Les Miserables London Theatre History Assignment

The Grand Theatre’s High School Project will celebrate its 20th anniversary when Les Miserables officially opens September 23, a milestone simultaneously serving as the beginning of a new chapter at the Richmond Street playhouse.

Les Mis will be the unique theatre program’s 31st production. At the helm is Susan Ferley, the former Grand Theatre artistic director who’s trying out a new job title, freelance director, as London native Dennis Garnhum prepares to officially step in this October.

“It’s easier,” Ferley said with a smile during rehearsals September 20. “Rehearsal ends and I go home. I don’t have to go back to my office, I don’t have to sort through emails, I don’t have to get on the phone. All I’m doing is directing.”

Ferley’s plans after The Grand Theatre seem to be inspired by her work with London’s high school student-actors over the years; she said she plans to go back to school and learn coaching techniques she hopes to use even when she isn’t sitting in the director’s chair.

“I think part of the reason … is because I’ve been able to give these young people something over the years,” she said. “I’ve so enjoyed and been enriched by the experience of working with them and I’d like if I had an opportunity like this in the future to be able to offer more to the young artists, hence my pursuing this other facet of theatre arts.”

In the meantime, Ferley is enjoying putting the finishing touches on the massive show that is Les Mis.

“It’s epic and huge and inspiring,” she said.

One of the longest running musicals in the world, Les Mis is set in early 19th century France and is based on the novel of the same name by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. Still, Ferley said the popular production –Jean Valjean’s story of redemption following a 19-year prison sentence – is very relatable to the 21st century teenaged cast and fits perfectly with the themes of home that run through the Grand’s upcoming season.

“Victor Hugo, he was exploring a time of political turbulence, societal turbulence, yet the ultimate message is: … to love another person is to see the face of God,” Ferley said. “And there’s acting challenges for (the students). They’re playing young … teenagers and I think that’s partly why I find those scenes so moving from a whole different perspective.”

Les Mis runs until October 1.

CMontanini@postmedia.com

Twitter: @LondonerChris

 

This article is about the musical theatre production. For other uses, see Les Misérables (disambiguation).

Les Misérables (English:; French pronunciation: ​[le mizeʁabl(ə)]), colloquially known in English-speaking countries as Les Mis or Les Miz (), is a sung-through musical based on the novel Les Misérables by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. Premiering in Paris in 1980, it has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and original French-language lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, alongside an English-language libretto with accompanying English-language lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The London production has run continuously since October 1985, making it the longest-running musical in the West End and the second longest-running musical in the world after the original Off-Broadway run of The Fantasticks.

Set in early 19th-century France, it is the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child. Valjean decides to break his parole and start his life anew after a kindly bishop inspires him by a tremendous act of mercy, but he is relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert. Along the way, Valjean and a slew of characters are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade.

Background[edit]

Originally released as a French-language concept album, the first musical-stage adaptation of Les Misérables was presented at the Palais des Sports in 1980.[1] However, the production closed after three months when the booking contract expired.[citation needed]

In 1983, about six months after producer Cameron Mackintosh had opened Cats on Broadway, he received a copy of the French concept album from director Peter Farago. Farago had been impressed by the work and asked Mackintosh to produce an English-language version of the show. Initially reluctant, Mackintosh eventually agreed. Mackintosh, in conjunction with the Royal Shakespeare Company, assembled a production team to adapt the French musical for a British audience. After two years in development, the English-language version opened in London on 8 October 1985, by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Centre, then the London home of the RSC. The success of the West End musical led to a Broadway production.

Reception[edit]

See also: Long-running musical theatre productions

At the opening of the London production, critical reviews were negative. The Sunday Telegraph's Francis King described the show as "a lurid Victorian melodrama produced with Victorian lavishness" and Michael Ratcliffe in The Observer dubbed the show "a witless and synthetic entertainment", while literary scholars condemned the project for converting classic literature into a musical.[2][3] Public opinion differed: the box office received record orders. The three-month engagement sold out, and reviews improved. The London production has run continuously since October 1985: the second longest-running musical in the world after The Fantasticks,[4] the second longest-running West End show after The Mousetrap,[5] and the longest-running musical in the West End (followed by The Phantom of the Opera). In 2010, it played its ten-thousandth performance in London, at Queen's Theatre.[6] On 3 October 2010, the show celebrated its 25th anniversary with three productions running in London: the original production at the Queen's Theatre; the 25th Anniversary touring production at its 1985 try-out venue, the Barbican Centre; and the 25th Anniversary concert at London's O2 Arena.[6]

The Broadway production opened 12 March 1987 and ran until 18 May 2003, closing after 6,680 performances. It is the fifth longest-running Broadway show in history and was the second-longest at the time.[7] The show was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won eight, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

Subsequently, numerous tours and international and regional productions have been staged, as well as concert and broadcast productions. Several recordings have also been made. A Broadway revival opened in 2006 at the Broadhurst Theatre and closed in 2008, and a second Broadway revival opened in 2014 at the Imperial Theatre and closed in September 2016. The show was placed first in a BBC Radio 2 listener poll of Britain's "Number One Essential Musicals" in 2005, receiving more than forty percent of the votes.[8] A film version directed by Tom Hooper was released at the end of 2012 to generally positive reviews as well as numerous awards nominations, winning three Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and four British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA).

Emblem[edit]

The musical's emblem is a picture of the waif Cosette sweeping the Thénardiers' inn (which occurs in the musical during "Castle on a Cloud"), usually shown cropped to a head-and-shoulders portrait superimposed on the French flag. The image is based on an etching by Gustave Brion based on the drawing by Émile Bayard. It appeared in several of the novel's earliest French-language editions.

