Friday, December 21, 2012

CD Review: "Les Miserables" Movie Soundtrack

I know, I know...this is a book blog.  But, think of this as a the first of 2 part book-to-movie review...

But there is something you need to know about me....I'm a Les Miserables fanatic.  I mean, a totally crazy fan.  As being kind of bonkers about the whole thing, you would rightly assume that the upcoming movie is a big thing for me.  I will admit that I'm apprehensive about it.  I know that I will either love it or hate it--and I'd better love it, or else!  

As for the movie, I've purchased my tickets and expect my review of that to be up on the 26th or 27th of this month.  Today, however, I received my copy of the movie soundtrack and I'm just oh-so-excited!

Okay, for those of you who aren't completely in the loop with all things Les Mis, this movie is a little different than most movie musicals.  Instead of recording the songs in the studio and then lip-syncing when filming, the actors sung their roles live during filming and then the instrumentals were recorded to fit how the actors sang the role.  Because of this, things are, well, a little different than one would expect if they are familiar with the musical.  I noticed this most during Hugh Jackman's "Bring Him Home," which definitely had rhythms that differed from the original song.  Also, this recording definitely sounds "live" as opposed to a studio album.

Another quick note, the sequence of songs are slightly different than in the stage production.  There is also a new song, "Suddenly," sung by Hugh Jackman, which is quite lovely.  I have the feeling that this movie will attempt to bring the character of Cosette closer to her importance in the book than she is the stage production, which would be nice.  Whether or not this means a "demotion" of Eponine, I'm not sure--but I did notice that Samantha Barks (Eponine)  is not given credit on the cover of the CD,while Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) is.

There are two songs that I noticed to be missing, "Lovely Ladies" and "A Little Fall of Rain."  However, I think that both of these will appear in the movie, at least in some form.  There are also various lyric changes in many of the songs, but nothing that really detracts from anything.

So, here's the thing.  When you see a stage production of Les Miserables, some fantastic singing can make up for some less than fantastic acting.  However, I think the movie will be the opposite case--actors may be able to make up for some vocal deficiencies with great acting (or, unfortunately, some bad acting can bring down some great singing).  Because of that, I'm trying to withhold most judgment until I see the movie.

That being said, I will bring up the two actors who are standing out to me on the CD, but for different reasons.

First of all, Russell Crowe.  I once went to a Russell Crowe, as part of the band Thirty Odd Foot of Grunt, concert.  He had obviously been drinking for most the day before the concert and continued to drink throughout the concert, to the point that he could barely get off the stage at the end of the show.  His voice was pretty much what you expect from such a performance--gritty and rough.  When I heard that he would be Javert, I was worried--very worried.  As such, I had very low expectations for him.  After all, Javert is a difficult role to sing and most actors who take on the part have been classically trained.  The good news, is that he met those expectations, but only just.  His voice is definitely smoother than I had expected, but it seems to be lacking power and emotion.  Who knows....Russell Crowe is an amazing actor and maybe he will be able to swing it when I actually see him in the role, but on the CD he's really the only actor/singer I found lacking.

On the other hand, Eddie Redmayne as Marius.  I had only ever heard of Eddie Redmayne in My Week with Marilyn (which I have yet to see) and I just recently happened to see him in half of the movie Birdsong (Apparently that's a two-parter movie---it would be nice if OPB would show the other half!). So, I don't know much about him other than this--vocally, he is a fantastic Marius.  I mean, he's as good--if not better--than Michael Ball (and, physically, he is far more of a Marius than Ball ever was).  If I had to pick the "best" singer on this album, I would have assumed it would have been Hugh Jackman, but I think that Eddie Redmayne actually beats him out.  Like Crowe, his performance in the movie could change my opinion...but I hope not!

So, what do I think of this CD?  I really, really like it!  I won't say I luurrrvvve it, only because so much depends on the movie.  However, it's been a while since I had a new Les Miserables recording to listen to (I was particularly disappointed with the 25th anniversary concert.  Except for Alfie Boe and Samantha Barks, there was no reason for me to buy that recording).  And this one is different enough from the stage recordings to make it stand out.

Now, just a few more days to the movie......


  1. I really want to see this movie - I know that it is a classic - but I've never seen it!

  2. I remember seeing the 1990dometukng version of Les Mis and not really liking it that much. I think the new version looks better and I like the actors, I probably won't see it until its on DVD though.

  3. I'm planning to see it. It will be interesting to hear the actors singing.

  4. Anne Hathaway is a pretty impressive actress. Hope you approve of her in the role once you see the movie!

  5. I'm same as Kayla--never seen it but always a curious interest. I am especially excited to know how differently they do the music. I've always loved Sweeney Todd and Phantom so This will probably be a much needed addition.