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Do You Hear The People Sing? Singing A Song To Angry Men

Today’s post about lip-synching on the bus reminded me of this story from a few weeks ago.

A few days after Christmas, I went with my sister to see Les Miserables. The theater was large, and full but not packed, with maybe about 250 people in a theater that could sit 300. We got a good seat near the top, and settled in.

Seated immediately behind us were three girls who looked to be in their late teens/early 20s, and they looked to be in costume. One was wearing a slightly ridiculous blonde wig and a Renaissance Fair style dress, one was dressed like a girl dressed like a boy, and one had her hair pulled back and corpse-y makeup on her face. Okay, sure, why not? I’m only 30, I remember a decade ago when going out looking ‘different’ was a thing. No big deal. As soon as the previews began, they were forgotten.

The film started. I knew it was a musical, that the movie had singing instead of dialogue. This was new to me, but it looked interesting and I was eager to see what happened, as I was only slightly familiar with the story. When the male lead began to sing, I thought he sounded off– like, the speakers had an echo or something. Only when I heard someone down the aisle “shush” the girls behind us did I realize one had been singing along, out loud, in a deep Hugh Jackman-y voice.

She quieted down after being shushed and an hour or so went by without incident. A bit more than halfway through, a big number came on, Eponine singing “On My Own.” Apparently the drama was too much for the trio behind us, because all three of them sang the entire thing, out loud, not even trying to be quiet… poorly, might I add.

People were telling them to be quiet, my sister and I included. They were cowed for the end, when they got to their feet to sing the epilogue.

On the way out, the crowd was giving the girls a hard time. One woman told them they had ruined the movie for her, and the one dressed as Fantine countered that the rest of the theater had ruined the film for them by telling them to be quiet. And then they ran out of the theater singing “Do You Hear the People Sing” as loud as they could. 0124-13

{ 95 comments… add one }
  • NostalgicGal January 28, 2013, 12:57 am

    You expect audienc participation at a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    You don’t in most other showings of most other movies. After being told to be quiet once, they should have for the entire show…..

    Buy your own copy of the movie, and hold your own party, and sing all you want… Unless most of the theater is ‘participating’ you need to respect that others came to see and hear what’s on the screen, not your own embellishments.

    I side with the moviegowers that the trio were out of line. With movie tickets costing what they do now days, I would not want to listen to ‘audience participation’ for a new release….

  • m January 28, 2013, 1:30 am

    And this is why I will be dutifully waiting for the DVD to come out and rereading the book in the meantime.

  • CollegeGirl January 28, 2013, 2:45 am

    I’ve heard several stories of over-zealous fans ruining the movie for new viewers by trying to sing along. I’m going to be bringing a couple of friends who are unfamiliar with the musical to go see it; now I feel like I should have a strategy for dealing with unwanted karaoke-ers. Get a theater attendant, I suppose.

  • Tasryn January 28, 2013, 3:08 am

    This reminds me of when I paid good money to get front row seats to see the Phantom of the Opera-not at the movie theatre but the regular theatre. There was a kid behind me who was 6 years old who insisted upon singing along with every number. Although people shushed him, the mother gave them the evil eye because her little darling was just so adorable and why wouldn’t anyone want to listen to him versus the professionally trained singers with the amazing voices? The entitlement of some people just astounds me.

  • StephM January 28, 2013, 4:03 am

    I love singing along to musicals. I always get up and dance to the Time Warp, sing for the Phantom, etc. I can understand that powerful feeling to join in. I just join in at home! They should have waited until the DVD came out.

    There was no way to convince them that they were being entitled little snots. I’m sorry that such a beautiful movie was ruined for you.

  • Marozia January 28, 2013, 4:26 am

    Ask for your money back at the cashiers desk. We did that when ‘Grease’ was on for the 20th Anniversary. Vulgar idiots thought it was a great idea to sing aloud in a packed theatre, even after we all tried to quiet them. I suggested to my friends (quietly) that we ask for our money back. It was passed along to the other patrons (except the singers). The funny part was, the theatre DID refund our money to us who complained.

  • Agania January 28, 2013, 4:31 am

    Dear heavens! What a dreadful waste of a movie ticket for it to be so ruined by groupies. Maybe Les Mis will morph into a join-in, sing-a-long like Rocky Horror. Wouldn’t the groupies love that! Maybe watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

  • Bint January 28, 2013, 4:58 am

    Look at me! Look at ME! PLEEEEEEASE look at me!!!!!

  • Shannon January 28, 2013, 6:59 am

    I wonder why no one went to find a manager and have these people ejected from the theater. No one paid to see Thing One, Thing Two, and tPretentious Patty act out their own version of the story.

  • Taragail January 28, 2013, 7:05 am

    That’s why there are midnight showings.

    • admin January 28, 2013, 8:11 am

      If I were a theater manager, I’d schedule special showings just for patrons who do want to sing along.

  • Mary January 28, 2013, 7:20 am

    I remember a coworker talking about going with a group of friends to see Mama Mia at the movie theater. Apparently they had seen the play numerous times. I guess this group thought it was fun to sing along with the movie and a man in the theater had told them to be quiet. She didn’t get any support from me. I told her when I pay for a movie I want to hear the actors sing not the people in the audience

  • --Lia January 28, 2013, 7:45 am

    No one quietly got up to get the theater management to kick them out?

  • Aje January 28, 2013, 7:48 am

    I loved this movie! And actually it was really hard to sit there and not sing along during some of the more emotional parts. My best friend and I went to see it and we couldn´t resist for the last song. We sang very quietly, so that only we could really hear each other. Another note to add is that we weren´t sitting next to anyone else.

    What they did? No consideration for others. Childish.

  • Lo January 28, 2013, 8:07 am

    I take it this was your first encounter with the rabid Les Mis fangirl.

    I think it’s fun that people dress up to see the film, but singing? YIKES.

    At the stage show these girls would have been escorted out of the building and endured the public humiliation they were due. I’m sorry it tainted the experience of the film for you.

    I can’t stand fangirls who want to ruin the experience by making it all about them. We get it, you know all the songs. So does half the audience. This isn’t Rocky Horror. Sing them in the car on the way home.

  • Cindy January 28, 2013, 8:23 am

    This reminds me of when I went to see Les Miz on Broadway about 20 years ago. Sitting behind me was a mother and her daughter. The daughter looked to be about 6 or 7 years old. I thought the show was inappropriate for a child that age but I’m not her mother. When the show started, the singing began. The mother was singing EVERYTHING in her daughter’s ear. To her credit, she was singing very softly, but still loud enough for me to hear directly in front of her. When I glanced over my shoulder giving her the international “be quiet” signal, she did stop, but then her daughter kept saying, “Sing, Mama.” At least the mother didn’t continue singing. The little girl continued to ask questions throughout the entire show. Everything from “Why is that lady sitting on the floor?” to “Why is that man so mean? to “Why is she so sad?” If I remember correctly, they did leave at intermission.

  • Mer January 28, 2013, 8:35 am

    Admin: I think that I actually (at least here) there was those kind of shows for Mamma Mia. I think it’s a great idea. Not that I would like to participate, but I can see it can be great fun to some people. Needs to be clearly marked though which show is which, to avoid confusion.

  • Mrs. Lovett January 28, 2013, 9:07 am

    I had the same idea as the admin. I bet lots of people would love to go to a Les Miserables sing-along. Or maybe they’d get there and be so annoyed by all the other people singing and the fact that they aren’t the center of attention. Who knows, but it’s a fun idea.

    I was out of town on my own last week, so I decided to go see the movie, one of the my favorite musicals. I admit, I mouthed along with the words the entire time, but I was totally silent, and I sat towards the back and away from other people to ensure my movements wouldn’t disturb anyone. I totally understand the impulse to sing along to a favorite musical, and I have a long history of watching movies with friends while singing along and even dancing….with the DVD in a private residence with other friends who knew what they were getting into. Not a good way to see a movie for the first time, but a great way to enjoy a favorite with close friends.

    But what those girls did was inexcusable. I’m not sure if it’s just that they’re hard-core fangirls or if they did it for the attention, but either way, the enjoyment of the many outweighs the enjoyment of the few or the one, so those girls should’ve kept quiet so everyone else could enjoy it.

