Les Miserables

The Dream Cast In Concert

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1995 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 147:50 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (80:10)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Gavin Taylor

Warner Vision
Starring Colm Wilkinson
Philip Quast
Ruthie Henshall
Jenny Galloway
Alun Armstrong
Lea Salonga
Michael Ball
Michael Maguire
Judy Kuhn
Anthony Crivello
Adam Searles
Hannah Chick
Case Brackley
RRP $49.95 Music Claude-Michel Schonberg

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 448Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Back in 1990, I bought tickets to see Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Phantom Of The Opera. This was to be staged at the currently-being-renovated Princess Theatre in Melbourne. They raised funds for the restoration by pre-selling tickets for Phantom Of The Opera. There was one rider - you needed to buy tickets for this show called Les Miserables as well, if you wanted tickets for Phantom. I was that anxious to see Phantom that I had no problem plonking down the quite considerable sum of money required for two tickets to both shows, even though I had no idea what Les Miserables was all about, other than the fact that it was something about some historical event in France.

    I was almost not even going to bother to turn up to Les Miserables. Boy am I glad I did - words fail me when I try to describe how that first experience of Les Miserables affected me. It was love at first sight, from the strident opening chords to the profoundly sad and moving conclusion. I was moved to tears more than once by this musical, and still am to this day. Put simply, it is the musical of the 20th Century, peerless beyond compare, and musical perfection.

    My love affair with this musical continues to this day, having seen it twice professionally, owning two CDs of the musical score, owning a documentary on laserdisc, and musical directing a non-professional version of the show. I know every note of the score, and it still moves me today every bit the same as it did over 10 years ago.

    It was self-evident when this DVD appeared on the release schedule for Region 4 that I would be the one to review it.

    Les Miserables-The Dream Cast In Concert is a video rendering of the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Gala Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1995. As its title suggests, the best of the best voices from Les Miserables productions world-wide were combined on stage with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for this most impressive of events. Taking the two primary roles are Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean and Philip Quast as Javert, however the talent on show here in all of the primary roles is simply breathtaking. Of particular note are Ruthie Henshall as Fantine and Lea Salonga as Eponine who are just brilliant, both far and away the best in their respective roles that I have ever heard.

    So, we have a stellar voice cast, a stellar orchestra, and a chorus of 250-odd. How does it all come together? Frankly, it is just a little too loose around the edges for my liking. There are times throughout the score when some of the principals got just slightly out of step with the musical director, who seemed to be hurrying the score along a little too much for my liking. Indeed, it sounded to me like the entire ensemble could have down with just one more rehearsal before staging this production. Add to this the various minor but irritating technical glitches of this production and transfer, and I was left just a little disappointed. Make no mistake, I still enjoyed this immensely, but I felt that it should have been just that little bit better, especially considering the talent on offer.

    One redeeming feature is the encore, which I will not spoil for you, but spectacular, brilliant, and moving are words which spring to mind. The encore alone made up for the various minor annoyances of the transfer, and was almost worth the price of the DVD on its own for any true fan of Les Miserables.

Transfer Quality


    The packaging of this DVD warns; "Due to the superior quality of the DVD format slight technical imperfections may be visible from this live concert recording which would not be apparent on lesser reproduction formats." This is the type of warning that I am used to seeing on 50 year old transfers, not on a 5 year old one, however it is certainly applicable in this case. I have a great deal of difficulty in formulating an overall opinion of this video transfer. The majority of it is very good, but there are specific sections which comprise a significant amount of the overall transfer time which are very poor to my eye. It is all subtle stuff, mind you, and many people will probably notice nothing particularly wrong with this transfer, but I had real problems watching it. I guess it all depends on your opinion of the relative importance of the "slight technical imperfections" in comparison to the importance of the subject matter and the fact that it is simply not available anywhere in any format in any better shape than it is presented here.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. This is the original aspect ratio of this particular production.

    The transfer is variably sharp. Some specific camera angles are exceptionally good. Some camera angles are indistinct and poor. One specific camera is excellent - a middle distance camera located to the left of the stage is exceptional in clarity and definition. Take a look at 105:58, a medium shot of Enjolras. This is very nicely rendered. In contrast, by far the worst camera angle is a close-up camera located audience right. This particular camera suffers from numerous problems. It has poor definition. It has a poorly calibrated black level. It suffers from excessive noise, both in the luminance and in the chrominance components of the video signal. Most annoying of all, there are numerous white vertical lines running through the image from this camera. The best way I could describe the image emanating from this camera is to imagine that some black pin-stripe material has been placed over the camera lens and we are viewing the image through the pin-striping. This would not be all that much of a problem if this camera angle was infrequently used. Unfortunately, it is probably the most used camera angle of any of the camera angles available to the director, and this significantly mars this transfer. There are numerous examples of this camera angle being used that I could point out, but take a look at 20:01 and 114:47 - 115:17 for the most obvious examples of this problematic camera angle. The director of this video transfer had a habit of combining the very best and the very worst cameras, and cross-fading between the two, which made the poor quality image all the more noticeable.

    Shadow detail varies between camera angles, between excellent and very poor. The same can be said for low-level noise.

    Some still photographs were included in the transfer to illustrate the action. These were generally of very poor quality.

    The colours were passable. Blue was a problem on occasion, once again variably depending on the camera angle. Some cameras exhibited considerable chroma noise, particularly in the blues, whereas others were extremely clear and well-defined in their rendition of colour.

    There were no definite MPEG artefacts noted in this transfer.

    Video artefacts, on the other hand, were plentiful. I have already described the most irritating and most frequent of them above, but there was another annoying video artefact on display. At 103:48 - 104:01 and again at 120:33 - 120:49 a ghost outline of the actor being imaged could be seen some way to the right of the actor's actual image. There is also a very odd edit at 105:58, where a brief fading image appears for a few frames.

    This disc is presented on an RSDL-formatted DVD, with the layer change placed between Act 1 and Act 2 at 80:10.


    There is only a single audio track on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 2.0, recorded at the quite high bit-rate of 448Kb/second. I started off listening to this soundtrack in pure stereo, but ended up engaging Prologic decoding even though there is no surround information encoded in this soundtrack. The soundtrack sounded better this way.

    The overall impression I got of this soundtrack was that it was somewhat lacklustre. If any musical presentation cried out for a decent 5.1 remaster, this is it.

    The vocals were generally clear and easy to understand. Their overall level seemed to dip a little about half way through Act 2. Vocal peaks were frequently distorted, particularly from the more powerful male voices. It sounded like a source problem rather than a transfer problem. This is simply unacceptable at this level of production. The sound engineers responsible for this travesty should be ashamed of themselves as they should have made allowances for the sheer power of the voices on offer here. The distortion of the audio peaks significantly marred the overall presentation. There are also a number of odd noises scattered through the production; 32:43 is a case in point, as is 41:14, during Castle On A Cloud.

    There were no audio sync problems with this DVD.

    The surround and subwoofer channels were not used.


    There are no extras on this disc at all.


R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this DVD also has the same sound and image concerns that plague the Region 4 version, so the Region 4 version of this DVD, with its RSDL formatting and widescreen presentation is the version of choice.


    Les Miserables-The Dream Cast In Concert is a somewhat problematic DVD. On the one hand, I have no hesitation in highly recommending it to any Les Miserables fan. There is no doubt in my mind that this DVD belongs in your collection despite its technical flaws. The encore alone is worth the price of admission. On the other hand, I think anyone only casually interested in this material would do well to borrow or rent this title before committing the $49.95 needed to add it to their collection.

    The video quality is problematic.

    The audio quality is quite ordinary.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
10th April 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer