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Having seen the 25th anniversary production at the Barbican last year, and the recent Alfie Boe / Matt Lucas version in July, my revived passion for Les Mis demanded that I buy this CD. I personally love the 'background' noise and the addition of recitative, it heightens the enjoyment for me, and gives a more 'theatre' feel to the music. I do agree with some other reviewers here, that Fantine is not the best, though she has a good voice, her rendition of the very important 'I dreamed a dream' is disappointing, but Eponine has always been a more contemporary casting, and she is very good. My favourite character is probably Javert, and for me Philip Quast is supreme; Earl Carpenter has an excellent voice, though a little rushed and weak in his opening lines 'Now bring me prisoner 24601' with which Quast and Lewis stamped their authority from the first note. I was relieved to see that Marius was given to Gareth Gates and not the appalling Nick Jonas - who ever thought he could do justice to the part? - the cast of students must have looked at Jonas with amazement, any one of them is far more talented and worthy. Jean Valjean? Alfie Boe has my heart. Finally, the orchestration - superb, as always, the audience roar of appreciation and anticipation when the first notes boom out sends a chill down my spine every time I listen to it! Love it.
Comparing this to The Original 1985 Cast Recording (Colm Wilkinson lead), 25th Anniversary (Alfie Boe lead), and the Motion Picture Soundtrack (Hugh Jackman), this stands out as my favourite.
The recording has the most life, and puts you in a seat at a live performance, and John Owen Jones as Valjean has the mastery and the emotional delivery to make him the best Valjean in the recorded history of the show.
Earl Carpenter's Javert is excellent too, and I really enjoyed Rosalind James' unusual take on Eponine. It has an informal, intimate quality. Gareth Gates' Marius is earnest, solid, if not outstanding.
And the new orchestration is far superior to the original version.
The only downside? Madalena Alberto as Fantine. Expert but reserved. I Dreamed A Dream feels impersonal, like it's sung to an audience, not to herself. Therein lies the trick to that piece, imo; it's a complete bearing of the soul. That's how Anne Hathaway nailed it.
If you've never been fortunate enough to see Les Miserables live this is the next best thing. Recorded live with John Owen-Jones in the lead with Earl Carpenter playing Javert his nemisis this captures the show brilliantly. I only wish they would release a dvd thankfully I saw the current tour in Manchester.
I've seen the play and the film (twice) and loved both versions. I can't get the music out of my head and the CD I already have is too 'clean' - a bit too musical theatre. I wanted to hear all the live sound of both productions, and retain the film visuals which I found so moving, and I wanted every note, and every spoken word because I think this is some of the finest composing with all its elements. This CD was the one for me - delivers perfectly and I haven't stopped listening to it since it arrived. I love the applause in between, because after all, this is a story about people. The singing is spot on - so you can really bask in the melodies.
If you are familiar with the Music of Les Miserables then you do not need it described. I saw the London production several times loving it more each time. This CD just serves to increase my enjoyment of this amazing musical. It seems to me a faithful representation of the stage version.
Having previously bought the 25th Anniversary DVD, I already knew what to expect from this CD. Wonderful music, sung and played beautifully throughout by a cast, chorus, and orchestra of absolute top-quality.
This is a must-have for any fan of Les Mis, or any fan of musicals. Absolutely wonderful album. Buy it!