Last night’s DVD was the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary concert with a cast, orchestra and choir of 500.
Alfie Boe (above) is Jean Valjean and showed remarkable control of his operatic tenor, delivering a full-throttle vocal intensity only when absolutely necessary in the role. His inspirational rendition of “Bring Him Home” stopped the show. Boe appeared sincerely moved by the enthusiastic standing ovation of the over 18,000 in attendance at the O2 arena. It was completely deserved.
Norm Lewis who plays Javert, is a Broadway veteran and here he finally has a starring, rather than supporting role. I was lucky enough to see him play Javert in the full production of Les Mis at The Queen’s Theatre. Thanks to this DVD, many others will now get the chance to hear his excellent voice.
Ramin Karimloo freed from his Phantom makeup was a handsome, inspiring and strong-voiced Enjoloras and received a massive cheer at the end.
Nick Jonas (a controversial casting) is not equal in voice in any way to his co-performers and had the most peculiar expressions throughout, but here (above) with Katie Hall as Cosette, he made for a suitably youthful Marius.
The highly talented and ever reliable Hadley Fraser (above) is a fine Grantaire, his voice here is astounding, his range and tone are just fabulous, it’s a pity he doesn’t have a bigger role. Fraser is another performer I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in the Queen’s Theatre production – that time playing Javert.
Matt Lucas fulfils a lifetime dream of appearing in Les Mis and uses his comedic talents to their best effect as Thenardier.
Lea Salonga is Fantine and equips herself well enough, but I must admit I found her American twang a bit strong.
Special mention must also go to little Robert Madge (above), a scene-stealer as Gavroche.
This is, of course, a concert, but in order to add more of a theatrical feeling to the performance the actors were costumed in either designs from the original production or the 25th Anniversary UK tour. The production design was enhanced with a multi-level set to accommodate the 500-member cast, orchestra and choir. In lieu of the building of the barricade, the massive lighting tracks descended and tilted complemented by spectacular lighting effects. Video projections from the stage version added further drama to replace scenes that could not be conveyed in a concert environment. Overall only minor cuts were made from the full theatrical version – and none of the cuts particularly hurt the final product.
Due to the constraints of a concert production, and the fact that this was being filmed for both cinema and DVD release the actors had obviously been told to rein in the theatrics. Several of the ensemble were on the verge of acting out the roles they had either played before or were currently playing in the West End in full theatricality if not for the reminder of the microphone in front of them.
A highlight of the evening was the appearance of The Four Valjeans (above l-r); Simon Bowman (Queen’s Theatre cast), Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson (the original cast) and John Owen-Jones (Barbican Theatre cast) their version of “Bring Him Home” was utterly moving. Each of the four are supremely gifted performers. I love this musical, it really does have the power to move you. I defy anyone not to have a tear in their eye at the end of this and I urge anyone who gets the chance to go and see it on stage.
Les Misérables is the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s great humanitarian novel of one man’s determined survival in the face of another’s vengeful persecution. Set amid the social and political struggles of 19th century France, Les Misérables tells the story of former prisoner Jean Valjean, who is pursued for decades by his policeman nemesis, Javert.
The dramatic score includes numbers such as On My Own, One More Day, Bring Him Home and Do You Hear The People Sing?
Les Misérables is currently celebrating its 26th year in London, making it the world’s longest-running musical. The show first opened at the Barbican in 1985 before transferring to the Palace later that year, where it remained for nearly 20 years. It opened in its present home, The Queen’s, in 2004. The show is now one of the world’s best-loved musicals and has been produced in 38 countries and translated into 21 different languages.
The current cast includes;
Simon Bowman – Jean Valjean
Norm Lewis – Javert
Gareth Gates – Marius
Katy Secombe – Madame Thenardier
Lucie Jones – Cosette
Rebecca Seale – Fantine
Martin Ball – Thenardier
Samantha Barks – Eponine
Gates, Barks and Jones are all veterans of various reality TV shows – Barks in ‘I’d do Anything’ – the search for a ‘Nancy’ in Oliver, where she came third, Jones in 2009’s X-Factor, where she lasted until week 5 where she was ousted by ‘Jedward’ and Gates from the original Pop Idol in 2002, where he was runner up to Will Young.
Simon Bowman, by contrast is a seasoned West End leading man and his talent, magnetism and professionalism as Jean Valjean shone through and Broadway veteran Norm Lewis was a strong Javert. Gareth Gates on the other hand suffered because of the strength of the rest of the cast as did Rebecca Seale, who had to deliver one of the shows most iconic tunes I Dreamed a Dream both suffered from somewhat thin voices.
Les Mis is one show that lives up to all the hype thrown at it. This is as wonderful as everyone says it is, there is a reason it’s been running for 26 years, If you haven’t seen it I urge you to go. It’ll restore your faith in human kind!