I have been whining about going to Phantom. I can barely tolerate missing it, but I will give an arm and a leg to watch Les Miserables if they do come to Singapore. Heck, I’ll even starve myself if needed.
I remember the first time I heard them. My brother brought this CD back, and I was immediately spellbound. I remember sympathising with Eponine, feeling heartwarmed by Gavroche, wanting to go to the barricades with Enjolras, hoping that Marius survives. I lost the CD, however, and you cannot imagine how hard it is to get it in Singapore. After a lot of surfing around, I found this article, and boy, am I going to get all 4 of these versions!
Ironically, the version that he deems one of the weaker ones is the one that got me hooked. The singer, in his opinion, that brought down the whole CD was one of the reasons that got me hooked as I read the booklets in the CD case. She could not understand English at all, but she managed to sing them perfectly. For some reason, Eponine was often portrayed by Asians. Personally, I dislike Lea Salonga. Perhaps she was good in Miss Saigon, but I found her undeserving of the fame that she got. Same thing for Sarah Brightman – she reminds me Minnie Driver‘s portrayal of the diva Carlotta (which was very well done I felt) in the film version of the Phantom of the Opera.
And, although it would only bother a Les Mis veteran, Lea Salonga’s technically sound, straightforward performance comes off as more than a little bland to those who have heard other Eponines live. It’s letter-perfect – to a fault. Her staccato enunciation (“no-where-to-go-no-one-to-turn-to…”) can be annoying, and her generic vocal presentation is soft and pretty but never goes beyond ordinary. Again, however, her voice is unobtrusive enough that first-time listeners (or viewers) will be moved by the character, not the actor…. The Complete Symphonic Recording has every note of music and three outstanding performances from Phillip Quast as Javert, Michael Ball as Marius, and the breathtaking Anthony Warlow as Enjolras; but it’s all but ruined by Gary Morris’ awful Valjean and Kaho Shimada’s weak Eponine.
One thing I like about Musicals (and sometimes theatre) is the multilayering of the songs… the double meanings of a single word can be played on, the same event and occasion meaning different to different people as it dawns on the audience that they are also a participating party in it. For example, Phantom’s “Prima Donna” and Les Mis’ “One More Day”. Of course, you also have the sad ballads that make the musicals (and some films) famous. But for me, it’s the richness of it. A single longing glance is often more than it seems, quivering lips longing to speak and unable to, ideals challenged and one finds oneself at the wrong end of the path and unwilling and unable to turn back… all these and more.
I hope I can get all 4 versions of Les Mis!