Many, many thanks to Alexandra and Ursula for making it possible for me to get a copy of this video, Jennifer for doing the wonderful conversion, and Chris for introducing me to Jennifer! :)
First off, I should probably warn everyone that my opinions on this video may be expressed a bit more...forcefully....and even less coherently than usual. And since I don't do much to hide my opinions under normal circumstances, well, that probably doesn't bode well for this review. :) Blame it on the migraines I've had nearly every day for the past couple of weeks....(@#*&$^@ weather!)
Overall, though, I like the video! It's somehow not quite what I expected, but since I'm not sure just what I did expect, it's hard to describe why. I guess I was assuming something more formal, but when I think about it, it shouldn't have surprised me that these people would be goofing around with each other, just seeming to be having fun. Not to mention what's got to be intentionally cheesy (ack, did I really just use that word?!?) "choreography"! :) At times I've tried to listen to the video without actually watching, in order to draw a more fair comparison to the CD; interestingly, some of the songs I like better just listening to the video, and others I prefer when I'm also watching....In general I think everyone sounds really good--I expect nothing less of Pia Douwes and Viktor Gernot, Uwe Kröger sounds considerably better than on the CD (which, frankly, I find painful more often than not), and even Marika Lichter sounds better than I've come to expect!
As I've said before, I don't care for Strike Up the Band, and when I do want to listen to it, I'll always pull out the appropriate Anthony Warlow video instead, so I'll just pass over the version from this concert.
Next comes the pop version of Beauty and the Beast, a song I've heard best described as "unnecessary". Lichter and Kröger do a fine job, I suppose, considering that I don't like the real version of the song, and despise the pop version.
Wie kann ich sie lieben is one of the songs I prefer just to listen to--probably because, although I don't normally notice such things, IMO his hairstyle is...um...well. "Amusing" might be a more-or-less accurate word, I suppose (as someone emailed me upon seeing this video, correctly assuming I'd need no explanation of what she was talking about, "His HAIR!!!!!!! Oh ye gods!!!!!!! He looks like one of the Sex Pistols or something")--even though it makes me wish even more that I'd been able to see him in this role when I was in Europe in November 1998, rather than getting stuck with Kevin Tarte (whose acting was fine, I suppose, but whose voice sounded surprisingly thin and high-pitched). Bah. Anyway, it sounds great, all the more so because just a year before this concert was taped, I wasn't at all convinced that he should be playing this role!
I think Music That Makes Me Dance sounds a bit better on the CD; Douwes's performance on the video seems a bit low-energy. Which of course means that she's only very good, not magical. It was fun for me, though, seeing people I know when the cameras panned through the audience after this number. :)
Next, that IMO bland random pop song from Pimpernel, You Are My Home. I've already expressed my feelings on this song in my discussion of the CD, so I'll just skip over this one for now. Much the same goes for I've Got the World on a String--nothing wrong with the performance, I just don't like the song.
I think Nobody's Side may sound a bit better on the CD, but it's still fine here. Douwes sounds rather Southern during part of the song, for some reason, and I don't much like that, but then, I hate Southern accents.
Somehow, I never expected Es wird dir gutgehen, morgen to be this funny! And something tells me Douwes didn't quite expect all of it, either. :) I was very glad that they included this song, having enjoyed it so much on the In Love With Musical recording.
Next comes a series of songs from Les Misérables. I should say now that I don't like the German translation of this show; I've never thought the sound of the language fit the music very well. Worse, I now associate the German lyrics with what may be the most horrible professional production of any show I've ever seen--the cast I saw in Duisburg in the summer of 1997 was dreadful beyond words, with only a couple of exceptions (primarily Jeroen Phaff and Thomas Hurter, who were so much better than everyone around them that I just have to give them credit by name, despite its being completely unrelated to these pages!), the technical production wasn't much better, and it nearly ruined my enjoyment of a wonderful show. So while I completely understand why the German lyrics were used for this concert (three of the four people involved having been in the Vienna production), I personally could wish they'd used nearly any other version. Ah well. At any rate, they start with At the End of the Day, which doesn't quite work for me with just a handful of voices.