    @Tasryn, I am so sorry that your experience with the Phantom of the Opera was diminished by a loud little boy and his rude mother. The boy’s behavior was certainly rude, but at six with a mother who indulges his behavior, I can’t really blame the kid. But that’s an amazing show to see live, and I’ve seen how expensive those tickets are! I hope you get the chance to see it again sans audience participation.

  • CH January 28, 2013, 9:09 am

    My 20-year-old daughter, who used to fall asleep listening to our Les Miz CD (so she does know every word) and who (according to her Facebook page) has been waiting half her life for this movie, warned her friends that she would walk out on them if they started singing. (These were the 2nd and 3rd times that she saw it; we (her parents) went with her the first time and we behaved ourselves.)

  • MinnieMouse January 28, 2013, 9:10 am

    Horrible. I love Les Mis, I own both the 10th anniversary and 25th anniversary concert performances and sing along to them at home all the time. We haven’t been able to arrange babysitting to go see the movie yet, but if I managed to get us to the theatre to see it and this happened, I would have been really pissed.

  • Mrs. Lovett January 28, 2013, 9:16 am

    Just remembered another little anecdote related to this story. When I was in college (and at the time was without much of a polite spine), my roommate and I went to a student production of a Romeo and Juliet opera. The show itself was marvelous. There were some extremely talented singers onstage and the orchestra was marvelous. It would have been a wonderful experience were it not for the couple behind us. From beginning to end, all they did was complain about how boring it was and how long it was dragging on. I turned around and shot them dirty looks a few times, but they either never saw me or they just ignored me. I wish I had asked them to be quiet or to leave if they hated it so much. After all, they were ruining their own afternoons just as much as my own and my roommate’s by sitting through a show they weren’t enjoying. Alas, I was too cowardly to say anything and allowed them to diminish my experience. The show was still very much worth the $10 I paid for my ticket, but I wish I had handled it then the way I would handle it now.

  • Anonymous January 28, 2013, 9:25 am

    Yeah, I agree with Admin. For musicals, there should be sing-along showings, and non-sing-along showings, and people shouldn’t sing along unless they’ve been specifically told that it’s allowed. In the OP’s case, I would have found someone in charge, alerted them to the problem, and either gotten the disruptive group removed, or gotten free tickets to a different showing.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith January 28, 2013, 9:42 am

    Scheduling shows for people who want to sing along is a great idea. But while some people want to sing if they are so inclined, they aren’t all that patient with the singing of others. Perhaps the “fun” of it would be reduced by not being the only ones in the audience singing out. That’s the only reason I can think of that someone would deliberately ruin the evening for other theater goers. If we can have “no cell phone”, then why not also “no singing along” during musicals?

  • Coralreef January 28, 2013, 9:46 am

    I truly despise audience participation when it is not expressely approved, such as Rocky Horror.

    I rarely go to movies or shows now because of such behaviour. I’ve had a woman dance in her seat during Riverdance. She even hit me a couple of times. There was a kid about 6YO who just would stop yacking to his grand-mother during Finding Nemo. Grand-ma just thought he was so cute telling her the story before it happened on the screen. Then there is the guy translating to his friends who are just too lazy to read the subtitles.

    It’s not that hard to stay quiet for two hours people! If my 3 and 5 years old were able to do it, I’m pretty sure anyone can!

  • Shalamar January 28, 2013, 9:49 am

    Oy, Cindy, what a pain that mother and kid were!

    When my husband and I first started taking our daughters to the movies, they were 5 and 3. We had one rule: if you have a question, wait to ask it until the end of the movie. Chances are that the movie itself would have answered your question for you, and if not, I will. That put paid to a lot of “Who’s that? Why did he do that? What’s she doing?”.

    I don’t know if anyone here visits the fml.com site, but there was a post recently from someone who said – indignantly – that a fellow movie-goer dumped his drink on her head when she sang along to “Les Miz”. She was even more indignant when the other posters said “You deserved that. I would have gotten you kicked out.”

  • Ally January 28, 2013, 9:55 am

    Not to mention – they didn’t know the cadence or whether there were any changes to the lyrics or such (and there were, lots of stuff got changed/moved around). So they’d just sound stupid.

