Les Mis Fans ~ Keep An Eye Out During PBS Pledge Break Times

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by AragornElessar, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    ROFL, I had a somewhat opposite problem--I went in to seeing Phantom in Toronto having heard Michael Crawford sing the role so many times I wasn't really sure Colm Wilkinson (whom I'd heard as Valjean) was going to work at all for me! And while vocally, I'll still take Crawford's singing, Wilkinson's physical performance blew me away. He really threw his entire body into the role.

    And I really need to catch the POTO anniversary to hear Ramin's Phantom, as it seems unlikely we'll be hearing much more of him as the character in "Love Never Dies" (or as some have called it "Paint Never Dries"...)
  2. Latte

    Latte Well-Known Member

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    The Phantom was stunning, simply stunning.
  3. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    I've gotten around to writing up the females! First up is Fantine.

    Fantine (Ruthie Henshall vs. Lea Salonga)

    Vocals:

    Both are fantastic. Lea’s voice is more pure and prettier, but I also like Ruthie’s lower voice, and she has the ability to make some notes truly magical. Listen to the way she sings “forgiving” at 1:29 here.

    Lea now needs to reach for some of the higher notes that she sang effortlessly when she was younger, such as “be” at 4:04 here. She does reach them, however, and her lower notes are stronger than ever. So it's not a criticism but rather a reality of age. Ruthie doesn't sound the way she did in her 20's, nor does anyone else. My gripes with Lea's vocals are not about sound but rather about phrasing, as described below. Phrasing is also the reason I don't like Patti Lupone.

    Lea and Ruthie are both amazing individually, but when you combine them, it's surreal. Check out the harmony starting 5:55 here.

    Acting/interpretation

    Fantine's signature song is "I Dreamed a Dream", and that's also where the interpretation differences are greatest.

    Lea’s Fantine is an ESL teacher. To help English learners, she treats and pronounces every syllable independently. Proficient speakers tend to glaze over some syllables or pronounce them rather quickly, and that makes it difficult for non-native speakers to understand. Lea slows down those syllables so students have time to think about whether they’re short or long vowels.

    English has some syllables that are difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce. To help her students reduce their accents, Lea clearly demonstrates the mouth movement and tongue placement required for each syllable.

    As an ESL teacher, Lea realizes that as her students become more proficient, they don’t have to rely as much on these pedagogical strategies, so Lea does this less toward the end of the song.

    However, she still understands that with any language, some phrases should not be taken literally. Figurative language can beautifully convey emotion, but they are confusing for non-native speakers. Not to worry—Lea acts the emotion behind those lines. Sometimes emotions can be hard to read, and Lea doesn’t want to confuse students, so her emotional displays leave little room for confusion.

    Needless to say, I found Lea’s performance very unnatural and overdone to the point of discomfort. I realize that watching from the last row in a theater is different from watching it up close, so maybe Lea's performance was much better to the people in the back row. But the performers knew that more people would see the videos than be in the theater. Lea's co-stars adapted for that, but she didn't.

    In terms of interpretation of the character, Ruthie’s Fantine has already given up and is resigned to her fate. Lea’s Fantine, on the other hand, still has a fire in her and isn’t going down without a fight. I don’t have a preference with regard to that.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2012
  4. jenny12

    jenny12 Well-Known Member

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    I agree with your analysis Gazpacho and enjoyed reading it. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I didn't care for Lea's Fantine as much as Ruthie's and you articulated in really well. I think Lea is wonderful and I love her voice, but for me the over-enunciation of Lea's Fantine was distracting and took me out of the performance.
  5. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    Last ones--Eponine and Cosette!

    Eponine (Lea Salonga vs. Samantha Barks)

    Vocals:

    Lea by a mile. Samantha has difficulty reaching the lower notes and is screechier.

