By Wayne Harada
Tip: If you adore “Les Miserables,” on stage or on film, here’s a warning. Avoid the “Les Miz” movie soundtrack on Universal Republic, which arrived before Christmas.
It is a major disappointment — not because of the vocals, but because of the extensive omissions. Why so many exclusions? It’s a misery and a mystery.
The new CD is honestly touted as a “Highlights” album, so you’d expect trims. It looks like any respectable audio memento of a film or play, but one run-through and you’ll be alarmed with such severe editing and aborted material. In short, the album is a lowlight in “Les Miz” history.
Let me count the ways:
• The Broadway cast CD has two discs; 16 tracks on disc one, 18 tracks on disc two.
• The movie soundtrack CD is a single-disc curiosity; it has 20s tracks.
Do the math: a heck of a lot of material has been unjustly cut. So what if it’s half the price of the two-disc keepsake; a bargain it ain’t.
Even the tracks remaining have been subject to some editing, meaning if you’re familiar with the songs, you’ll be horrified and mortified. A number you like may be among the shortcut version.
Oh, the biggies are here, with much of the screen glory intact: Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is pretty much intact with “I Dreamed a Dream,” though the lyrical intro isn’t as inviting and involving as the stage original. Happily, the piece de resistance of the film.
In: Young Cosette’s (Isabelle Allen) “Castle on a Cloud.” Tres bien.
Out: Gavroche’s “Look Down” and “Little People.” Quel dommage.
In: “Suddenly,” the fresh new insert by Valjean (Jackman), understandably a selling point for anyone eager to get every bit of “Les Miz” biz-ness. C’est magnique!
Out: “A Little Fall of Rain,” the eloquent Eponine-Marius (Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne) duet, when she is dying in the arms of the beau she couldn’t have. Mon dieu!
“Bring Him Home,” Jean Valjean’s (Hugh Jackman) potent ballad is here, so somebody had the smarts not to snip or meddle.
All I can say is don’t bring home this “Highlights” package. You’ll be mostly devastated, disappointed and dismayed.
Wait for the full complete version? Perhaps; but no word yet if one will be released.
The only option? Wait for the DVD of the film. Who knows? There could be bonus behind-the-scenes extras and interviews.