The Complete Recording of 'Les Miserables' is Divine!
RJStuart | Australia | 04/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After viewing 'Les Miserables' in Sydney two years ago, Ibought the Original London Cast Recording of the musical. However, Inoticed that some things were missing. Consequently, I bought this album to fill in the gaps. I now have three recordings of 'Les Miserables'; the Original Broadway Cast including these other two, and the 10th Anniversary Concert VHS Tape. With a 65-strong orchestra this recording definately has the best sound quality out of all the other recordings I have heard. After listening to Colm Wilkinson perform Jean Valjean, on the OLC, incessantly for a year, it took some time getting used to Gary Morris' portrayal of the saintly criminal. However, after listening to Morris a few times he starts to grow on you. Although I prefer Colm, Morris still depicts Valjean extremely well. Listeners notice the great change in the character of Valjean from the beginning of the musical to the end. Notice the contrasts in Valjean's character in the songs; "What Have I Done?": Valjean: "Take an eye for an eye. Turn your heart into stone. This is all I have lived for. This is all I have known." and "Bring Him Home": Valjean: "If I die, Let me die! Let him live." The character of Valjean is extremely developed and Morris portrays him very well with deep emotion and passion, which serves to involve the listeners into the action of the musical. Javert is my all-time favourite character in literature, film, and music. The cold-hearted Police Inspector is brilliantly portrayed by Philip Quast in this album. Quast is the best Javert I have heard; his voice is so clear, deep and powerful, and it is a pleasure listening to him play the antagonist in 'Les Miserables'....The main contrast can be noticed in the songs "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide". "Stars" is lyrically and musically brilliant, and vividly illustrates Javert's personality and beliefs; the law is above all else....Debbie Byrne's portrayal of the tragic Fantine is similar to Patti Lupone's in the OLC. They have very similar voices because they sing from the back of their throats. Listeners are coerced into feeling pity for Fantine...Debbie portrays Fantine with anger, hopelessness, and despair, which can be heard in the song "I Dreamed A Dream." I have been a fan of Anthony Warlow for a very long time and every song I have heard him sing is infallable. His portrayal of Enjorolas is brilliant (the best I've heard), his rich voice and passionate expression really make the Apollonian Revolutionary Leader realistic and powerful. Warlow is intensely emotional, and listeners are able hear the sheer perfection of his voice when his character is about to die, in the "The Final Battle"; Enjorolas: "Let others rise To take our place Until the earth is free!" Michael Ball has a fantastic voice. He is not overly powerful and he is not soft and weak. His portrayal of Marius is magnificent, as always....One of the strongest characters in 'Les Miserables' is Eponine. Although I believe that Frances Ruffelle and Lea Salonga portray her better, Kaho Shimada does it well here, even if her accent does take some getting used to. Eponine's love for Marius is unrequited, which compels listeners to sympathise with her....'Les Miserables' is, in my opinion, only equalled by Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'The Phantom of the Opera' as the greatest musical ever. The dark themes, emotional energy, and intensity in which Victor Hugo involved in his novel, have served Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg (as well as Herbert Kretzmer), in their creation of a musical and lyrical triumph. This triumph can be observed in the climactic song of 'Les Miserables'; "One Day More" (My favourite song ever). There is something about this song which inspires, amazes, involves and entertains the listeners, which can be said of all of 'Les Miserables'. To own any CD of 'Les Miserables' is great, but to own the 'Complete Symphonic Recording' is divine! END"
Hayley | Greenville, SC USA | 06/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ok, I admit it. I have long been a fan of musicals, but I was only exposed to Les Mis a few months ago. My roommate loaned me this recording, and I fell in love. I played nothing but this soundtrack for the next several weeks.
As this is the only recording I've heard fully, I cannot give any comparisons between the performers here and those on other versions, but I do wish to give my general impression of the cast.
*Gary Morris (Valjean) - he has a strong, clear voice with which it is hard to find fault. He sings with emotion and passion, and I cannot imagine ever tiring of hearing him as Jean Valjean. If I had to give a complaint, it would be that I could imagine a voice with a little more distinct character...something a little riskier for the part of someone so complex.
