The 10th anniversary concert video of the international musical sensation Les Misérables might be the best thing to appease fans until a full-fledged movie comes along. Or it might be even better, as feature films are ... more »often subject to extramusical casting considerations and this 1995 dream cast is superb. Reprising their roles from the original London company are Colm Wilkinson (Valjean), Michael Ball (Marius), and Alun Armstrong (Thenardier). From Broadway come Judy Kuhn (Cosette), Lea Salonga (Eponine), and Michael Maguire (Enjolras); from a later London production comes Ruthie Henshall (Fantine); and from Australia comes Philip Quast (Javert). Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's score vividly captures the passion of Victor Hugo's epic tale of post-Revolutionary France, combining tear-jerking ballads ("I Dreamed a Dream," "Bring Him Home") and rousing anthems ("Do You Hear the People Sing"). The format of this concert is closer to that of a dramatic cantata rather than a fully staged production; the singers stand at their microphone stands with an orchestra and chorus behind them, but they do wear costumes and participate in some movement. At certain points such as the climax of the barricade scene, the video switches to action from a stage production. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra sounds great, and it can be thrilling when 200 choristers (dressed in logo T-shirts) rise to their feet for a full-company number such as "One Day More." Also, subtitles provide date and scene information and help move the story along. The 147-minute video contains footage not seen when Les Mis was a PBS pledge-drive staple, most notably the encore in which a progression of 17 actors who have played Valjean around the world share "Do You Hear the People Sing?" Each sings a line in his native language, a testament to the enduring power of this show to audiences everywhere. --David Horiuchi« less
Kwan Yin | the centre of the sun (aaagh it's hot) | 02/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Words fail me when I try to describe this video. Les Miz is a glorious play, what with the genius of Boublil & Schonberg. I didn't think I would much enjoy this video because of its lack of actual set & acting and also the few short pieces cut. But it still blew me away. Best of all was the cast. It truly was the definitive edition. Colm Wilkinson is just the perfect Valjean. His voice has such emotion & resonance to it. And he has such a strong presence as an actor. Philip Quast was another excellent performer. I've once heard his voice described as "flinty" and I think that that's a good word for it. He really portrays Javert with such coldness, he makes the character quite vivid. Ruthie Henshall's Fantine is one of those rare performances in musical theatre which simply cannot be surpassed. Henshall's voice is so stirring, heartbreaking, reverberating, deep, chilling, and beautiful. Her "I Dreamed a Dream" is excellent! Michael Ball's Marius needs to introduction. He's THE Marius, what else is there to say? His voice so, so powerful and he sings with such heart. His "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" is truly captivating. Michael Maguire's Enjolras is often criticised. Yes, this wasn't the best performance he probably could have given and he did miss a few notes. But he still has a great voice. People argue that Anthony Warlow is a better Enjolras. While I agree that Warlow has the vocal edge, there's something in Maguire's performance that makes him so much like Enjolras and just so perfect for the part. Judy Kuhn's Cosette was the one performance which I can say is good but not great. She didn't strike me the first time I heard her, though she has grown on me. She does have a lovely voice, but I just don't go for the whole "ringing soprano" thing. In fact, almost all Cosettes & Christines and the like in general just annoy me. I think Kuhn sounded better as Pocahontas. Hannah Chick's little Cosette was SO adorable! She didn't miss a note during "Castle On A Cloud" which she just sang so sweetly. At the same time, she didn't seem to overact the sweetness, which I've seen all too many Cosettes do. And the way she kept singing after the stage light explosion was very professional. And Adam Searles, gotta Love him. Similar to Maguire, I have heard Gavroches with better voices that Searles but he just has the part of Gavroche down so well. He just has the perfect street-wise, smart-aleck attitude perfectly. I was shocked as to how many people disliked Lea Salonga's Eponine. Even more shocking was how people insisted that Frances Ruffelle was much better. I think Salonga was THE most phenomenal singer of the night. To me, Ruffelle sounds terrible! Many have called Salonga too "bitter" or "angry" but Eponine is a bitter, angry character! Salonga sings with such force, and at other times (e.g. "A Little Fall of Rain") with such sad sweetness. Her "On My Own" was so excellent that watching it is an intense experience. I could barely tear my eyes from the screen the first time I saw her sing it. I think there is no question that she's THE definitive Eponine. 'Course that's just my opinion.All in all, this was the greatest performance of Les Miz I have ever seen!"
Exceptional Performance, but with one flaw
Kyle Bolme | WA, USA | 03/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This performance of Les Miserables is simply fantastic. The words are heartbreaking. I probably would have rated this 4.8 stars, but the pull-down wouldn't let me.Javert is portrayed by Philip Quast, and just to see him act as Javert is worth the price of the movie.Lea Salonga performs Eponine with a beautiful performance of "on my own" and "a little fall of rain".Michael Ball is the perfect Marius, and his "Empty chairs" brings tears to my eyes.Ruthie Henshall plays as Fantine, who has many moods, portrayed splendidly.Adam Searles is Gavroche, the sly street urchin. I wonder why the "little people" song was cut so short... he was underused in the musical, but oh well...Colm Wilkinson was perfect in every way as the convict from the chain gang, Valjean, who turns to good as the mayor, "Monsieur Madeleine". Javert, though, finds out and sends Valjean out of the city.The thenardiers are hilarious, especially in "master of the house." they are great comic relief for this dark movie.The only one i have critisizm for is Judy Kuhn playing Cossette. Her voice is not necessarily that pretty when she sings in this version. I've heard her sing in lower keys before,and she was much better-sounding in those movies, take Disney's Pocahontas, for example.This movie is rated PG-13 for language, a TINY bit of crude humor, and strong sexual content. I would recommend this for ages 10 and up.I hope you find this review useful!"
