Lets just pretend…..
Ok I’m just going to pretend here. I am a West End casting director and I am about to cast a “Dream Cast” for a brand new production of Les Miserables.
Recently (especially after the 25th anniversary concert) I was pretty horrified. Cameron had cast NICK JONAS a 17 year-old BOY as Marius one of my favourite characters who should be played by a MAN, AT LEAST age 20!!! I nearly died and yes, he lived up to my expectations, the expectation that he wouldn’t be good. He was pretty SHOCKING and got drowned out by the rest of the cast members, don’t get me started on his acting (if you can call it that) Apparently the only reason why you could can hear him on the DVD is because it has been EDITED !!!
Anyway, I’ll get on with it and lets start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start)
Right we need a Jean-Valjean. There have been some impressive ones over the years. While many say Colm Wilkinson was “The best Valjean” he really doesn’t impress me and he makes a POOR attempt to hide his Irish Accent (PET HATE) don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Irish accents. I just think singers with noticeable accents should neutralise them. For example if Gareth Gates started singing with his Yorkshire accent its might not sound too great !! Personally I have an all-time FAVOURITE Valjean. *****DRUM ROLL******
JOHN-OWEN JONES !! (This man here) AS JEAN-VALJEAN
Ah! he’s an absolute legend to say the least! with a voice like pure satiny silk which makes your heart melt. Not to mention his AWESOME vocal range and wonderful, emotive acting skills. I LOVE HIM. The man is an absolute PRO’ and has been playing the role of “Jean-Valjean” on and off for around 14 years. In 2010 he starred as Valjean in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Mis (I saw him in the role twice he was EPIC)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_vxj1MeRls (John singing “Bring Him Home”)
EARL CARPENTER AS JAVERT
Earl Carpenter is also absolutely AWESOME and my favourite Javert. His portrayal of the character is one to watch. He shows the battle-axe inspector of police Javert who lets religion rule his heart leading to his eventual downfall as he is obsessed with finding Jean-Valjean . “The Confrontation” was a mind-blowing powerful duet between John-Owen Jones and Earl Carpenter – EPIC !!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHSrgGAUO34 (Earl singing “Stars”)
JOANNA AMPIL OR MADALENA ALBERTO AS FANTINE
I always forget what a small main part Fantine is. Although, she does play an important part in the story. For this role I was stuck between two (possibly three) but I thought putting 3 choices down for the part would be greedy although Ruthie Henshall was GREAT too !! So….I decided for the two that I have seen live. Joanna Ampil (top left in 2004) and Madalena Alberto (Les Miserables 25th anniversary tour cast 2010) Their voices are fabulous and both of their performances moved me to tears (particularly Madalena Alberto)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS_kMu_YNKk (Madalena Alberto Singing “I Dreamed a Dream” )
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laH1DoJqptE (Joanna Ampil Singing “I Dreamed a Dream)
When it comes to casting The Thenardiers I would probably get stuck. Hmmmm who to choose? Right ok, I’ve made a decision…..
MATT LUCAS AS THENARDIER
Matt Lucas was BRILLIANT in the 25th anniversary concert as Thenardier. Not only is he a talented actor (as we’ve seen from his Little Britain Sketches) but he’s a great singer too, as well as adding the needed amount of comedy to the role. He’s probably the best Thenardier I’ve heard. I love the fact that his “Little Britain” voices seem to “come out” when he’s singing which makes the whole thing VERY entertaining!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L3FIonz7TA (A Small clip of him singing “Master of the house”)
LYNNE WILMOT MADAME THENARDIER
Lynne Wilmot’s Madame Thenardier was second to none. Her ferocious yet eccentric portrayal was fantastic. At the age of 36/37 she is quite a young choice as most Madame Thenardiers chosen are normally nearer their mid-40’s. I love her voice, she is a great comedy actress. In the 25th anniversary tour she played Madame Thenardier alongside Ashley Artus. He is a great actor, but I wasn’t too keen on his voice, hence why I’ve chosen Matt Lucas !!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejijcglUbEM&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PLE5E30E2118DB782A (The Thenardiers waltz of Treachery)
DAVID THAXTON as ENJOLRAS
I have never seen him live, he last played the part in the 2008/2009 cast. However, what I heard on You tube was breathtaking. He has BY FAR the most powerful voice out of the Enjolras’s that I have heard, his voice is high quality, probably helped by the fact that he is Welsh. (Ramin Karimloo is close behind as he was also fantastic!!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJSXFeoIY0A (“Lamarque is dead”)
ROSALIND JAMES as EPONINE
Yes I know what you all think, why haven’t I picked Samantha Barks? Well, I think Rosalind James is FAR more original as she has “bluesy” tones to her voice. Samantha Barks can BELT but as a singer, I feel there are better Eponine’s out there. She wasn’t feisty enough and FAR too “squeaky-clean” looking. Rosalind James gave a far more realistic portrayal, I think she’s amazing !! (Lea Salonga is too old to play Eponine these days, I agree she is the best of the best though!!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq7qp18S1N4 (“On My Own”)
KATIE HALL AS COSETTE
I wasn’t sure of Katie Hall’s voice at first. But then when I saw her live I realised that she was wonderful. She is very young (21) but she has enough vocal experience to pull the role off to a tee. Her voice is pretty and she starred in the 25th anniversary tour as well as the concert as Cosette.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Txp6kWuNYGQ (“In My Life” – 25th anniversary tour)
GARETH GATES AS MARIUS
Yes ok, I can hear most non-Les Mis enthusiasts sighing deeply at this point. But what you have to know is that Gareth Gates is BRILLIANT. Cameron Mackintosh (Les Mis’s producer) sung his praises as did “Rave” reviews about the show. He really did make the part of Marius his own. Gareth’s love-struck portrayal was PERFECT ! With Marius I need and actor who can successfully move me to tears as he endures tragic loss’s later on in the show and he has 2 very emotional songs to perform in the second half of the show (A Little Fall of Rain and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)
Gareth Gates has grown with each performance as young fighter, Marius and his suitably repressed turn and ‘less is more’ approach to the moving “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” works wonderfully well. He also has genuine chemistry with Katie Hall – who is beautifully understated as Cosette.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Txp6kWuNYGQ (Gareth Gates singing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”)
ROBERT MADGE AS GAVROCHE
In the 25th anniversary concert he took my breath away, such a wonderful young talent, he took my breath away. I wasn’t lucky enough to see him in the 25th anniversary tour as they alternated the young actor playing Gavroche depending on the venue. He was a breath of fresh air as the cheeky street urchin Gavroche, he beams with confidence and his voice is great !!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxKSZeoH7BQ (A little compilation of Robert Madge as Gavroche)
In the terms of smaller ensemble parts such as the bishop and the factory workers, I can’t decide to be honest most of them are great!
So If you were the casting director of Les Miserables, who would you cast? Do you agree with my choices? (I hope so!)