Synopsis[edit]

Act I[edit]

In 1815, the prisoners work at hard labour ("Work Song"). After 19 years in prison (five for stealing bread for his starving sister's son and her family, and the rest for trying to escape), Jean Valjean, "prisoner 24601", is released on parole by the policeman Javert. By law, Valjean must display a yellow ticket-of-leave, which identifies him as an ex-convict ("On Parole"). As a convict, Valjean is shunned wherever he goes and cannot find regular work with decent wages or lodging, but the Bishop of Digne offers him food and shelter. Desperate and embittered, Valjean steals the Bishop's silver and flees. He is captured by the police, but rather than turn him in, the Bishop lies and tells the police that the silver was a gift, giving Valjean a pair of silver candlesticks in addition. The Bishop tells Valjean that he must use the silver "to become an honest man" and that he has "bought (Valjean's) soul for God" ("Valjean Arrested, Valjean Forgiven"). Ashamed and humbled by the Bishop's kindness, Valjean resolves to redeem his sins ("Valjean's Soliloquy" / "What Have I Done?"). He tears up his yellow ticket, breaking his parole but giving himself a chance to start a new life free from the stigma of his criminal past.

Eight years later, in 1823, Valjean has assumed a new identity as Monsieur Madeleine, a wealthy factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Fantine is a single mother working in his factory, trying to support her daughter Cosette, who is being raised by an innkeeper and his wife while Fantine labors in the city. Unbeknownst to Valjean, the factory foreman lusts after Fantine, and when she rejects his advances, he takes it out on the other workers, who resent her for it. One day, a coworker steals a letter about Cosette from Fantine, revealing to the other workers that Fantine has a child. A fight breaks out, and the foreman and other workers uses the incident as a pretense to fire Fantine ("At the End of the Day"). Fantine reflects on her broken dreams and about Cosette's father, who abandoned them both ("I Dreamed a Dream"). Desperate for money, she sells her locket and hair, finally becoming a prostitute ("Lovely Ladies"). When she fights back against an abusive customer, Bamatabois, Javert, now a police inspector stationed in Montreuil-sur-Mer, arrives to arrest her. But Valjean, passing by the scene, pities Fantine, and when he realizes she once worked for him and that she blames him for her misfortune, he is guilt-stricken. He orders Javert to release her and take her to a hospital ("Fantine's Arrest").

Soon afterwards, Valjean rescues a man, Fauchevelent, who is pinned by a runaway cart ("The Runaway Cart"). Javert, who has up until now not recognized Valjean, though he has pursued him as a fugitive all these years, witnesses the incident and becomes suspicious, remembering the incredible strength Valjean displayed in the work camp. But it turns out another man has been arrested, and is about to go to trial for breaking parole. The real Valjean realizes that this case of mistaken identity could free him forever, but he's not willing to see an innocent man go to prison in his place and so confesses his identity to the court ("Who Am I?—The Trial"). At the hospital, a delirious Fantine dreams of Cosette. Valjean promises to find Cosette and protect her ("Come to Me" / "Fantine's Death"). Relieved, Fantine succumbs to her illness and dies. Javert arrives to take Valjean back into custody, but Valjean asks Javert for time to fetch Cosette. Javert refuses, insisting that a criminal like Valjean can never change or do good. They struggle, but Valjean overpowers Javert and escapes ("The Confrontation").

In Montfermeil, the duplicitous innkeepers, the Thénardiers, use Cosette as a servant and treat her cruelly while extorting money from Fantine by claiming that Cosette is regularly and seriously ill, as well as demanding money to feed and clothe Cosette, all the while indulging their own daughter, Éponine. Cosette dreams of a life with a mother where she is not forced to work and is treated lovingly ("Castle on a Cloud"). The Thénardiers cheat their customers, stealing their possessions and setting high prices for low-quality service, and live a life of criminal depravity ("Master of the House"). Valjean meets Cosette while she's on an errand drawing water and offers the Thénardiers payment to adopt her ("The Bargain"). The Thénardiers feign concern for Cosette, claiming that they love her like a daughter and that she is in fragile health, and bargain with Valjean, who pays them 1,500 francs in the end. Valjean and Cosette leave for Paris ("The Waltz of Treachery").

Nine years later, in 1832, Paris is in upheaval because of the impending death of General Lamarque, the only man in the government who shows mercy to the poor. Among those mingling in the streets are the student revolutionaries Marius Pontmercy and Enjolras, who contemplate the effect Lamarque's death will have on the poor and desperate in Paris; the Thénardiers, who have since lost their inn and now run a street gang which consists of thugs Brujon, Babet, Claquesous, and Montparnasse; the Thenadier's daughter Éponine, who is now grown and has fallen in love with Marius (who is oblivious to her affections); and the streetwise young urchin Gavroche, who knows everything that happens in the slums ("Look Down"). The Thénardiers prepare to con some charitable visitors, who turn out to be Valjean and Cosette, who has grown into a beautiful young woman. While the gang bamboozles her father, Cosette runs into Marius, and the pair fall in love at first sight. Thénardier suddenly recognizes Valjean, but before they can finish the robbery, Javert, now an inspector stationed here in Paris, comes to the rescue ("The Robbery"). Valjean and Cosette escape, and only later (when Thénardier tips him off) does Javert suspect who they were. Javert makes a vow to the stars (which represent his belief in a just and ordered universe where suffering is a punishment for sin) that he will find Valjean and recapture him ("Stars"). Meanwhile, Marius persuades Éponine to help him find Cosette ("Éponine's Errand").

