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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on August 25, 2013
With a stellar cast that includes the inimitable Colm Wilkinson as the definitive Jean Valjean, Philip Quast as the best ever Javert, Ruthie Henshall as the perfect Fantine, Lea Selonga as the perfect (and perfectly adorable) Eponine, and Jenny Gallowa and Alun Armstrong as the ultimate Thénardiers, this is really the only recording of Les Miz you need. It is unique in that it is a concert rather than a theatre production, but that - and the reception of producer Cameron MacKintosh and 17 Jean Valjeans at the end, make it an emotional high as well as an artistic masterpiece. This, and not a London production, is what made me fall in love with the show, which I was eventually privileged to see twice in Canada with Colm Wilkinson. Highly recommended!
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on June 23, 2004
This is definitely the best of all Les Miserables recordings. The live performances are exciting and very dynamic.
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.
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on January 27, 2001
If you've never heard a Les Miserables recording and are wondering if it's worth your hard-earned money to invest in a CD of the show, the answer is a very enthusiastic "yes". It's a very straightforward, honest, and compelling work that's very different from traditional broadway. The marches and waltzes that make up the meat of the music are simple and catchy, yet they burn with a fiery, operatic heart. The story pounds forward with a wonderful energy, and it's given life by some of the greatest voices in theatre history. It will move you, thrill you, and leave you with the feeling that you've just experienced something magical. I never dreamed that I could enjoy musical theatre - until I heard Les Miserables.
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.
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on July 13, 2004
The 10th Anniversary Gala performance of LES MISERABLES, presented in concert-style at the Royal Albert Hall, drew together a cast of performers from productions worldwide, and came to be known as the 'Dream Cast' for the musical. Colm Wilkinson again plays Valjean, with Javert played by Philip Quast (THE SECRET GARDEN). The lovely Ruthie Henshall (DIVORCE ME DARLING, MISS SAIGON) plays the tragic Fantine and belts out an impressive "I Dreamed a Dream". Lea Salonga (MISS SAIGON, FLOWER DRUM SONG) is a luminous Eponine and Michael Ball (CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG), the original Marius, returns to the role once again. Judy Kuhn, the original Broadway Cosette, also is in top voice. The comical Thenardier's are played by Jenny Galloway (OLIVER!) and Alun Armstrong (another original cast member). Also back from the original cast is Beverly Klein as the grasping old crone in the "Lovely Ladies" scene. This historic recording is a must-own for LES MIZ fans.
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on August 17, 2014
Delivery took longer than expected. Actual CD was okay, but case was cracked and in bad shape, and book was worn. Barely acceptable, not a collectible due to bad condition. As a plus - the music was good and worth the buy if you can get it in better shape.
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on June 25, 2004
A few months ago I learnt the piano score for 'On My Own'. A little later, on the recommendation of my sister, I watched the DVD of the TAC and was blown away. Then, I watched the entire thing again. And spent another 5 hours re-watching my favourite bits. Then, I got this CD for my birthday.
Colm Wilkinson/Jean Valjean - simply stated, amazing. Although the little shrieks at the end of long notes are a bit annoying (Another story must begiiiiiiiin-ek!), he is a brilliant singer and really interpretates the character well.
Philip Quast/Javert - another excellent singer, really becomes Javert. I couldn't imagine any other as the strict, disciplined, harsh law enforcer whose world falls to pieces.
Ruthie Henshall/Fantine - pure delight to hear her (when she sings 'You let your foreman seeeeennnd' close your eyes and breathe in, and let it out on 'me away'. She has the lovliest voice I've ever heard). Fits the part amazingly.
Michael Maguire/Enjolras - good singer, looks fit the part perfectly. However he does strain on the high notes ('They will come when we cccaaaeeeellllll')
Michael Ball/Marius - good singer through most of it, but really comes out in 'Empty Chairs and Empty Tables'. If not technically a perfect singer, Ball still suits the part perfectly.
Judy Kahn/Cosette - the only one I really did not like. Her looks don't fit the part and she sings with little emotion. Watching her on the DVD is like watching a marble column sing; perfect, but not lively enough.
Alun Armstrong and Jenny Gallowy/M+Mme Threnadier - extremely funny, although Armstrong's 'Dog Eat Dog' was not memorable. Galloway was perfect. Hilarious.
Lea Salonga/Eponine - unbelievable voice, lots of emotion but somehow it was always Lea Salonga, not Eponine. Her duet with Marius 'A little fall of rain' is a real tearjerker, even after 20 listenings.
Hannah Chick and Adam Searles/Young Cosette and Gavroche - adorable. Very cutsie-pie, although Hannah is a bit off-tune in 'Castle On A Cloud'. Adam has the perfect amount of cheekiness (watch his expression when he sings 'This only goes to show what little people can do'!)
Overall? Brilliant cast, music unforgettable, excellent performances BUT I don't like Kahn, and there are no lyrics! For this reason I would recommend getting the DVD and watching it, as the live performance improves even the fantastic singing.
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on May 6, 2013
I bought this set of CDs because of all the good reviews on the website, and it was mentioned in the reviews of other Les Miserables CDs that this is the one to buy. And it turns out great.
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on July 11, 2004
Recorded LIVE in 1995 at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate 10 years of marvelous success, this album showcases some of the best voices from the original London Cast (Wilkinson, Armstrong, Ball), Broadway Cast (Maguire, Salonga, Kuhn), and other marvelous voices from other casts (Ruthie Henshall from a later London cast and Phillip Quast from Australia!). What you will notice about this recording is the wonderful sound quality and the wonderful voice acting and singing. The orchestra is marvelous. The company is wonderful.
