followed by ABC Café as on the recording, and is immediately followed by "A la volonté du peuple."

Then a long orchestral interlude going into "I Saw Him Once," now titled "Te souviens-tu du premier jour?" Which is Cosette talking to her doll Catherine about the first time she saw her, and isn't Papa good to us, and oh god we just had to change houses AGAIN? And Valjean comes up and goes "Oh sorry I've interrupted a conversation, obvs, I'll drag my sorry old ass somewhere else." And Cosette pouts about how he's never there, and won't he stay more often, and she gets terribly lonely when he's gone because Catherine is the only other company she ever gets. All this more-or-less corresponds to the first part of In My Life.

Dans la vie: as on the recording

Voilà le soir qui tombe: as on the recording, except that the "j'ai voulu protéger l'amour" bit isn't there and it jumps straight to "courez vite auprès d'elle."

L'un vers l'autre is before Le Coeur au bonheur.

Attack on the Rue Plumet is entirely orchestral, except for Eponine's scream. Valjean hurrying in to check on Cosette is the same as in the London version, except that Cosette doesn't claim to have screamed, she says she heard a cry in the distance and saw bandits running away.

Demain: IS IN THE RIGHT PLACE. I don't know what weirdness of the OFC placed this song so that it seems halfway through Act II; on the soundboard it is exactly where it is in the London version.

Thus ends Act I; will do Act II later, as I'm tired and most of the divergence is in Act II. Seriously, the most surprising thing about the first half is how SIMILAR it is to the Barbican version. The official recording makes it sound waaay different, as though half the songs aren't there, but in reality they were and they just weren't on the recording.

And yes, it is sung through.

Author:  Vanessa20 [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:14 pm ]
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I had no idea that there was more to the original French version than what's on the OFCR. I had assumed the production was just a series of disjointed fragments like the recording. I can't wait to read about Act II.

Somebody (maybe Grantaire?) is telling Marius to lighten up and take his inspiration from Molière instead of Shakespeare, because it's more fun to be Don Juan than Romeo.

I think I like this idea better than the English "And here he comes like Don Juan." Of course the mainstream audience wouldn't get it, but it makes more literary sense. Since anyone who's read Moliere, or Tirso de Molina, or seen Mozart's "Don Giovanni," knows that Don Juan was no lovesick Marius-like puppy.

Author:  Quique [ Sat Nov 14, 2009 5:41 pm ]
Post subject: 

That's awesome!

I've also got a soundboard of this but I don't recall it being that long. I remember the narrator bit and that I was often frustrated by what seemed like very long periods of silence. Maybe it was just my copy. It did seem incomplete.

*Digs through massive pile of junk*

Author:  CabaretGirl [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:48 pm ]
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You don't happen to have this saved on your computer, do you? 8)
I'd like to help you transcribe it, if you need a hand.

Author:  stumpy457 [ Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:49 pm ]
Post subject: 

I loveeeee the OFC. Now that I've heard the soundboard, if only I could get my hands on the video of it...cuz i know it was recorded...but my info has been very elusive...

Author:  santsprz [ Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:52 pm ]
Post subject: 

Can anyone help me find a soundboard, please, where did you guys found yours? (this is my first post)

Author:  Orestes Fasting [ Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:55 pm ]
Post subject: 

santsprz wrote:
Can anyone help me find a soundboard, please, where did you guys found yours? (this is my first post)

Secret places we're not allowed to discuss in public.

Thanks for bumping the thread though, I still need to do Act II and this reminded me.

Act II opens with the "barricade music" that accompanies the giant barricade sets as they roll into place in the current production right after On My Own. It leads into an interesting instrumental variation of Do You Hear the People Sing that I really like, followed by the male ensemble humming the chorus. Then, to the tune of "Upon These Stones," a summary recounted by the barricade boys of how the beginning of the revolt (Lamarque's funeral, etc) played out. And Marius talking about how he's going to deliberately get himself killed by throwing himself into the battle.

Then "Souviens-toi..."/"Drink With Me" as on the OFC. No "Night of Anguish," though, it goes directly from Marius angsting to "Souviens-toi."

That goes directly to "La Faute à Voltaire," which starts with the "Je suis tombé sur terre, même Dieu ne sait pas comment" verse. The chorus and the following verses are full of laughter and some noises that suggest Gavroche is causing mischief at the barricade (as in the Barbican version) and that the students are the ones singing the chorus.

Then Javert's arrival, similar to the current version in form but apparently Javert is volunteering and hasn't previously been sent on a spy mission. In the part that corresponds to "I have overheard their plans..." he pledges his allegiance to the Revolution with the lyrics to "A la volonté du peuple, je fais don de ma volonté..."

