A performance of Les Miserables by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, for a 10th Anniversary Concert celebration.
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 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
The 2008 two-disc edition presents the concert on a single-sided disc (the original DVD split the concert over two sides) with optional English subtitles. It's also in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio) comparied to the original's 1.33 full-screen. The second disc has Stage by Stage: Les Miserables, the hourlong documentary from 1988. Unfortunately the sound is only Dolby Digital 2.0. Early editions of the DVD had an odd omission (compared to the earlier Sony DVD)--the first 10 seconds of Gavroche's "Little People" were missing ("Good evening, dear inspector, lovely evening, my dear...")--that has now been corrected. --David Horiuchi