Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert Review

Had a chance to the see the 25th Anniversary Les Miserables concert at our local theater here in Ann Arbor.

Les Mis is one of my favorite musicals and I’ve seen it performed a number of times from local touring productions, to Broadway and in the London West End so I brought many preference to how I prefer each part to be performed.

First the technical production was good, it was displayed digitally and the picture quality only broke up a few times and even then it didn’t detract that much.  I would have preferred a little more volume but overall the sound mix was good.

The cast was very accomplished, and did the material the credit.  My only disappointment was that I prefer the  Javert role to be performed by a “low” baritone to contrast with Valjean which is usually a tenor.

One annoyance was that the Marius role was played by pop sensation Nick Jonas whose pained facial expression is matched by the audience when he sings.  Seriously, I had almost convinced myself that he wasn’t *that* bad  until the concert cast was joined by the original 1985 cast in an encore, and the 1985 ‘Marius” reminded me what a truly talented performer could bring to role.

Overall the concert is well worth seeing and will be available on DVD.  One note is that this might not be the best introduction for someone who has never see the full stage production.  The show has been edited down (most of which I heartedly agree with) but some of the scene transitions may confuse someone unfamiliar with the stage production.

An added bonus is the previously mentioned encore where the 1985 cast joins the concert cast and members of the current London production.

A final note, as much as I love Les Miserable the Musical, anyone who enjoys it should really take time to read the original book by Victor Hugo which is an amazing work.  Knowing the back-stories and connections between the characters detailed by Hugo adds extra layers of depth to the musical.

You can video and images from the concert on the official site  here and many unofficial clips on youtube.

Rock of Ages on Broadway

Recently in New York, my wife and I saw Rock of Ages on Broadway.  Rock of Ages continues the trend of musicals based on popular music.  For those who haven’t seen a show like this, popular sons are fused together and performed to move the plot of the show along.

Rock of Ages is based on rock anthems of the 1980s and follows in the footsteps of Mamma Mia! (Abba), We Will Rock You (Queen), and Movin Out (Billy Joel).

The show follows the journey of a young couple as they try to make it big in the Los Angeles music scene.  These shows work best if you’re familiar the music, much of the of entertainment value comes from hearing the music performed live and hearing the songs wedged into the plot.  Songs from Journey, Styx, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, Steve Perry, and Twisted Sister among others are featured.

Overall, Rock of Ages is a hoot.  The musical performances rock, and the it’s definitely a show that you can go and have a good time.  It’s the rare broadway show that doesn’t take itself too seriously as the cast interacts with the audience and mocks the conventions of musical theater.  You know you’re in for a different kind of show when cocktail waitresses are selling cans of beer to the audience as they enter the theater.

I highly recommend this show especially if you were a fan of this musical era.

Rock of Ages Wikipedia Entry

Rock Of Ages Official Site

Wicked on Broadway

On a recent trip to New York my wife and saw a performance (4/3 evening) of Wicked.  Being a big fan of its music I was excited to see it in person.  One the great things about seeing a show on Broadway is that theaters have an intimacy that you don’t often get when you a touring company.  Unfortunately, Wicked plays in the Gershwin Theater which is one of the larger theaters on Broadway, so I would recommend getting seats in the first 10 rows- even the balcony and mezzanine are pretty far back so I wouldn’t recommend those locations either.  Seriously, the theater has the charm of the a shopping mall.

Fortunately, we had third row seats which made for an outstanding experience.

Wikipedia has a great synapsis here.

Having only listened to the soundtrack on CD, seeing the play in person filled in quite a few gaps in the story.  The performances were top notch and the sets and lighting were amazing.  One slight quibble is that the production was breaking in a new performer as Elphaba and it seemed that she was slightly tentative in a few places.  We were close enough to see some glances from the cast encouraging her during the performance.

The strength of Wicked is the music, especially the songs of act 1.  The book has a few awkward turns, surprising for musical that is as polished as Wicked.  Note that the musical differs from the novel- the book I’m referring to is that dialog and plot of the musical.  SPOILER ALERT- For example when Elphaba escapes at the end, the reason for not letting Glenda know seems pretty weak.

Still the strength of the performances, the sets, and the music make a Wicked a must see.

Wicked Official Site