This last verse - the ultimate wisdom at the end of a life - conveys the essence of this magnificent creation. Goosebumps, tears, enthusiasm, Les Mis's Tenth Anniversary Concert is, without doubt, one of the most powerful artistic experiences of my life (to capture the full emotion, DO get the Video - VHS/DVD)
I have seen both the London and Broadway versions, read the book, but even without the scenery, or the detailed plot, TAC is the keeper for me. It is perfect. You will rarely find a more powerful rendition of the human condition, sad yet hopeful, with various windows into the human soul. An emotional rollercoaster on Victor Hugo's creation, powered by the ultimate "Dream Cast" and a breathtaking chorus, will take you through youth's idealism ("Do You Hear The People Sing", "Red and Black"), love's broken hopes ("I Dreamed a Dream"), unrequited love ("On My Own"), childhood innocence ("Castle on a Cloud"), camaraderie ("Drink With Me", "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables") - and much more.
As for the voices - this IS indeed the Dream Cast. Standouts: Philip Quast as Javert (foremost, his powerful, confident baritone makes a breathtaking "Stars"), Michael Ball as Marius ("Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" - heart-wrenching), Lea Salonga as Eponine (excellent every time, especially in "On My Own", also the perfectly sung/acted "A Little Fall of Rain" with Marius) and Ruthie Henshall as Fantine (the superb "I Dreamed a Dream").
Everyone else is just "very good". Home-crowd favorite Colm Wilkinson (as Valjean) has exceptional periods but also some weak moments. The only performance I did not quite appreciate was Judy Kuhn's Cosette, but perhaps it's a minus of the musical arrangement - her "soprano" just does not seem to blend in.
Is the video appropriate for children? This is a fair concern in two places - the Red Light District scene ("Lovely Ladies") and Ms Thernadier's comeback to her husband's bragging ("Master of the House"). However, chances are kids will not "get" the objectionable parts - cockney accents and English tongue-in-cheek humor (note how Gallaway as Ms Thernadier follows up on "he thinks he's quite a lover, but...") make them less accessible to younger minds. Then again, I've learned not to underestimate these young minds - see those parts first and decide whether to FF over the objectionable parts.
My 9-year old daughter loves the TAC Video - so much so that she has asked for the TAC Audio CDs, the unabridged version of Hugo's novel to read - a huge leap for her age - and she wanted to see the Broadway musical. Although she very much enjoyed the added-value of scenery, and a more complete story line, she still prefers the TAC performance. For us, TAC Video has been stimulating and enriching - buy it, as I am sure that you and your family will also enjoy it.
Regarding the Audio CD - there are 5 versions to choose from, most notably the London Cast, the Broadway Cast and TAC. ...it seems pointless to argue the value of one version over another. This musical makes such a deep imprint in your heart, that it is hard to accept a different interpretation than the one you've fallen in love with. My own experience is that TAC is head and shoulders above the rest - the sound is good, and no better sound can outweigh the joy of seeing/hearing the best-possible Javert, Marius and Eponine, the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra and a fantastic chorus.