Gavroche's unmasking of Javert is similar to the Barbican bootlegs (starts in a minor key, etc) and the chorus comes in, in unison, to condemn Javert. It's the same tune as "Take that bastard now and shoot him," but it's very obviously meant as a throwback to "Tell me quickly what's the story" and the crowd's condemnation of Fantine in the arrest scene. Javert's replies are also lyrical throwbacks to "Dites-moi ce qui se passe."

"Un peu de sang qui pleure" follows immediately, with an intro similar to the ALFOR intro in the current show.

Then "Night of Anguish," with the lyrics as on the OFC, and after "...quand les cartes du jeu sont truquées," there's a reprise of "Souviens-toi..." (without "C'est peut-être le dernier..." afterwards)

Then Valjean's arrival. He gets a solo, on the tune of the "Who Am I"/"Comment faire" intro, about giving Cosette up to Marius, before the first attack (which is similar to the current version).

Then, bizarrely, Valjean letting Javert go, without any previous conversation about how Valjean gets to kill the spy--and then Javert's suicide, spoken instead of sung up to "pourquoi ai-je permis à cet homme," which is where the music starts. There is an interesting play on words--when Valjean lets Javert go, Javert says "je ne marche pas," which is an informal way of saying "I don't buy it," to refuse what he thinks is a deal. He then repeats it at the beginning of the suicide (it's there on the OFC, it's the first line of Noir ou Blanc), only this time it has overtones of "I don't work/function," as for a broken machine.

The end of the suicide segues into Gavroche's death, just as on the OFC, without hearing any gunshots or anything.

Apparently the barricade scenes end with Gavroche's death, because afterwards we get an orchestral interlude based on "Marius et M. Gillenormand." That song itself has an intro that's nothing like anything else in the show except maybe Every Day a little bit, with M. Gillenormand and a woman--Mlle Gillenormand, I assume--singing over Marius' sickbed. Marius wakes up, apparently for the first time since the barricades, and has a conversation with the Gillenormands to the tune of Every Day that sets up the plot point of the missing ring. The AHFOL reprise is Marius asking for and obtaining his grandfather's permission to marry Cosette. Then we get "Marius et M. Gillenormand" as on the OFC.

The wedding chorale is orchestral on this soundboard--I'm not sure if that was changed between the soundboard and the recording of the OFC, or if this is an orchestra rehearsal spliced in, or what. It's one of several spots on this recording (including the Plumet attack) that are mysteriously orchestra-only. Afterwards we get Valjean's confession as on the OFC, more orchestral interlude that isn't similar to anything currently in the show. "Marchandage et révélation" is just like on the OFC, with an intro that isn't on the recording but is similar to the current version (down to the reference to Eponine).

The beginning of the finale has an equivalent of "alone, I wait in the shadows." And I am starting to get resentful of "Bring Him Home" for replacing so much prime material on Valjean's relationship to Cosette. Musically it's quite boring, but book-wise it's essential and I'm unhappy that they cut it. Instead of the BHH reprise we get this:

Je vais entrer dans la nuit seul,
Comme un cadavre sans son linceuil,
J'avais rêvé revivre encore en son sourire
Avant de mourir
Mon Dieu, qui entendez peut-être
Les cris muets[?] de tout mon être
Bénissez Cosette et le mari
Qu'elle a choisi

Le seau trop lourd pour elle qu'elle traînait dans la nuit
Je l'ai, de tout mon coeur, porté toute ma vie
Le temps peut venir pour un père de mourir
Quand il a, de sa fille, preservé l'avenir
En lui cachant bien ses blessures
Parce que l'ingratitude est loi de la nature

I will enter the night alone,
Like a corpse without its shroud,
I had dreamed of living again in her smile
Before I died
My God, who perhaps can hear
The silent cries of my whole being,
Bless Cosette and the husband
That she has chosen

The bucket, too heavy for her, that she was dragging in the night
I have, with all my heart, carried it my whole life
The time may come for a father to die
When he has preserved his daughter's future
While hiding his wounds from her
Because ingratitude is a law of nature

Marius and Cosette's entrance ("Papa, papa, I do not understand") is similar to the current version both musically and lyrically, and is followed by the finale as it is on the OFC. Except that Valjean dies with a scream and a thunderstorm outside. I don't even know, maybe it's one of Robert Hossein's weird things, it was there in the 1982 film version too.

Author:  Orestes Fasting [ Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:43 pm ]
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Sorry for the double post, but I thought I'd separate out the bare-bones transcription from the analysis.

