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The Musical "Les Misérables"

"Les Misérables" also referred to as Les Mis or Les Miz, is a musical based on the novel Les Misérables written by French writer Victor Hugo. The premiere of the musical took place in Paris in 1980, with the music composed by Claude-Michel Schönberg, and original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. The London production is considered to be the longest-running musical in the West End running continuously since October 1985. It is also the world's second longest-running musical after "The Fantasticks".

The story of "Les Misérables" is set in early 19th-century France. The main character is Jean Valjean, a French peasant, who had been imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving child. The story of Jean Valjean is a story of his quest for redemption. Having broken his parole he started his life anew inspired by a remarkable act of mercy of a kindly bishop. However Jean Valjean was tracked down by a police inspector Javert. The events of the story develop during a revolutionary period in France, describing a desperate fight for a revolutionary cause of a group of young progressive minded idealists who are ready to sacrifice their lives at a street barricade.


The musical was first released as a French-language concept album, and the first on stage version of "Les Misérables" took place at the Palais des Sports in 1980. But in three months the production closed after the booking contract had expired.

In 1983, the director Peter Farago showed producer Cameron Mackintosh who had staged "Cats" on Broadway about half a year ago a copy of the French concept album "Les Misérables". Impressed by the music Farago persuaded Mackintosh who was initially reluctant of the idea to stage an English-language version of the show. It took Mackintosh working in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company two years to produce the musical adopted for a British audience. It was opened in London on 8 October 1985 at the Barbican Centre, then the London home of the RSC. The West End musical was such a success that a Broadway production was soon made.

Original West End Production

Les Misérables - Theatresource

Lyrics of the English-language version were written by Herbert Kretzmer and James Fenton expanded and rewritten other material, having added a prologue telling the backstory of Jean Valjean. Kretzmer didn’t just translate the French version. Some of the English lyrics were a "rough" translation, some were adapted from the French lyrics and the remaining part was completely new material. The bulk of the lyrics were performed in recitative style, with the vocalists using natural speech delivery, rather than musical metrics.

Original Broadway Production

The musical opened on Broadway on March 12, 1987 at The Broadway Theatre. The budget of the production constituted $4.5 million with over $4 million advance sale before its premiere in New York. The musical ran at first at the Broadway Theatre through October 1990, when it moved to the Imperial Theatre. The production was to close in March 2003, but the musical continued to run because of great public interest.

2006 Broadway Revival

Just three years passed after the original run was closed, but "Les Misérables" returned to Broadway in November 2006 at the Broadhurst Theatre. This production remained mostly unaltered, including the set, costumes and performers from the last U.S. national touring production. The lighting designed was upgraded and a proscenium became larger.

2014 Broadway Revival

The musical "Les Misérables" produced by Cameron Mackintosh once again returned to Broadway in March 2014 at the Imperial Theatre. This time Laurence Connor and James Powell ran the creative team, the set was designed by Matt Kinley, sound by Mick Potter, costumes by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowlands, projections by Fifty-Nine Productions and lighting by Paule Constable. The production is scheduled to close on September 4, 2016.

The 2014 Broadway show was nominated three times for Tony Awards. It was nominated Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Karimloo, Best Revival of a Musical, and Best Sound Design for Potter.

The show has been a worldwide success. It has been staged in forty-two countries and translated into twenty-one languages, including German, Polish, Spanish, Japanese, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Hebrew, Swedish, Dutch and many others. The musical has had more than seventy official recordings from worldwide productions including singles and promos.

Film Adaptation

Despite the fact that a number of films based on the Les Misérables story have been made, for a long time there was no film adaptation of the stage musical. Several film adaptation projects were known to be under development but they were later abandoned.

In 2010 Mackintosh announced his plans to produce a film adaptation of the musical. In 2011 Tom Hooper agreed to direct the film produced by Mackintosh from a screenplay by William Nicholson. The film was released in the U.S. on Christmas Day 2012. It features a number of notable actors, including Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, and others.