First off, let me say that this is not a recording of the 25th Anniversary Concert: Live at the O2. It's a recording of the stage production done in 2010. It has a totally different cast from the 25thAC, and it has all new, revolutionized orchestrations (more on that in a bit). It also includes the audience's cheering (something that's never been done before, I believe), so you really get the feel of actually being there. However, there are a few problems, mainly having to do with the cast. I'll review the cast, the orchestrations and...whatever else randomly comes to mind. But since those are the two main things, I'll focus on them.
|John Owen-Jones as Valjean|
- Jean Valjean was played (sung?), by John Owen-Jones. Overall, he was a good Valjean, but I found that his voice was a bit too young to be good for Valjean. It worked all right for the prologue, but after that, it got a little distracting. However, his big numbers (Valjean's Soliloquy, Who Am I?, and Bring Him Home) where done well, and he got the emotional aspect of Valjean's part perfectly.
|Earl Carpenter as Javert|
- Earl Carpenter played Javert. I really liked his performance, especially the emotion he brought into Javert's Suicide and the way he bit out his lines, just the way Javert should. His singing got on my nerves a little bit at times, mostly because of the way he rolls his 'r's a lot, but he was still really good. I can't wait to see him playing the part live in October :)
|Madalena Alberto as Fantine|
- I have a major problem with Madalena Alberto's portrayal of Fantine. She was way to modern in her singing, and she put little, or no emotion into I Dreamed A Dream. How can you not put emotion into that song? I just didn't like her performance, both singing and acting-wise.
|Gareth Gates as Marius|
- Meh. That's pretty much the only word I can think of to describe Gareth Gates as Marius, uncultured as it may be. He was good in some places, and in others...well...not so good. A Little Fall Of Rain did have me in tears though (it was actually one of the most moving versions of the song I've ever heard) and his "I'm here" rivaled Eddie Redmayne's. But Empty Chairs at Empty Tables left something to be desired, and his parts in Red & Black were pretty much the same. His voice was definitely not the greatest I've heard, but it wasn't the worst either. So, you see, he's pretty much a 'medium' Marius to me.
|Katie Hall as Cosette|
- Katie Hall as Cosette is the only cast member who plays the same role in the 25thAC, and I was really happy about this. Her sweet clear voice is perfect for Cosette and she's always been really good in the acting facet of her part. Her and Valjean's interactions as father and daughter are perfect.
|Rosalind James as Eponine|
- Rosalind James was wayyyy to pop-starrish in her portrayal of Eponine. I mean, her take on the line "All my life, I've only been pretending!" was just...ugh. I seriously didn't like the way she sang/acted Eponine's part and I felt she was too whiny as well. Her only good part was A Little Fall Of Rain, and I much preferred Marius' part in that anyway. Probably my least favorite Eponine ever. Even over Frances Rufelle (I'm actually starting to like her performance, if you can believe it).
|Jon Robyns as Enjolras. Guy on the far right, in case you didn't know ;)|
- Although I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, I really didn't care for Jon Robyn's Enjolras. He didn't have enough fire and passion, he sounded almost like a girl at times, and the notes that should have been held out were cut off, hardly before they begun. He did do a pretty good job in One Day More, but that was about the extent of his epicness. I was really disappointed.
The Thenardiers were okay - I hardly listened to any of their parts, since I somehow skipped The Robbery/Javert's Intervention and, of course, I never listen to Master of the House. The barricade boys were quite good (Jamie Muscato played Jehan - sort of weird, since I'm so used to him as Joly, but it worked pretty well), except for Grantaire. Grantaire was just...wrong in this recording.
As for the new orchestrations...I was really impressed. The music has been ever-so-slightly modernized and I actually like it a lot. I found that some parts of the music were played by different instruments than they usually are and little additions were put in here and there. Overall, it was a fresh take on an old classic, and I think the composers did an outstanding job.
Would I recommend this recording? Definitely, for long time fans of Les Mis, but probably not so much to newbies for the simple reason that the cast is hardly as good as the 10th, 25th, or movie. Still, it's an exciting new version of Les Mis, and for that reason, it'll always be one of my favorites - give or take a few character portrayals.
Have you listened to this recording? What do you think of it?