At a small café, Enjolras exhorts a group of idealistic students to prepare for revolution. Marius interrupts the serious atmosphere by fantasizing about his new-found love, much to the amusement of his compatriots, particularly the wine-loving Grantaire ("The ABC Café—Red and Black"). When Gavroche brings the news of General Lamarque's death, the students realize that they can use the public's dismay to incite their revolution and that their time has come ("Do You Hear the People Sing?"). At Valjean's house, Cosette thinks about her chance meeting with Marius and later confronts Valjean about the secrets he keeps about his and her own past ("Rue Plumet—In My Life"). Éponine leads Marius to Valjean's house (despite being heartbroken that he has fallen in love with another), and he and Cosette meet again and confess their mutual love ("A Heart Full of Love"). Thénardier and his gang arrive, intending to rob Valjean's house, but Éponine stops them by screaming a warning ("The Attack on Rue Plumet"). The scream alerts Valjean, who believes that the intruder was Javert. He tells Cosette that it's time once again for them to go on the run, and starts planning for them to flee France altogether.

On the eve of the 1832 Paris Uprising, Valjean prepares to go into exile; Cosette and Marius part in despair; Enjolras encourages all of Paris to join the revolution as he and the other students prepare for battle; Éponine acknowledges Marius will never love her; Marius is conflicted whether to follow Cosette or join the uprising; Javert reveals his plans to spy on the students; and the Thénardiers scheme to profit off the coming violence. Marius decides to stand with his friends, and all anticipate what the dawn will bring ("One Day More").[6]

Act II[edit]

As the students build a barricade to serve as their rally point, Javert, disguised as a rebel, volunteers to "spy" on the government troops. Marius discovers that Éponine has disguised herself as a boy to join the rebels and sends her to deliver a farewell letter to Cosette. ("Building the Barricade—Upon These Stones") Valjean intercepts the letter and learns about Marius and Cosette's romance. Éponine walks the streets of Paris alone, imagining that Marius is there with her, but laments that her love for Marius will never be reciprocated ("On My Own").

The French army arrives at the barricade and demands that the students surrender ("At the Barricade—Upon These Stones"). Though Javert tells the students that the government will not attack that night ("Javert's Arrival"), Gavroche recognises him and quickly exposes him as a spy, and the students detain Javert ("Little People"). Their plan is to spark a general uprising with their act of defiance, hoping that all the people of Paris will side with them and overwhelm the army. Éponine returns to find Marius but is shot by the soldiers crossing the barricade. As Marius holds her, she assures him that she feels no pain and reveals her love for him before dying in his arms ("A Little Fall of Rain"). The students mourn this first loss of life at the barricades and resolve to fight in her name, and they carry her body away while Enjolras attempts to comfort Marius, who is heartbroken over Éponine's death. Valjean arrives at the barricade, crossing the government lines, disguised as a soldier ("Night of Anguish"), hoping that he might somehow protect Marius in the coming battle for Cosette's sake. The rebels are suspicious of him at first, but when the army attacks, Valjean saves Enjolras by shooting at a sniper and scaring him off, and they accept him as one of them. In return, he asks Enjolras to be the one to execute the imprisoned Javert, which Enjolras grants. But as soon as Valjean and Javert are alone, Valjean frees Javert. Javert warns Valjean that he will not give up his pursuit and rejects what he perceives as a bargain for Valjean's freedom. Valjean says there are no conditions to his release, and holds no ill-will toward Javert for doing his duty. ("The First Attack").

The students settle down for the night and reminisce about the past while also expressing anxiety about the battle to come. Enjolras tells the other students to stay awake in case the enemy strikes unexpectedly in the night, but he tells Marius to get some sleep, knowing Marius is still much too devastated over losing Éponine to stay awake. Grantaire gets angry and asks the students if they fear to die as Marius wonders if Cosette will remember him if he dies. ("Drink with Me"). As Marius sleeps, Valjean prays to God to protect Marius, even if the cost for Marius' safety is his own life ("Bring Him Home"). As dawn approaches, Enjolras realizes that the people of Paris have not risen up with them, but resolves to fight on in spite of the impossible odds ("Dawn of Anguish"). Their resolve is fired even further when the army kills Gavroche, who snuck out to collect ammunition from bodies on the other side of the barricade ("The Second Attack / Death of Gavroche"). The army gives a final warning, but the rebels fight to the last man with Enjolras exhorting "Let others rise to take our place, until the Earth is free!". Everyone at the barricade is killed except Valjean and a gravely wounded Marius, who escape into the sewers ("The Final Battle"). Javert returns to the barricade, searching for Valjean amongst the bodies, and finds the open sewer grating.

Valjean carries Marius through the sewers but collapses in exhaustion. While he is unconscious, Thénardier, who has been looting bodies ("Dog Eats Dog"), comes upon them and takes a ring from the unconscious Marius, but flees when Valjean (whom he again recognizes) regains consciousness. When Valjean carries Marius to the sewer's exit, he finds Javert waiting for him. Valjean begs Javert for one hour to bring Marius to a doctor, and Javert reluctantly agrees. Javert finds himself unable to reconcile Valjean's merciful acts with his conception of Valjean as an irredeemable criminal. Refusing to compromise his principles but no longer able to hold them sacred, he finds himself torn between his beliefs about God and his desire to adhere to the law and commits suicide by throwing himself into the Seine ("Soliloquy – Javert's Suicide").