Colm Wilkinson is basically the only recorded Valjean besides Gary Morris, so Wilkinson is recognized as the best Valjean out there. Who knows, there may be a better voice out there, but the poor man isn't recorded! Just joking around. He has a strong voice and is convincing as a Valjean, You can hear his frustration, his anger, and his pain in his voice when he sings. Phillip Quast is marvelous as Javert. Mann is a good Javert, and so is the one on the London Cast (is his name Roger Alam or something like that?), but Quast just has an AMAZING voice! It is strong and has much expression in it. Javert sounds ticked off in some parts, and tortured in others. You really can feel for Quast's Javert. Ruthie Henshall is my favorite Fantine because of the quality of her voice. The young Cosette is very professional and adorable. The Thenardiers are perfect, both evil and hilarious at the same time! Adam Searles is a good Gavroche, but not my favorite. I prefer the Gavroche on the CSR. Kuhn is beautiful as Cosette, and Ball is a great Marius. Salonga is a great Eponine- she shows the desperation, anger, and hopelessness of Eponine. Maguire is an excellent Enjolras. People do not realize that Maguire had not sung the part in years and was asked only less than a week before the concert was held to be in it, so you can understand why he may have been rusty on hitting some of the notes. Plus this CD is live. If Warlow made any mistake on CSR you can't tell because they fix it with machines. That's why voices are so flawless on CDs! But this is a live recording. I think he had a lot of energy and a lot of gusto. I love this recording! The only problem I have is that they cut out some of the major parts of the musical. They cut "Lovely Ladies" in half, they don't have "the robbery" that would explain what the song "stars" is all about, and they cut "Eponine's Errand" (little he knows, little he sees...."). Many of the battle songs are cut out, including Gavroche's death. It would have been nice if they had the entire musical on it! I love it anyway!
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on June 21, 2004
If you have never seen Les Mis before, i must say that this is the performance to listen to first. It'll heighten you standards as to a good Les Mis production. The music is strong and moving, as are the vocals. It's in CONCERT, but you can't even tell that they are standing at microphones.
Highlights -- Colm WIlkinson -- He is on three of the four English recordings as Jean Valjean, and is in my opinion the best. Unfortunately, with his age, some of his high notes make me cringe. And his acting was not as great as it probably could have been, but he is WAY better than Garry Morris.
-- Ruthie Henshall -- She a lovely voice, acts the part of Fantine perfectly, and is quite simply the best Fantine I have heard by FAR.
-- Michael Maguire -- I LOVE this Enjolras! Yes, some notes are kinda high and painful to listen to, but he has the Enjy HEART!! However, I am warming towards Anthony Warlow on the Complete Symphonic Recording. They're both MARVELOUS.
-- Adam Searles -- You just gotta love this Gavroche! His accent is perfect. Ok, so he could have put more fire and spunk in, but he is nonetheless my favorite Gavroche. And he is ADORABLE!! I only wish that he could have sung more of Gavroche's parts, which, unfortunately were not in this production. If you want to hear those parts, listen to the CSR, on which the Gavroche also has more of the spunk that is desired.
--Philip Quast as Javert! Also on the CSR, this guy is AMAZING as the relentless inspector interested only in doing what is right. He is powerful, has the coolest voice and is just . . . GREAT.
Now all you Salonga fans are going to be very disappointed in me, but i don't like her much as Eponine. Yes, she is powerful, and way better than Frances Ruffelle (OLC and OBC), but as I become more familiar with this character, I find that, indeed, she is quite bitter. And perhaps that's how the character was intended to be, but I don't like that interpretation. Call me weird, but I prefer Kaho Shimada on the CSR.
And Judy Kuhn as Cosette . . . she has a superb voice. I didn't like her very much when I first listened to her on here, but she has grown on me. Although Cosette herself is an irritating character, Kuhn makes her tons more tolerable.
And Michael Ball as Marius, well, I don't like the CHARACTER, but Ball brings so much feeling and power . . . well, it *is* amazing.
The Thénardiers are the best I've heard -- Armstrong and Galloway are hilarious. and you'll love them.
Overall, this is an OUTSTANDING performance that will bring tears to your eyes every time you listen to it. BUY IT, and you will NOT be disappointed! Take my word. And if you're hungry for more, then buy the DVD or video. It makes it a lot better to actually SEE it.
PS -- that bang during Castle on a Cloud -- that was a BALLOON popping.
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on January 27, 2004
One can quibble with the musical version of LES MISERABLES, certainly the opening night critics did! Yet the musical has entertained and moved millions of people in productions around the world. The biggest fans return to see it over and over.

For those who want most (not quite all) of the show, this 10th anniversary concert cast will likely fill the bill. These two very full discs clock in just 27 minutes shorter than the 3 CD symphonic recording. Wilkinson is back again as Valjean (though at this stage having a tiny bit more trouble with those high notes) and a top notch supporting cast than no stage production could ever afford. It is live, so there is audience applause and noise, but it is never distracting.
BUT... why get just the audio CD when you cabn get a DVD (or VHS) of the concert and see it as welll as hear it?
For those who want the whole show, the Complete Symphonic recording is the set to get. One could argue that some of the casting isn't as perfect as the original productions, but the gain is made by having a symphonic orchstra of 70 players and the best cast members from productions around the world when this set was made in 1988. I own all four recordings and the one I listen to most is the complete symphonic recording.
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