The most striking thing about this recording, of course, is that it reveals how close the original Palais des Sports version was to the Barbican preview version, which was almost but not quite the current show. Almost all the underpinnings of the current show were there; almost all the interstitial material in the current show was there, in almost exactly the same place, in 1980, and the biggest changes were the addition of several big numbers, the addition of the prologue, and the deletion of the Gillenormands and of a lot of orchestral interludes. This is particularly surprising since the song selection on the OFC, and the creative team's comments on the 1980 version as a "series of tableaux," led me and probably others to believe that the 1980 version consisted only of the songs on the OFC strung together by dialogue. Nothing could be further from the truth--the 1980 version, like the standard version, is sung through. The "series of tableaux" comment probably has more to do with the staging--you can faintly hear applause at the end of certain long "sections," such as the death of Gavroche which concludes the barricade tableau.

The second half of the OFC is actually kind of a mess, it's all out of order and full of things that were cobbled together even though they were nowhere near each other in the show. There were perhaps changes over the course of the run, though, as I don't remember hearing Combeferre's "C'est peut-être le dernier, le dernier coup de blanc avant le coup de grâce" anywhere on the soundboard (it's in Night of Anguish on the OFC, right before the Drink With Me fragment), and I can't imagine they'd put something on the recording that was never actually performed.

The two things I find the most interesting are Valjean's role and the use of the chorus.

Valjean gets less screen time in this version, but his part is much more focused and coherent. Almost every time he's on stage, he has to make a difficult moral decision, and the "Who Am I?" music (which in French is "Comment faire?", literally "How to act?") recurs much more frequently and explicitly, with lyrical variations on "If I speak, I am condemned / if I stay silent, I am damned" all over the place, changed to suit the current situation. His relationship to Cosette also gets a lot more development. Hearing this soundboard, I can't help but be a little resentful of "Bring Him Home." It's a beautiful song, but Boublil and Kretzmer apparently couldn't bring themselves to write conflicted or agitated lyrics to a song that was so clearly a prayer, and as a result a whole chunk of Valjean's character development just got torn up by the roots to make room for the new song. Anything to do with Valjean's love for Cosette, his difficulty in giving her up to Marius, and the ultimate sacrifice he makes for the sake of her future... gone. Valjean's confession comes out of nowhere when there's no setup or development of the conflict behind it.

I like Valjean so much better in this version.

The use of the chorus is also interesting, because far more than in the standard version, the chorus represents society and it quickness to callous judgment. The chorus is there in unison to condemn Fantine. They're there in unison to tell Valjean not to save Fauchelevent because his life isn't worth as much. Strangely, they're also there in unison to condemn Javert to death at the barricade, which strikes me as a bad (or at least questionable) choice. And, one assumes based on the OFC, they're there at the wedding to welcome Marius and Cosette into the ranks of the bourgeoisie and encourage them to settle down and have kids. This is a use of the chorus that's completely lost in the current version--the only one of these things to be retained is the wedding chorale, and it's lost its edge of social commentary. The chorus in Fantine's arrest was there at the Barbican but quickly cut; the chorus parts in the cart crash and at Javert's unmasking have been broken up into individual lines, and the cart-crash ones have been whittled down to oblivion by the cuts.

I have to say I'm glad the Gillenormand subplot was cut, because even with the extended intro and the reference in "Donnez, Donnez" to Marius being disinherited by his grandfather, this subplot occupies roughly the same place as the Valjean-giving-up-Cosette subplot in the current version: there's no setup and no development, only resolution. There's no reason for Gillenormand to be there if all he does is amiably bury the axe while giving the exposition that lets the audience know what the argument was even about in the first place.

I'm also glad the prologue was added, because it's Valjean's biggest moment of moral struggle and it shouldn't be consigned to the backstory. I suspect some will mumble and grumble over the addition of the big solos like Stars, On My Own, Bring Him Home, and Empty Chairs, and over them being unnecessary, tacked on, etc. But the Palais des Sports version already had several big solos that were "tacked on" in that they were expendable in terms of plot: Fantine had two, I Dreamed a Dream and the Air de la Misère, and it was a practically a coin-toss which one to cut and shuffle around; Cosette had the song that would eventually become Castle on a Cloud, and its purpose is entirely in the situation (an abused little girl singing while she's supposed to work), so the lyrical content is irrelevant to the point where the whole subject of the song has been changed two or three times; Thénardier had Master of the House; Eponine had L'un vers l'autre, which was so expendable it was cut; and Gavroche had La Faute à Voltaire, which eventually got cut down to almost nothing despite being the only one that was actually in the book, possibly because Kretzmer's lyrics to Little People have nothing on the original and even kind of miss the point.

