06 March 2011

Guilty Pleasures

I've spent this evening watching my favorite musical of all time - Les Miserables. Last year, the musical celebrated it's 25th anniversary. What I'm watching is one of three celebratory performances, this one filmed at London's O2 Theater. The three performances all took place in the first days of October 2010, all in London theaters. This was a first in theater history, three performances running simultaneously in the same city. This also took the play back to the city that saw the very first performance.

When it comes to Les Mis, I will proudly admit that I'm a snob. It's the first musical I remember seeing live at a professional venue. I own about five copies of the soundtrack on CD and a VHS recording of a performance. Most of the CDs and the one VHS are all of the 10th anniversary "Dream Cast" edition, which came out when I was eight. This cast consisted of the creme de la creme. For each role, they cast the person who, in the last ten years, had done the best in that part. In the lead role was Colm Wilkinson, a brilliant Irish-born singer best known for playing Jean Val Jean. I'm fairly certain he was the Val Jean I saw when I saw the show live.

Now, with five years of experience in educational theater, I'm noticing a lot more about this 25th anniversary performance- other than the differences in casting from one production to another. I've seen several intelligent fixtures lighting the stage, moving on their own based on the programmed cues. I do see some similarities that prove what I've heard so much in class-some things in theater are maintained over time simply because of tradition. I'm noticing this in costumes more than anything. Enjolras is always in a red vest with gold brocade. Monsieur Thenardier and his wife both wear blue, as does young Cosette. The students are always clad in earth tones.

Of course, at the end of the day, I still love the musical, no matter who's singing it. Below is a video of Colm Wilkinson, THE Jean Val Jean, in another iconic Broadway role, The Phantom of the Opera, followed by a video from Jesus Christ Superstar. Please enjoy "Music of the Night" and "Gethsemane."



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