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Colm Wilkinson and the "Valjean Standard"?
Posted by Phan#24601 2013-01-19 13:45:31


I recently got into EVITA via the film version, and immediately after found out that Colm Wilkinson recorded the part of Chè for the Original Concept Album,which was recorded in 1976, 9 years before he played Valjean in LES MIZ. While I have no problems with this, his voice just sounds NOTHING like the Colm Wilkinson I am used to hearing in the EVITA setting. Is this because it was first, or because he was younger at the time?

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by castlestreet 2013-01-19 13:50:28


I think it's age, plus I believe he was trying to be a rock singer in those days. Today in concert his set list goes from show tunes to folk to rock.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by darquegk 2013-01-19 13:53:58


What I can't help but notice is that some Valjeans after Wilkinson do the "Colm Wilkinson voice" or maybe the "Jean Valjean character voice" in the role- Gary Morris on the Complete Symphonic certainly appears to be doing a Valjean impression as much as playing Valjean.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by SporkGoddess 2013-01-19 14:06:15


Yeah, that's why I don't like Gary Morris on that recording.

South Park had an episode where they made fun of this tendency--there was this actor who'd played Valjean in a community production, and he talked/sang just like Colm Wilkinson.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by Phan#24601 2013-01-19 14:16:38


Yeah...I remember that. It is pretty funny and accurate. I think that is the big problem I have with the Complete Symphonic Recording, anyway with Gary Morris.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by FindingNamo 2013-01-19 14:20:41



Phew! That's a relief.

I saw a regional production of Next to Normal starring a local actress I've seen in far too many things (occasionally very good, occasionally midling) and she did the "unique" Alice round vowel sounds. She never did them before or since.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by The Distinctive Baritone 2013-01-19 15:51:10


I never thought Gary Morris was trying to sound like Wilkinson. I'd always assumed he was hired to replace him on Broadway because they were naturally so similar sounding.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by Jay Lerner-Z 2013-01-19 16:11:11


edited ....technical difficulties...

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by Wynbish 2013-01-20 09:30:53


When Jason Segel does Confrontation either with NPH or Paul Rudd, it is basically a Colm impression.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by sparrman 2013-01-20 10:11:27


No, Gary Morris is totally doing a Colm Wilkinson impression as Valjean. Pretty sad.

I remember hearing that when they first cast the Broadway production, it was almost impossible to find a kid for Gavroche who didn't try to do a Cockney accent, from listening to the British cast album. For many, the accent becomes inseparable from the role.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by SporkGoddess 2013-01-20 10:13:14


Haha, Jason Segal does an excellent Colm impression when he sings. I didn't know he'd sung it with Paul Rudd--must search for it on YouTube.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by Jon 2013-01-20 10:37:37


For that matter, every Valjean on stage has a beard because Colm convinced the powers that be to let him keep his beard for the role. They wanted him to shave it off, but he found an edition of the novel with illustrations of a bearded Valjean and showed it to them.

I'm sure there are folks who are aghast that Hugh Jackman is clean shaven through most of the film.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by sr4mjc 2013-01-20 10:50:09


Agog and aghast? :)

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by jo 2013-01-20 18:21:56


Colm and Hugh at a recent SAG screening and Q&A --

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAbcrhMD49c&feature=youtu.be

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by Wynbish 2013-01-20 18:38:06


Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by TheatreFan4 2013-01-20 18:51:57


I was flabbergasted when I watched an interview with Colm and he sounded nothing like the Colm I knew from Les Miz.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by Gingersnap2 2013-01-20 19:16:20


On the subject of Colm keeping his beard for the role, I've always wanted Valjean to have a beard at the beginning when he's newly paroled, but clean-shaven for the rest of the show (and I remember hoping Walnut Street would do it that way back a few years ago).

But it's probably just because I really love the Jean Geoffrey illustration of Valjean meeting young Cosette with the bucket.

