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This was just too much awesome for me to wait 'til morning

     I just saw the cinecast of the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables and it was incredible.

     First off, let's just say for a minute, 25 years?? You go, Les Miserables! No musical has ever run this long, and you deserve this honor of being the longest-running musical in the world (except maybe for The Fantasticks? I don't know what's going on there but I've read that it's supposedly been running for 40+ years? Can't find any solid evidence for it, so I'm not gonna believe it) May you have many, many more succesful years.

     Ok, this show, for any who may not know, is based on the Victor Hugo novel and is about a French Revolution (in the words of Forbidden Broadway: "But not the big famous one, a little later one you thought you didn't know anything about") in which the students revolt against the political powers for their callous treatment of the poor. Or something. Really, that's only what happens, but what the musical is about is the human spirit and how it can triumph in love or be crippled in selfishness. The main character is Jean ValJean who we meet as he is paroled from a work camp where he has been forced into labor for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread and evading arrest. He is a bitter man, but is shown kindness and grace by a bishop whose love and respect cause ValJean to promise to himself and God that he will turn from his bitterness and hate and become a man of virtue. The rest of the musical follows ValJean as he struggles to honor his vow, fails, and the characters he meets and affects throughout his tumultuous life.

     And that summary was anemic and weak and didn't express the beautiful and complex story of this musical, but such aspects must be sacrificed for the sake of brevity.

     On to the event of the night: The 25th Anniversary Concert. The Cast:
     Jean ValJean- Alfie Boe
     Inspector Javert- Norm Lewis
     Fantine- Lea Salonga
     Enjolras- Ramin Karimloo
     Eponine- Samantha Barks
     Marius- Nick Jonas
     Cosette- Katie Hall
     Thenardier- Matt Lucas
     Mdme. Thenardier- Jenny Galloway

Alfie Boe as Jean ValJean

     He was spectacular. He sang with an incredible ease and had a true grace and dignity in his acting. I do believe I prefer him to Colm Wilkinson whose over-articulation and facial expressions have always bothered me. Occasionally Boe seemed to be a bit dead in the eyes and he broke character after "Bring Him Home" to accept his applause which miffed me a bit, but he was still phenomenal.

Norm Lewis as Javert
     I was not a fan of Lewis when I saw him in the Broadway revival. I thought he was a bit wooden and his singing bored me. Tonight, however, there was such fire and ferocity in his singing and acting. Some of the benefit was being able to see the minutae of his performance which always add to the experience, but overall there was just a passion in his portrayal that I didn't feel from him before.

Lea Salonga as Fantine
     Well, she's the reason I saw the Broadway revival in 2007 in the first place, so it's fair to say that I have a bias, but she was glorious. I adored her Broadway performance and could never decide between her, Ruthie Henshall, and Joanna Ampil as my favorite Fantine. Well tonight she skyrocketed to the top of my list, no contest. Her voice was flawless, more nuanced than I remember it being on Broadway, but with no less inensity. She opted for the softer ending to "I Dreamed a Dream" rather than shouting "Now life has killed the dream I dreamed!" which I missed because she's the only performer I've ever seen deliver the line that way, and I liked that it gave her Fantine more strength and bite, but it is the traditional ending and was beautiful. There was a moment just after "Fantine's Death" where she was leaving the stage as Young Cosete was coming on and they looked at each other. I don't know what emotion the Cosette actress was going for, she was scared, like she was literally seeing a ghost and it didn't do much for me. It was realistic, but not really emotionally satisfying. Lea, however, gave her this indescribable look of love and sadness that I can't put into words, but it seriously did things to my heart. It was such a wonderful thing to see.
     She also had the most gorgeous Fantine wig in the history of forever. Those pretty locks were certainly worth more than a centime, easily worth a. . . whatever a larger piece of 17th century French currency would be.

Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras
     He is not a favorite of mine but he has a fantastic voice. He's the only Phantom actor who's made me care for the Phantom and not be bored out of my mind during "Music of the Night", but I didn't love his voice for Enjolras. His placement seemed too. . . perfect. I don't know how to describe it, other than it seemed like his singing was coming from a singer, rather than from a student so stirred by passion that he simply had to sing. It didn't move me quite the way I wanted it to, and he seemed to be perpetually looking into nothing. This wasn't entirely his fault, as the staging had the performers more often looking out to the audience rather than at each other, but he was the only one who seemed to be lost behind his eyes, while the other actors all seemed to have somethingsomeone they were looking at. Also, for Susie, Steph, and any other Enj/Grantaire shippers: there was a definite moment during "Drink With Me" which you will love. You can thank "Big Time Rush" for this shiny new pair of slash goggles that are now permanently attatched to my face.

