Overall, I think this version outdoes the stage musical for several reasons.
- The music is much more personal. As it was done live and generally in extreme closeup, the actors need not employ the operatic voices needed on the large theater stage. Much has been made of this approach, but it works.
- The sole exception, of course, is the block of wood that clogs up and slows down any scene in which it appears. I refer, of course to Russell Crowe. He can neither act nor sing to the level required by this part. His Javert lacks the passion needed, and thus his doubts and epiphany at the end make no sense. To be fair, I felt this a bit even on stage, as the part is the weakest in the cast, but his performance make it so obvious that it hurts.
- On the grander scale, the large action sequences and effects were quite amazing, especially the reverse zoom from the barricade to an aerial view of Paris. Gavroche's self-introduction in "Look Down" is a visual gem.
- Sasha Baron Cohen and Helen Bonham Carter ham it up appropriately as the Thenardiers. I rather liked the "Master of the House" number and definitely did not miss "Dog Eat Dog," which was cut.
- The minor changes to the plot sequence, and additions of short expository songs help as well.
- I was struck (oddly for the first time), by the amazing similarity of "One Day More" to the "Tonight" ensemble number in West Side Story.
- I was very pleased to see Colm Wilkinson, the original London Jean Valjean, in the role of the bishop. This was a very classy touch. I sense the hand of producer Cameron Mackintosh.