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Les Miserables: Original Broadway Cast Recording
LP (12" album, 33 rpm), Cast Recording
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Les Misérables (Original Broadway Cast Recording) [Explicit]
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Les Miserables is a sung-through musical based on the novel Les Miserables by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. Premiering in Paris in 1980, it has music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, with an English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer. Set in early 19th-century France, it is the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child.
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I, unfortunately, have never seen the musical, but I love the music. The liner notes provide a synopsis of the story that helps put the songs in context (very useful for a novice).
The full 2-disc cast recording is also available (if you're a more serious fan), but for almost DOUBLE the price. For the casual fan, or the fan on a tight budget, this is the way to go. This is also ideal if you want to listen to Les Mis on your CD player from beginning to end without having to switch discs.
This CD features the cast from the original Broadway production (1987). A couple performers are the same as in the original London cast (1985), including Valjean (Colm Wilkinson). The London show was the original English-language production, adapted from an earlier French show. Also available is the Tenth Anniversary Concert recording, which includes a "dream cast" of performers from the London, Broadway and other productions.
If you're looking for a more complete album (and are not finicky about accents), I'd recommend the Original London Cast Recording. It is the original original of the musical as it is currently known, it's the full 2 discs, AND it's a bargain (priced in the same range as this highlights CD). The Tenth Anniversary Concert Recording is excellent, too, and comparably priced (for the full 2 discs). But it's a concert and has applause and stuff at the end of each number.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
This highlights CD is GREAT for the casual fan or someone who wants just a single disc. Anyone looking for ALL the songs from the musical would do better to pick up the London Cast or the Tenth Anniversary Concert, which are both 2-discs and reasonably priced. But any way you go, I highly recommend Les Misérables!
colm wilkinson brings similar ferocity and sincerity to jean valjean as mandy patinkin did with che in evita on broadway. (another one of my strongest childhood memories as an 8 year old.) quite frankly, colm wilkinson gives the performance of his life.
the orchestration is transcending and effortlessly transports you from scene to scene.
the recent success of the movie had me feeling the need to reach backwards and to hear this sung by truly gifted vocalists.
this is primo, double-disc, broadway-musical, song-cycle goodness.
the london javert had a weak voice and can barely get through some lines without swallowing air; javert's solos demand a strong baritone voice to bring out his menacing nature and ultimate anguish; the broadway javert fills your room while the london javert has to go into lower registers, at lower volume to complete some lyrics.
colm wilkinson is pretty much the same jean valjean on both recordings although i think he was a tad stronger on broadway; i did not notice any talking or sliding by; he gives you his all; his "bring him home" in london is very good, although on the ten year anniversary album it is sublimely perfect.
fantine, eponine, cosette and marius all seem about the same, to me, anyway, on both stages and i found nothing weak about either version's performances of those roles. i wish lea salonga were on every album and michael ball is so good you take him for granted.
enjolras was much stronger on broadway and his songs are rousing, so a booming baritone is a necessity, a la javert.
i found the broadway thenardier preferable because his voice is gruffer and deeper; the london thenardier, a cockney, grew on me, though. the broadway madame thenardier's final exhortation to "drinking vessel rectal insertion action" is more entertaining.
the london show contains more material, including gavroche's solo on "little people" that was cut from broadway. there are also some orchestral lead-ins that are changed; for completeness's sake, the london version might be preferable.
again, one's preference of a particular verison of les miz will probably correspond to which version one heard first. i prefer the broadway version in part because i found the cockney accents on the london stage disconcerting, although the cockney accent corresponds to lower class paris dialect, i suppose.
in my review of the broadway and london versions of my fair lady, i panned the london version, in part because of the way the british generally approach the musical stage; they turn musicals into something somewhere between gilbert and sullivan and a busker music hall show. they screw up the orchestrations and decrease the level of musicality.
that is not the case in les miz; the brits were not working from an americal version, as in MFL, which they could screw up, but had developed the cutting edge show extrapolated from the french concept album.
if i only had the money to buy one, it would be the broadway cast version. but that's just my two cents/pence/francs...