I've always thought that Pia Douwes was my favourite Fantine, even though her performance on the Dutch cast album isn't nearly the best thing I've heard her do, and her Ich hab' geträumt confirms that opinion. So sweet, so hopeful, so powerful, so disillusioned....*sigh* I would, of course, have preferred the Dutch lyrics, or the French (although I like the original version more than the one from 1991, which isn't nearly bitter enough for me), or even the English, but I'll take what I can get!
As it happens, I found myself wondering what Gernot would be like as Javert on the very day this concert took place, having no idea that he would be performing Stars. While I still think that in theory it's a good idea, this performance isn't up to the standard I expect. This is something I almost never say, but...well, the song is much too fast! One of the several reasons I've never liked Stars (I'm more of a Suicide person) is that it's slower than I generally like. But it needs to be slow; Gernot starts out fast and just gets faster as the song goes on. Maybe next time....
I have to say that, after the last six times I've seen the show (when I twice got a good Grantaire but pretty bad Feuilly, and four times had horrible performers in both roles), it's very refreshing to finally hear a good Drink With Me. Even if I do keep expecting the second line to be "op lang voorbij". :)
I admit, I was very...frightened...when I heard that Lichter had done Nur für mich (On My Own; sorry for not being consistent with the language of titles in this section!). Much to my surprise, though, it's not nearly as bad as one would think. She is of course completely wrong for the song, not at all Eponine-like!, but she manages to give quite a tolerable performance. I mean, I've heard far worse from actual Eponines (such as the nearly-as-inappropriate Birgitte Raaberg, Tia Riebling, Gina Feliccia; the bizarre Michelle Maika or Jennifer Naimo; the whiny Stephanie Likes or Sylvie Paladino (based on a TV appearance, at least); or the just-plan-bad Melanie Wittke, Debbie Gibson, and the ultimate in bad Eponines, Laura Hamilton.). So I shan't complain.
I still think of Kröger more as an Enjolras-type, but his Dunkles Schweigen an den Tischen is quite nice. Not on the same level as Martin Crewes (who, for instance, has a much stronger "FRIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEENDS", which feels like it'll never end...), but I like it much better than any of the cast albums. Which isn't saying much, since I don't like any of the people who've been recorded as Marius all that much, but Kröger really is good. I can't really watch it, though, 'cause between the old "stage lights don't transfer well to video" problem, and the usual colour problems involved in even a high-quality PAL to NTSC conversion, for much of this song his body is blue, his face purple, and his hair green on my copy. :)
They end with the Finale, appropriately enough, the Do You Hear part of which I still think needs more voices. But they start with Fantine's "Come with me where chains will never bind you...", which is on the one hand lovely (more Douwes!), but on the other, raises some not-too-pleasant ideas of Kröger as Valjean, which is NOT something I'd ever like to hear for real. :)
Next come the City of Angels songs. As with the Les Mis numbers, all four performers remain onstage for the whole time; and in places, it's as entertaining watching those not actually performing as those who are! And definitely not because the performances are bad, by any means. But this is the main portion of the program where being able to see the singers adds a great deal to my enjoyment. The Prologue's pretty difficult to comment on so I'll just skip ahead....
I still think Lichter's and Douwes's voices don't blend very well, but What You Don't Know About Women is fun nevertheless. And man, they fly through that section at the end! I love it. :)
At last!!! This is so much closer to the Funny I missed on the CD and on Favourites! Okay, so it's not perfect, and I still see no point in doing just a few lines in one language rather than splitting the song more evenly or just staying in the same language throughout, but the emotion is so much better. Enough so that, after the other versions, I'm willing to overlook the accent, the way it brings to mind Forbidden Broadway's Mary Martin parody ("..and scoop on every note...."), even perhaps the lyric error--even if changing "I've heard so often before" to "I've heard too often before" eliminates the double meaning of those lines. For now. I have no idea what he thinks he's doing on the last word, and I definitely don't like it, but I can deal. :)
Mit jedem Atemzug (and if someone would care to tell me why this is always given as the title, when what she actually sings every time is "Bei jedem Atemzug", I'd appreciate it) is, I think, much better than before. I still prefer Kay McClelland, but I suspect I may actually like Lichter's version here more than Fiona Hendley's, although I'm not about to get out the London cast album to check.