    Acting and interpretation:

    Lea’s Eponine is pissed. Check out the bitchface at 0:38 and again at 4:37 here. She is pissed at Marius for choosing Cosette and isn't going down without a fight. Unlike her Fantine performance, Lea doesn’t overdo it with Eponine. Her diction is clear but not unnatural like an ESL teacher. Her mouth movements are a bit exaggerated, but not to the point that it distracted from her performance. Her emotions are also clearly expressed, maybe a bit over-expressed, but still not as much as Fantine's and nothing that couldn’t be explained by the fact that the character is young and immature.

    Samantha's Eponine is more naive and less assertive than Lea's. Samantha's Eponine isn't the fighter type.

    Eponine in the musical is a more sympathetic character than in the novel, and Marius likes her as a friend. Both Lea and Samantha bring appeal to Cosette, but in different ways. Samantha’s Eponine is more immediately likable, and one can easily see why Marius would like her as a friend. But Lea’s bitchface and pissiness actually make the character more charismatic, in a sassy way. She knows she's hotter and spunkier than boring Cosette, and that's why she's pissed. She reminds me of a cat—bitchy yet charming.

    Lea does Eponine’s death infinitely better than Samantha. It’s her best moment from either of her performances. There is one moment by Samantha, however, that strikes me for its subtle power. Look at the way she turns her head at 2:22 here.

    Cosette (Judy Kuhn vs. Katie Hall)

    Vocals:

    Judy Kuhn by a mile. I’m not a big fan of high sopranos, but I can’t help but find Judy's voice beautiful. Katie Hall sounds squeaky at times.

    Acting/interpretation

    This is the only major character for whom I clearly prefer the 25th edition. I much prefer some of the minor characters in the 25th, as described earlier. For the other major characters, I either don’t have a preference or prefer the 10th edition.

    Cosette is a bland character. It’s no wonder that many fans root for Eponine. It doesn’t help that Eponine, in both editions, is hotter than Cosette.

    Judy Kuhn makes a boring character even more boring. I know senior citizens with more energy and spunk than Judy Kuhn’s Cosette. She is reserved to the point that she barely shows any emotion when the man who raised her tells her that he’s dying. There are plenty of people like that who are very sweet and kind and lovable when you get to know them. But those aren’t the people Marius, or anyone, fall in love with at first sight.

    Katie Hall, on the other hand, injects some expression and personality into Cosette. Although her interpretation isn’t amazing, at least she shows some youth, energy, cuteness, and sweetness. I suspect she would have been even better with a better Marius.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  6. MLIS

    MLIS Active Member

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    I've been rewatching some of the 25th anniversary clips thanks to Gazpacho's excellent posts, and one of the things that struck me in both the One Day More reprise with the original cast (besides Michael Ball's absolute schooling of Nick Jonas - THAT is how you sing Marius, child) and the Valjean quartet (breathtaking) is how much they are all enjoying the moment and moved by the music. Whenever they're not singing (and even when they are, sometimes) eyes are closed, faces are grinning/beaming, they are applauding each other, and it's such a joy to see so many performers of different generations and backgrounds brought together by love of this show. I particularly like when Colm Wilkinson steps forward to begin Bring Him Home and the Valjean next to him (is it John Owen Jones?) makes this fantastic "yeah, that's Colm freakin' Wilkinson, this is so cool" face. The appreciation of and respect for each other and the music make those two of my favourite Les Mis moments, ever. Which includes seeing Colm do Valjean three times in Toronto. Other Valjeans have been terrific, but there's only one Colm, imho. I saw him in concert last summer and he did Bring Him Home (of course) and it still the most amazing combination of actor, voice, and song.
  7. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if part of that was due to the fact that this was not the actual play. There were a few characters who I thought did not really physically act the role. I just assumed it was for the above reason. I thought that Kuhn's vocal passion was there.
  8. ngcskate

    ngcskate New Member

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    Does anyone know why Michael Crawford didn't sing on the 25th anniversary special? I kept waiting for him to come out at some point during Music of the Night and he never did :-(
  9. victoriaheidi

    victoriaheidi New Member

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    Kuhn was also the original Broadway Cosette. I'd love to hear an opinion comparing that recording to the 10th, because I feel like she was really sweet-sounding on the OBCR.
  10. colinmom71

    colinmom71 Active Member

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    Per Wikipedia - "Beginning with previews in February 2011, Crawford originated the part of the Wizard in the new Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical version of The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium, which had its official opening on 1 March 2011.[27] He stated on This Morning: Sunday, on 14 August 2011, that he had signed on for a further six months in the show.[28] He left the production on 5 February 2012.