Samantha Barks as Eponine
     Samantha gave a lovely performance as Eponine. I don't think she brought anything eye-opening to the role, but she turned in a fantastic performance. She looked far too beautiful though, in my opnion. There was no dirt or grit on her face, though I definitely saw eyeshadow and maybe a little blush, her hair might have been greasy, but it could have just as easily been styling product, and (and there's no non-awkward way to say this) her breasts were too perky. I suspect she was wearing a bra and if that's the case she really shouldn't have been. If she wasn't, perhaps she should have had a less fitted shirt with a higher/straighter neckline. I'm sorry, but I really don't believe those lines where she's mistaken for a boy when she has a gorgeous face and figure like that.

Nick Jonas as Marius
     Nick was passable as Marius. He was not a terrible singer or actor, but he was utterly outclassed by every other performer on that stage. It was clear though that he was trying his hardest and taking the role very seriously, so I don't hold it against him. I can hardly blame him for trying his hardest and coming up short. In a lesser production it wouldn't have been so noticeable, but on this stage, with these performers, he was the weakest link.

Katie Hall as Cosette
     . . . was the most adorable Cosette I've ever seen! This honor was previously held by Ali Ewoldt of the revival, but Katie had such a youthful charm to her and was so beautiful that I couldn't help but love her. Unlike most Mizzies out there, I love Cosette and shamelessly ship Marius/Cosette so I want a good Cosette, and Katie was a great one. She tapped into the character's innocence and youth perfectly and is just the cutest thing on stage this side of Billy Elliot. My absolute favorite acting choice of hers came during "One Day More!" when ValJean tells her they will be leaving Paris. Her face instantly looked like her world was falling apart because "No! I just met Marius and I love him and we're supposed to be together forever with our hearts full of love!" and it was just so perfect for the character.

     The Concert was technically fantastic. The lighting was phenomenal. They really thought about the artistry of the lighting for this production and how it would tell the story, not just how it would serve a simple purpose. The rows of electric that the stage lights were held on started off on stage and then rose epically and dramatically as the overture began. It was very Phantom of the Opera. They also lowered back to the stage as Act II began to help form the barricade. The set was spectacular. Nothing extravagant, and no changes but enough to give a sense of space and provide the actors a great spot to enter and exit from. The filming was wonderful as well. I never liked the way the TAC was filmed with all those extreme angles (nothing but up-the-nose shots or extreme wides for Ruthie Henshall? Seriously?) but the filming here nicely mixed zooms and wides to capture the action and made tasteful and judicious use of split-screens so they never looked cheesy, which was great.

     After the concert finished with Les Miz's beautiful, beautiful finale Cameron mackintosh (the Producer) gave a speech, introduced composers Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg and lyricist Herbert Kretzmer for their speeches, then the Original London Cast came on stage to thunderous applause, followed by the current West End cast and the current UK Touring Cast. Colm Wilkinson (OLC, OBC, 10th Ann. ValJean) began singing "Bring Him Home" and was joined by the other three ValJeans (John Owen Jones of the Tour, Simon Bowman of West End, and Alfie Bowe, of the Concert) for a beautiful rendition. Then the Original cast performed "One Day More!" with every company joining in as the ensemble and the evening concluded with some lucky school productions joining the professional companies for the "Finale".

     The concert was fantastic and I can't say enough good about it. I really do feel this show works better in a concert setting. I've seen the show four times now, twice high school and twice professional, and have always found the show, no matter how good the performances, to be a bit long and muddled. The concert versions, however, I feel have a better clarity and pacing.

ETA: I forgot to mention the most exciting news of the night: Just before the end credits started to roll a message confirmed that the film version of Les Miserables is in the works from Universal Studios!


Nov. 18th, 2010 11:43 am (UTC)
Great review! :)
Nov. 18th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I forgot to add the most exciting news: after the concert ended and the credits started to roll they confirmed that the film version of the musical was on its way!
Nov. 19th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
That is awesome news!