- Audio Cassette (July 23 1996)
- Number of Discs: 2
- Format: Import
- Label: Relativity
- ASIN: B00000EV01
- In-Print Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
But which recording to buy? There, it gets a bit more complicated. Each of the four English-language recordings has its own strengths and weaknesses.
The first thing that must be said about this live concert double CD is that it's far inferior to the video. In fact, the sound is quieter for some reason on the CD than on the video. The video adds a lot in other ways as well, especially from the wonderfully expressive Phillip Quast (Javert) and dimpled, hilariously lovestruck Michael Ball (Marius). If you have an option, get the video.
That aside, this CD is a great addition to Les Mis lore and an excellent all-around performance. The music is splendid (although incomplete), and the vocalists are all very good - some are better than others. In a galaxy of theatre stars, Quast steals the night with a touching and complex portrayal of the police inspector who hounds Javert. His "Stars" shines so brightly that it eclipses the other dozen or so memorable ballads, even Colm Wilkinson's show-stopper "Bring Him Home". Other standouts include Ball, who's at his best here; Jenny Galloway, uproarious as the disgruntled innkeeper's wife; and Ruthie Henshall (Fantine), who has the exquisite timbre of a warm woodwind.
Anthony Warlow, the splendid Aussie Enjolras from the Complete Symphonic Recording, was invited to the concert but couldn't attend. So an unprepared Michael Maguire from the 1987 Broadway cast returned as Enjolras and, unfortunately, had an off night. At times he's solid, and at times he slips off notes or barely hangs on. Judy Kuhn (Cosette) also sounds rather harsh in what is often a strained soprano. And, although it would only bother a Les Mis veteran, Lea Salonga's technically sound, straightforward performance comes off as more than a little bland to those who have heard other Eponines live. It's letter-perfect - to a fault. Her staccato enunciation ("no-where-to-go-no-one-to-turn-to...") can be annoying, and her generic vocal presentation is soft and pretty but never goes beyond ordinary. Again, however, her voice is unobtrusive enough that first-time listeners (or viewers) will be moved by the character, not the actor.
The overall mood of this recording is festive, and there's the inescapable feeling that this is something special. Again, though, this is best experienced in the video.
Other recordings also have a different feel to them, be it for the better or worse. The Original London Cast double CD winds its way through an early version of the show with a sing-song sound and a slow tempo, but features an outstanding top-to-bottom cast and stands as a testament to the original vision. Broadway's 80s-rock sound rushes along with a weak cast that is redeemed only by the Tony-award winning Ruffelle as Eponine. The Complete Symphonic Recording has every note of music and three outstanding performances from Phillip Quast as Javert, Michael Ball as Marius, and the breathtaking Anthony Warlow as Enjolras; but it's all but ruined by Gary Morris' awful Valjean and Kaho Shimada's weak Eponine.
If you already have the 10th Anniversary Concert video or are unable to get it, this live concert CD is a good buy. It's not the be-all-and-end-all of Les Mis recordings as some would have you believe, but it's a strong performance of a classic musical.
Miss Salonga's interpretation of Eponine is particularly impressive - very empathetic and appropriate (given all that Eponine has experienced, the right degree of bitterness interspersed with the frustrated love that permeates through the character 'shines' through), and her voice is just so amazing!
The other members of the cast are equally impressive.
Get this and the complete recording and you have all the Les Miserables CDs that you need for your lifetime.
I can relate to what one reviewer said about the amazing Lea Salonga. Read more