Fifteen years after the historic 10th anniversary concert, the international musical sensation Les Misérables
returned for a 25th anniversary concert at London's O2 Arena in October 2010. Like the previous concert, it presents an all-star cast, this time taken from two different 2010 London productions as well as the original 1985 cast. The singers stand at microphones wearing costumes, backed by a huge chorus and three video screens showing some action that can't be represented on stage, though the stage is transformed into a set for some key scenes, such as in the Thénardiers' bar and at the barricade. And as it has for 25 years, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's score vividly captures the passion of Victor Hugo's epic tale of post-Revolutionary France, combining tear-jerking ballads ("I Dreamed a Dream," "Bring Him Home") and rousing anthems ("Do You Hear the People Sing").
The cast is nearly all excellent, including Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, Norm Lewis as Javert, Matt Lucas as Thénardier, Jenny Galloway as Madame Thénardier (reprising her role from 1995), and Katie Hall as Cosette. Teen pop star Nick Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) seems to have been cast as Marius for box-office appeal, however. Though he has the right look and hits the right notes, his voice is weak compared to the rest of the cast and throughout the show he seems to wear the same look of earnest worry, eyes fixed on the horizon as if reading a teleprompter. After playing Eponine in the 1995 concert, Lea Salonga is now Fantine, and while she sings well, the part really calls for more vocal power. Comparing the 1995 concert and 2010, the newer one has superior audio and video, but the earlier one has the stronger cast top to bottom, anchored by many of the legendary performers who helped make Les Mis the sensation it still is today. In acknowledgment of that, after the final scene of the 2010 concert ends, many of the original cast members enter the stage for a thrilling encore. "Bring Him Home" unites original Valjean Colm Wilkinson with John Owen-Jones, Simon Bowman, and Alfi Boe, then Michael Ball, Frances Ruffelle, Alun Armstrong, and others join the cast for "One Day More." (It's hard not to be moved when Ball looks around the stage and sings his line, "My place is here, I fight with you.") Producer Cameron Mackintosh and authors Boublil, Schönberg, and Herbert Kretzmer all address the crowd before a throng of student performers (appropriate, no?) comes on stage to close the nearly three-hour evening. --David Horiuchi