LES MISERABLES Superfans Compare The Casts - Part One!
It's hard to say whether or not it did attract new audiences, though it had the definite consequence that mentioning the words "Nick Jonas" is likely to set most fans of the show twitching violently or foaming at the mouth. Those who were more experienced with the show put in strong performances - Jenny Galloway, Ramin Karimloo, Katie Hall and Hadley Fraser in particular.
My favourite part of the 25th Anniversary Concert is undoubtedly the finale section. After the show itself is over, the three Valjeans playing in London at the time (Boe, simon bowman from the Queens, and John Owen-Jones from the anniversary tour then playing at the Barbican) join together with the role's originator Colm Wilkinson to perform Bring Him Home in a tear-jerking, if slightly competitive quartet. This is followed by the original cast of the show taking a deserved bow and leading a rather special rendition of One Day More, admirably demonstrating that they could still give any of the concert's dream cast more than a run for their money.
LES MISERABLES: The Movie
After years of hype - we have a programme at home proudly proclaiming that a LES MISERABLES musical film will be on the big screen in 1992 - Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper has finally brought the beloved stage show to cinemas everywhere, together with a cast of big name actors. LES MISERABLES is unsurprisingly rather theatrical in its form, making it a challenge to adapt numbers like One Day More for the more naturalistic medium of the silver screen. However, film offers an opportunity to really put in detail that a stage show, especially one where the pace hurtles along with a maximum of efficiency and actors constantly moving into different roles.
This allows for some really striking moments in Hooper's adaptation - Fantine having her hair cut off for real, corpses in the streets of France, the disease clear under the pealing makeup of the whores and the glassy eyed stares of the dead at the barricades - that really emphasises the grim social situation in which Hugo's characters found themselves. The choice to record the singing live has been much hyped, but probably does add to the effect, given that it would be a strange juxtaposition to hear perfect auto-tuned warbling coupled with the gritty nature of the visuals. Interestingly, the singing in the ensemble numbers could perhaps have been more epic, particularly when comparing with the large choirs used in both of the concert versions. The arrangement of the familiar score is nicely handled, with some lovely string counterpoints adding a new dimension to several songs.
The new order of songs works very well and new material is generally well incorporated (the rather stilted exchange between Valjean and Javert at the factory being one exception that stands out). In particular, the new placing of I Dreamed A Dream adds an even larger dollop of gravitas to an already emotive number, as we now see Fantine at her very lowest point. Though none of the performances make me want to stick my fingers in my ears, it is clear at certain points that several of the principal actors lack much ability to utilise their voice musically to convey meaning, as well as vocal chops, of previous performers who have played the roles on stage.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, even if some of the vocals fall a bit short of some that are offered by other recordings. Still, the strong script and beautiful attention to detail, full of touches to the original novel, keep it true to the spirit of both the musical and to Hugo's magnum opus, ensuring that it will be something that I will happily watch over and over again.
So which of the main versions of LES MISERABLES is the best? What is the essential version that every budding fan must own?
In truth, they are all essentials. Each offers up something different with its own advantages and drawbacks. Each has performances that will be yardsticks for performers for a long time, along with odd niggles that will annoy you if you get to know the musical well, whether it be performances, cuts or the lack of an iconic endlessly spinning stage.
There is undoubtedly a fifth crucial aspect of the LES MISERABLES musical experience - the original stage production running at the Queen's Theatre over 27 years after it first stormed London. It is, beyond any of these recordings, the musical as it was intended to be experienced. Take a trip there and you can expect top notch West End performers, Trevor Nunn and John Caird's exceptional staging and the live dimension that can never be replicated in the comforts of home. Between that, these four recordings and the many more versions out there that immortalise this classic show, you will likely be humming these tunes for far longer than one day more.