    I like musicals and I will sing along to music that I blast in my car. But yeesh, not in a movie theater or, god forbid, an actual theater. I did just see this particular musical live in a regional production, and it was amazing and, thankfully, no idiots tried to sing along.

  • Jessie January 28, 2013, 9:57 am

    Oh you poor thing, I know exactly how this feels, only my incident was at a performance of the musical Wicked. These two awful little girls were sitting right behind us and singing every song, their mother ignoring the pleas of the rest of the audience to shut them up, right up to intermission. Thankfully, someone had thought to call the House Manager to speak to their mother and the girls and threaten them with ejection, so they were blissfully quiet the rest of the show. Now, I realize they were only children, but honestly. I was FOUR when I went to my first musical show and knew to stay quiet, these girls were at least eight.

    To see this behavior out of 20-somethings as you have would have put a real bee in my bonnet, I pay money to hear the ACTORS, not someone in the audience. If I wanted to hear THEM sing, I would sit outside their bathroom while they showered, haha! I hope you have learned from this experience to get an employee PRONTO when someone is ruining the show for others. I would definitely advise buying the DVD and watching this beautiful story again in your own home, where you can enjoy the story without the wannabe “actors” butting in!

  • DGS January 28, 2013, 10:00 am

    Classless idiots who probably thought they were theater buffs…and that is why I’ll be watching the movie with my DH OnDemand, rather than risk having buffoons ruin it for me.

    To be fair to young children singing out loud, they may not have the impulse control or the manners to not sing out loud in a theater, but that’s where good parenting and teaching appropriate theater manners come in.

  • Sally January 28, 2013, 10:03 am

    How rude and annoying! It reminds me of the time my daughter and I went to see the ballet, “Giselle”, and someone started whistling along with the music. I turned around and it was an elderly man, who should have known better. I had to give him my “mother” stare and he finally shut up. No one wants to hear whistling or singing when one has paid good money for a show.

  • Mae January 28, 2013, 10:06 am

    Ugh. I loathe people who talk/sing along/make noise in movies. Laughting, cheering, clapping with the entire theater I can see, but to try to sing along at a musical- no, no, no. Save that for the DVD release party at your house.

    I have had a couple of experiences with people talking, texting or otherwise being annoying at movies. I always ask for a refund or a comp ticket. It cost $9.50 for an adult ticket in my town, so when a movie is basically ruined by inconsiderate a-holes, I’m getting some kind of reimbursement.

  • Miss Alex January 28, 2013, 10:17 am

    That’s so obnoxious. They should’ve stopped after being asked once.

  • Library Diva January 28, 2013, 10:34 am

    There seem to be two distinct audiences for films like this. Theaters should capitalize by designating “sing along” showings and post prominently that if you’re not at one and you choose to disturb the other patrons by singing, you WILL be kicked out.

  • spartiechic January 28, 2013, 10:43 am

    That happened to me during Phantom of the Opera. Only it was a man behind us who sang in a creepy falsetto. My fiance (boyfriend at the time) turned around and asked, “do you mind?” The man quieted down for the rest of the movie.

    I’ve also encountered this during live theatre. I went to see a performance of South Pacific and an older lady was singing along almost the entire time.

    I consider myself a musical theatre geek and have seen Les Mis several times on stage and in concert. However, I would never think to sing along (unless I’m in the car or shower, then all bets are off). That’s why the actors/actresses are paid the big bucks. Listening to someone else singing along (good or bad) would ruin the experience.

  • Jane January 28, 2013, 10:47 am

    Why didn’t anyone get an usher? When they refused to be quiet after the first “shhhh,” then someone should have gotten an usher or manager.

    A couple of years ago I went to see the new version of True Grit. If you’ve seen it, you know the background music is piano versions of old church hymns. A lady behind be was singing along with every hymn, and True Grit is far from a musical.

  • The Elf January 28, 2013, 11:01 am

    Ugh. I mouthed the words to my favorite songs while I watched Les Miserables, but didn’t sing aloud. Why? Because it would ruin the movie for others! (And I have a terrible singing voice). I have no doubt I’ll buy the DVD and sing along with it when I’m alone, but then the only one who has to listen to me is me.

    I get the “fangirl” aspect with the dressing up. I have done the same thing. Not with that movie, but others. But, girls, you can be excited *and* quiet.

