on July 13, 2004
My first exposure to Les Mis the musical was through the Complete Symphonic Recording. Then I attended the 10th Anniversary celebration and got that recording, so upon listening to this particular album, the most I got was disappointment. The arrangement is very slow and most of the cast, while good by general standards, are mediocre compared to the talents I saw during the anniversary. Listening to Lea Salonga then to Frances Ruffelle for instance, is like going from smelling the sweet scent of a beautiful rose to getting wounded by its thorns. The difference in experience between the two recordings is so big that once you've listened to the 10th Anniversary Recording, everything else pales in comparison.
on December 31, 2002
I first copied the b-way cast of Les Miz, and immediatly fell in love with it. But unfortunately, i had nothing to compare it to having not heard any other recording of the show. I recently got the London cast recording, and since i was so used to the B-way cast, it took me a while to warm up to it. Here's a list of the cast & how i rated them
COLM WILKINSON: Valjean: Colm is heard on both recordings, but here is sounds somewhat inexperienced, and a little flater than B-way where he relly lets loose.
PATTI LuPONE:Fantine: Patti is a wonderful singer/actress, and has a great voice, but she sounds like she's either about to fall asleep, or painting her fingernails!! She puts NO feeling into the role of a sad, lonely woman.
ROGER ALLUM:Javert: Roger has a captivating voice, and is by far the best Javert ive heard. His rendition of STARS is amazing, and brings out Javert's vow to caputre & jail Valjean.
FRANCES RUFFELE: Eponine: Frances has a beautiful voice, which is clearly understood on this recording, more so then the B-way rec. where she basically shreiks her way through all of her songs except On my Own. On this CD, her voice is moe refined, and her death duet with Michael Ball (A LITTLE FALL OF RAIN) makes me want to cry. She is GREAT!!
JUDY KUHN: Cosette: nice, sweet, opera voice, that is very much suited for the part of Cosette. However, she is obviously NOT a young wistful teen, but a 30 year old actress portraying one. Blegh!
MICHAEL BALL: Marius: GREAT!! He puts a lot of feeling into the role & can actually sing, unlike the other dude, whose name i do not know. wonderful duets with Cosette/Eponine. He is clearly a professional singer.
ENSEMBLE: Although their vocies are heard better on this recording, hear the B-way cast. COMPARE. The London cast puts a little bit of feeling into play which requires TONS of it! They have to sound sad, hopeful, angry, etc. They only manage to just cut it!
OVERALL, as i say above hear the b-way cast before purchasing this particular one! hope this reveiw helps you decide!!
on July 12, 2004
The real deal is the 10th Anniversary Concert Recording with the best cast and the most dynamic performances. Get THAT and the Complete Symphonic Recording and you have all the Les Mis that you need.
on July 11, 2004
Maybe it's the fact that I've been spoiled with such wonderful recordings as the Tenth Anniversary Recording, the Complete Symphonic Recording and even the Broadway Cast, but this recording of Les Miserables is at the bottom of my list in favorite recordings. It is missing something. I bought it after I had the other three recordings and also two others in Spanish, one in German, the Original French Concept Album, and two Japanese recordings. All of the others (maybe excluding the French Concept one) have better music and sound quality. What I mean by better music is that it does not sound like there is much of an orchestra playing on this CD. On some songs you can only hear a guitar and a piano playing! I just like the full orchestra sound that can be heard on the other albums. Also, this is the first recording besides the French Concept Album, so obviously they have improved the musical since this first recording; Broadway is slightly better, the Complete Recording is even better than Broadway, and the Tenth Anniversary recording is magnificent! This album just seems to be weak!
The company is okay, but not great. One thing that bothers me about the company is in the song "At the End of the Day." If you have good speakers, the woman singing the descant (the higher notes over the chorus) in such parts as "like the waves crash on the sand, like the storm that'll break any second...", there is this woman with a very shrill voice that ruins the beauty of the song that you can hear in other recordings.
