It’s been said that Les Miserables should be called an operetta, because unlike most musicals it is sung-through. Yep, with the exception of Enjolras’ two or three spoken lines at the barricades, the entire musical consists of singing. It’s phenomenal really, when you think about it. To take Victor Hugo’s massive, prose-loaded Victorian (heh, heh, pun not intended) novel and turn it into music is a vast undertaking. But with geniuses like Alan Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg writing the songs, nothing seems more natural than for Les Miserables to be sung in its entirety.
Both concert versions contain amazing renditions of these beautiful songs. It’s hard to pick favorites, but we are girls who do hard things, so without further ado we beg to put before you our comparisons…
…the songs of Les Miserables.
Prologue/On Parole –
|Prologue/On Parole - Valjean and Javert|
Both concerts execute this song very well. Of course, we are biased to the 10th, considering it stars Colm Wilkinson and Philip Quast as Valjean and Javert. The passion and conviction in Colm's voice as he declares "My name is Jean Valjean!" gives us shivers. Likewise, Philip totally nails the line, "And I'm Javert! Do not forget my name. Do not forget me, 24601." You can tell Javert is completely rubbing in the fact that he still considers Valjean a criminal with a number. And the way Valjean (er, we mean Colm) sings, "Took. My. Fliiiiiiiiiiiight!!" makes us realize we have taken a trip to Epic City.
Valjean’s Soliloquy/What Have I Done?-
|What Have I Done? - Valjean|
This song is where we really begin to feel empathy for Jean Valjean. Forgiveness--the most radical and unexpected thing he’s ever encountered--has just been bestowed on him, and he doesn’t know what to do. “How could I allow that man to touch my soul and teach me love? … He told me that I have a soul--can such things be? I had resolved to hate the world... the world that always hated me.” Thus far, Valjean has known nothing but cruelty and pain. “Take an eye for an eye, turn your heart into stone! This is all I have lived for, this is all I have known!” But he resolves to give his life over to God, to change his ways and become a better man. He tears up his parole ticket and starts on a new journey. “Jean Valjean is nothing now--another story must begin!”
Undoubtedly, it is Colm Wilkinson in the 10th who completely owns this song. Alfie Boe’s rendition is stirring, but Colm’s sends major goosebumps up and down our arms. We can feel every bit of Valjean’s inner turmoil and anger, and when he sings the last line, we’re in tears often as not. (Heehee. We’re in tears often as not throughout the entire musical... but that’s not the point.)
At the End of the Day-
At the End of the Day-
|At the End of the Day - Fantine|
I Dreamed a Dream-
Lea Salonga. The End.
All right, all right, we’ll elaborate a little more...
Fantine’s main song is so achingly beautiful, we can’t help loving it no matter who sings it. But as we said in the characters post, it’s Lea Salonga in 25th who best conveys Fantine’s pain and despair with her gorgeous voice. “But there are dreams that cannot beeeeeee...” Ruthie Henshall’s version is kind of mediocre, and her facial expressions can’t begin to compare with the emotion on Lea Salonga’s face. And the emotion in Lea’s voice? Forget it. This is no contest at all. Do you peoples have any idea how hard it is to cry and sing clearly at the same time? It’s incredibly difficult, believe us. But Lea Salonga sings and sobs at the same exact time, and we firmly believe that the entire audience (whether they be at the actual concert or watching the DVD at home) are doing the latter with her. “Now life has killed the dream I dreamed…”
The Runaway Cart-
|The Runaway Cart - Javert|
The best performance of this song goes to the 10th. We love how it shows clips from the stage production, portraying the actual wreck of the cart. Oh, and the look on Philip Quast's face as he sings... *spine tingles* In contrast, Alfie Boe and Norm Lewis just stand there in the 25th. Sigh. It could have been so amazing, but they didn't do much with it.
Who Am I-
|Who Am I? - Valjean|
We’re beginning to sound like broken records here, but it is so, so hard to pick a favorite version of this song. Colm is our favorite Valjean, as we’ve said, and he sings this with so much emotion and angst-- but Alfie’s voice is utterly beautiful and he doesn’t squeak at the end. :D (Amy thinks the squeak is a vital part of the song. Petie thinks it kills the effect. We’ve agreed to disagree.) So as far as this song goes, we choose Alfie Boe from 25th.
Fantine's Death/Come to Me-
|Fantine's Death/ Come to Me - Valjean and Fantine *sob*|
Oh, fine. We'll be more specific. But really, we like the 25th version of this song better for the same reasons we love the 25th version of "I Dreamed a Dream." Lea has so much raw emotion in her face and voice as she sings of her precious child. We must also commend Alfie Boe. He plays opposite her so heartbreakingly well.
|Confrontation - Valjean|
We like both versions, but 10th definitely gives us more goosebumps. Philip Quast’s performance is just spine-tingling. The power in Colm’s voice makes Valjean’s dangerous side come back into play, and it’s almost scary! “I am the stronger man BY FAR! There is power in me yet... my race is not yet run!” Alfie’s rendition of that line is bit weak, spoiling the effect, so ultimately we prefer 10th. (And did we mention Philip Quast’s Javert yet? What, we did? Well, it bears repeating.)
