Les Miserables – I Finally Found Eponine

My (and probably the world’s) most beloved musical has opened in the cinemas on Christmas Day. My wife and I caught the 1st show on Christmas Day. I went to the movie wondering whether the production will destroy my favourite musical. Over the years, my mind has grown up with the voices of what I feel are the best of the best in this musical. Colm Wilkinson IS Jean Valjean, Philip Quast IS Javert, Michael Ball IS Marius, Ruthie Henshall IS Fantine and the voices of Lea Salonga/Frances Rufelle IS Eponine (I can’t decide either way because their styles are both beautiful). The 10th Anniversary Concert recording, is to me, the closest I could have ever got to a dream cast. I have many other recordings of the musical, including the 1985 London Cast, but the voices of the 10th Anniversary Concert was and still is THE closest to what Les Miserables should be.

Eponine Has Finally Been Found

The movie was good and did justice to this powerful musical, though I would have preferred someone else taking Javert’s role. However, I made a happy discovery. I finally found Eponine in Samantha Barks.

I have finally found Eponine.
I have finally found Eponine in the movie version

Samantha Barks has become for me, what Eponine should be. She has a beautiful voice and her rendition of “On My Own” is what the movie required. It is beautiful, flowing and powerful like a musical performance, but with a touch of brokeness required in a movie. The heart broken voice of despair flowing over the the images simply won me over. Yes, if we take the performances of the same song by Lea Salonga by itself, I think I will still perfer Lea Salonga’s. However, I think Samantha Barks, as Eponine in the movie, with her voice and her rendition of this song, was excellent. A fan mixed her 25th Anniversary Concert performance with her movie performance quite effectively. I love it…you get the power of broadway and the fragility of the movie version.

Finally, The Face of Cosette

The other thing that I am glad to say is that I have finally found the face of Cosette in Amanda Seyfried. Cosette has some beautiful songs in the musical, but in my mind, I have never formed a picture of this character….until I saw Amanda as Cosette. She has a beautiful, beautiful voice and her casting as Cosette was just right. Someone wrote that whoever acting as Cosette just has to look pretty and hit the high notes. Whatever…but I am still glad that it was Amanda that looked pretty and hit the high notes. Don’t get me started on 25th Anniversary’s Cosette…no no no…

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette

Fantine – Only Ruthie Henshall

I know everyone is talking about Anne Hathaway as Fantine. I think she did very well in her role. However, I have already settled in my mind long ago, that the voice of Fantine belongs to Ruthie Henshall in the 10th Anniversary Concert. Yes, I know her voice broke a little in her performance, but in my mind, she is still the only Fantine.

Ruthie Henshall as Fantine in the 10th Anniversary Concert.
Ruthie Henshall as Fantine in the 10th Anniversary Concert.

I’m sad to say that after watching the 25th Anniversary Concert (my wife and I both dislike the 25th largely due to what we felt were singers in roles not right for them), I do not feel that Lea Salonga suits the role of Fantine. Her beautiful voice came across as too controlled and hard for Fantine. She is a great singer and I love her voice. However, sometimes the role just requires another person. Her performance as Eponine in the 10th Anniversary was beautiful and took my breath away. However, the role of Fantine just does not suit her. It was the same situation with Michael Meguire who was PERFECT as Enjolras but listening to him sing “Bring Him Home” as Valjean last night showed that this role was not quite right for him either. I prefer the warmth and softness in Ruthie Henshall’s performance during the 10th Anniversay Concert.

Les Miserables is the Story of the Bible

Les Miserables is so powerful because among the many themes in the musical, at least one will resonate strongly with you. The music and the messages in them will stir you up. To someone, Les Miserables is the story of the triumph of the human spirit, to another, its the theme of undying love. It is something different for everyone.

The big theme for me is the Biblical message in Les Miserables. It is the love of God that saves. Jean Valjean was broken by the love of God shown through a fellow human being. “To love another person is to see the face of God”. The final words of Jean Valjean is the message of the Bible – Matthew 25:34-40.

Javert, on the hand, experienced the grace of forgiveness through Jean Valjean, but chose to reject it and perished. God came and paid the price of sin and gave us the gift of salvation. We can choose to accept this precious, precious gift or  we can reject it like Javert did. We can never be saved by works, because we have already sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But…we can accept the gift of forgiveness by receiving Christ as our saviour and in turn, like Jean Valjean, show the same love and kindness to our fellow human beings.

I have a feeling that Les Miserables will not be a big hit here. However, if you have not been to the musical before nor heard the recordings, you owe it to yourself to go watch it.

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