The parts in this musical are written differently. For instance, the students sing different parts on this album than on other albums. Also, there is a song sung by Cosette called "I saw him once" that was cut out of Broadway, and "Little People" was also cut out and made only a few lines when Gavroche confronts Javert and reveals his identity ("Good evening Dear Inspector, lovely evening my dear!").
One comment on the music: It is different. The musical starts not with the powerful overture but with music that sounds like the introduction to "At the End of the Day." The music is much slower. This helps songs like "I dreamed a dream" but ruins songs like "Confrontation," making it laughable. Stars is awful.
OK, so now it is my turn to tell you what I think of the actors and actresses. I get to be the critic! :)
VALJEAN: Colm Wilkinson is great as Valjean, but I prefer him on the other recordings. His voice isn't as strong on this recording as it is in others and he sounds more inexperienced.
JAVERT: Roger Allam is good and strong, but not as good as Phillip Quast. Terrence Mann and Roger Allam both seem to be unconvincing, but it's not the faults of the men that they were miscast.
FANTINE: Patti LuPone has a gorgeous voice, but she seems to be lacking emotion. Randy Graff has more emotion, but Graff can also be harsh on the ears at some parts ("and tell Cosette I love her and I'll see here when I wAAAAAke!!"
THENARDIERS: I must prefer Armstrong's appearance on the 10th Anniversary Recording, and I hate the Madame.
GAVROCHE/YOUNG COSETTE: Y.C. is so innocent and has a beautiful voice! Gavie is adorable and has much better rythm than Braden Danner, but I think Danner had a cuter voice.
MARIUS: Ball is great as Marius.
ENJOLRAS: I don't like the Enjolras on this recording because he is very weak. I think he was miscast. Micheal Maguire is definitely better because he has a strong voice and performance. This Enjolras doesn't cut it at all.
I think you should spend money on the other recordings. I just copied this CD on my computer and resold it.
on May 22, 2004
Even though the OBC might have better orchestrations and be more familiar to the American audience, I still prefer this version for two reasons; The cast is overall more superior and it has two additional songs that were cut out of the show when it made its transition to Bradway. Here's my review of the cast for the OLC.
Colm Wilkinson as Valjean: 5/5 - Colm can be heard on 3/4 english recordings. In my opinion this is his greatest recording of the role. He puts the right amount of passion and his voice is the best it has been.
Roger Allam as Javert: 4/5 - Not the greatest voice but it still fits the inspector. Not as good as Phillip Quast but miles ahead of Terrence Mann.
Rebecca Caine as Cosette: 3/5 - Ms. Caine has a gorgeous soprano voice and I loved her as Christine in POTO. However, in Les Miz, she doesn't really have any character in her voice. It seems as though she's just singing the songs.
Michael Ball as Marius: 5/5 - It's Michael Ball! What else do I have to say? He's the only Marius.
David Burt as Enjolras: 3/5 - Like Terrence Mann as Javert, David tries all he can do, but is terribly miscast as the revolutionary student. He sounds more like a Marius than an Enjolras.
Frances Rufelle as Eponine: 5/5 - Many people have criticized Ms. Rufelle for her interpretation, but I think she's perfect. Yes she sounds young, but Eponine was 15 in the book. She plays the role just as it was written in the book. Besides, if she's so horrible than why did she win a tony award. They don't just hand those out you know.
Zoe Hart as Young Cosette: 5/5: Perfect! So adorible.
Ian Tucker as Gavroche: 2/5: I hate Ian as Gavroche. He's annoying and his voice is shrill. Although he does get his own song, I wish it could have been sung by someone else.
Clive Carter as Grantaire: 2/5 - Horrible. Grantaire is supposed to be a nasty drunk and Clive's voice is way too smooth and pretty. Plus he has no character whatsoever in his voice.
Alun Armstrong and Susan Jane Tanner as The Thenardiers: 2/5 - I've always hated Alun Armstrong as Thenardier and while Susan Jane Tanner isn't awful, nothing really great sticks out in my mind.