    This isn’t the Rocky Horror Picture Show. This isn’t even a campy slasher flick where an occassional “Don’t go in there!” is somewhat expected. It’s a dramatic musical – so shut yer trap when you’re in the theatre. Save it for the living room.

  • Bint January 28, 2013, 11:02 am

    They filmed Les Mis where I work, so we could watch out of the windows with them all singing in the courtyard. Shame I never saw Hugh Jackman, but it was fun to have them on site.

    These people need to go to Singalonga!

  • The Elf January 28, 2013, 11:08 am

    RE: Special “sing-along” showings.

    If the theatre can afford this, it makes a whole lot of sense. Special screenings can make a lot of money. Of, if the market isn’t there, they can be money losers. One nearby theatre likes to do baby-friendly showings of movies where the lights weren’t totally down, the sound wasn’t blaring, and kid noise was acceptable. The idea was to bring your babies and enjoy a blockbuster movie (not a kid movie). The market was the stay at home Mom/Dad crowd, of which there were enough to make money doing it. They did it once a week, during the workweek day. I stumbled across it by accident when my husband and I had a day off midweek and decided to see a popular movie. Thankfully, they warned us so we just got some lunch and saw the afternoon showing. Another theatre partnered with a local comic book shop to sell tickets to a specific showing of a comic book movie (I forget which one. Iron Man, I think). You ended up with a crowd full of comic book geeks, who were all dead silent during the movie except for the appropriate laughter/cheering/applauding.

  • Daisy January 28, 2013, 11:13 am

    Ye gads! I’ve been singing in public for 55 years, and it woldn’t even occur to me to accompany the soundtrack in a public theatre. In this case, I’d have alerted an usher, who should delivery the message: be quiet, or be gone!

  • Karen January 28, 2013, 11:20 am

    This is why I haven’t seen Les Mes yet. I learned my lesson when Rent came out.

  • Amanda January 28, 2013, 11:20 am

    I have to admit that when I went to see Les Mis at the movies last weekend, I was tempted to sing along. However, I also am grown-up enough to know that sitting in a movie theater is not the time to do so! (Although I will confess that I silently mouthed the words to several songs.) I agree with the others – if you want to sing along, wait for the DVD and sing all you want.

  • Mary January 28, 2013, 11:34 am

    Tasryn, regarding children at Phantom of the Opera, first, children under ten are way too young for that musical anyway even if they are well behaved. I finally relented and let my 11 year old watch that last year on DVD.
    I did see Phantom in London over 12 years ago. Right before it started a French group with two adults and at least five children around the age of six sat behind us. My first thought that they were too young. My second thought was that they would not be quiet. The second the music started, their quiet chatter stopped and I did not hear one sound out of them until intermission. I was so impressed!

  • Ashley January 28, 2013, 11:41 am

    This is like, the fifth story I have heard about this happening during that movie. My high school did a production of Les Mis during my junior year and as a result of most of my friends and I being either in the cast/crew, we know the overwhelming majority of the songs. But none of us sang a single note during the movie because that’s just rude to anyone else there who just wants to watch the movie!!

  • Michellep January 28, 2013, 11:46 am

    Same problem at movies; only not with sing-alongs. Talking, texting, etc. I am a single mother and a student, so movies out are a rare treat for myself and my daughter. (She has never uttered a peep at a movie, and she’s ten. I didn’t take her to them until she was five, and then she was under deathly threats to be quiet.)

    The problem I have had is employees don’t want to do anything. Twice I have gone to complain, once about a child completely out of control and once about people coming in thirty minutes into a movie. I can’t imagine paying to see a movie and then coming in late and then talking!

    When I complained about the out of control child, the employee came to the theater, stood at the door and did nothing. The child was quiet of course while he was there, and then he left without doing anything.

    When I complained about the people coming in during the movie, since I couldn’t understand why the employees sold tickets to anyone half an hour late, they stood around and argued about who had done it. I have given up and just don’t go to the movies anymore.

  • Margaret January 28, 2013, 11:53 am

    Many years ago, DH and a friend and I went to a PDQ Bach concert. If you’re not familiar with this “composer”, he is the “forgotten son” of the more famous Johann Sebastian Bach and the music is performed by “Professor” Peter Schickele and his orchestra. These are all pieces that the Professor “discovered” and wants to bring to modern audiences.