A DREAM cast!
Grace | Los Angeles | 06/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is truly a dream cast! Colm Wilkinson (Valjean), Philip Quast (Javert), Michael Ball (Marius), and Lea Salonga (Eponine) especially make this anniversary concert a must-have for any Les Mis fan. Be warned though -- this video is NOT a replacement for seeing the musical live! It's an abridged version with several edits and less props and acting. If you've never seen the musical before... wait before you buy this, or you'll probably be either confused or disappointed. If you have seen this musical and love it, DEFINITELY get this video! It may not be a replacement for the musical live, but it's a nice little memory of it. Turn the video on and sing along to it while you're at home :)I've seen Les Mis in London's West End.. the cast there was great, but this video has the definitive "dream team"!Colm Wilkinson's Valjean is powerful and passionate, but gentle all at once. He has a spectacular voice, especially in "Who am I?" His is a great counterpoint to Philip Quast's interpretation of Javert... whose strong, forceful singing is breathtaking! Quast's rendition is amazing... his strong booming voice is also somehow tragic and haunting.Michael Ball and Lea Salonga are (in my opinion) the reason why you should get this tape! Wow.. Michael Ball is THE Marius... listening to his beautiful, elegant voice could bring anyone to their knees! With Michael Ball as Marius, it's no wonder Marius gets all the girls in this video. His duet with Lea Salonga in "A Little Fall of Rain" is exquisite: perfectly in harmony, perfectly acted! Lea Salonga was beautiful as Eponine. Yes, she was "bitter"... but Eponine is a bitter character! Her "On My Own" is passionate and bitter, yet sad and resigned... Salonga is truly one of the greatest!Ruthie Henshall as Fantine was great in "I Dreamed A Dream"... what I thought was the most tragic song of the entire musical. Judy Kuhn as Cosette was good too, but a little nasal-y in "In My Life". Little Cosette didn't miss a note and Gavroche was pretty adorable too. The Thenardiers (Jenny Galloway and Alun Armstrong) were hilarious and provided the necessary "comic relief" in this otherwise tragic tale. They were great fun to watch....All in all, a great, grrreat video!"
The Dream Cast
Lisa Verson | Dayton, OH | 08/22/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I absolutely loved Les Miserables in Concert. Even though the actors weren't actually acting out the scenes, the singing was still incredible.I don't think they could have picked a better array of talent to be on that stage than they did. The irriplaceable Colm Wilkinson returned as Jean Valjean--the character he created in the London and Broadway premieres. Ruthie Henshall was a wonderful Fantine and in my opinion, 'I Dreamed a Dream' was one of the best songs in the show. Lea Solanga sang beautifully as usual, playing the love sick and ignored Eponine. Michael Ball. Wow. What more can I say about him? He was, as always, incredible. I wish I could have seen him in the original London production of Les Mis! I am glad that I at least own the original London cast CD of Les Mis so that I can hear how he sounded then compared to now. The children, Hannah Chick (young Cosette) and Adam Searles (Gavroche) were terrific. There was one point in Young Cosette's song, Castle on a Cloud, when you could hear a loud bang, but being the professional that she is, she kept going, even though you could tell that she definitely heard it.Judy Kuhn (Cosette) did a wonderful job as well, but there were times when it sounded as if she was a little sharp. I think that this role makes her strain her voice a little. I know she was in the original Broadway production, but over the years, one's voice changes and I think you can tell that has happened with her. Other than that, she did a wonderful job with most of the songs.Michael Maguire was terrfic as Enjorlas. He is such an incredible singer (not to mention very tall--I think he's taller than the rest of the cast!) and that was proven in 'Do You Hear the People Sing?' and 'Red and Black'. Philip Quast is truly wonderful as Javert, the policeman after Valjean. His singing cannot be matched, especially in the song where he plummets to his death.Alun Armstrong was simply hilarious. He does a wonderful job of making a complete fool out of Thenardier (which the character is). Jenny Galloway is also very funny as Madame Thendardier. Their duet, 'Beggar at the Feast' was so funny that I had tears in my eyes! They are rather convincing (even though it's only a concert, one can only imagine what it is like on an actual stage).So, if you loved the London and Broadway productions or just love Les Miserables, go and buy this version. It may not be an actual performance, but it is well worth the purchase just to see such wonderful talent on stage."
Simply put, WOW
Lisa Verson | 12/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First things first, let me make something abundantly clear: This is NOT a video of the musical! It is instead a video of people standing in front of microphones singing the (almost entire) soundtrack to the musical. If you're looking for incredible scenery, you'd probably have better luck seeing the show. Now that that's taken care of, this video is one of the most incredible things that I have ever seen. Instead of taking the cast members of a single city or tour, this is a 'best of the best' selection, so every part is simply incredible. Especially of note are Phillip Quast as Javert and Eponine (forgive me, I can't remember who sang her part). I found it well worth the expense"