So there you have it. My final complaint on this album would have to be the music. One day more is way to slow and unemotional and Stars just sounds weird. Hope this helps.
on March 21, 2004
I bought this CD because of the great reviews about Francess Ruffelle, Colm Wilkinson, and Patii LuPone on this recording. I wasn't really expecting the recording to be as bland as it is after reading all of the high reviews on websites. I guess I should have read Amazon's reviews first because the community is much more diverse.
I don't really have a problem with the record or any of the singers in particular, but I don't think many of the singers put enough "oomf" into their parts; many people seem to be just singing the part instead of acting it out. For instance, it seems the LuPone doesn't put much emotion to her part as Fantine. Maybe it's just her interpretation, but others have said that her performance brought them to tears because of her defeated-sounding voice. I took it for lack of emotion, but maybe I'm wrong.
Colm Wilkenson isn't bad on this recording, but he gets better on the Original Broadway cast and reaches perfection on the Tenth Anniversary recording. Frances Rufelle is an interesting Eponine because she is actually portrayed as the little fifteen year old Eponine was supposed to be in the book. She seems a bit whiny and wretched, but that's Eponine. I prefer Kaho Shimada and Lea Salonga, but many prefer Rufelle. I don't have a problem with her, but I just think that the level of acting in the voices of the other two women is superior.
The music on this album irritates me because it is much slower, and there is no overture. Instead of the great opening with the orchestra in the other recordings, there is music similar to the music played before "At the End of the Day". Also, "Look Down" sounds like it is being sung by a bunch of children, and the music is different. The Enjolras doesn't sound convincing to me. The music during the "Confrontation" is ridiculously slow and makes the sound humorous to me after hearing wonderful performances on other CDs.
What are the good points of the album? Well, the Cosette is beautiful and sings "I saw him once," which was cut out after Les Mis was spread to America. "Little People": the full version, is also on this album (it was also cut). The only other recording you can find "Little People" on is the French Concept Album. The Gavroche is adorable! Michael Ball is great as Marius.
The music to stars if hideous on this recording. Roger Allam is great, but the music is aweful! It sounds like it is played on a keyboard- like a low budget version of Stars.
If you have never heard Les Mis, don't start with this album because you won't be impressed. The sound quality isn't as good as broadway. Also get 10th anniversary and complete symphonic if you are a collector like me!
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.
It's sad that neither the original London nor Broadway cast were taped complete. Instead both productions were given rather unsastisfactory recordings of highlights filling two not-very-full Cds and leaving gaping holes in the continuity.
The original London cast comes out as an interesting set because it was taped before some minor revisions wer made and therefore offers the only chance to hear Gavroche's "Little People" and Cosette's brief aria "I Saw Him Once" that preceeds "In My Life." In total this is less than 5 minutes of music. The downside to the London disc is the orchetra which sounds thin and there are a number of wrong notes scattered about. But this was how the show sounded when it was first staged in London, and here is the only recording where you can hear Patti LuPone as Fantine.
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.
on November 28, 2003
This is the first English recording ever, so it isn't as refined as the later recordings like OBC, CSR, and TAC. In other words, the music isn't as good as the other recordings in my own opinion, although I find that the voice acting in this version is EXCELLENT- way better than some of the other recordings! It has a much slower tempo than the other recordings, which is good in some songs such as "I dreamed a dream," "On My Own," and "Little Fall of Rain." However, on songs like "Confrontation," the pace is rediculously slow and ruins the effect.
Outstanding voice actors on this CD are Colm Wilkinson as Valjean, Roger Allam as Javert, who is only second to Philip Quast in my opinion (he's much better than Terrence Mann on the OBC), Zoe Hart as young Cosette, Alun Armstrong as Thenardier, Michael Ball as Marius, Frances Ruffelle as Eponine, and Patti LuPine as Fantine (although in some songs, such as "At the End of the Day" and notably "I dreamed a dream," she is lacking in emotion for a woman who's as a great a singer as she is. My favorite song with LuPine is "Come to Me.")
The rest of the cast is fine, but not the best in my opinion. They are often lacking in emotion and the performance is good, but not great. One flaw that I find is the woman who does the descant in "At the End of the Day," because she it too shreiking! She starts "Like the waves crash on the sand..." but otherwise the singers in the company are wonderful.
