Les Misérables



Les Misérables, commonly known as Les Mis or Les Miz, is a musical based on the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The name, which is French, is pronounced /le mi ze ʀɑbl/.

"Les Mis" tells the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his attempts to start a new life and make the world a better place. The musical was written by the composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and the librettist Alain Boublil, and opened in September 1980 at the Palais des Sports in Paris for a projected eight-week season — it ran for sixteen weeks, closing only because the venue was already committed to other projects after that point. In 1982, English producer Cameron Mackintosh began work on an English language version, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The first English production, produced by Mackintosh and directed by Trevor Nunn, opened on October 8, 1985, in the Barbican Theatre, London. The Broadway production that opened in 1987 was nominated for twelve Tony Awards and won eight, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, and ran until 2003; at the time of its closing it was the third-longest running show in the history of Broadway.

It came first in a BBC Radio 2 listener poll of the "Nation's Number One Essential Musicals" On 8 October 2005, the show celebrated its 20th anniversary performance at London's Queen's Theatre, where it is currently booking to 6 January 2007 - overtaking Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats as longest running West End musical ever.

The musical was written by the composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and the librettist Alain Boublil. It opened in September 1980 at the Palais des Sports in Paris for a projected eight-week season; such was its success that it ran for sixteen weeks, closing only because the venue was already committed to other projects after that point. The original French version was shorter and very different than the current universal version based around the London production. Not only were the lyrics different but the production did not include much of the material that is included in the show today, such as the famous On My Own. The show began with La Journée Est Finie (At The End Of The Day) and the Prologue was not featured at all. It also featured material that was removed when the English version was written, such as the inclusion of Monsieur Gillenormand (a familiar character in the book) who is no longer featured or referred to in the musical today. Compared to the current version, the original version of the show was less developed, although its wonderful music and lyrics would be expanded on in the future.

However, in 1982, about six months after he had opened Cats in London, Producer Cameron Mackintosh was given the Album of the original French show by director Peter Ferago, who was greatly impressed by the recording (the album, called the Original French Concept Album, is still available to purchase), and asked if he would be interested in producing an English version of the show. Mackintosh was doubtful at first, as although he had vaguely heard of the show he didn't think it was going to be anything amazing. However, one Thursday morning he played the album, and after the third track he realised that it was the most beautiful piece of music he had heard in a long time. It was at this moment that he was inspired to produce an English version of the show, that would eventually become the universal version of a world-famous show. Journalist and poet James Fenton was initially chosen to write the English lyrics, but was eventually replaced by Herbert Kretzmer, who expanded and reworked the original French lyrics. However, his work was not a direct translation of the French, a term that Kretzmer refuses 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 brand new material, such as the Prologue. Additional music was also written to go with the brand new material. Trevor Nunn and John Caird were hired to direct and co-direct the show respectively, and the Royal Shakespeare Company were chosen to put on the show, with some of their members, such as Roger Allam and Alun Armstrong, being cast members. The show opened in London in October 1985, and this was the beginning of a show that would become a worldwide success and one of the most popular musicals of all time.

Les Misérables was a part of the major European influence on Broadway in the 80's along with Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon.

The curtain rises with Scene 1, showing a French prison in 1815 with its prisoners singing the opening chorus (Prologue - Work Song). Jean Valjean, the lead protagonist, is released on parole after 19 years for stealing bread and running from the police. Javert gives Valjean a yellow ticket-of-leave which he must display, condemning him as an outcast. After failed numerous attempts to start anew (On Parole), he is finally taken in by the saintly Bishop of Digne, kindly offering him food and shelter. Valjean, embittered by years of hardship, repays him by stealing some silver. Valjean is quickly caught and brought back by police; however, the Bishop misleads the police (without quite lying to them) to save Valjean, also giving him two precious candlesticks, asking Valjean to start anew and begin an honest life (Valjean Arrested, Valjean Forgiven). Valjean, humbled by the bishop's mercy and kindness, decides to follow the bishop's advice (What Have I Done? (Valjean's Soliloquy)).

The show then advances eight years and Valjean, having broken his parole and changed his name to Monsieur Madeleine, has risen to become both a factory owner and Mayor. It comes to his attention that one of his factory workers, Fantine, has a secret illegitimate child (At The End of The Day). When the other women discover this, they demand her dismissal. Valjean brushes off the incident, handing Fantine's fate to the overseer, whose advances she had previously rejected, and who throws her out of the factory. Fantine tells her story, the father of her daughter having left them alone (I Dreamed a Dream)

Desperate for money to pay for medicines for her sick and dying daughter Cosette, Fantine sells her locket, her hair, and then becomes a prostitute (Lovely Ladies). Ashamed by her new degrading profession, she refuses and fights a prospective customer (Fantine's Arrest). As a result, Fantine is about to be take to prison by Javert when "The Mayor", Valjean, discovering that it was his fault that Fantine is suffering, demands that she be taken to a hospital instead. Soon after this incident, a runaway cart pins down a local man and Valjean comes to his rescue (The Runaway Cart). Javert is reminded of the abnormal strength of convict 24601, Jean Valjean, a parole-breaker he has been tracking for years and whom apparently has just been recaptured. The real Valjean, unable to see an innocent man go to prison in his place, confesses to the court that he is prisoner 24601, showing the convict's brand on his chest as a proof (Who Am I? (The Trial))