*Philip Quast (Javert) - wow, I love deep voices, and his is so rich! I love when he hits the low note near the beginning of "Confrontation" ...I've seriously replayed that part over and over again just because it sends shivers through me...haha, I think you get the idea. This guy is good.
*Debbie Byrne (Fantine) - her voice took some getting used to because at first it seemed to me a little uncontrolled, almost like she could capture the fullness of the sound but not quite hit the notes. However, the more I listen to her, the more I enjoy her. Her voice has a wonderful texture, something you totally miss when listening to the super-clear, trilling sopranos that seem to be found all over most other musicals.
*Kaho Shimada (Eponine) - her voice took a little getting used to as well. I was a little confused until I realized she was Japanese, for though I wouldn't say you hear an accent, her voice does have a very different quality to it. Still, I enjoyed her performance very much. Her voice is trembling with emotion the entire time, almost like she can hardly control it...it is quite moving.
*Tracy Shayne (Cosette) - wow. I'm sorry, is Cosette supposed to be this shrill? Turn it off! While I'm impressed at some of the notes she hits, I don't think it's supposed to make you want to cover your ears.
*Michael Ball (Marius) -Ball makes Marius, a rather annoying character if you ask me, into someone actually likable, if not lovable. He's passionate and romantic, but not vapid. Probably my favorite vocal performance.
*Gay Soper and Barry James (the Thernardiers) - their voices are rather grating, but that's the point, right? Very entertaining performances...particularly in "Master of the House" (which, it's true, somehow manages to be stuck in your head all day).
*Anthony Warlow (Enjorolas) - very appropriate voice...manly and vibrant. If he doesn't make you want to go out and fight, then there's no help for you!
Overall, the performances were wonderful. I highly recommend this CD. A great recording of a great musical!"
Great, definitely go with this and TAC
Ahjem | 08/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Right now, there are four official English-language versions of Les Miserables: the Original London Cast Recording, the Original Broadway Cast Recording, the Complete Symphonic Recording, and the 10th Anniversary Concert Recording. Les Mis' addicts are best served by purchasing all recordings, as they showcase different stages (as in the OLC and the OBC) of the development of this mega-musical, as well as the interesting variations in presentation and performances by the different casts and orchestras.
If you're the average musical-theater listener who can't afford to buy all available English-language recordings, however, my advice would be to get the CSR (due to the fact that it's "complete") and the TAC recording (due to the fact that performer- and performance-wise, it's leaps and bounds better than all of the other recordings). You deserve no less."
Not the best, but a must-buy
Aaron | Seattle, WA | 11/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The performances are way better in the 10th Anniversary Concert Recording, which has the dream cast. Since this is a great musical, however, you'll also want to have the complete score, especially since it's available. Get this and the 10th Anniversary Concert DVD/VHS for the optimum Les Miserables listening experience."
Re: Obvious choice
gill | Fullerton, CA | 11/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I share the same sentiments. It's indeed refreshing to have all these different Eponine versions; we can certainly enjoy all of them. Comparisons in acting and singing abilities are inevitable, but contrary to some people's claims, the character in the musical (whether portrayed by Frances Ruffelle, Kaho Shimada, or Lea Salonga) remains faithful to the book, despite differences in the nuances each actor has given. I also agree that since this is not a book but a MUSICAL, and a big one at that, a certain standard is expected singing-wise (the claim that Eponine's voice in the book is not pretty is not a valid excuse for bad singing on stage), which, unfortunately, is the cause of less-than-favorable reviews regarding Frances' performance.
I feel bad for Frances that people have made such a huge deal about the weaknesses in her performance, especially when multi-awarded Lea Salonga entered the Les Miserables scene and played the role to critical acclaim in Hawaii and London, leading to Salonga's casting as the dream Eponine in the 10th Anniversary Concert and to an invitation to play the role again in the tribute performance for grand musical producer Cameron MacKintosh (Hey Mr. Producer). But I still think Frances is a good actor and is worthy of much of the praise she received for the role.