Of the solos that were added, Stars was perhaps the most justifiable, since Javert needed the character development and the song is fairly on-topic. Bring Him Home was necessary in theory because Valjean's part needed to be fleshed out with an extra solo, but as mentioned above, I think they completely ballsed up the execution by shoving the character development out of the way to make way for a beautiful melody. This, combined with Stars and the addition of the Confrontation, make the musical--like many movie adaptations--disproportionately focused on Javert's pursuit of Valjean, while the 1980 version of the musical was actually one of the most balanced and complete adaptations of Valjean's character.

Marius also needed a solo, and Empty Chairs is a great song that works well with his part, but thematically it conflicts with some of the deeper points and issues of social commentary in the musical. On balance it succeeds more than it fails, but putting it right after Turning (and I consider Turning inexcusable from every standpoint except that of business--Mr. Mackintosh doesn't want to pay the female ensemble to play silent bullet boys for the whole second act) just emphasizes the thematic problems.

I actually consider On My Own the added solo that comes closest to being inexcusable. One of Fantine's solos had to be dropped, they dropped Air de la Misère, but Air de la Misère was the leitmotif of the whole show and they needed somewhere else to put it. And Boublil & Schönberg thought this secondary character named Eponine was the greatest thing since sliced bread, they'd already made her out to be completely virtuous and selfless and heroic, so why not replace her boring solo with the leitmotif of the whole show and make it a climactic show-stopping hit? And that is how Eponine went from being slightly more important than M. Mabeuf and slightly less important than M. Gillenormand, to getting third-to-last bow right next to Fantine (and after Cosette). I'm not saying On My Own isn't a great song, but it was completely unnecessary. Well, using that tune in a big solo was necessary, giving it to Eponine wasn't. Couldn't they have made that Valjean's big second-act solo?

Author:  Quique [ Sat Jul 03, 2010 5:57 am ]
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That was neat, thanks.

The thought of assigning what is "On My Own" today to Valjean is terribly exciting! Y'all know I am an admirer of the song's orchestration and imagining a man singing against that is almost orgasmic. Although I'm sure the orchestrator would have given it less of a sentimental sound if it were to be sung by a man, I'm sure. But it's not the sentimentality that I think makes it great, so who cares.

And it being about his losing Cosette to Marius would be amazing. I've always said that the fact Eponine sings it isn't a big deal to me, I guess since I know that what we learn isn't absolutely necessary nor groundbreaking in any way. It serves as an added bit of character development to make us feel all the more upset when she dies. Although I've always felt she has too much "screen time" early in the second act and her death would probably be even more effective if we took a break from her to focus on Valjean.

And it's perfect, cause she'd deliver the letter and that would be the motive for his song. Orestes, YOU'RE A GENIUS. :lol:

Author:  Orestes Fasting [ Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:29 am ]
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:lol: It was an afterthought and I didn't think much of it, but you're right, it would be really awesome. What would they do with the BHH melody though? Would they have saved it for a later show, or is there another place in Les Mis where it could fit? Maybe Fantine's death?

It would be terribly appropriate for Valjean to get... well... the theme of the whole show as a solo.

Author:  MajorTordoArthur [ Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:35 am ]
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Orestes Fasting wrote:
:lol: It was an afterthought and I didn't think much of it, but you're right, it would be really awesome. What would they do with the BHH melody though? Would they have saved it for a later show, or is there another place in Les Mis where it could fit? Maybe Fantine's death?

It would be terribly appropriate for Valjean to get... well... the theme of the whole show as a solo.

A weird remark perhaps, but my school who mostly followed the book for their Les Mis and simply scattered some songs of the musical throughout a mainly spoken play made Cosette sing BHH (with slightly altered lyrics IIRC). A weird idea, but I thought I'd mention it =p

Author:  Vanessa20 [ Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:52 am ]
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Thanks so much for this fascinating description, Orestes. :D Between this, and the rereading I've done in the past few days of "History in the Making" and "The Musical World of Boublil and Schonberg," I've learned so much about the show that I never knew before.

The current show's creative team certainly has exaggerated the fragmented nature of the original in their descriptions. :lol: The Edward Behr book even quotes Trevor Nunn as saying that the original French show ended with Javert's suicide, which anyone who just listens to the concept album knows is total bull.

Now, I could be wrong, but didn't the album come before the stage production? That would explain the missing lines in the show and the different order of the songs - when putting together the stage version, they probably realized that certain moments worked better at different points than they originally planned (e.g. "Demain" moved earlier to become the Act I finale).

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