on June 27, 2000
The Original London Cast and Original Broadway Cast recordings were the first English recordings of Les Misérables. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses. For instance:
The Conducting) LONDON is best. The conducting is slower in the London version. Some listeners think that this sacrifices dramatic tension, but the slower speed brings out a hundred details that you never hear on other recordings.
Sound Quality) BROADWAY is best. The London recording has very good sound, but Broadway's sound is more sharp and focused.
Jean Valjean) TIE. Colm Wilkinson sings the role of Valjean on both recordings. His voice is a bit unsteady, but his acting is perfect. And he is IMMEASURABLY better on these two recordings than he was at the Tenth Anniversary Concert.
Javert) LONDON. Roger Allam has a strong, clear voice, and uses it well in Javert's solos. Terrance Mann has more trouble with his solos, but manages to pull through in the rest of the Broadway recording. Both of them are decent actors, but neither of them can touch Philip Quast, who will always be THE Javert.
Fantine) LONDON. Patti LuPone is one of the few Fantine's who sings the role instead of wailing it. And she does more than just sing it. If LuPone's "I Dreamed a Dream" doesn't bring you close to tears, you have a stone heart. Randy Graff on the Broadway recording leaves a lot to be desired, but isn't nearly as bad as Ruthie Henshall in the Tenth Anniversary Concert.
Marius) LONDON! Michael Ball was the first and the definitive Marius. His singing and acting are great, and he makes a potentially sentimental character believable and even likeable. Nowhere does David Bryant on the Broadway recording come close to matching him. Bryant isn't as bad as some people say, but he does little more than sing the notes.
Enjolras) BROADWAY! David Burt on the London recording does a very good job. His voice is light but pleasant, and he is able to sound sufficiently heroic. But Michael Maguire on the Broadway recording is in a different league all together. His entrance in "One Day More" is spine-tingling, as is his opening in "Do You Hear the People Sing?" Neither of these singers come even close to matching Anthony Warlow's Enjolras on the Complete Symphonic Recording, though.
Thenardier) LONDON. There is nothing wrong with Leo Burmester on the Broadway recording. Alun Armstrong, however, does better at conveying the sinister aspect of the rogue innkeeper. And his excellent Cockney accent doesn't hurt either.
Eponine) BROADWAY. Frances Ruffelle sings Eponine on both recordings. Her voice is more refined on the London recording, but she sounds more urgent and exciting on the Broadway. She is excellent on both of them, though.
Cosette) LONDON. There isn't much difference between the way London's Rebecca Caine and Broadway's Judy Kuhn sing Cosette. In fact, Judy Kuhn might be a hair better. What set's the London version in front of the Broadway version is that Cosette gets her own song on the London. Her solo, "I saw him once", makes Cosette's character just a little less shallow.
Well, there you have it. Both recordings are very good, and IMHO the Original London Cast is a shade better. Ultimately, you'll have to chose for yourself.
on July 1, 2005
I've been a huge fan of Les Misérables for many years now, and while I do not own every version, I do have both the Original London and Broadway Recordings, and I have heard selections from the Complete Symphonic Recording (CSR) and the Tenth Anniversary Recording (TAR). Before I break it down by character, let me just say that any recording of Les Misérables is worth your money, even the highlight recordings are enjoyable.
Orchestrations - London. The Broadway recording is fuller and clearer, however, it is also a lot more rushed. Now, for certain songs like "One Day More", that works, but at other times it can be a problem. The orchestrations on London seem more refined, they're slower and you have to opportunity to catch more and experience it better.
Jean Valjean - London. Colm Wilkinson is the definitive Valjean, and plays him on all of the recordings with the exception of the Complete Symphonic Recording. On Broadway he is rushed too much, he speaks quickly, and tends to say every word like it is its own sentence; it ruined "What Have I Done?" for me. What makes Wilkinson the best Valjean, while he is good in the TAR, is exemplified in the London recording. He is a wonderful actor, and appropriately conveys every emotion needed for such a complicated character. His voice is full and powerful, and he hits some truly high and difficult notes with such perfection that he makes it seem easy.
Javert - Tenth Anniversary Recording. Philip Quast is by far the best Javert, without any questions. He performs Javert in both the CSR and the TAR tremendously. While the Javert from London, Roger Allam, is quite good, he leaves a lot to be desired, and I have a strong dislike for Terrance Mann's performance on Broadway, it felt weak. What Quast did that was truly impressive, at least to me, was that he took a character I never really liked, and made me love him. I was blown away by his rendition of "Stars" in the TAR, truly amazing. He fills the characters shoes perfectly, he sounds tough and intimidating, a truly complex and interesting character performed beautifully.
