Sunday, January 30, 2011


I've been rambling about this all over the internet already, so maybe I could gather what I've already said here and only add what is necessary after that.

From my Tumblr:
"Just back from watching Next to Normal in Helsinki City Theatre.
Tuukka Leppänen singing I’m Alive = quite possibly the best thing I’ve seen in a theatre, in Finland at least. My heart was beating about three times as fast as normally. So powerful. Fantastic.
Oh yeah, the rest of it was pretty nice too. ;)"

From my deviantART:
"--And then it was time to go to see Next to Normal in Helsinki City Theatre. And this time I had talked a group of friends into coming with me. We had such fun, I don't think I've ever laughed that much during intermission!
I hope, though, that they'll still my friends after seeing me launch into my full fangirl mode.

The show?
It was wonderful.

First, score and book-wise: gorgeous.
This is, in my opinion, how musical theatre should be done.
I don't want to see another one of your Eighties' Hits Jukebox Extravaganzas or In the Year Seventy-Five: A Mix of Your Favourite Finnish Rock Songs Musicals getting done. This is what I want to see instead - a story that's more than just filler in between the songs. A strong score that works in harmony with the story and the characters.
Next to Normal has just that. It's the best musical I've seen in a long time.

And then, production-wise... Wow. It was oozing with awesome. It- uh. I know a friend I was there with is reading this and going "what is she pretending, there was just one reason she liked it", and she's pretty much right. So let's get to it.

Tuukka Leppänen.
I think I've gushed about him before, but let's just say it all again: he was Munkustrap in Cats, the musical that made me a musical fan in the first place, and was he awesome. I was briefly working at the library at the time and I remember how, the day after seeing it, I just stared blindly at the books, rewinding his parts of the show in my mind. After Cats, I've seen him in Mary Poppins, Wicked and now Next to Normal. And I'm always really, really amazed by his performances. Such stage presence, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it.
And this time... You should've heard him sing "I'm Alive." Listening to it made my heart beat about three times as fast as usually. It was, in my opinion, one of the most powerful things I've ever seen in a theatre. Haven't been this impressed by a performance ever since I saw Ramin Karimloo in The Phantom of the Opera soon two years ago.
Or, by a Finnish performance, ever since I saw Cats for the second time over two years ago...

To be fair, the rest of the cast was really good too. Sometimes I've noticed Helsinki City Theatre's productions lack an emotional presence - can't explain it, really, just something that's missing - but that certainly wasn't a problem here!
Oh well, maybe I should've guessed this was going to be good when I went to the introduction by the director (Markku Nenonen) and he was practically jumping up and down in his seat, just out of excitement."

So, uh, hm, I notice my balanced, 0%-of-mindless-fangirling reviews are not so balanced after all... Heh. A girl, no matter how sensible, can fangirl sometimes, right?
Besides, if you had been there, I'm certain you could only think about that one performance too.

So, what's there left to say?
Well, this has been the perfect start for my musical year 2011. I'll get another ticket to N2N the first thing next week. I don't remember being this impressed by a show in a long time! The last time I felt this good after leaving a theatre was I saw Mary Poppins and giggled happily the whole hour and a half it took me to get to home (you there, stop laughing at my musical taste!).
Maybe I've found a new show to mention when talking about favourites - but I'll get the CD first and see if it can survive my light thirteen times per week listening schedule!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Les Mis Album Comparison Part IV

Les Amis de l'ABC. Oh, you sweet boys with hundreds of fangirls roaming around the internet. Let's see which set of you is worth listening to!

Maybe it's worth a notice that the Danish CD has, conveniently, also destroyed Red and Black. I can't express my loathing of the person who made the cuts clearly enough. ARGH.
I'm still giving bonus points for everybody who says Don Juan correctly and everybody who mentions Enjolras's name during this number - correctly or not.
+ for Dutch CD for the correct pronunciation of Don Juan. How in the world can it be so difficult for everybody else?
+ to be fair to the German CD which changed Don Juan to Casanova.
+ for French and Dutch CDs for shouting "Enjolras!" before the song begins.

