Les Misérables

Definition

Theater

  • The musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel by Alain Boublil (book), Claude-Michel Schönberg (music), and Herbert Kretzmer (English lyrics); the London production has now (2010) run for 25 years, making it thelongest-running musical in history.

    Les Misérables began life in 1980 as a concept album based onHugo's epic tale of love and pursuit in the Paris underworld. The first live version, at a sports stadium in Paris, was poorly received by both critics and audiences, but came to the attention of impresario Cameron Mackintosh, who conceived the idea of a fully dramatized London production. To realize this plan, he called in the RSC's Trevor Nunn, with whom he had previously worked on Cats (1981). With John Caird, his collaborator on the RSC's Nicholas Nickleby (1980), Nunn radically reworked the show to create "a sense of perpetual motion". It opened at the Barbican in 1985, with a cast that combined RSC regulars with rising talents of the musical stage (notably Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean and Frances Ruffelle as Eponine). After eight sold-out weeks, a somewhat streamlined version transferred to thePalace Theatre, where it played to packed houses until 2004; it continues to run at thesmaller Queen's Theatre. Although never a critical favourite, Les Misérablesenjoyed a similar triumph on Broadway, where it notched up 6680 performances and wasrevived (2006 - 08) only three years after the first production closed.'Les Mis' has now been seen by an estimated 55 million people in 38 countries; ironically, the one city in which it failed to run was Paris. Although the idea of a musical coproduction with a West End producer had originally raised some eyebrows at the RSC, the show has now earned the companywell over £20 million, ensuring its financial survival through difficult times.

    The team of Boublil, Schönberg, and Mackintosh went on to enjoy a second massive hit with Miss Saigon (1989).

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