Fantine - This is a matter of taste. I prefer Patti LuPone's Fantine on the London recording, though all of the other Fantines are excellent as well. No matter which recording you end up with, you'll get a good Fantine.
Thenardier - London. Alun Armstrong plays Thenardier on both the London and Tenth Anniversary Recording, and he is spectacular. Yes, he does have a cockney accent, which is somewhat confusing since all of the characters are French, but he is still amazing. He performs Thenardier exactly as he should be, crooked, rude, conniving, and just a little bit skeevy. His renditions of "Master of the House" are just fun to listen to; you can see why that song is such a crowd pleaser.
Enjolras - Broadway. Even though I don't think Michael Maguire is the perfect Enjolras as so many make him out to be, he is quite good. He performs on the TAR as well, though he was vocally less than perfect there. His Enjolras is tough and determined and convincing, though Craig Pinder on the London recording is very good as well, and I've never heard the CSR Enjolras.
Cosette - Tenth Anniversary Recording. Now don't get me wrong, I adore Rebecca Caine's Cosette on the London recording, but Judy Kuhn is just a better performer. Vocally I would say the two are equally impressive, but Kuhn really makes Cosette seem so much more real. She's equally as good on both the Broadway and the TAR, but I would give it to the TAR, simply because Cosette sings many of her songs with Marius, and the Marius on the Broadway version is awful. A final note, on the London recording In My Life and A Heart Full of Love are not only lyrically different (and In My Life is much shorter) but they are all one track, entitled "Love Montage" which includes a song not present on any other recording I have seen called "I Saw Him Once". This song is absolutely beautiful, one of my favorites on any recording; it's definitely worth searching for and getting a hold of.
Marius - London! This is not even a question, there is absolutely no debate here, Michael Ball is, without a doubt, the definitive Marius, no one has ever surpassed him. I cannot say enough about his performance, it's powerful and nuanced, and you sense the conflicting emotions that Marius goes through at different parts of the show. His rendition of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" is truly breathtaking and heartbreaking, one of the most powerful performance I've ever heard. He is wonderful on the London, TAR, and the CSR, however, I would choose London only because it is the one I have listened to most. The only other Marius that there has been was David Bryant on the Broadway recording, and he is awful.
Eponine - Here is the only character where I'm not sure. Truthfully, I wasn't blown away by any renditions of "On My Own", Eponine's main song and one of the most popular from the show. The three Eponines are Frances Ruffelle on the Broadway and London Recordings, Lea Salonga on the TAR, and Kaho Shimada on the CSR. It really seems like there are four different portrayals of this one character (I didn't at first believe that Frances Ruffelle did Broadway, she sounds so different). I guess this comes down to a matter of taste. Of them all, I guess I would have to go with Frances Ruffelle on the London recording, her "On My Own" has an understated elegance, and it's quite beautiful, though Kaho Shimada did an excellent job as well.
As for the other smaller characters, Young Cosette is enjoyable on all the recordings, as is Gavroche, though the boy who plays him on Broadway for some reason bothers me. I guess if I could suggest only one recording, I would have to go with the Original London Cast Recording as being the best overall. Though some of the songs have slightly different lyrics (including "Stars", "Drink with Me," and "On My Own") it is never a problem, and you have to remember that the London recording was the first, and it is truly spectacular.
on December 24, 2012
If you are not familiar with this music, you need this Original London Cast version. You will miss soooo much beauty in your lives if you don't have the OLC version.
First, I've seen the musical over a dozen times and I have every recording and know the lyrics back and forth. I've read the unabridged version and listened to two versions of the unabridged audiobook. The best musical/music/poetry/voices ever recorded. The best book ever written.
The main English recordings are the studio versions. (A) OLC - Original London Cast (B) OBC - Original Broadway Cast (C) CSR- Complete Symphonic Recording.
The live versions are the 10th and 25th anniversaries and the Motion Soundtrack (although the music is studio, the voices sound very much live).
Perfection is the complete version of OLC, but that does not exist. Next to perfection is this OLC version. Jean (Colm Wilkinson) and Javert (Roger Allam) are heaven to listen to. Everyone from Eponine to Marius to Fantine are perfect. The most beautiful recording of anything you will ever hear and is a must to own!!!