    On 2 October 2011, Crawford made a special appearance during the finale of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall — a fully staged production of the musical at the famous London venue — marking 25 years since the show received its world premiere. Although reunited with original Christine, Sarah Brightman, Crawford did not sing as he had just finished performing in a matinee of The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium."
  11. The Accordion

    The Accordion Well-Known Member

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    ? Didn't sing because he just finished performing? I don't get it? Performers do 2 shows in one day regularly.
  12. ngcskate

    ngcskate New Member

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    That does seem really strange, unless he strained his voice or was saving it because he had another performance later in the day.
  13. UGG

    UGG Well-Known Member

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  14. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

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    Wow, her daughter looks so much like her. Beautiful girl.
  15. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    I finally found clips of the 25th anniversary Gavroche that haven't been removed for copyright. Check out the lil dude--that's what you call star quality! His "long live us" makes me :lol: and :rollin:

    ETA: Here's another partial clip of Gavroche. Love it!!

    I also loved the reprise of One Day More, though it's clear that several of the original cast members don't sound the way they did 25 years ago. Also, what was Frances Ruffelle wearing?! Rebecca Caine seemed to enjoy it in particular. Look how excited she gets when the Thenardier's do their bit.

    Also love the look on Ramin's face when it sinks in that he's signing alongside his idol, Colm Wilkinson. Ramin was at his best--even better than in the show itself. I think he upped his game upon realizing that he was up against Michael Ball rather than Nick Jonas :p
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012
  16. soxxy

    soxxy Guest

  17. UGG

    UGG Well-Known Member

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    Did you see this comment on the youtube video?

    LMAO.

    And no one should ever play Marius except Michael Ball IMO. No one else does that role justice. I never understood going from Michael Ball in the London production, to that awful David Bryant on the Broadway production. He was so horrible to listen to. Was he someone's relative???
  18. victoriaheidi

    victoriaheidi New Member

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    Her daughter is a singer as well (I haven't read the article; they may totally address her in there) with a platinum hit called "Pack Up." I'm a huge Eliza Doolittle fan!
  19. Kruss

    Kruss Well-Known Member

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    I agree about Michael Ball. But if you mean right after the first London run, Michael left the production due to some anxiety-type issues - he didn't do shows for awhile. I think (though I'm not positive of the timing) that one of his returns to the stage was as Raoul in the second London company of Phantom, after Crawford, et al., went to New York.
  20. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    Upon re-watching it, I don't think Norm Lewis is more effortless than Philip Quast, as I had originally thought, based on their vocal power. Norm sounds a bit more powerful, but I think it's purely because his voice is lower. Both are fantastic.

    And I'm even more in love with Alfie's voice. I dare you to watch this video and not love Alfie's voice. (And also John Owen Jones, Simon Bowman, and Colm Wilkinson, though Colm has lost a bit from age.)

    I finally saw the clip of Earl Carpenter as the bishop. He was perfect, sooo much better than the freaky bishop in the 10th anniversary edition. Very gentle, very earnest.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  21. sk8sue

    sk8sue SHERLOCKED

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  22. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

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    Oh my! I got misty too!
  23. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

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    So did I! It looks REALLY good!
  24. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    Sk8sue, thank you for finding and posting that.
  25. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

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    You aren't alone!
    Now, I'm really looking forward to this.
  26. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    Anne Hathaway's singing in that trailer gets me a bit nervous about the vocals. Hugh Jackman, Samantha Barks, and Aaron Tveit are proven musical theater talents, but the rest aren't.