Despite that, I actually found it mildly jarring to see Valjean without a beard in the movie. I guess it's what one gets too used to.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by sueb1863 2013-01-20 20:28:27


Yeah, I had to get used to a beardless Valjean in the movie, too. Although it made sense because respectable civilian men didn't wear beards at that time, and because it makes it completely plausible that Javert could look Valjean right in the face and not recognize him. I've heard of some people not even recognizing Hugh Jackman at the beginning because he looks nothing like the Hugh we usually see.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by sparrman 2013-01-21 01:42:12


Right, if Valjean is really trying to escape detection from Javert, it makes absolutely no sense that he wouldn't try to look as different from his convict-state as possible. He should either go from bearded to clean-shaven, or vice versa.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by 246015 2013-01-21 12:07:06


I have never been a fan of Colm Wilkinson's and do not get why people regard him as THE Valjean (ignoring the fact that he was the original of course). I do not like his voice and find him to be seriously over-hyped! The 10th Anniversary Concert is hard for me to watch (and listen to) for that very reason. I much prefer the Valjean's of John Owen-Jones and Alfie Boe!

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by My Oh My 2013-01-21 18:51:55


Those of you saying Gary Morris basically does a Colm impression on the CSR are nuts. I don't think you could have chosen a more different sounding person in that iconic role. In fact, I think that's exactly what Cameron Mackintosh set out to do; to cast someone without that trademark--what some people call either a "fatherly," or Sean Connery-like--"Colm" voice in the role. Morris, a singer with great range that is firmly rooted in the more mainstream Country Western/Pop music that was emerging at the time, lacks even a hint of that Colm aesthetic (which I adore, btw) but still carries that essential hybrid pop/operatic style that made Colm so ideal in the role and fit so well in a musical that equally flirts between two musical styles and does it so seductively well.

Maybe I'm not like most people, but I personally wasn't shocked when the very different and more youthful sounding Morris took over the role. He wasn't with the show for as long as many others who've done the role, but the one time I saw him when the 1st national tour played L.A.'s Pantages in 1991, left an indelible mark. I will never understand the rampant misconceptions about Morris' Valjean. Either he sucked because he sounded nothing like Colm or, incredibly, he sucked because he basically imitated Colm.

Unlike most, I actually saw him in the show, and he was one of the best I've ever seen perform anything on stage or off. The talent that man has is sadly undermined by people who didn't get to experience him in the role. It's interesting because everyone who got to see him in either New York or in the 1st national tour have expressed a similar unforgettable experience as mine.

For whatever reason, his CSR performance is different from what I saw onstage, and he has a tendency to sing very quietly at times on the recording. The adrenaline of live performance can make a huge difference, and while I still think he sounds gorgeous on the recording, his onstage performance was much stronger.

There is a ridiculous lack of photographs and video of his turn as Valjean either on Broadway or the 1st national tour, so I always try sharing what I have of his to share which you'll find below. As for audio records of his performance, there is one Broadway audience boot out there that I have, but it's frustratingly of terrible quality and sounds much lower in pitch overall due to age and the resulting warping of the tape, so it's an inaccurate record at best.

From my 1991, 1st national tour ("Valjean" Company) program and souvenir brochure:













And the Los Angeles Times review:







Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by ken8631 2013-01-24 15:38:46


Nobody can sing "Bring Him Home" better than Colm.....

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by PB ENT. 2013-01-24 19:53:12


Colm Wilkinson in affect "set" the pattern for the character and the vocals that the directors were looking to capture and pass along to future actors for the role. However one Valjean, Craig Schulman, who was opera trained,was determined to present the money song in a way that would not only be effective but would not harm his voice. At first this met with skeptisism. However after they heard Craig's technique they decided it was worth keeping. Craig played Valjean with six contracts and over a ten year span. I think it was a good vocal decision on his part.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by SonofRobbieJ 2013-01-25 10:03:40


I don't love the CSR.

But I did see Morris live. And he was utterly sensational. Stunning.

Colm Wilkinson and the
Posted by Mister Matt 2013-01-25 12:49:07


I also saw Gary Morris and he was breathtaking. His vibrato bothers me a bit on the recording, but live, I really didn't notice it as much. And no, he doesn't attempt to impersonate Colm Wilkinson on the recording.