“I Dreamed a Dream” – Thoughts on Les Misérables

Les MisThere are many things that people often don’t admit to enjoying. Showtunes is one of those things.

I, on the other hand, believe in flaunting that particular geeky love. Loudly. In public. As often as possible.

Just a few moments ago I had to stop what I was doing at work and listen to a song that came over the speakers. It’s one of my coworker’s radio days and I brought in a cord to hook her ipod to the system. Well, she’s a woman after my own heart and has a ton of Broadway on her playlist. This particular song was from Les Misérables and is called “Drink with Me”. If you’ve ever sat with me and gotten me talking about musicals you’ll know that Les Mis is one of my absolute favorites. From the moment I first listened to it after learning we’d be doing a marching band show to it my sophomore year of high school I was in love with the story and the music.

Now, like many musicals Les Mis has several different versions out on CD based on what cast is recording them. I own the Broadway, French, London, 10th Anniversary (Dream Cast) and Complete Symphonic Recording albums. Each one has cast members that I like and dislike and some even have different songs though they mostly have the same version of the music.

For example:

Broadway Cast
You can’t go wrong with Colm Wilkinson as Valjean (though you can really wrong with him as the Phantom). His voice and range are amazing and if you don’t get a at least a little misty-eyed during “Bring Him Home” I’d be shocked. Terrance Mann compliments him well as Javert. If you’re looking for a quick intro to the musical, this is definitely a good album to start with.

London Cast
Colm Wilkinson again brings life to Valjean in this recording but now we get the added bonus of an absolutely brilliant Marius, Michael Ball (who is so awesome that I own other albums of his solo work). While not my favorite recording, I’d suggest giving it a listen just to check out some of the other singers.

French Cast
This is actually the original French concept album and is pretty different from the finished product. If you are like me and love collecting musicals in other languages go and ebay it now. Totally worth the price….if you like to listen to things in French.

Complete Symphonic Recording
This one is the most complete recording of the musical out there and is worth every penny. While Gary Morris doesn’t have the same feel as Colm Wilkinson as Valjean he’s hardly worth sneering at. Morris performs brilliantly opposite my favorite Javert, Philip Quast. This also happens to showcase my favorite set of Thenardiers. They’re hilarious in this recording! Michael Ball joins in as Marius and Kaho Shimada makes such a sweet, sad and sympathetic Eponine. Honestly, my favorite version of the music might be this recording.

10th Anniversay (Dream Cast)
I was reminded last month that Les Mis is now in it’s 25th anniversary which means that I first saw this version on PBS 15 years ago. Dude….I feel old. But I digress. This cast pulls together some of my favorite singers from productions all over the world. You have Colm Wilkinson, Philip Quast, Michael Ball, Ruthie Henshall (Fantine), Judy Kuhn (Cosette) and Lea Salonga (Eponine). This one is worth purchasing the video for as well. It’s not a full on production but instead has the main cast in costume stepping forward to sing at the edge of the stage with a full choir backing them. Also, there are many songs that are cut short or dropped so if you pick up this recording make sure to have one of the others under your belt as well.

25th Anniversary
This one I haven’t seen or heard yet as I foolishly scheduled a shadowcast rehearsal for the same night that it was doing its “One Night Only!” thing in the movie theaters. Once it comes out on video I’ll be able to let you know what I think of this one.

So there’s a quick run down of the Les Misérables albums that I own (and pretty much all that are out there..at least in English) and my thoughts on each. If you like the music I’d love to hear which are your favorite singers and cast recordings. And if you’re in the closet about your love for showtunes….give a fake name and leave a comment. I promise not to track you down and reveal your real name to the world.