However, before returning to prison, Valjean returns to Fantine's side and promises the dying Fantine to find and look after her daughter Cosette. (Come to Me (Fantine's Death)) When Javert arrives to arrest him, Valjean asks for three more days to fetch Cosette, but Javert won't believe his honest intentions. While Valjean tries to convince Javert, Javert makes it clear he doesn't believe in rehabilitation (The Confrontation). In the following fight, Valjean knocks Javert out and escapes.

The scene then shifts to focus on a young Cosette, who has been lodging for the past five years with the Thénardiers who run an inn, and horribly abuse the little girl whom they use as a skivvy while indulging their own daughter, Eponine. Cosette dreams of a better life (Castle on a Cloud). Mme Thénardier comes to find her dreaming and sends her fetching water from the well in the woods, ignoring the little girl's pleas (Now look who's here). The inn fills for the evening, showing the Thénardiers cheating their costumers (Master of the House). Valjean finds Cosette fetching water in the dark (The Well). He pays the Thénardiers to let him take Cosette away and takes her to Paris (The Bargain - The Thenardier Waltz of Treachery).

Nine years later the city breaks out into pandemonium because of the likely demise of the popular leader General Lamarque, the last remaining man in the Government who fights for the poor. The urchin Gavroche is shown mingling with the whores and the beggars of the capital (Look down). Among the street-gangs is one led by Thénardier and his wife, which sets upon Jean Valjean and Cosette (The Robbery). They are rescued by Javert, who does not recognize Valjean until after he has made good his escape (Javert's Intervention and Stars). The Thénardiers' daughter Eponine, who is secretly in love with the student Marius, reluctantly agrees to help Marius find Cosette, with whom he has fallen in love (Eponine's Errand).

A shift in scene shows a political meeting in a small café where a group of idealistic students gathered to prepare for the revolution they are sure will erupt on the death of General Lamarque (The ABC Cafe - Red and Black). Marius comes and is made fun of, because of his love for a girl whose name he doesn't even know. When Gavroche brings the news of the General's death, the students, led by Enjolras, stream out into the streets to whip up popular support (Do You Hear The People Sing?)

Cosette is also consumed by the thoughts of Marius, with whom she has fallen in love. Valjean realizes that his daughter is changing very quickly but refuses to tell her anything of her past or her mother (Rue Plumet - In My Life). In spite of her own feelings for Marius, Eponine sadly brings him to Cosette (A Heart Full of Love) and then prevents an attempt by her father's gang to rob Valjean's house and blackmail Valjean with the knowledge of his past (The Attack on Rue Plumet). Valjean, convinced it was Javert who was lurking outside his house, tells Cosette they must prepare to flee the country (My God, Cosette!). On the eve of the revolution the students and Javert see the situation from their different viewpoints; Cosette and Marius part in despair of ever meeting again; Eponine mourns the loss of Marius; and Valjean looks forward to the security of exile. The Thénardiers, meanwhile, dream of rich pickings underground from the chaos to come. (One Day More)

The students prepare to build the barricade (Upon These Stones - Building the Barricade). Meanwhile, Javert is given the task of spying for the government troops. Marius, noticing that Eponine has joined the insurrection, sends her with a letter to Cosette, which is intercepted at the Rue Plumet by Valjean. Eponine decides, despite what he has said to her, to rejoin Marius at the barricade (On My Own).

The barricade is built (Upon These Stones - At the Barricade) and the revolutionaries defy an army warning that they must give up or die. Javert comes back (Javert's Arrival). Gavroche exposes Javert as a police spy (Little People). In trying to return to the barricade, Eponine is shot and killed (A Little Fall of Rain). Valjean arrives at the barricades in search of Marius. During the following battle (The First Attack), he saves Enjolras by shooting a sniper. He is given the chance to kill Javert, but instead spares his life (Night of Anguish). The students settle down for a night (Drink With Me (The Night)) on the barricade and, in the quiet of the night, Valjean prays to God to save Marius from the onslaught which is to come (Bring Him Home). The next day, with ammunition running low (Dawn of Anguish), Gavroche runs out to collect more and is shot dead by the army (The Second Attack (The Death of Gavroche)). The attack on the barricade begins and all the rebels are killed, including their leader, Enjolras (The Final Battle). Only Valjean and Marius live. Valjean escapes into the sewers with the unconscious Marius. Soon after they left, Javert arrives at the barricade, searching for Valjean. He discovers his possible escape, when trying to lift the lid, that closes the sewers, and discovers he can't.

