To expect that film actors be on the same level, singing wise, as their counterparts onstage, will always lead to disappointment. For me, it’s an automatic assumption that vocally, the film actors, who have not spent majority of their careers onstage, will not have the richness and body of sound as musical theater actors do. In the end, compromises with regards to casting are inevitable, whether it be a film or stage musical.
And, as Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables has also shown, being a musical theater actor does not necessarily mean that one has an advantage while working on the film adaptation. Samantha Barks may have essayed the role of Eponine at the 25th Anniversary concert and in the West End production, but she forgot that the camera requires a modified form of acting; while Aaron Tveit, may list Wicked, Hairspray, and Next to Normal in his resume, but was woefully uncomfortable in the presence of the cameras, frequently turning away from the dreaded equipment as he played the revolutionary student leader Enjolras.
For Russell Crowe to having mustered the courage to take on one of the most difficult singing roles in Les Miserables and being prepared to take flak for his efforts, the Oscar winning actor has my respect. And, it’s not as if Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil were not aware of his limitations.
THR: You used a lot of stage actors in smaller roles, how did that affect the movie stars on set like Russell Crowe?
Schönberg: When he first arrived on the set, Russell said, “OK, I don’t have the voice you use on the guys stage in the West End or Broadway.” So I gave him the French recording from back in 1980 when there was no traditional musical in France and we were using only pop singers. The guy who was singing was a rock ‘n’ roll singer, like Russell, with a big, heavy voice.
And, just in case you’re confused as to what the fuss is all about, here’s a video of Philip Quast as Javert performing “Stars” for the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, 8th October 1995.
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