OBC, is great, but not as good as OLC. CSR is what you need if you have become a fan. Jean (Gary Morris) is excellent, but not like Colm. Javert (Philip Quast) is as amazing as Roger. An excellent recording and complete. So many additional beautiful songs and the musical story is uncut. (I actually spent hours and hours cutting out audio from CSR to OLC. Embedded lyrics. So I almost have a complete symphonic version of OLC). If you must own one, this is it. I suggest owning two, this OLC and CSR.
The live 10th has a perfect cast. I can't wait for the Blu-Ray version. The 25th is good except two characters. Javert is not a good singer and Marius is horrendous. He's from a boy band and is so painful to watch/listen to that these two choices have tarnished this recording. 10th is superior.
If you are interested in the book, you will not be disappointed, but it is 1400 pages. There is a new audio book version with George Guidall (best narrator ever)and I actually preferred that since there were so many French words/names/locations.
The Remastered Review. The case is half the thickness of the original and still includes the libretto. I put the lossless versions next to each other on my iPhone with expensive quality headphones to compare. First you will notice is about a 20% increase in volume. Instruments pop out more and slightly clearer. Mainly you will notice the volume.
Robert Oshana / AssyrianMe
on February 7, 2004
It's always good to have a copy of the original production of a show that's gone far (for historical purposes, at the very least). Performed live in front of an audience by the best actors ever to play the major roles, however, The Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert recoding is THE Les Miserables CD to get. Of course, if you're a big fan of this musical, you should get ALL versions available, including this one. If you've got limited funds, however, get your copies in this order: #1 TAC version, #2 Complete Symphonic Recording, #3 Original Broadway Cast recording, and #4 Original London Cast recording.
on February 4, 2004
To get the best deal, however, get the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert version. That recording has the best performers ("the dream cast").
on July 1, 2005
I got to know this version of Les Miz the first, and while the Broadway version is still quite good, nothing really compares to the London version.
while some complain that it's too slow, I think the overall result is a precision in the conducting that isn't present in the Broadway version. Colm Wilkinson (who is superb on everything) better showcases his voice, and articulates much better, in my opinion, on the OLC. Fantine's songs sound less like dirges and wailings, and Marius and Cosette are much less shallow, in my opinion. Though Cosette's voice is, possibly, better on the Broadway version, there is much more character to her in the London cast version. Javert, while not perfect, certainly, is much better on the London version.
A note about Master of the House: I know that a lot of people hate the Cockney accent, I think it brings a certain dimension to the song, even though it is supposed to be French. Despite that, I think the Cockney brings out Thenardier's character, prefectly juxtaposing it with Valjeans, so, even though it's unnecessary, I rather like it. That's just my opinion.
Also, about Eponine: I hated Francis Ruffele's voice *at first*. Seriously, it's not as bad as people say, it just takes some getting used to. Even if it's not to the caliber of, say Colm Wilkinson's, it still has it's own certain charm. I do, think, however, that she is better on the London Cast Version.
on January 21, 2004
To hear the best version, get the 10th Anniversary Concert recording. It has the best cast ever assembled for this superb musical!
on November 17, 1999
of all the english recordings of les mis, the OLC is the one i keep coming back to. sure it has imperfections, (the conducting is a bit down-tempo at times), but this recording has an indescribable quality that (for my ears) best captures the essence of this powerful theatre peice. i believe this recording was made while the show was still at the barbican, before it acheived international hit status. therefore, i think it might have something to do with the actors living the characters, rather than celebrating the fact that they got cast in the biggest hit of the season. i agree with everything that "shonberg fan" has written below, except for one point: patti lupone is my favorite fantine. true, she doesn't go all out with the power that girly belters would later lend to this role, but that is exactly what i like. the bright voiced ingenue sound just doesn't work for me in this role. for a woman known for her vocal indulgences, lupone gives us a surprisingly subtle "i dreamed a dream", my favorite ever put on record, and i think that speaks highly of lupone's acting ability. fantine is weak, ill, and ready to give up hope, and hearing patti sing it still breaks my heart after all these years. she conveys better than anyone i've heard what being "miserables" is, and she does it all with a chilling cry in her voice. (i am only refering to the OLC recording, not what patti does with the song in her concerts.) i think it is this same subtlety that makes me prefer this entire recording. even the cast members whose performances were repeated on broadway (colm wilkinson, frances rufelle) turn in more heartfelt, less bombastic interpretations. this of course if merely my opinion, but if you prefer real emotion to typcial broadway glitter and glitz, this is the recording i would recommend. and nobody does it like patti.
on February 12, 2004
This is the first major recording, so this is an excellent copy to have for reference/historical purposes. The performances are good (especialy Colm Wilkinson and Michael Ball's).
If you want the best version, however, get 10th Annversary Concert Recording. TAC's Eponine alone, the brilliant Lea Salonga, is enough reason to get it. She acts better (her interpretation is more heartfelt and definitely more in tune to her character's experiences) and her very pure, powerful, and lovely voice is a hundred times better than Frances Ruffelle's annoyingly scratchy voice. The TAC recording, as many reviewers have noted, also has a much livelier atmosphere -- and even has a special number in the end with Valjeans from different productions around the world performing. So get the TAC (and don't forget the essential Complete Symphonic Recording) instead of this or the Original Broadway Cast recording, if you can't afford to buy them all.
on February 17, 2001
After the beautiful 1980 concept album, Les Misérables was remade substantially with the aid of Herbert Kretzmer into a musical that could be presented to English-speaking audiences. This is the original result.
The Original London Cast is a highlights album, though by its length you'd hardly expect such a thing. It lacks a great deal of the original material, though it has enough to show off its greatest asset-the cast. But first, a technical issue: this album is slow. Slower than the show is now. It's still a good recording, but some numbers are enhanced by the slowness, and others are not.
Several of the greats to touch particular roles would show up here-particularly, Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Alun Armstrong as Thenardier, Frances Ruffelle as Eponine, and Michael Ball as Marius. Patti LuPone is a brilliant Fantine, though Ruthie Henshall plays the role in the Tenth Anniversary Concert. Roger Allam's very good Javert would simply be overshadowed by later performers such as Phillip Quast, while David Burt would likewise never have as great an Enjolras as Anthony Warlow or Michael Maguire.
Colm Wilkinson is fantastic in everything he does, but he originated the role of Valjean, and here we can see why he's always been the first they looked to for new productions and cast albums. "What Have I Done," "Who Am I," and "Bring Him Home" on this recording are more than enough to show off this brilliant tenor. All quite simply rock "Confrontation," unfortunately, is far too slow-paced to take in the drama that it should have. (I told you it had its downsides.) Still, wonderful performance.
Alun Armstrong sports a wonderful accent in "Master of the House," "Plumet Attack," "Dog Eats Dog," and "Beggars at the Feast," though he may be his most darkly funny in the last. He takes one of the only dark and yet comic part in a very pathos-oriented show, and has a more than proper amount of fun with it.
And then there's Frances Ruffelle...yeah, Frances Ruffelle...oh. Sorry. Got distracted. Frances Ruffelle is a great Eponine. Her voice is perfectly imperfect for the role. If you don't believe me, listen to her understated yet beautiful "On My Own," where the slow tempos work wonders. She captures the room without overdoing the finale of the song, as Kaho Shimada and various Eponines to follow would. Bah. Her death is in a lovely duet with Michael Ball. Lucky dog. Sorry, but if I were Marius and Frances Ruffelle were Eponine, well...who's Cosette?
And Michael Ball. The quintessential Marius. Great actor, great singer. Check him out specifically as he plays off of David Burt in "Red and Black." And when (sniff) Eponine had to go and get shot, lucky Michael Ball got to hold her during "A Little Fall of Rain." They play the song better than in any other recording. Oh, and his "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" is strong on this recording, just as Michael Ball's version always is. The slow tempos make it all the more haunting. (So you see, they are good for something.)
Now. "Stars" was not a show-stopper at this point, so it really is neat to hear Roger Allam's version with a much more calm ending. However, it shows in "Stars" (and in "Confrontation" and in "Javert's Suicide" and all) that Allam is really not the strongest Javert out there-I'm much more of a fan of Phillip Quast (Complete Symphonic Recording, Tenth Anniversary Concert), and to a lesser degree Terrence Mann (Original Broadway Cast), as Javert.
Likewise, David Burt (who is a great actor and singer) would never meet the fire in Anthony Warlow (Complete Symphonic Recording), or Michael Maguire (Original Broadway Cast, Tenth Anniversary Concert) in "Red and Black" and "Do You Hear the People Sing."
The ensemble is up and down, especially down in the case of Clive Carter's Grantaire, but Ian Tucker is a cool Gavroche, and you get to hear the full version of "Little People" here. It's fun.
The album, then, has some great cast members to get it for. And yes, they really do make it worthwhile-this is shown off in "One Day More," particularly. Here, Allam and Burt perform up to par with the great interpretations of Wilkinson, Armstrong, Ruffelle, and Ball. Because it's slow, and because it's missing a whole lot, the Original London Cast is not an album to stand on its own. Get it as a complement to the Complete Symphonic Recording, I'd say, and you'll have yourself a really good pair of Les Miz albums.