2 years ago I went to the Barbican for the final performance of Les Miserables, the 25th Anniversary show, and was astounded by how brilliant a fresh take on the wonderful musical could be, it was by far the best performance I have ever seen on stage. Amongst the cast was John Owen Jones as Jean Valjean who was just mind-blowing, the man sings magnificently, that being said all of the rest of the cast were outstanding as well especially Gareth Gates, Rosalind James, and Samantha Barks. The story itself was told in such a dark and more brutal way that you really appreciated it more and as a result it actually lightened the songs at times such as Master of the House. Overall, it was truly the best production of Les Mis that I have ever seen.
I then had the misfortune of watching the 25th Anniversary show which was subsequently put on at the 02 Arena the same night and was so disappointed by it. Aside from Samantha Banks the cast were either awful, as was the case of Alfie Boe, whathisface Jonas and Matt Lucas, or wonderfully talented but poorly cast like Norm Lewis (the man can really sing). I thought this was a truly terrible production and not only pale in comparison to the performance I had seen at the Barbican but also to those I had seen previously at the Palace and Queen’s theatres. It seemed to have been led by ‘names’ rather than talented and able performers and as such just seemed very poor.
With all that being said the 25th Anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera, which I have only just watched was the complete opposite. Taking a leaf from the 10th anniversary of Les Mis, this show utilised the best of the best to put on a brilliant show, I couldn’t find fault with anyone. To top this off Sarah Brightman then gave a powerful rendition of The Phantom of the Opera, joined by 4 previous Phantoms of which one was the original Jean Valjean (although he doesn’t seem as suited to Phantom), John Owen Jones who certainly has an opera Phantom voice (and I had seen in Les Mis as mentioned above), and Peter Jöback whom I had seen in recently on stage and I think best follows in the footsteps of Michael Crawford’s unique voice. It was just a shame Mackintosh didn’t put as much work into Les Mis given it is the West End’s longest running musical.