Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Guilty Pleasure

When I was 14, my parents, grandmother, neighbours, their kids (which are about my age), and some old friends of ours met in Montreal for lunch prior to going to see Les Miserables at L'Theatre St. Denis. At the time I wasn't too enthusiastic about going.

As I was reading the playbill prior to the show that started changing, I was floored to find out the entire cast was bi-lingual performing the show on some nights in French and on other nights in English. We happened to be catching an afternoon matinee of the show in English.

I remember being moved to tears by Fantine in I Dreamed a Dream and by Eponine with On My Own and laughing at songs like Lovely Ladies and Master of the House, but I think what floored me the most was the Confrontation when Jean Valjean and Javert were arguing, singing 2 completely different songs simultaneously while staring each other down. I was amazed at the level of concentration that must have taken.

At any rate, after that I was hooked. Since then I've seen Miss Saigon (which I also thoroughly enjoyed) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and picked up the following musicals on CD:

Big River (Original Broadway Cast recording)
Phantom of the Opera
(Original London Cast Recording)
Das Phantom der Oper (Original Frankfurt Cast Recording)
Les Miserables (Complete Symphonic Recording)
Les Miserables (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Les Miserables (Original Dutch Cast Recording)
Miss Saigon (Original London Cast Recording)
Miss Saigon (Original Dutch Cast Recording)
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Whistle Down the Wind (Original London Cast Recording)

I know it may seem odd that I've picked up some of the foreign language versions, but once you know the stories in English, it doesn't matter what language the songs are being sung in. But the focus when listening to the foreign langauge versions is on the vocal performance and not so much on the story. For example, Past the Point of No Return is my favorite song on Das Phantom der Oper because it sounds so much more powerful in German than in English, Alexander Goebbels sings it like a force to be reckoned with, whereas Michael Crawford's delivery (at least of that particular song) is a bit wet noodle, if you ask me.

As I've never seen Phantom of the Opera live, Toni has said she wants us to go the next time it passes through Chicago, and Toni's never seen Les Miserables and I'd love to take her to see that next time it comes to Chicago. My parents have seen both and have said while Phantom of the Opera is well worth seeing and has fantastic special effects for a broadway show, Les Miserables has a better story and packs more of an emotional punch.


St. Dickeybird said...

I love foreign music for the same reason: the focus becomes the performance, not the story.

I saw Phantom ws a teenager, before the Toronto show started sucking, and loved it. I haven't been to a musical since then.
In the next couple of months, I'm making up for that by seeing Spamalot and Wicked.
Unfortunately, this cultivation means I may have to pass on Scissor Sisters and The Pet Shop Boys. Damn culturing!

Susan as herself said...

I saw both "Les Mis" and "Phantom" on Broadway---get this---for free. I knew someone on the technical crew. I also saw several other shows this way... I rarely turn down free theater, even if I think it might be crappy. It makes for good stories afterwards.

Green Eyes said...

I, too, have seen Miss Saigon and Les Mis, both were great! I have Phantom on my list!