The album is missing a lot of the musical, which made me very disappointed. I guess this is because the musical as we know it today was not written completely on this recording, because a lot was changed when it went to Broadway in America. Some songs that are on this recording and on no other are "Little People" and "I saw him once." A tiny part of "Little People" was taken and moved to when Gavroche reveals Javert's identity at the Barricades, but the rest of the song was cut out (unfortunately). "I saw him once" was completely cut out in later recordings, which I think was a mistake. Songs that are significantly shorter than today's are "Look Down," "In my life," "Drink with me," and "A heart full of love."
I love this recording because it's nice to listen to. I wouldn't make it your only Les Mis recording, but I highly recommend it!
In the 1980s, when I lived in London, I got early tickets to 'Les Misérables', playing at the Barbican Theatre in London for its London premiere. I actually had ticket for midweek after the weekend opening--as anyone who has seen the production knows, it has a very complicated set structure with a barricade that folds up and down. As luck would have it (for me, in any case), this complicated apparatus had mechanical difficulties the first several nights, forcing them to keep the show closed until (drum-roll, please) the night I had tickets.
Thus, I got to attend (by default) the London premiere of 'Les Misérables.'
Please don't hate me because I'm worldly.
As soon as the recording came available for this work, I went out to purchase it. First on tape (these were pre-CD days, after all) of the London cast recording; returning to America, I bought a CD player, and one of the first CDs I purchased was this recording, this recording and the Broadway cast.
Based upon Victor Hugo's magnum opus 'Les Misérables', a worked revered as almost scriptural by many of the French (even the British did not rename major thoroughfares in London after Shakespeare as the French did for Hugo), this musical follows the career of Jean Valjean upon his release from prison after 19 years as a convict for stealing bread to feed his starving family. Javert, a prison-official/parole officer type, dedicates his life to finding the parole-jumper Valjean, who has risen to prominence in the town of Montreuil-sur-mer, and in the process of revealing himself to save an innocent from going to prison in his stead, Valjean once again escapes to rescue the daughter of one of his factory-worker charges.
If all of this sound a bit out of a soap-opera, it is in fact much the same sort of convoluted storyline with twists, intrigues, injustices and disreputable characters which had appeal in novels as it does today on the daytime dramas. These personal struggles, which culminate with a love story between Cosette, the factory-worker's daughter, and Marius, a young revolutionary, play out against the greater drama of revolution against the injustices in France. In the end, the bad guy kills himself, the good guy dies peacefully and is welcomed into heaven; the rebellion is crushed but sowed the seeds for greater revolution later, and Marius and Cosette presumably live happily ever after.
The music of this work is stunning, with melodies that stick in the mind for ages after. Perhaps one of the most moving songs are 'On my own', sung by the sorrowful but good-hearted Eponine, who is in love with Marius, but cannot win his love away from Cosette -- this song has all the emotion and passion and conflict that one goes through in unrequited love. Finally there is the realisation that, through it all, the world will go on turning, albeit it a world that is lacking something and always shall for Eponine.
Another great song is 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables', sung by Marius, full of regret and sadness at the loss of so many compatriots in the revolt, unsure if the cost was justified. I remember this song being sung in memory of those lost in war at a memorial service; it is fitting and moving as a tribute to those who sacrifice -- what is the sacrifice for? It is, in this story as in real life, up to the living to make that sacrifice worthwhile.
Finally, Valjean's plea in the song 'Bring him home' echoes the deep yearnings and hopefulness of any parent toward a child at war; the sorrow and sadness, the willingness to trade places, knowing that no such bargain is permitted; this is perhaps the best work Colm Wilkinson has ever done.
Of course, for comic relief (and a work with so much heaviness of tone and theme needs comic relief), 'Master of the House' is a masterful piece. The innkeeper, in a stage aside voice, tells the audience all of the tricks of his trade, lyrically and stylistically it is hilarious.
'Food beyond compare!
Food beyond belief!