In the wake of the failed revolution, women mourn the deaths of the students ("Turning") and Marius, wounded but alive, despairs at the sacrifice of so many lives and at the death of his friends while he survives ("Empty Chairs at Empty Tables"). As he wonders who saved his own life, Cosette comforts him, and they reaffirm their blossoming romance. Valjean realises that Cosette will not need him as a caretaker once she's married and gives them his blessing ("Every Day"). Valjean confesses to Marius that he is an escaped convict and must go away because his presence endangers Cosette ("Valjean's Confession"), making Marius promise never to tell Cosette. A few months later, Marius and Cosette marry ("Wedding Chorale"). The Thénardiers crash the reception disguised as nobility and attempt to blackmail Marius, telling him that Valjean is a murderer and that Thénardier saw him carrying a corpse in the sewers after the barricades fell. When Thénardier shows him the ring as proof, Marius realizes that it was Valjean who saved his life. The newlyweds leave to find Valjean (in some productions, Marius pauses to give Thénardier a punch in the face). The Thénardiers are not discouraged, instead gloating that their craven practicality has saved their lives time and time again ("Beggars at the Feast").

At a convent, Valjean awaits his death, having nothing left to live for. The spirit of Fantine appears to him and tells him that he has been forgiven and will soon be with God. Cosette and Marius arrive to find Valjean near death. Valjean thanks God for letting him live long enough to see Cosette again, and Marius thanks him for saving his life. ("Epilogue – Valjean's Death"). Valjean gives Cosette a letter confessing his troubled past and the truth about her mother. As he dies, the spirits of Fantine and Éponine guide him to Heaven reminding him that "to love another person is to see the face of God." They are joined by the spirits of those who died at the barricades, who sing that in the next world, God lays low all tyranny and frees all oppressed people from their shackles ("Do You Hear The People Sing? (Reprise)").

Musical numbers[edit]

Main article: Songs from Les Misérables

SongPerformer(s)
1"Prologue: Work Song"Chain Gang, Javert and Valjean
2"Prologue: On Parole"Valjean, Farmer, Labourer, Innkeeper's Wife, Innkeeper and Bishop of Digne
3"Prologue: Valjean Arrested, Valjean Forgiven"Bishop of Digne, Jean Valjean, Constables
4"Prologue: What Have I Done?"Valjean
5"At the End of the Day"Fantine, Foreman, Factory Girl, Jean Valjean, Factory Workers, Compan
6"I Dreamed a Dream"Fantine
7"Lovely Ladies"Fantine, Sailors, Whores, Old Woman, Crone, Pimp, Company
8"Fantine's Arrest"Fantine, Bamatabois, Javert and Valjean
9"'The Runaway Cart"Valjean, Javert, Fauchevelant, Onlookers
10"Who Am I? / The Trial"Valjean
11"Fantine's Death: Come to Me"Fantine and Valjean
12"The Confrontation"Javert and Valjean
13"Castle on a Cloud"Young Cosette
14"Master of the House"Thénardier, Madame Thénardier, Company
15"The Well Scene"Valjean and Young Cosette
16"The Bargain / The Thénardier Waltz of Treachery"Thénardier, Valjean, Madame Thénardier
17"Look Down"Gavroche, Old Woman, Prostitute, Pimp, Enjolras, Marius, Company
18"The Robbery"Thénardier, Madame Thénardier, Marius, Éponine and Valjean
19"Javert's Intervention"Javert and Thénardier
20"Stars"Javert
21"Éponine's Errand"Éponine and Marius
22"ABC Café / Red and Black"Enjolras, Marius, Grantaire, Combeferre, Feuilly, Courfeyrac, Joly, Legsles, Prouvaire, Gavroche
23"Do You Hear the People Sing?"Enjolras, Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Feuilly, Company
24"Rue Plumet – In My Life"Cosette, Valjean, Marius and Éponine
25"A Heart Full of Love"Marius, Cosette and Éponine
26"The Attack on the Rue Plumet"Thénardier, Brujon, Babet, Claquesous, Montparnasse, Éponine, Marius, Valjean and Cosette
27"One Day More"Valjean, Marius, Cosette, Éponine, Enjolras, Javert, Thénardier, Madame Thénardier and Company
SongPerformer(s)
28"Building the Barricade (Upon These Stones)"Enjolras, Javert, Prouvaire, Grantaire, Legsles, Marius, Éponine
29"On My Own"Éponine
30"At the Barricade (Upon These Stones)"Enjolras, Marius, Grantaire, Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Feuilly, Students, and Army Officer
31"Javert's Arrival"Javert and Enjolras
32"Little People"Gavroche
33"A Little Fall of Rain" (Éponine's Death)Éponine and Marius
34"Night of Anguish"Enjolras and Students
35"The First Attack"Enjolras, Valjean, Javert, Students
36"Drink with Me"Feuilly, Prouvaire, Joly, Grantaire, Marius, Company
37"Bring Him Home"Valjean
38"Dawn of Anguish"Enjolras
39"The Second Attack (Death of Gavroche)"Enjolras, Marius, Gavroche, Students
40"The Final Battle"Army Officer, Enjolras, Company
41"Dog Eats Dog (The Sewers)"Thénardier
42"Soliloquy (Javert's Suicide)"Javert
43"Turning"Women of Paris
44"Empty Chairs at Empty Tables"Marius
45"Every Day"Cosette, Marius and Valjean
46"Valjean's Confession"Marius and Valjean
47"Wedding Chorale"Marius, Cosette, Thendadier, Madame Thenadier, Company
48"Beggars at the Feast"Thénardier and Madame Thénardier
49"Valjean's Death"Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Marius and Éponine
50"Do You Hear The People Sing? (Reprise) / [Finale]"Full Company

Orchestration[edit]

The standard orchestration for the 2009 U.K. tour of Les Misérables consisted of:

  • Bass
  • Cello
  • Horn 1
  • Horn 2
  • Keyboard 1
  • Keyboard 2
  • Percussion
  • Reed 1 (Alto Flute, Alto Recorder, Flute, Piccolo)
  • Reed 2 (Cor Anglais, Oboe)
  • Reed 3 (Bb Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Eb Clarinet, Tenor Recorder)
  • Trombone/ Tuba
  • Trumpet/ Flugelhorn
  • Viola
  • Violin[9]

Characters[edit]

Character[10]Voice[11]Description
Jean Valjeandramatic tenor/

original production: dramatic baritone Ab2-B4

Prisoner 24601. After being released from imprisonment for serving nineteen years (five for stealing a loaf of bread and fourteen for multiple escape attempts), he breaks parole and, after receiving mercy from Bishop Myriel, turns his life around to live for God, showing the effects of God's grace that bring a corrupt man into virtuous and selfless living. He changes his identity, becoming the wealthy mayor of a small town. He later adopts Cosette, the only daughter of Fantine. At the end, he eventually dies and the spirit of Fantine thanks him for raising her child.
Inspector Javertbaritone

F2-F#4

Respects the law above all else and relentlessly pursues Valjean, hoping to bring the escaped convict to justice. He firmly believes in the justice of the law, and has no room for mercy. In the end he commits suicide, broken by the mercy he experiences from Valjean.
The Bishop of Dignebaritone

A2-E4

Shelters Valjean after his release from jail and gives him gifts of silver and absolution. His acts of kindness move Valjean to surrender his ways to God, escaping the label of "criminal" and living in a new identity.
The Factory Foremanbaritone or tenor

D3-D4

Foreman of Valjean's (Valjean has assumed the name Madeleine) jet bead factory in Montreuil-sur-Mer which employs Fantine and other workers. The Foreman fires Fantine from the factory when she persists in resisting his overt sexual advances and because it is discovered that she is the mother of an illegitimate child (Cosette) living elsewhere.
The Factory Girlsoprano

F4-Eb5

Mistress to the Factory Foreman. She intercepts a letter that the Thénardiers have sent to Fantine which exposes her as the mother of an illegitimate child, and the Factory Girl shows it to the Foreman, goading him into firing her.
Fantinelyric mezzo-soprano

D3-Eb5

An impoverished factory worker who loses her job and, as a result, turns to prostitution in order to continue paying the Thénardiers to care for her illegitimate daughter, Cosette. As Fantine dies of consumption, she asks Valjean to look after her child. Ultimately she appears as a spirit and escorts the dying Valjean to Heaven.
Old Womancontralto

E4-D5

Affectionately called "The Hair Hag" in many of the original US companies, the Old Woman is the character who talks Fantine into selling her hair before Fantine becomes a prostitute.
CronesopranoAlso called "The Locket Crone", this character is the woman who talks Fantine into selling her precious locket for much less than it is worth.
BamataboistenorAn upper-class "fop" who tries to buy Fantine's services. He treats her abusively so she refuses him. When Javert enters the scene, Bamatabois tries to cover the fact that he was soliciting a prostitute by having her arrested for attacking him unprovoked.
Faucheleventbaritone or tenorIn a role reduced from the novel, he appears only in the Cart Crash scene, where he is trapped under the cart and rescued by Valjean. He is an elderly man who has fallen upon hard times.
ChampmathieusilentA man who is arrested and on trial because he is believed to be Jean Valjean. Valjean, still under the name Madeleine, confesses his true identity at the trial in order to save the man.
Young CosettetrebleThe eight-year-old daughter of Fantine. Cosette is in the care of the Thénardiers who are paid by Fantine to take care of her child. Unknown to Fantine, the Thénardiers force Cosette to work, and they use Fantine's money for their own needs.
Madame Thénardiercontralto

G#3-D5

Thénardier's unscrupulous wife, who abuses Cosette but dotes on her own daughter, Éponine. She is fully complicit in most of her husband's crimes and schemes.
Young ÉponinesilentThe pampered daughter of the Thénardiers. She grows up with Cosette and is unkind to her.
Thénardiercomic baritone

G#2-G4

A second-rate thief, Thénardier runs a small inn where he continually bilks his customers. He and his family later travel to Paris, where he sets up as the leader of a gang of street thugs and con men. An eternal survivor, Thénardier is above nothing and below everything.
Gavrocheboy soprano

A2-G4 (OR A3-G5)

A streetwise urchin who knows everyone and everything that happens in the slums of Paris. He joins up with the revolutionaries, and later dies on the barricade attempting to recover ammunition from fallen soldiers.
Enjolrasbaritone or tenor

A2-G#4

Enjolras is the leader of the student revolutionaries and a friend of Marius. He is Idealistic and charismatic, although his plan is doomed to failure.
Marius Pontmercytenor

A2-Ab4

A student revolutionary, is friends with Éponine, but falls in love with Cosette, and she with him. He is later rescued from the barricades by Valjean, who ultimately gives Marius and Cosette his blessing, allowing them to be married.
Époninemezzo-soprano

