David Oyelowo on Why ‘Les Misérables’ Is Still Worth Watching Without Music

Les Miserables
Robert Viglasky (C) Lookout Point

You won’t “hear the people sing” in writer Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Victor Hugo’s revolutionary 1862 novel, Les Misérables (available through August 31).

Dispensing with the power-ballad-belting of the Broadway favorite, this six-part 2019 PBS limited series follows police inspector Javert’s (David Oyelowo) obsessive quest to bring ex-con Jean Valjean (Dominic West) to justice and Valjean’s transformative journey to turn his life around and do good in the world.

“A preacher gives [Valjean] a second chance, and then he pays it forward at every turn,” says Oyelowo. “But [Javert’s] moral compass is black-and-white. It says you are one thing or the other.”

The story unfolds against a backdrop of social injustice and political upheaval, and, according to Davies, “Hugo’s powerful vision of a society divided into haves and have-nots and people struggling to survive has reverberations in the world today.”

Les Miserables

(Credit: Laurence Cendrowicz/BBC)

While fans of the musical may miss the songs, Davies suggests with a chuckle, “They can always hum the tunes when they come to the relevant bit of the story!”

Les Misérables, Limited series, Available Now, Amazon Prime Video