Double Talk. As someone I know would probably say, "Niiiiiiiiiiice!" :) This is one I wanted to compare to the CD from a purely aural standpoint, and it's definitely more to my liking. The tempo is just this side of too fast, but as I'm far more likely to find things slow than otherwise, it doesn't bother me. Gernot's energy level is way up, the excitement's there, and it's just so much closer to my ideal for this song. Pity the same accent problems are present; I still don't understand that, but oh well. The audience definitely seemed to enjoy it nonetheless. :)
Oh my. You Can Always Count On Me is stronger vocally on the CD, but that can't compare with actually seeing Douwes perform it. She's got that Southern thing going on a bit, but it's not as strong as on Nobody's Side and seems to fit the character she's doing here. Her wide-eyed, slightly clueless, rather ditzy expressions are simply priceless. So adorable!
You're Nothing Without Me is another that isn't as strong as on the In Love With Musical CD if you're just listening to it--for one thing, Kröger's English pronunciation has completely fallen apart (his vowels are all over the place), and he makes two rather noticeable lyric mistakes--but the interplay between them is too much fun to miss!
It has occured to me that I may seem too critical when it comes to accents. Believe me, I'm well aware of how good everyone's English pronunciation is. Even Kröger at his worst is far more accurate than, say, some of the Estonian or Polish performers I've heard singing in English. But it's precisely because they're so close to getting it right that the little things stand out, for me! I suspect I might have been more able to ignore even Kröger's mistakes, if I didn't keep hearing him with three people who make so many fewer ones. When it comes to languages, I believe very strongly in Getting It Right, and I'm very aware of the fact that these people's pronunciation of English is considerably better than mine of Russian, much less German. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't do even better. :)
Anyway, back to the concert....
The one song from the CD that's not here which I actually miss is It's All Right With Me. Instead, Gernot does A Wonderful Day Like Today (from Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd). It's another fun, (very) upbeat performance, but I happen to like the other song a bit better.
It's followed by New York, New York--another of those "classic" songs I've never liked, but as it's far more suited to Lichter's voice than Children Will Listen, once again I'm not about to complain.
Next comes Seasons of Love. I'll content myself with having expressed my opinions regarding this song once already, and just say that at least it's being sung better this time than on the CD....
After a bit of confusion, we get to It's Hard To Say Goodbye, with some more deliciously bad choreography.
And then the encores....Elisabeth, of course. And much as I hate to admit it, I rather wish they'd left out Der letzte Tanz. I've known since, oh, late 1997, that Kröger probably wouldn't be good in this role any more--he's grown too much since then, which is a great thing in general (performers who don't improve over the years are boring at best), but I don't know anyone who seriously thinks he could give the same performance he did back in 1992--yet I really preferred being able to at least imagine otherwise. But this is three times now I've hated his performance of this song, and I'm finding it really really difficult to avoid being disillusioned. *sigh* Which is, of course, not nearly as much fun....
On the other hand, until the Dutch production and CD, this was by far the best recording of Ich gehör nur mir I've come across. Beautiful. (Incidentally, she did the song even better the four times I saw her live than on the Dutch CD--which is pretty darn impressive!)
Okay, back to reality. Nur kein Genieren is one of the songs I've never much cared for from the show, but it's definitely the one most suitable for Lichter, and it's been shortened, and so I don't mind its being included, really.
This is also the best Boote in der Nacht I know of; I just have to find a way to show this to my little cousin in France, as it's one of her favourite Elisabeth songs, and I know she'd adore this performance of it! I only wish they'd done the full song, rather than leaving out the first verse and chorus. Still, it's simply beautiful. (And to think there was a time when I didn't like this song very much....)
Der Schleier fällt is an interesting case for me. Kröger sounds a bit better on the cast album, but as with the other Elisabeth stuff, Douwes sounds simply amazing at the concert. So I'm not sure which I like more.
And then, following a repeat of It's Hard to Say Goodbye, the concert is, alas, over. Let's just hope there are more like it--and that they get at least recordings, if not videos like this one!