F3-E5

Daughter of the Thénardiers, Éponine, now a ragged street waif and a thief like her father, secretly loves Marius. Although it causes her great anguish, she helps him locate Cosette and later delivers a message he sends her from the barricade. She is killed while returning to the barricades to see Marius. In the end she appears as a spirit alongside Fantine and they guide the dying Valjean to Heaven.
Brujonbaritone or tenorA brutish and cowardly, but dissatisfied, member of Thénardier's Gang. Brujon's role in the musical expands to cover Gueulemer.
Babetbaritone or tenorA foreboding member of Thénardier's Gang.
Claquesousbaritone or tenorA member of Thénardier's Gang Quiet and masked, expert at evading the police, Claquesous might in fact be working for the law.
Montparnassebaritone or tenorA young member of Thénardier's Gang, Montparnasse is a handsome man who appears to be close to Éponine. He is usually portrayed as well-dressed, as he is in the book.
Cosettesoprano

Bb3-C6

Cosette, the daughter of Fantine, has grown-up to become a beautiful young woman of culture and privilege under Valjean's adoptive and loving fatherly care and protection. She falls in love with Marius, and he returns her equally strong and pure romantic feelings. She marries him at the end of the musical.
Friends of the ABCbaritones and tenors

A2-G4

Student revolutionaries who lead a revolution and die in the process, the Friends of the ABC become martyrs for the rights of citizens. (See Members listed below)
CombeferreBaritone or tenor

A2-G4

Combeferre is the philosopher of the ABC group. Enjolras' second-in-command. He is described as the guide of the Friends of the ABC.
Feuillytenor

A2-A4

Feuilly is the only member of the Friends of the ABC who is not a student; he is a workingman. An optimist who stands as a sort of ambassador for the "outside", while the rest of the men stand for France. He loves Poland very much.
Courfeyractenor

A2-G4

Friendly and open, Courfeyrac introduces Marius to the ABC society in the novel. He always has many mistresses, and is described as the centre of the Friends of the ABC, always giving off warmth.
Jolytenor or baritone

A2-G4

A medical student and a hypochondriac; best friends with Lesgles.
Grantairebaritone

A2-G4

Grantaire is a member of the Friends of the ABC. Though he admires Enjolras, Grantaire often opposes Enjolras' fierce determination and occasionally acts as a voice of reason. In many performances, Grantaire is very close to Gavroche and attempts to act as his protector. Grantaire is a drunkard and is often tipsy throughout the musical, carrying a bottle of wine wherever he goes. He has no interest in the revolution, and is there because his friends are. He asks of them before the final battle whether they believe their deaths will accomplish anything.
Jean Prouvairebaritone or tenor

A2-G4

Prouvaire, a poet, is the youngest student member of the Friends. Jean Prouvaire has the honor of waving the giant red flag during "One Day More" at the end of Act One.
Lesglesbaritone or tenor

A2-G4

Best friends with Joly. A very unlucky man, but also a very happy one.
Army Officer/Loud Hailertenor

C4-G4

A voice from offstage, he demands the surrender of the student revolutionaries before the army attacks, telling them that the people of Paris have not answered their call for help.

Other characters include The Chain Gang, Farmer, Laborer, Innkeeper's Wife, Innkeeper, Constables, Sailors, Whores, Pimp, Old Woman, Young Prostitute, Paris Pimp and the Major Domo, played by the ensemble.

Casts[edit]

Original casts[edit]

Anniversary Concerts casts[edit]

Productions[edit]

Sit down productions[edit]

Original French production[edit]

French songwriter Alain Boublil had the idea to adapt Victor Hugo's novel into a musical while at a performance of the musical Oliver! in London:

As soon as the Artful Dodger came onstage, Gavroche came to mind. It was like a blow to the solar plexus. I started seeing all the characters of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables—Valjean, Javert, Gavroche, Cosette, Marius, and Éponine—in my mind's eye, laughing, crying, and singing onstage.[12]

He pitched the idea to French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, and the two developed a rough synopsis. They worked up an analysis of each character's mental and emotional state, as well as that of an audience. Schönberg then began to write the music, while Boublil began work on the text. According to Boublil, "...I could begin work on the words. This I did—after myself deciding on the subject and title of every song—in collaboration with my friend, poet Jean-Marc Natel."[13] Two years later, a two-hour demo tape with Schönberg accompanying himself on the piano and singing every role was completed. An album of this collaboration was recorded at CTS Studios in Wembley and was released in 1980, selling 260,000 copies.[citation needed]

The concept album includes Maurice Barrier as Jean Valjean, Jacques Mercier as Javert, Rose Laurens as Fantine, Yvan Dautin as Thénardier, Marie-France Roussel as Mme. Thénardier, Richard Dewitte as Marius, Fabienne Guyon as Cosette, Marie-France Dufour as Éponine, Michel Sardou as Enjolras, Fabrice Bernard as Gavroche, Maryse Cédolin as Young Cosette, Claude-Michel Schönberg as Courfeyrac, Salvatore Adamo as Combeferre, Michel Delpech as Feuilly, Dominique Tirmont as M. Gillenormand, and Mireille as the hair buyer.

That year, in September 1980, a stage version directed by veteran French film director Robert Hossein was produced at the Palais des Sports in Paris. The show was a success, with 100 performances seen by over 500,000 people.[14][15][16]

Most of the cast from the concept album performed in the production.[14][17] The cast included Maurice Barrier as Valjean, Jean Vallée as Javert, Rose Laurens as Fantine, Maryse Cédolin and Sylvie Camacho and Priscilla Patron as Young Cosette, Marie-France Roussel as Mme. Thénardier, Yvan Dautin as M. Thénardier, Florence Davis and Fabrice Ploquin and Cyrille Dupont as Gavroche, Marianne Mille as Éponine, Gilles Buhlmann as Marius, Christian Ratellin as Enjolras, Fabienne Guyon as Cosette, René-Louis Baron as Combeferre, Dominique Tirmont as M. Gillenormand, Anne Forrez as Mlle. Gillenormand, and Claude Reva as the storyteller.[14][17][18][19]

