Les Misérables, 25th Anniversary (1985/2010)

by | Mar 5, 2011 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Les Misérables, 25th Anniversary (1985/2010)

Concert Production at the O2, London
Musical based on the Victor Hugo novel
Music: Claude-Michel Schöenberg
Lyrics: Herbert Kretzmer, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel
Performers: Alfie Boe, Nick Jonas, Norm Lewis, many others; orchestra cond. by David Charles Abell
Producer: Cameron Mackintosh
Studio: Universal  61118326 [2/22/11]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD MAster Audio 5.1, DD Plus 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Italian, Castilian or LA Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Icelandic, Mandarin, Cantonese
Extras: Five minutes of clips from the history of the musical (a trailer for the disc)
Length: 2 hrs. 50 min.
Rating: ****

What a production!  Cameron Mackintosh won awards for his production of Phantom of the Opera, and pulled out all the stops for this 25th Anniversary show of Les Misérables which was telecast live around the world last year. Both are among the most popular musicals ever, and Les Misérables has been seen by nearly 60 million people around the world. It won eight Tony awards, two Grammies, and five Drama Desk awards. Never mind that musically it doesn’t come close to classics like West Side Story, Candide or Sweeny Todd.

There was a Tenth Anniversary production as well, which is also available on DVD, and some reviewers feel it was superior.  But it doesn’t have the spectacular semi-staging of this concert version with all the singers in full costume and a huge chorus and orchestra.  Members of various productions of Les Miz make up the chorus and some of the singers onstage; there are over 500 performers total. The setting is London’s O2, formerly known as the Millennium Dome. The singers step up to multiple mike stands at the front of the stage, and although this makes for some strange staging movement and the impossibility of staging the bloody fight on the barricades, it ensures perfect sound and highly intelligible lyrics – probably superior than what could have been achieved with wireless mikes. The sound in the big climaxes – and there are many – is almost overwhelming. With the fancy lighting effects, it’s quite a spectacle. Look at the huge list of subtitles above – probably more than any movie.

Victor Hugo’s drawings and paintings are on the backdrops, and there are several huge video screens above which capture closeups of the performers and various images tying in with the story. Hugo’s plot has been simplified and concerns mainly Jean Valjean’s long battle with police inspector Javert, his taking care of the young girl Cosette when her mother dies, and the French Revolution of 1830.  The singers are all excellent, with the exception of Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, who is nowhere near the professional quality of the other lead singers.  A British comic, Matt Lucas, is a favorite of the audience as the not-to-be-trusted “Master of the House.”  

The musical itself runs about two and a half hours, but then there’s almost another half hour of stuff celebrating the 25th Anniversary, which the rapturous crowd goes nuts over.  Singers from various other productions of the musical, including members of the 1985 cast, come out and do some of the hits from it once again. Four different Jean Valjeans sing “One Day More” together, there are speeches, and a crowd of schoolchildren march in to join the other performers in “Do You Hear the People Sing?” There is even a clip of Susan Boyle singing a bit of “I Dreamed a Dream.”  Closeups of audience members show their makeup running with their tears. Though the story is pretty much a downer (it was titled The Glums when it first opened!), there’s a spirited generosity about it, and one cannot help feeling excited by its eventual end.

The Blu-ray visual and audio quality could hardly be any better.

— John Sunier

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