And now... Do You Hear The People Sing?
London 1985
David Burt as Enjolras - not overly good, if not bad either.
I'm not sure if I like this orchestration. It's a bit thump boom ding ding thump boom thump. The choir sounds great, though! But still, I feel something is lacking. This almost has the power the song should have, but something is still missing. Almost there... (But in retrospect, more almost there than some...)
4 points

Vienna 1988
Very echo-y, both the orchestra and Enjolras (Alexander Diepold), who seems to be placing emphasis on odd places (even though I don't know what the words mean). He just sound a little too dramatic...
The orchestration is still this echoing boing-boing-boing thing, but the drums are nice. I liked the previous choir better though, this seem a bit small. But plus for the woman choir going "aaaaa" in the background during the second verse and for the fact that the choir sounds twice as big during the final reprise.
1 point

Paris 1991
Ah, good old À La Volonté Du Peuple! I love the Concept Album version to bits, it's currently my favourite version of this song. Let's see if this holds up!
The orchestra is a bit fuller than on the previous CDs, but Julien Combey as Enjolras isn't still quite the awesomesauce I'm wishing this part would be. The choir could sound better, more lush, and the ladies' part in the background of the second verse is awkward: first really big before suddenly disappearing. The drums do their best to create fighting spirit.
3 points

Danish 1992
Well yay. My old favourite. Blow me away.
To my surprise, the orchestra sounds better in the beginning than yet on any of these albums. Lars Oluf Larsen as Enjolras sounds more of Marius material, though, he's way too quiet and soft...
The choir sounds to be all-male, which I approve of. I like male choirs. Maybe it's a bit off, though, that guys do the girls' backing track during the second verse when the girls still join the song in the final reprise. But this isn't a bad version of the song, at least not as bad as I was suspecting!
2 points

10th. Ann. 1995
Michael Maguire as Enjolras starts the song over a very soft orchestration. Unfortunately I can't get the image of that guy's face out of my head. With that hair, in my opinion he looks more like a Ken doll than an Enjolras! That doesn't affect voice of course, and he's okay to listen to.
I like the orchestration the best so far, and the choir is best yet. They're not going to be slaves again, and that's for sure!
6 points

Dutch 2008
Big, more brassy orchestra than before, and finally, finally an Enjolras who actually sounds like my mental image of the guy! Go go, Freek Bartels! He sounds young and pretty, plus I again love how Dutch sounds when sung.
If you need to fill me with fighting spirit fast, play this song to me a couple of times! The choir's perfect, the orchestra is the best yet, the backing choir sounds so good with both male and female voices and then there's the perfect Enjy... This has some energy!
7 points

Live! 2010
Getting a little too brassy here maybe, but with nice drums... Jon Robyns as Enjolras sounds young but not so good as Bartels, somehow more annoying (still, more right than the most!). The choir is a little too small - sure, it's live so they can't drag everybody in the cast plus a couple of cleaningwomen and technicians around the studio to back up, but anyway...
It isn't "some will lives", that's netspeek! Yeah, this is a bit too messy rendition for me. It's not bad at all, and I love the live cheers and yells of the cast, but it's still a bit messy.
5 points

Word of advice to all: just do what the French Concept Album did, the drums and all. It's perfection.

Rankings time!
London 1985: 27.5 + 4 = 31.5
Vienna 1988: 17.5 + 1 = 18.5
Paris 1991: 16 + 3 = 19
Denmark 1992: 15.5 + 2 = 17.5
10th Ann. 1995: 36.5 + 6 =42.5
Dutch 2008: 30 + 7 = 37
Live! 2010: 25 + 5 = 30

Adding bonus points:
#1: 10th Ann. 1995: 42.5+
#2: Dutch 2008: 37+++
#3: London 1985: 31.5+
#4: Live! 2010: 30++
#5: Paris 1991: 19++
#6: Vienna 1988: 18.5++
#7: Denmark 1992: 17.5---