When it comes to Les Mis, I own three versions. They are the film (my 2nd copy), 25th concert, and now the 10th. I love all of them, but for different reasons. Yes, I saw Les Mis more than just those three: the six visits with the stage show and the 2019 staged concert. At least, with the ones I own I can still see Les Mis. It is true- it is hard not to grow sick and tired of it. What did I think of Les Mis.
- Jean Valjean- Colm Wilkinson
- Javert- Phillip Quast
- Fantine- Ruthie Henshall
- Cosette- Judy Kuhn
- Marius- Micheal Ball
- Eponine- Lea Salonga
- Enjolras- Micheal McGuire
- Monsieur Thenardier- Alun Armstrong
- Madame Thenardier- Jenny Galloway
Do you know what is interesting about of these actors/actresses? I saw some of them once before. I first saw Colm Wilkinson, the bishop in the film, Micheal Ball as Javert, Lea Salonga as Fantine, and Jenny Galloway as Madame Thenardier. All were seen in Les Mis- either by film or 25th concert, or the 2019 concert. While I have not seen Alun Armstrong before in as Les Mis, I saw him in Nicholas Nickleby as Squeers. I even have heard Judy Kuhn as Cosette- only in soundtrack– not in any version of the musical.
Major Spoilers- Cast
Here is what I loved about seeing Colm Wilkinson as Valjean. I actually was able to see the Original Valjean. Seeing him was a delight due to that. I loved every scene with him. From the “prologue” to “what have I done” to “who am I” to “Bring Him Home” and “epilogue”- loved watching him in all of them. He was able to sing some of the quieter songs where it had enough power to reach all of Royal Albert Hall. That shows especially during “epilogue”- after all it was his death scene. He was able to show Valjean’s strength, and his transformation. He was one of my favorite Valjean actors.
Colm Wilkinson was not the only original cast member. This time, will be talking about Micheal Ball, the original Marius. What was harder with Marius this time was some scenes were delated- scenes that make me fall in love with Marius before “In My Life”: those other scenes make you pick up on his love for Cosette and his friendship with Eponine. Just something worth noting. He still showed his passion for both the uprising and Cosette. I did love his Marius- saw the love strongly for both. Well, this concert did not have the beginning of act II- so couldn’t see how much he cared about about her. At “A Little Fall of Rain”- still could show both his compassion and heartbreak. If it wasn’t noticed during that song (which I did notice), you defiantly see it at the end. Even his “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was heartbreaking.
While on Marius, time for Cosette. Judy Kuhn’s Cosette felt like you were missing parts of Cosette’s personality. But the love for Marius was there. At least, I could see that.
Let’s go to Lea Salonga as Eponine- I actually felt like she was better as Eponine than Fantine. I already had two excellent Eponine actresses- Lea was able to join that fact. Despite being a concert, I could see how tough that character was, and picked up on the abuse she got from her father. It is important to know both her family life and Marius. It makes you understand her love for Marius. Like usual, loved her “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain”. Her death scene did feel believable- it is crazy how for like all of my Eponine actresses, that scene was believable. Just shown in different ways. “A Little Fall or Rain” is incredible to watch for all Marius and Eponine actors/actresses- that scene can be seen in a lot of different ways.
Let’s get on to Fantine- Ruthie Henshall. Fantine has the hardest story to unfold. But like with pretty much all of the Fantine actresses, “I Dreamed a Dream” was still the first moment I really started being in tears. That says something about her Fantine. You really could see her unconditional love towards her daughter.
Now moving on to Javert-Phillip Quast. I usually have no idea how to describe Javert actors. But I did think I saw just a talented Javert. Don’t exactly know why, but know I loved him.
Enjolras- Micheal McGuire was an impressive Enjolras (that seems to be the case for ALL of the actors playing him). Saw the passion, which is key to his character.
Thenardiers- It is very difficult to describe what I think of them in concert form. So glad I could see their abuse on both Young Cosette and Eponine- I see those characters as parallels due to the switch, which is an intriguing part of Les Mis. Never thought I could see their abuse in concert form. You can easily see how both those characters did not like being treated that. One of the things I loved about Alun Armstrong and Jenny Galloway.
I do have a few things I wasn’t pleased about. “In My Life” cut out all of Valjean’s lines- that would result in not really knowing his relationship with Cosette. With Eponine and Marius starting to sing together- which began at “In My Life”, you really can’t figure out or know about their friendship. I had to wait until “A Little Fall of Rain” to truly notice it. So just some things- I saw noticed. Like with all Les Mis casts- an emotional wreck. This concert made it begin at the “Prologue”, but really truly truly began at “I Dreamed a Dream”. I think my emotional response began at “Prologue” due to the Original Valjean playing the part. Just like always, “Come to Me”, “On My Own”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, “Drink With Me”, “Bring Him Home”, and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. Well, I actually felt goosebumps and tears coming from “One Day More”- think that was my first time crying during that song- always felt the epic, empowering, and powerful song I always felt during that song. Some of these responses brought me back to London: in the West End, my tears started at “Prologue”- same as this production.
Yes, it is weird bringing up staging for a concert. But, there were parts of it I loved seeing. It literally showed scenes from the Original West End Production. It wasn’t just my emotional response that brought me back to The West End. It included seeing some of the staging. Just something I wanted to point out.
Here is one word of advice: don’t watch any of the concerts if you don’t know the story. That is due to being a concert and having details removed that belong in the musical. That can make it difficult to understand the plot. Les Mis needs to have everything or else the story falls apart. Do you know what I really loved about the 10th anniversary, at the end 17 Valjean’s from 17 different countries sang “Do You Hear the People Sing” with snippets of other songs. That really does show that Les Mis has been translated in several languages- I saw Japan, Nederlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Hungary, etc–of course I saw English due to the musical beginning in London. Just you need to understand the story to see it- just my recommendation.
Les Mis Journey
Have no idea how I managed to see the musicals in ALL the versions I saw- turns out the timing was right. Saw stage show 2013 (Central Piedmont Community College- well they were the motor behind wanting to see Les Mis in London), 2015 (West End-perfect timing (so went from Valjean’s spirituality journey to mine), 2017/2019-US Tour (one in Greenville and the other Charlotte). Thank God, the US Tour and 2019 concert BOTH happened last year- if the pandemic started last year, none of that would have happened. Now that I saw the 10th concert, who are my favorite actors/actresses for Les Mis?
- Valjean- now even harder: Colm, Alfie, Adam, and Nick (makes things tough)
- Javert- Jeremy Secomb
- Fantine- well, she is really difficult too
- Cosette- Jillian Butler
- Marius- Joshua Grosso
- Eponine- Samantha Barks
- Enjolras- here’s the thing about his character: you never come across a very weak actor- so now with Aaron, Micheal, Ramin, Bradley, and Matt
- Thenardiers- Phil Daniels/Katy Secombe
There is a reason why my favorite actor for each part is sitting there: will try to explain simply
Let’s start with Eponine- even when actresses try to be just as good as Eponine, they can’t tie with Samantha Barks. Look, she has the advantage of being first and was key to falling in love with Eponine. The 25h concert never would have been watched if I never had her.
Well, while still on the beginning of the love triangle- time to bring up Marius. Well, he is an awkward, kind, sweet, compassionate, and brave Marius. The unique thing about Joshua is that he made the character more charming and made Marius almost a core favorite. That awkwardness started on the street and lasted until the end of act I. He did treat falling in love with Cosette like “I don’t what to do with it”- he literally said something like “I don’t know what to say”. Even at “A Little Fall of Rain”- he focused a lot more about comforting Eponine: it wasn’t until the end when he showed the heartbreak. Literally, when I saw him with Talia, he took this pause like he was stunned, and then he said the “grow” in a heartbreaking way. Then with Paige, I literally thought he wasn’t going to end the song, but eventually did. Still a standout in the cast.
There is an incredible reason why I was able to remember Jillian’s Cosette. It all had to do with Joshua’s Marius. She somehow could connect to his awkwardness. They really felt like an incredible production: in 2017 and 2019, I really was able to dig deeper into their relationship while not ignoring Eponine.
Look, with Jeremy Secomb. He was the first Javert I even felt something for. Usually, I never can feel sympathy for Javert. But in Jeremy’s case, finally could. Most notably with “Javert’s Suicide”- I was feeling his torment before he even started singing. That says something: it is challenging for ALL Javert actors to be that impressive or be portrayed. I think that does give you an idea of how complex the character is.
Katy Secombe and Phil Daniels were one of the funniest I saw. So glad I could also pick up on their despicable and abusive nature. I could see how terrified Young Cosette was. So, picked up on it early on. It is hard to show both sides- but when you see them, it creates such an incredible version of The Thenardiers.
In addition, you have to remember that part of these casts came from the US. So, there are some actors/actresses on this list that I know others have not seen due to living outside of the US. The US is how I see musicals- I live there, and in a major touring city.