Original West End production[edit]

The English-language version, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and additional material by James Fenton, was substantially expanded and reworked from a literal translation by Siobhan Bracke of the original Paris version, in particular adding a prologue to tell Jean Valjean's backstory. Kretzmer's work is not a direct "translation" of the French, a term that Kretzmer refused to use. A third of the English lyrics were a "rough" translation, another third were adapted from the French lyrics and the final third consisted of new material. The majority is performed in recitative style; the vocalists use natural speech delivery, not musical metrics.[20]

The first production in English, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, opened on 8 October 1985 (five years after the original production) at the Barbican Arts Centre, London. It was billed in the RSCBarbican Theatre programme as "The Royal Shakespeare Company presentation of the RSC/Cameron Mackintosh production", and played to preview performances beginning on 28 September 1985.

The set was designed by John Napier, costumes by Andreane Neofitou and lighting by David Hersey. Musical supervision and orchestrations were by John Cameron, who had been involved with the show since Boublil and Schönberg hired him to orchestrate the original French concept album. Musical staging was by Kate Flatt with musical direction by Martin Koch.

The original London cast included Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Roger Allam as Javert, Ken Caswell as the Bishop of Digne, Patti LuPone as Fantine, Zoë Hart, Justine McIntyre, Jayne O'Mahony and Joanne Woodcock as Young Cosette, Danielle Akers, Gillian Brander and Juliette Caton as Young Éponine, Susan Jane Tanner as Madame Thénardier, Alun Armstrong as Thénardier, Frances Ruffelle as Éponine, Rebecca Caine as Cosette, Michael Ball as Marius, David Burt as Enjolras, with Ian Tucker, Oliver Spencer and Liza Hayden sharing the role of Gavroche.[21][22]

On 4 December 1985, the show transferred to the Palace Theatre, London and moved again on 3 April 2004, to the much more intimate Queen's Theatre, with some revisions of staging and where, as of August 2015[update],[23] it was still playing. It celebrated its ten-thousandth performance on 5 January 2010.[24] In October 2015, this West end version of the musical, celebrated its 30th anniversary.[25] The co-production has generated valuable income for the Royal Shakespeare Company.[26]

Original Broadway production[edit]

The musical opened as a pre-Broadway tryout at the Kennedy Center's Opera House in Washington, D.C. on 27 December 1986. It ran for eight weeks through 14 February 1987.[27]

The musical then premiered on Broadway on 12 March 1987 at The Broadway Theatre. Colm Wilkinson and Frances Ruffelle reprised their roles from the London production.[28] The $4.5 million production had a more than $4 million advance sale prior to its New York opening.[29]

The show underwent further tightening, namely with improved sewer lighting and the incorporation of the Javert suicide scene effect.[30] Boublil explained: "The transfer from London to the United States has prompted further modifications. 'We are taking this opportunity to rethink and perfect, to rewrite some details which probably no one else will see, but which for us are still long nights of work,' Mr. Boublil says. 'There are things that nobody had time to do in London, and here we have a wonderful opportunity to fix a few things. No one will notice, perhaps, but for us, it will make us so happy if we can better this show. We would like this to be the final version.'"[29] Two songs were deleted—the complete version of Gavroche's song "Little People" and the adult Cosette's "I Saw Him Once". A short section at the beginning of "In My Life" replaced "I Saw Him Once". The lyrics in Javert's "Stars" were changed. It now ended with the line, "This I swear by the stars!", while the London production and cast recording ended with the repeated line, "Keeping watch in the night".

The original Broadway cast included Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, David Bryant as Marius, Judy Kuhn as Cosette, Michael Maguire as Enjolras, Frances Ruffelle as Éponine, Braden Danner as Gavroche, Donna Vivino as Young Cosette, Jennifer Butt as Madame Thénardier, Leo Burmester as Thénardier, Randy Graff as Fantine, Terrence Mann as Javert, and Chrissie McDonald as Young Éponine. [28]

Other members of the original Broadway cast included Kevin Marcum (Brujon), Paul Harman (Combeferre/Foreman), Anthony Crivello (Grantaire/Bambatosis), John Dewar (Joly), Joseph Kolinski (Feuilly), Alex Santoriello (Montparnasse/Labourer), Jesse Corti (Courfeyrac/Farmer), Susan Goodman (Old Woman/Innkeeper's Wife), John Norman (Prouvaire/Pimp), Norman Large (Bishop/Lesgles), Marcus Lovett (Babet/Constable), Steve Shocket (Claquesous/Fauchevelant/Constable/Pimp), Cindy Benson (Old Woman), Marcie Shaw, Jane Bodle, Joanna Glushak, Ann Crumb (Factory Girl), Kelli James, and Gretchen Kingsley-Weihe. Michael Hinton was the original drummer and credited on the cast album.[28]

The musical ran at the Broadway Theatre through 10 October 1990, when it moved to the Imperial Theatre.[28] It was scheduled to close on 15 March 2003, but the closing was postponed by a surge in public interest.[31] According to an article in The Scotsman, "Sales picked up last October, when Sir Cameron made the announcement that the show would be closing on March 15th... its closure postponed to May 18th because of an unexpected increase in business."[32] After 6,680 performances in sixteen years,[32] when it closed on 18 May 2003,[28] it was the second-longest-running Broadway musical after Cats.[33] It was surpassed by The Phantom of the Opera in 2006.[34]

This Broadway production of Les Misérables and its advertising in New York City is a reoccurring theme in American Psycho. The reviewer for the Financial Times wrote that Les Misérables is "the book's hilarious main cultural compass-point".[35]

2006 Broadway revival[edit]

Only three years after the original run closed, Les Misérables began a return to Broadway on 9 November 2006 at the Broadhurst Theatre for a limited run that was subsequently made open-ended.

