Bleh with Barry

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Why Watching an Anniversary Concert DVD Does not Make You an Expert

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By Photo: Andreas Praefcke (own photograph) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As all of you know, I am a kind of a YouTube fanatic, but moreover, you all know that the comments / reviews on performance, literary, or artistic items unnerve me when they do certain things (“Commenting on Things: What You Should and Should Not Do“). However, most recently, I have been watching clips from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Les Miserables from varying performances. In the comment sections, I have found people attacking other performers based upon their watching of the 25th Anniversary Cast DVDs of both musicals and think that they are the quintessential casts and performances. While I don’t necessarily have a problem with either cast (besides that Jonas kid as Marius… because he’s wimpy compared to the rest of the cast), I think that it is entirely unfair to demonize another performance based upon the ideology that you liked another performer better, but moreover, I also think that it’s terrible to attack a performer simply because you say they’re terrible… Tell us why they’re terrible for heaven’s sake.

The biggest example of this comes when people are comparing Lea Salonga’s performance of Fantine (25th Anniversary of Les Mis) or Eponine  (10th Anniversary) to the others that have played these roles and simply saying that they suck in comparison to her.  While I have no objections to Lea Salonga per say,  I do think that there are things that she does that are technically wrong. For instance, she spreads every vowel to the point that tight vowels are distorted by the overall stretched position of her mouth. (If you notice, I pointed out a flaw that is easily detectable… not just “Fuck no Lea Salonga is Fucking awfel”… spelling errors added for emphasis). However, I still believe that Lea Salonga is a good performer in her own right. Still, I don’t necessarily think that she’s the best performer for particular roles (Fantine is one thing that I just am not a fan of her in because her voice doesn’t convey the emotion that I think it should… to me it comes off as I’m trying to be sad and emotional but never really arrives at either).  Ms. Salonga is good in many things, but I just don’t think that this is the best performance of her (I like her better as Eponine).

This brings me to the main point of this post. I understand that people love the anniversary concerts of both franchises. Honestly, the 25th Anniversary Phantom might be my favorite filmed musical production. I also like a lot about the Les Mis 25th Anniversary (Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser are awesome… and so is Samantha Banks… others are too). However, I think that you create a flawed perception for yourself if you think that a DVD cast is the end all be all and don’t give anyone else another chance at all. I find nothing wrong with valuing one person’s performance over another. My biggest qualm lies with those that attack other people and other performances simply because they think that one person is better. This is why I say that watching that 25th Anniversary does not make you the expert on the whole of the musical or anything else for that matter. Believe me. There are others out there that know a lot more than you about whatever it is that you’re writing about, and most of them will allow you to have a valid point in an argument as long as it doesn’t turn into the “Nuh-uh she sucks!” type of statement.

Also, (this is connected to the previous paragraph, but I wanted to break here), don’t spread slander about an actor / actress / performer / writer just to do it.  For example, this comment came from a Les Mis video with Ruthie Henshall:

“This DOMESTIC STARLET CAREERLESS HAS-BEEN (thank you, Arch) is terribly miscast for this role. She has the ugliest voice ever of any Fantine, she can’t hit the notes, and she can’t act. The overarated Ruthie Henshall should not be cast in anything!”

Why was this necessary? Additionally, I have seen the “Domestic Starlet Careerless Has-Been” quoted often and wonder who said it first. This does not make you appear knowledgeable… it just makes you look ignorant and hateful (also without citing your source, it makes you look like a plagiarist or that you’re ashamed of your source… all I’m saying). Additionally, please don’t mark everything as SPAM if it doesn’t agree with your opinion. That’s even more childish than the “Nuh-Uh” comments in my opinion. If you can’t have a rationale and civil debate, don’t hide what others say… GAH!!!

Sorry… I’m done with my rant now… I feel a little better about life, and hopefully, others who do these rude things simply because they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet can take something from this… So in closing, I leave you with a few of the videos that started this rant. If you want more examples of the comments that people make, just look in the comment sections on these vids… So yeah…

The first is the Ruthie Henshall version from the 10th Anniversary concert of Les Mis. Personally, this is my favorite and is the one that started the purpose of this post… I feel like she shows a great deal of emotion in the song and performance, which is limited by the concert setting mind you. Enjoy!

The second is the Lea Salonga video that also caused this post. While I’m not a huge fan of Salonga’s Fantine, I think that there are some things that are wonderful about her performance as well. I just watch her and feel that her technique is flawed because of the vowel spreading… I also think that she doesn’t sound like a woman who has been through all that Fantine has… (and she’s had it hard).

The third is form the original West End performer of the role Patti Lupone. While it’s in a concert setting (because the original show was in a time before bootlegging shows in the theater was more difficult… think of the 80s video cameras…), I think that it’s obvious why a lot of individuals believe her to be pretty awesome (I love Patti…).

I’m even including Susan Boyle’s version of the song, which many persons may know… Although I am impressed by her vocal ability as a relative unknown flying into stardom and her raw talent, I also think that it’s unfair to compare her to the Broadway and West End greats that have performed this song. She’s good, but she has a lot of little flaws throughout the performance (timing, vowel sound, counting) that make it weaker to me. Good performance overall.

Matter of factly, even Glee has done it with Idina Menzel and Lea Michelle performing. Auto-tuned performances aside because of the nature of television, it’s pretty good overall… just not my cup of tea.

I could give you more and more of these performance, but I’m going to end here. But my PSA of the day would be that you (and I know that I’m writing toward a niche) should give other performances and artistry a chance before you judge something as terrible simply because it’s not what you’re familiar with or what you fell in love with to begin with… There you go.

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