I know there are people who consider the show practically a religious experience and treat the songs with a reverence that they are clearly asking for, but in my opinion do not deserve.
Let me start by saying that I've never actually seen a stage production of the show or read the book. Pretty much everything I know comes from Zeitgiest and twenty odd years of hearing the songs done in Karaoke and elsewhere. The first time I heard "Bring Him Home" was on Barry Manilow's Showstoppers album. I first heard Stars sung by a KJ named Billy the first week or so I was hanging out at the Mint. Without context, I definitely had some strange impressions of what was going on. For instance, I always thought the line, "And though I know that he is blind," in On My Own was meant to be literal. (I also somehow thought the singer was singing about Jean Valjean, rather than a different character.)
When I was growing up, the idea of a "cult" musical was typified by Mack and Mabel and Follies. Shows that had rabid followings and passionate devotion to the Original Cast Albums, but were considered failures due to short runs and financial issues. Jonathan Schwartz, the DJ on WNEW 1130AM in New York would devote hours to his whispery odes to Mack and Mabel and play the songs.
I think we all know how financially successfull Les Miz has been....so how does THAT signify a cult?
Now I've seen it...I still don't get it. For one thing....it really is miserable. That was the most forced attempt I've seen at any kind of an "uplifting" or "happy" ending since I saw Boogie Nights and Muriel's Wedding in the same week or so and was consumed with rage at the bullshit endings of both. I'm sorry the ending doesn't work as "happy" either dramatically or historically.
I was not moved by the story. I didn't care. I didn't cry. I certainly didn't worked up over poor Anne Hathaway and her close-up mucus because of course she's still Anne Hathaway and they couldn't mess her up enough to make the degradation believable. In fact, all I could think was, hey, if you're going to become a prostitute anyway, you might as well hang on to the teeth and hair, so you can make a better living at it.
OK, I did get a little sniffly during her appearance in Valjean's death scene. That was a nice moment.
Russell Crowe wasn't half as bad as expected, and I thought he did what he needed to do vocally. The fact that he wasn't emoting as hard as Hugh Jackman actually made him more sympathetic and let me tell you folks, it's been a long time since I found Russell Crowe sympathetic in anything....let's say it was before LA Confidential. That long ago. Jackman's vibrato was just unpleasant, but of course the part is nearly unplayable because the motivation is rubbish.
I was also unmoved by the young lovers plot. All of their "dialogue" and music made think it was time for a Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald revival. What is "Do You Hear The People Sing" but a rehash of "Stouthearted Men?" Anyway, I wanted to slap freckle-face boy and send Amanda Seyfried back to Mamma Mia where she could sing better songs and be happy. I did definitely catch the slash vibes between freckle-faced boy and his friend who wanted him to (ahem) man the barricades instead of running off after blondie, but I still think there could be more potential in the hate!sex thing that Javert and Valjean have going on, simply because it is two Aussie hunks who generally spend more time shooting people or beating them up than singing...at least in movies. I do greatly respect Jackman's stage work, especially Boy from Oz.
The girl who sang On My Own was good, but there may be no song in the Karaoke pantheon of tedium that I am more sick of, so her rain-soaked theatrics were lost on me.
I did like "Master of the House" and I was happy that the Thernardiers were the true survivors of the piece. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were perfect in the roles, although MAYBE a little too perfect since especially HBC could have been parachuted in directly from Sweeney Todd, although allow me to say that Boublil et al are not even remotely near the talent of Sondheim. I've always considered them second rate Andrew Lloyd Weber and ALW is a second rate Oscar Hammerstein.
I also did not shed the slightest tear when Gavroche bit the big one. Sorry, guys. If you are trying to evoke emotion by killing a child, you have got the wrong reviewer.