Compare the songs or singers on two different soundtracks (Ie., CSR and TAC) and then come to your conclusion about which is better! And no picking people like Lea Salonga for Fantine, because she's not on a soundtrack-- though you can pick her for Éponine, if you want. REcordings in other languages are totally allowed.
I will do it with singers on TAC and OBC, but I have DEEPLY DUBIOUS TASTES. I have a feeling a good majority of my choices will be disputed.
BETWEEN THE OBC AND TAC:
They're the same guy
They're the same guy. He's sometimes flat and overly nasal on the TAC, though. (I'm still a big fan of his, though-- even though he blinks too much. He sounds very... manly and heroic, and his songs are my favourites in the show-- lovely vibrato. I just feel like his TAC performance couldn't live up to the expectations he set on the OBC one.)
They're the same guy... I mean... girl... (Though she sometimes looks like a guy, thanks to that hideous black dress she has to wear. I've never once seen a Cosette who looked good in that dress, no matter how pretty the actress.)
Are they both Mr. Crivello? I know I saw him in the OBC with the huge afro, but I don't know if he was Grantaire. Anyway, both recordings sound pretty similar, and I love that guy.
I think this is one choice no one will argue! Michael Ball's voice is so warm and resonant, and he packs so much emotion into it. Plus, he's like a big teddy bear, which adds personality (and dimples) to a fairly flat character. Not that Marius is flat in the book, but in the musical, there's not much opportunity for character development. The OBC guy, David Bryant, has a pleasant voice and nice vibrato, but he puts no emotion into it, and his voice is too breathy and soft-- and some songs (like Heart Full of Love) seem way too high for him.
. I love Randy Graff. Her voice definitely showcases all of the panic that Fantine's going through, especially the frantic vibrato she uses in the last couple verses of "I Dreamed a Dream" and part of "Come To Me." Also... Ruthie Henshall's voice has this weird quality. There's a girlishness to it, but it sounds forced, like she's trying really hard to sound young, and almost like she's singing through a clenched jaw.
Lea Salonga has a very pretty voice, if not necessarily the most original. I actually like Frances Ruffelle... but she sounds pretty weird on the OBC recording, and this is just a comparison between the OBC and TAC, not anything else. Ms. Ruffelle's pronunciation on words like "river" and "silver" and 'him' and the way she sounds like she's scream-moaning some of her lines is a bit distracting.
I love the Cockney accent. Though I do really love the guy on the OBC, too-- it was a hard choice. (I like his squeals and bullfrog breathing.)
This is the only one I really can't decide on. I love the singing on the OBC, but the TAC really gets the "terrifying Thenardiess" down pat. Complete with Cockney accent.
TAC. Though neither are as good as that girl who kept singing through the fire alarm on the blooper reel!
Why am I mentioning Feuilly? Because this was the one casting choice that I couldn't stop ranting about when I got the TAC. The OBC Feuilly has a deep, rich voice, and the TAC guy seems insubstantial in comparison. I can't even listen to "Drink With Me" on the TAC. And if you recall, Marius sings in that song. I'm forced to listen to David Bryant as Marius every time I listen to that song because I'm trying to avoid the dull Feuilly!
OBC. I'm almost as adamant about this as I am about Feuilly. The OBC guy has a mischievous and adorable voice. The kid on the TAC sounds stuffy, stilted, and older. (The OBC kid is also cuter-looking, but that's entirely beside the point.) When OBC guy yells "LIAR!" He really sounds fierce... the TAC guy sounds like he doesn't care.
That guy who sings "You at the barricades, listen to this!":
You probably don't know this about me, but those two "You at the barricades, listen to this" song-lets (complete with Enjolras's parts) are my favourite bits of music in the whole show! I'm in two minds about the two different times they sing it.
* First time: ("Give up your guns or die") OBC.
He has lovely vibrato and a beautiful echo to his voice that really makes it sound powerful.
* Second time: ("Why throw your life away") TAC.
For some reason, on the TAC, the second time the guy sings this, it has a crackly, radio-like quality to it-- but not the first time. My brother and I find this immeasurably awesome.
Why have I not mentioned Javert
yet? Because I KNOW no one will agree with me on this one. No one EVER. I have yet to find anyone, whether in real life or on the internet, who comes even close to agreeing with me. You see, I am... *dramatic pause* A MANN FAN.
Yes. I think Terrence Mann's facial expressions, pale pop-eyes, dark purr of a voice, and lean face are better suited to the "wild wolf" character of Javert that I got from the book. Philip Quast seems too... stereotypical cop. He doesn't seem as menacing or as snarky or as stylish. (Though he is tall, unlike Mr. Mann.)
Maybe that's because I got that "ugly yet sexy" vibe from Javert, and who is better described by that phrase than the slightly freakish looking but strangely sensuousTerrence Mann? (Heck, he played Chauvelin and The Beast. The only other "ugly yet sexy" character out there is The Phantom of the Opera, and that's a tenor role.) He has more... danger about him than Mr. Quast.
Terrence Mann follows the rhythms of the songs better, and he has a smooth voice that I find a lot more pleasurable to listen to than the gravelly, often painfully harsh and nasal voice of Mr. Quast. I can't even listen to Philip Quast's version of "Confrontation" because his voice is so grating, or to his version of "Stars" because he throws off the rhythm.
Also... could Philip Quast do THIS? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGe9-LM6wnQ
EDIT: I read the first ten pages of reviews for the OBC soundtrack on Amazon, and found eight people who think Terrence Mann is the best Javert! So apparently I'm not ENTIRELY alone, just in a serious minority.
I still think he was far better as the Beast and (especially) as Chauvelin, though... and I think he wasn't as good at being the Rum Tum Tugger as John Partridge on the DVD, though he was still great and he came before Mr. Partridge. So I'm not totally biased, nor am I secretly him. ^_^
I am playing the Queen of France right now in a play. Try not to decapitate me.