Picks and Pans Review: Les Misérables

updated 08/20/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/20/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

International Cast

Given that London, Broadway and Paris cast albums of Les Misérables already existed, what was left to market? Never underestimate the ingenuity of producer Cameron Mackintosh, who keeps the music playing with this Three-hour-long international version, in English.

This three-compact-disc recording features 90 minutes of previously unrecorded music from the show, much of it in the form of sung dialogue or symphonic passages. (In Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's pulsating, sweeping score—with lyrics in the clunky English translation of Herbert Kretzmer—all dialogue is sung.) The 70 singers, backed by the 65-piece Philharmonia Orchestra of London, come from the New York City, London, Sydney, Los Angeles and Tokyo productions.

Probably the best part of this epic effort is hearing country star Gary Morris sing the lead role of Jean Valjean, the hunted outcast of Victor Hugo's 1,200-page novel. Morris has a voice rich in emotional texture and range, be it singing dramatic counterpoint to Inspector Javert (Philip Quast from Sydney) or switching to falsetto on the haunting "Bring Him Home."

Equally enjoyable is Sydney's Debbie Bryne, who plays Fantine. Although her voice suffers from too much vibrato, she doesn't belt à la Patti LuPone, so she can infuse "I Dreamed a Dream" with a Helen Morgan-like vulnerability.

Singing the role of Eponine is the Tokyo cast's Kaho Shimada. Her voice is warm, but because she doesn't speak English she had to learn her songs phonetically. Her version of "On My Own" is truly misérable, almost unintelligible.

The album was recorded in London, Los Angeles, Sydney—and Nashville, where Morris lives. Recording engineer David Hunt did a seamless job of intercutting the music and voices. For those who love Les Miz, this recording should keep us at the barricades for a while, at least until the movie sound track, or the rap version, or whatever else Mackintosh can dream up. (First Night/Relativity)

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