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Your favorite Eponine...
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Okay, I'm just writing to be writing now. But that's okay. Maybe someone will find it interesting!

I've been sort of in my Les Miz bunker for a while now. We viewed the DVD of the 10th anniversary concert and went to see the touring show as it wtops by Chicago's Cadillace Palace Theater. And on Saturday night, our local PBS station, WTTW, showed the 25th anniversary concert, recorded and filmed at the O2, a venue in (or near) London. They always show these excellent programs in conjunction with their fundraising efforts, and this one was no exception.

At the end of the concert, they brought out some of the cast of the original London production. Of course, any Les Miz fan knows who Colm Wilkinson is. He's the guy who originated the role in London and on Broadway. Several others were there also, including Michael Ball, who played Marius, and Alun Armstrong, who played Thenardier.

I didn't know a couple of them; they weren't in the 10th anniversary concert or on my CD of the Broadway cast recording. But one I did know was the woman who played Eponine in London and again on Broadway. Her name is Frances Ruffelle, and she originated the role in those locations.

At some point, Filipino-American actress and singer Lea Salonga took over the role, and she was the one who sang the role in the 10th anniversary concert. She came back to play Fantine instead of Eponine on Broadway, and was eventually replaced in that role by Judy Kuhn, who played Cosette on Broadway and in the 10th anniversary concert.

I've always been partial to Ruffelle's interpretation of the role. While I don't think she has the greatest voice (I do think Salonga sings better), I think she defines the role of Eponine - a perfect blend of toughness and vulnerability. Salonga looked to be okay in this respect also, but I prefer Ruffelle's vocals.

Ater seeing Ruffelle in the 25th anniversary concert on PBS, I did some web searches, and I was surprised to see the venom directed against her. Many did prefer her in the role (as I do) and none of them had anything bad to say about Salonga. But most of those who preferred Salonga were incredibly negative about Ruffelle's talent.

One of the clips I viewed on YouTube was of Ruffelle's first American TV appearance, which came on the Johnny Carson Show. She sang "On My Own", which is of course Eponine's signature theme in the show. Again, I was surprised by the disparagement of her talents.

I have to admit that I had a bit of a crush on her, just from pictures and from listening to her voice. And then at my own wedding, we chose a song from a Michael Crawford CD to do our first dance, titled "Only You". It was a duet and only later did I realize that Frances Ruffelle was Crawford's duet partner on the song.

Ruffelle stood out in the 25th Anniversary concert, not because of her voice (which was still fine, in my opinion), but because of her dress. All of the others were wearing rather conservative dresses, but she was wearing a very short dress exposing a lot of leg (!), and one of the comments on YouTube below the video of the cast singing the anthem "One Day More" was something like, "Look! Eponine lost her skirt!" She's still pretty attractive at 45 or so, 25 years removed from the London and Broadway productions.

Samantha Barks, who played Eponine in the 25th Anniversary concert, was excellent. Perhaps *she's* the best Eponine. Young, attractive and talented, she captured the best of Ruffelle's performance and the best of Salonga's performance.


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