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Change is good... right?
on October 13, 2010
This new 2010 recording of Les Miserables provides some interesting surprises. First, it's a live recording, so there's some "extra" noises throughout, such as some odd-sounding fight sounds at the end of "The Confrontation," as well as applause from the audience. It can be slightly distracting at times, but it never really gets in the way of the performance you hear.
For someone who is used to the previous recordings, this new live album is interesting to hear. The performances are certainly well done, given how they have to compete with the classic performances everyone is used to listening to. It's hard for anyone to compete with Colm Wilkinson, but John Owen-Jones does a great job and provides a wonderful interpretation of the part. Earl Carpenter is likewise a very good Javert. The other performances are also good, but none quite stand out as amazing to me. Again, as it is a live recording, one can perhaps imagine how much of these individuals performances may be visual as well (especially the Thenardiers for example).
Now to detail the changes to the show. Like any show, Les Miz has necessarily evolved over the years. This current album gives a glimpse of the changes that have taken place for the 25th Anniversary touring production. First thing I noticed (as a former band geek) were the orchestrations. Again, being live, they don't have the full orchestra was used in either the 10th Anniversary or Complete Symphonic recordings, but you can still notice some differences. Generally, it sounds more energetic, and the pace is quicker. There are less instrumental sections (or they're shorter), likely to keep the show under 3 hours. It was nice to get a piece of the previously un-recorded "Valjean meets Cosette" scene that was added to the show in the 90s.
As for the packaging: The 2 CD-set comes with a nice insert with some nice interviews/essays about the 25 years of Les Miz. Also, they appear to have wanted to put as much music in as possible to fit into the CDs (and they got most of it). Although I wonder in this digital age, why not have a fuller "deluxe" edition for download?
Overall, I give this recording 4 stars. It's great to get a new fresh take on the show, and it's overall great to listen to (good example being "One Day More.") As someone who grew up with the classic recordings (Complete Symphonic and the 10th Anniversary being my faves), this will never be my favorite recording of Les Miz, but it still stands on its own and is a valuable addition to any Les Miserables collection.