    The performance is a comedy. The music is dreadful and dreadfully funny.

    Well, the guy seated behind me didn’t get the joke and complained loudly for about 2/3 of the first half. He finally had had enough and got up to leave, at which point I turned around and said to him (this was way before Ehell existed), “Thank God!” The stranger sitting next to me said, “Yeah, really.”

    We saw the guy and his family at intermission and I gave him my young person glare of death. They did not return to the performance after intermission.

  • lakey January 28, 2013, 12:11 pm

    I used to go to the movies about once a week and have had huge problems with this. If anyone complains to the theater employees, these kids will stop for as long as an employee is in the room, then start again. Some of the people will stop if you shush them, many act as if you are out of line for expecting them to be quiet. I’ve had middle aged people who behave just as badly as teens.
    I’ve spoken to the theater manager about this. At this multi-plex theater they will give you a pass to another movie. The manager told me :
    1. They’ve tried to speak to parents of these kids and gotten little to no support.
    2. He told me not to come after work on Fridays because parents drop-off a carload of middle school kids and leave, or groups of high school kids come.
    3. In order to really solve the problem the theater would have to have an employee in every theater of the multi-plex and they can’t afford to do that.

    This is a shame because watching a movie on a big screen is a much better experience than watching it on a dvd at home. People who behave like this are driving away the theater’s business.

  • June First January 28, 2013, 12:34 pm

    Our local performing arts center had a “Sound of Music Singalong”. The words are on the screen, there’s a costume contest. It can be fun. But only if everyone knows what they’re in for.

    @The Elf: I like the special screenings in your area!

  • Cass January 28, 2013, 12:40 pm

    @lakey: I wonder how long it’ll be before the people who ruin the experience for everyone else make it cost-effective for the theaters to do a better job of policing? I regularly attend the Seattle International Film Festival, and I’ve learned which showings to avoid (anything that’s going to come out in major release), and I STILL have to deal with people who, presumably, are film aficionado enough to know that the festival exists but think that they should be allowed to talk all the way through the movie because they’re special and the rest of us aren’t real.

    At this point, about the only movies I see in the theater are SIFF films, honestly; the experience is too miserable at the non-SIFF showings.

  • PhDeath January 28, 2013, 12:43 pm

    Fortunately, I haven’t experienced a theater singalong, but I have been subjected to commentary from overzealous fans. My husband and I went to see The Hunger Games (several weeks after it was released, as neither of us are crazy about uber-crowded theater).

    We were seated behind a trio of fans who, for the first 10 minutes of the movie, voiced indignation each time something onscreen departed from the book. After some generic “SHHHHs” were ignored, I tapped them on the shoulders and asked them to quiet down, please. They did cease with the commentary, which I appreciated.

    If I am interested enough in a film to brave the theater, then I am truly there to lose myself in the movie. Aside from the occasional spontaneous audience outburst – I vividly recall the crowd bursting into applause when Seabiscuit won his match race against War Admiral 🙂 – no noises, please!

  • Jennifer January 28, 2013, 12:46 pm

    I had a similar issue, with someone not respecting the people around them. My husband and I went to see the last installment of Harry Potter and when we sat down the theater was not crowded at all, maybe a dozen people total. I never saw who came in but during the previews, just prior to the movie starting, someone brought in their infant/toddler. This was not only a late showing, 11, but the movie itself was not a child friendly movie, a lot of dark themes. This child proceeded to prattle and coo through out the half hour we sat there trying to hear the movie. We ended up walking out, we would have shushed the person if we knew where they were sitting. We did get a refund and I did later see the movie, but this is the main reason I do not go to theaters anymore, of any kind.

  • WednesdayGrrl January 28, 2013, 12:57 pm

    Wow. Just . . . wow. I went to see Les Mis on Saturday night, in an enormous, nearly-full theater, and never heard a peep from anyone, not even a low hum. I had no idea (until now) how lucky I was!

  • Lola January 28, 2013, 12:57 pm

    It’s rude, but hilarious! I actually had an LOL moment reading this story and vivid descriptions of the girls. Ah, to be young and stupid again…

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