Pardon us while we gulp down sobs at the very end. Valjean could have just knocked out Javert and gone racing out into the night, but instead he chose to tell Fantine one more time that he would protect her little girl. Yes, yes, Fantine was dead already… hush. It’s the principle of the thing. And the way they both sang the exact same line with very different intent at the end? “I swear to you… I will be there.” CHILLS.
Castle on a Cloud-
|Castle on a Cloud - Little Cosette|
"Castle on a Cloud" is such a hopeful song. We love how it's just so simple and sweet, just like Little Cosette. And then that slimy Mrs. Thenardier has to barge in and ruin it. Speaking of which...
Thenardier Waltz of Treachery-
“Don’t come any closer!” Petie and Amy shriek at the Thenardiers. “We don’t want to get any slime on our clothes.” Monsieur and Madame Thenardier (hereafter abbreviated as M. and Mme. T. because we are lazy typists) are suddenly faced with the prospect of giving up their little slave—er, adopted daughter. The idea is not a happy one, but eventually the T.’s manage to get over their grief and bereavement enough to let Valjean take away their useful—um, beloved little girl. And of course the fifteen hundred francs he gives them don’t exactly hurt.
We’re being sarcastic here, in case you didn’t notice.
|Waltz of Treachery - Little Cosette and Valjean|
Alun Armstrong does an excellent job in the 10th version (and of course Jenny Galloway is great in both) but really we have to go with Matt Lucas’s hilarity in the 25th.
“Let’s not haggle for darling Colette—”
“Cosette…”Honestly, the two Valjeans do an equally good job in this song. Colm Wilkinson nails the sarcasm (see, Valjean DOES have a sense of humor) with his, “Your feelings do you credit, sir…” but Alfie Boe’s protectiveness of Little Cosette (carrying her offstage! Everybody say “awwww!”) is just adorable. Nope, we can’t decide.
|Look Down - Bahahahaha! It looks like they just|
had an argument. "Fine!" "FINE!"
One of our favorite parts of this song is Eponine's entrance, which is only shown in the 25th. This is where we first see her, and the way she saunters onstage, confident and tough, while Gavroche narrates, is so thrilling.
Actually, if it wasn't for Sir Twerp-a-lot (read: Nick Jonas as Marius), the 25th would've nailed this song to a T. (But Twerp's presence does serve a purpose; he serves to remind us why we love Michael Ball so much.)
Sadly enough, this song only appears on the 25th. We would have paid good money to see the drama unfold on 10th, but it was not to be. Sigh. In this song we get our first glimpse of Elderly Cosette (as opposed to Young Cosette, you know)—and so does Marius. This song gives us another moment of comic relief (and believe us, with a tragedy like Les Miz we need all the comic relief we can get), because Marius and Cosette’s first meeting is nothing short of hilarious. “I did not see you there, forgive me.” *Amy and Petie sarcastically swoon from the pure romance of the moment* Really, this is far, far better than anything Jane Austen could ever have come up with. Of course.
Unfortunately, the 25th still cuts some of this song, leaving out Eponine and Marius’ first dialogue together (“Don’t judge a girl on how she looks. I know a lot of things, I do!”) and failing to verbally establish the fact that Eponine is in love with Marius (“Little he knows… little he sees.”). However, with Samantha Barks’ emotive face, the dialogue isn’t necessary. We KNOW she loves Marius… and we’re heartbroken for her.
|Stars - Javert|
This, this is what determines our fanship of Javert. Yes, yes, we know this song is all about Javert's relentless pursuit of Valjean, and how he will never rest until Valjean is behind bars. But Javert is such a determined man, and there's no doubt he believes in justice! But what really crushes our hearts is how he believes God expects him to deliver full and complete justice in order to gain his entrance into eternity. Poor, confused, misled man. We can't help but love him.
And we will forever love Philip Quast. We shall always be two of his biggest fans. And we shall never turn to another Javert.
This we swear by... the STAAARRRRRRS!!
Red and Black-
HOORAY FOR ENJOLRAS!
(Excuse us, but that had to be said first of all.)
This song is when it really starts getting good. (Not that it wasn’t before.) Our apologies to any and all Michael Maguire fans, but we absolutely, without a doubt, favor the 25th version over the tenth. Why? Two words, peeps: Ramin Karimloo.
|Red and Black - Enjolras FOREVER!|
Michael Maguire’s rapid blinking during some of the most inspiring lines in 10th kind of ruins the intensity of the moment, but we have to admit he has an amazing voice. And of course we can’t forget to squeal a little over Gavroche’s second appearance in both versions—“Listen! Listen to ME! LISTEN, EVERYBODY!” Adam Searles (10th) does a better job of hamming up his Big Moment of Important Announcement (“General Lamarque… IS DEAD!”) but Robert Madge is our favorite Gavroche overall, so we’re pleased with his version as well.
Really, the only thing that we wish could have been different in 25th (other than the banishment of Nick Jonas) is the absence of Enjolras’ Red Vest of Power and Awesomeness. But never fear, it will appear in the second act… so stay tuned.
*To Be Continued*
~Amy and Petie