Monday, February 02, 2009

Wicked vs Les Mis

I have seen very few musicals at all. I think that by the time I would have been interested in going, we’d moved out of London, and then I never got round to going much. So bear in mind that what I say here is based on very limited experience. There’s not much point to this blog, I’m just rambling about musicals.

From my limited experience, it seems to me that there are two types of musicals:
1. Cheesy, camp productions (the ones I’ve seen are Joseph and Starlight Express)
2. Deeper, more meaningful shows (I’ve seen Wicked and Les Miserables, but I believe Phantom and Blood Brothers fall in this category too)

I’ve seen Les Mis once in the West End and once as a school production (my friend was playing Valjean), and I can remember very little about either. I saw Wicked for the first time a few weeks ago in London and can remember it quite well. Shortly after seeing Wicked I was asked if I preferred it to Les Mis. After some brief thought, I think I said that I thought that Les Mis had better music, but that I loved Kerry Ellis in Wicked. Not the deepest or most thoughtful analysis.

Tonight I’ve been thinking a bit more about these two musicals. Here are my (inexperienced) thoughts.

- I’ve seen it much more recently than Les Mis, so it is fresher in my mind and I am much more aware of how the plot works and how the characters all develop.
- The links with The Wizard of Oz are very cool – I love how it all fits in.
- As already mentioned, Kerry Ellis is amazing. She completely owned the show – the best stage performance I’ve ever seen, by an absolute mile.
- I think I prefer the hit songs, such as Loathing, Dancing Through Life, Defying Gravity, For Good, to the ones in Les Mis. Though this may be due to the fact that I’ve seen it more recently, or that Ellis is so good.

Les Miserables

- Les Mis is really epic – certainly the soundtrack is much longer than Wicked, though this may be because Wicked has many more spoken lines.
- I love the backdrop of the French Revolution, the historical context. I guess this is equivalent to the Wizard of Oz point for Wicked.
- The soliloquys in Les Mis are great, and give more depth to the characters. Wicked doesn’t have these so much (just a couple from Elphaba I think).
- Les Mis has a lot of plot lines, with a lot of characters, which Wicked lacks because it is more focused on just the lead character.

Overall, I think that one of the key differences between these two musicals is that Wicked is essentially Elphaba’s story, whereas Les Mis has several lead roles. Therefore Wicked is dominated by Kerry Ellis, while Les Mis has a more complex plot.

I think that if I’d seen the two musicals in the same circumstances, I would rate Les Mis more highly. That’s another way of saying I think Les Mis is better I suppose. But when I saw Les Mis I didn’t completely follow it, and when I saw Wicked I was blown away by Ellis. So that’s another way of saying I prefer Wicked. At the moment.

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