Using the set, costumes, performers, and other resources from the recently closed third US national touring production, the production was only slightly altered. Minor changes included colourful projections blended into its existing lighting design, and a proscenium that extended out into the first two boxes on either side of the stage.

Some cuts made to the show's prologue during its original Broadway run were restored, lyrics for Gavroche's death scene (known in the revival as "Ten Little Bullets") cut during the development of the original London production were restored, and much of the show was re-orchestrated by Christopher Jahnke, introducing a snare and timpani-heavy sound played by a 14-member band, a reduction of about 8 musicians from the original production's 22 musician orchestration.[citation needed]

The original 2006 Broadway revival cast included Alexander Gemignani as Jean Valjean, Norm Lewis as Javert, Daphne Rubin-Vega as Fantine, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Éponine, Aaron Lazar as Enjolras, Adam Jacobs as Marius, Ali Ewoldt as Cosette, Gary Beach as Thénardier, Jenny Galloway as Madame Thénardier, Brian D’Addario and Jacob Levine and Skye Rainforth and Austyn Myers as Gavroche, and Tess Adams and Kylie Liya Goldstein and Carly Rose Sonenclar as Young Cosette/Young Éponine. The ensemble consisted of Becca Ayers, Daniel Bogart (Combeferre/Bambatosis), Justin Bohon (Joly/Major Domo), Kate Chapman, Nikki Renee Daniels, Karen Elliott (Old Woman/Innkeeper's Wife), Blake Ginther (Feuilly), J.D. Goldblatt (Montparnasse/Pimp/Labourer), Marya Grandy(Crone), Victor Hawks (Brujon), Robert Hunt (Courfeyrac/Foreman), Nehal Joshi (Lesgles/Constable), Jeff Kready (Babet/Constable/Fauchevelant), Doug Kreeger (Jean Prouvaire/Farmer), James Chip Leanord (Bishop/Claquesous), Megan McGinnis, Drew Sarich (Grantaire/Innkeeper), Haviland Stillwell (Factory Girl), and Idara Victor. Lance Wiener was later added in as an alternate for Gavroche later that year, continuing until 2007. [36]

Lea Salonga, who previously played the role of Éponine in the 10th Anniversary concert, replaced Rubin-Vega as Fantine beginning on 2 March 2007. Zach Rand replaced Jacob Levine as Gavroche on 15 March 2007. Ann Harada replaced Jenny Galloway as Mme. Thénardier on 24 April 2007. Ben Davis joined playing Javert, and Max von Essen playing Enjolras. Ben Crawford and Mandy Bruno joined the cast that day too, playing Brujon and Éponine respectively. On 23 July 2007, Sarich took over the role of Valjean, following Gemignani's departure. On 5 September 2007, it was announced that John Owen-Jones (who was playing Valjean in London) was to join the Broadway cast. In return, Sarich would join the London cast in Owen-Jones' place. Judy Kuhn, who originated the role of Cosette, returned to the show after twenty years as Fantine, succeeding Salonga.

The revival closed on 6 January 2008.[37]

2013 Toronto revival[edit]

A sit down production played at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, Canada based on the 25th Anniversary touring production.[38] Previews began on 27 September 2013 with the opening night on 9 October. The production closed on 2 February 2014.[39][40][41][42] Co-directed by Lawrence Connor and James Powell,[43]Laurence Olivier Award nominee, Ramin Karimloo, starred as Jean Valjean.[44] He was joined by fellow West End star, Earl Carpenter, who reprised the role of Inspector Javert.[45] Other cast members included Genevieve Leclerc as Fantine, Samantha Hill as Cosette, Melissa O'Neil as Éponine, Cliff Saunders as Monsieur Thenardier, Lisa Horner as Madame Thenardier, and Mark Uhre as Enjolras.[46] The roles of young Cosette and young Éponine were shared by Ella Ballentine, Saara Chaudry and Madison Oldroyd. Gavroche was shared by David Gregory Black and Aiden GlennRead.[47]

2014 Broadway revival[edit]

The show returned to Broadway in March 2014 at the Imperial Theatre with previews beginning 1 March 2014 and had an official opening on 23 March 2014.[48][49] The creative team includes the direction of Laurence Connor and James Powell, the set design by Matt Kinley, costumes by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowlands, lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Mick Potter and projections by Fifty-Nine Productions. Cameron Mackintosh once again produced the show. On 22 October 2013, it was announced that Ramin Karimloo, Will Swenson, Caissie Levy, and Nikki M. James would be headlining the revival cast as Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, and Éponine respectively.[50]Andy Mientus and Samantha Hill also star as Marius and Cosette respectively.[51][52] Angeli Negron and McKayla Twiggs share the role of Young Cosette.[53] On 30 August 2015, Karimloo ended his run of the show as was replaced by Alfie Boe. After Boe's final performance on 28 February, the role of Valjean was played by John Owen-Jones beginning 1 March 2016 until the production closed on 4 September 2016, after 1,026 performances over two-and-a-half years.[54] The revival recouped its entire initial investment and grossed $109 million.[55] The tour began on September 21, 2017 at the Providence Performing Arts Centre (PPAC). It stars Nick Cartell as Valjean.[56]

The 2014 Broadway revival was nominated for 3 Tony Awards: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Karimloo, and Best Sound Design for Potter.

The etching by Émile Bayard that served as the model for the musical's emblem.

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