Mix it in a mincer
and pretend it's beef.
Kidney of a horse
Liver of a cat
Filling up the sausages
with this and that!'
When the innkeeper's wife chimes in, giving an account of 'the master's' own foibles, we are in high dudgeon and low comedy, all of the best sort, almost (but not quite) enough to make one forget the kind of scoundrel he's been toward the young Cosette. Of course, this character resurfaces again and again, the ultimate survivor in a very complicated world.
From start to finish, this musical is superb, a tour de force (to use a linguistically appropriate turn of phrase) of emotion, and a great introduction to a classic work of literature unfortunately lesser known in the English speaking world than it should be.
on February 2, 2003
If you became a Les Miz fan by way of any recording besides the Original London Cast, then it is very hard to appreciate. However, after listening many times, I have become a big fan of this recording, especially the performers. Colm Wilkinson's performance as Valjean is utterly amazing, and I haven't decided whether or not his performance on the Original Broadway Cast is superior. Unfortunately, I would say that Roger Allam is the weakest English Javert, simply because it's extremely hard to compete with the likes of Terrence Mann and Philip Quast. The song "Stars" is very different in this recording and has a calm ending which requires much less vocal intensity. However, Allam's performance in the Prologue and "Confrontation" are not at all disappointing. Patti LuPone is great, although her performance conjures up images of her as Eva Peron. She sings "I Dreamed a Dream" in a very soft manner, but it doesn't take away from the song. I think her voice works best in "Lovely Ladies" and "Fantine's Death". Alun Armstrong is definitely the best Thénardier and he makes "Master of the House" and "Dog Eats Dog" thoroughly enjoyable on this recording. Sue Jane Tanner is fine as Mme Thénardier, although she is greatly outsung by Jennifer Butt from the Original Broadway Cast and Jenny Galloway from the 10th Anniversary Concert. Braden Danner from the Original Broadway Cast is a much better Gavroche, but Ian Tucker gets to deliver the one and only performance of the full version of "Little People". I'm not sure if I'm really sad that this song was cut from the show, because although it's a cute song, it doesn't fit well with the musical style of Les Misérables. David Burt portrays Enjolras very well and has an excellent voice. I think his performance is superior to that of Anthony Warlow's on the Complete Symphonic Recording. However, Michael Maguire from the Original Broadway Cast is the best Enjolras by far. What really can be said about Michael Ball except that he's the one and only true Marius? His performance here is not quite tweaked to perfection yet, but, nonetheless, it is extraordinary. Frances Ruffelle's performance is different on this recording than on the Original Broadway Cast. People argue as to which is better, and it is definitely a hard decision. Regardless, she steals the show as Eponine, just as she did on Broadway, and I continue to believe that her performances of "On My Own" are some of the greatest in the history of musical theater. Poor Rebecca Caine! She has one of the most incredible operatic voices I have ever heard, especially in the Original Canadian Cast of The Phantom of the Opera where she plays Christine Daaé (with Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom). Cosette's part is so minor that she doesn't get a chance to show off her voice. One gem on this recording is "I Saw Him Once", Cosette's solo song, which was cut from the show prior to its opening on Broadway. Clive Carter is very good as Grantaire, and he sounds great in "Red and Black". Zoe Hart is probably the best British Young Cosette although her lines are cut drastically in this recording. The orchestra in this recording is well-conducted, and the tempo throughout the show is slower, which adds to some songs and takes away from others. "What Have I Done" benefits tremendously from the slower tempo, particularly during the orchestral interlude in the middle. Instead of an ensemble of violins, it is one lone cello which produces a hauntingly beautiful sound. "Confrontation" is slower as well, which makes it less intense. The major differences in this recording are the Overture, which is more reminiscent of the Original Paris Cast, "Look Down", which is shorter and doesn't contain the scene with the old and young prostitutes, and the songs "In My Life" and "A Heart Full of Love", which are shortened and bound together with the sacked "I Saw Him Once" to form a love montage. All in all, I would say this is a great recording. It shows Les Misérables in its infancy and showcases some of the great voices on the West End.