    She is, or at least was, a better singer than Crowe, based on what I've heard. If that's her "I Dreamed a Dream", then what is Crowe's "Stars" like?
  27. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    I got the impression that she was going for less vocal quality and more acting/emotion of a dying woman. She has a better voice than that. But, who knows?
  28. my little pony

    my little pony snarking for AZE

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    :slinkaway

    at least it looks nice
  29. pollyanna

    pollyanna Don't blink

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    Ditto. I got goosebumps.

    I had the same reaction as cruisin, that she was going for the emotion, rather than vocal purity. I wonder if that how Hooper directed it? Still, we haven't heard the entire song, so we'll see.
  30. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    The two aren't mutually exclusive, as great musical theater actresses have demonstrated.

    The experienced musical theater actors will be bringing their best voices, so I hope the contrast in quality doesn't sound jarring. In the Phantom of the Opera movie, not only was Gerald Butler unqualified as a singer, but Patrick Wilson was so much better that it was jarring. Oh well, yet another reason to root for Valjean over Javert :)

    The artistic visuals look beautiful.
  31. jenny12

    jenny12 Well-Known Member

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    Although Anne Hathaway doesn't have the most powerful voice, I thought she did a great job capturing the emotion of the song and I was moved. Obviously you can't tell everything from a trailer, but it got me really excited to see the film. I think Hugh Jackman will be brilliant.
  32. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    No, they are not. And as much as I love I Dreamed a Dream, and the power in the voices that have sung it on stage. I think that Hathaway may be giving it a different twist. That Fantine was depressed and ill, and not up to a power ballad. Or, Hathaway is just not up to the level of power that we're used to hearing with that song. I don't know.
  33. my little pony

    my little pony snarking for AZE

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    i thought she sounded like she had a head cold in the high parts
  34. TheGirlCanSkate

    TheGirlCanSkate New Member

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    Last edited: May 30, 2012
  35. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    She also did a very nice job at a tribute to Meryl Streep. http://youtu.be/rV7ZD9Gvf_Q

    As pleasant as her voice is, it's not suited for musical theater like Les Miserables. However, the director worked around that by having her sing the song after she's sold her hair, from what I've read. In the musical, the song is sung after she gets fired from the factory, before she becomes ill. She's in despair but not broken down and ill. The movie version, however, moves the song to after she's completely broken and ill.

    Very smart way to work around her vocal limitations!

    Really looking forward to Hugh Jackman's performance. While I'm not expecting Alfie Boe's voice, Jackman does have the singing chops and I imagine can adapt well. The role of Valjean was originally written for a baritone, but when they found Colm Wilkinson, they wanted him so much for the role that they re-wrote it! Also very excited to see/hear Samantha Barks.

    Most curious about the movie's Marius. He'll inevitably be compared to an impossibly high standard (Michael Ball) and a low standard (Nick Jonas). My guess is that it'll fall somewhere in between. The movie will be a complete disaster if he's not even as good as Jonas.
    Last edited: May 30, 2012
  36. Kruss

    Kruss Well-Known Member

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    Saw this today - absolutely cannot wait! I think it's going to be really good.
  37. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

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    Yes, Mr. Jackman does have the singing chops.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC7Hci7Tc4I

    I'm not a voice expert by any means, but it works for me! Not to mention how pretty he is....;)

    I did read long ago that he studied opera in Vienna while he was on location filming "Van Helsing" in preparation for The Boy From Oz. I think. I know I read he was training with an opera coach in prep for something on Broadway.

    Anyone ever seen his "Inside the Actor's Studio" interview? :rollin:
  38. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

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  39. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    I was lucky enough to see Hugh Jackman in The Boy From Oz, He was incredible. He captured Peter Allen perfectly. I was also fortunate to have seen Peter Allen live, twice. He was an incredible shaman, Im sure he was smiling down on Jackman when he portrayed Allen. Allen died far too young, from AIDS.
  40. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    Here is a clip of him singing a song that's closer to the Les Mis style. He's not Alfie Boe, but he's more than qualified for the role.

    That's why I'm worried about the contrast between him and Crowe. One of the reasons Nick Jonas sounded bad is that he was singing alongside glorious powerful voices, and that made his weakness more apparent.