In the sewers, Thénardier robs the bodies of the dead (Dog Eats Dog). Valjean and Marius come his way, Thénardier steals a ring from Marius. He recognizes Valjean, when this one awakes from unconsciousness. Valjean makes his way out of the sewer only to be awaited by Javert at the Seine (The Sewers). Valjean pleads for time to deliver the young man to a hospital and Javert decides to let him go. Because his unbending principles of justice have been shattered, he kills himself by throwing himself into the River Seine (Javert's Suicide). Marius soon recovers in Cosette's care (Empty Chairs at Empty Tables), unaware of who his rescuer was (Every Day). Valjean confesses the truth of his past to Marius and insists that after the young couple are married, he must go away rather than taint the sanctity and safety of their union (Valjean's Confession). At Marius and Cosette's wedding the Thénardiers try to blackmail Marius (The Wedding Chorale). Thenardier says Cosette's "father" is a murderer and, as proof, produces a ring which he stole from the corpse in the sewers the night the barricades fell. It is Marius' own ring and he realizes it was Valjean who rescued him that night. He and Cosette leave Thénardiers to Rome on the feast (Beggars at the Feast). Marius and Cosette go to Valjean, where Cosette learns for the first time of her own history before the old man dies (Epilogue), guided to Heaven by the spirits of Fantine, Eponine, and all those who died on the barricades (Finale).

The recurrent themes in the score add an interesting level to the story, as different characters sing different songs to the same music through the course of the show. Fantine's song as she dies prefigures Eponine's more-famous soliloquy On My Own, as Fantine imagines she sees her daughter at play and Eponine pretends to feel the arms of Marius around her. Valjean's song What Have I Done and Javert's Suicide are both set to the same score, both come after an extraordinary show of mercy – the Bishop's forgiveness of Valjean, Valjean's release of Javert – both reveal the characters grappling with that mercy, but conclude with diametrically opposed responses. Cosette also sings to the same tune as her childhood song 'Castle on a Cloud' when telling Valjean of the attempted attack on their house ('My God, Cosette!').

John Hodges' presentation at a 1998 L'Abri Conference, "The Theme of Redemption in the Musical Les Misérables," describes the subtle but powerful journey of a single interval: the perfect fourth. In the opening scene, this chord introduces the jailyard and the sinister rigidity of the law. Javert comes to embody this law in his pursuit of Valjean, and almost all of his recitatives are in perfect fourths. Unable to modulate away from this chord, and unwilling to accept Valjean's justice- and logic-baffling mercy, he removes himself from life. In the Finale, we hear the isolated fourth again – but this time, it sounds hopeful and triumphant, as all the ghosts of the barricade sing of "climbing to the light" and "the flame that never dies." In this story of redemption – for Valjean, Fantine, Eponine, and ultimately for France – even the chord is redeemed. The same interval that evokes the hopeless finality of the law is transformed into the law where "chains will be broken and all men will have their reward." It is the moment when justice and mercy find one another.

In 1982, English producer Cameron Mackintosh began work on an English language version, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. This version was substantially expanded and reworked, in particular adding a prologue to tell Jean Valjean's back story. The first English production, produced by Mackintosh and directed by Trevor Nunn, opened on October 8, 1985, in the Barbican Theatre, London.

It starred Colm Wilkinson as Valjean, Frances Ruffelle as Eponine, Rebecca Caine as Cosette, Patti LuPone as Fantine, Roger Allam as the persistent Inspector Javert, Michael Ball as Marius, Ian Tucker as Gavroche, and Alun Armstrong as the villainous rogue Thenardier.

On December 4, 1985, it transferred to the Palace Theatre, and moved again on April 3, 2004 to the Queen's Theatre.

The current London Cast, from the June 26, 2006 features: John Owen-Jones (Jean Valjean), Hans Peter Janssens (Javert), Sophia Ragavelas (Fantine), Tracie Bennett (Madame Thénardier), Chris Vincent (Thénardier), Sabrina Aloueche (Eponine), Jon Lee (Marius), Gina Beck (Cosette), Simon Bailey (Enjolras).

The Broadway production opened on March 12, 1987 at the Broadway Theater. Colm Wilkinson and Frances Ruffelle (as Eponine) reprised their roles from the London production. The musical won the Tony Award for Best Musical in that year, and won in five additional categories: Michael Maguire for Actor in a Featured Role (as Enjolras) in a Musical; Frances Ruffelle for Actress in a Featured Role, Musical; Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg for Book, Musical; Trevor Nunn and John Caird for Director, Musical; and David Hersey for Lighting Design. é The cast included David Bryant as Marius, Judy Kuhn as Cosette, Anthony Crivello as Bamatabois and Grantaire, Steve Shocket as Fauchlevent, Norman Large as the Bishop of Digne, Paul Harman as the Factory Foreman, Donna Vivino as Little Cosette, Jennifer Butt as Madame Thenardier, Leo Burmester as Thenardier, and Terrence Mann as Javert.

The musical ran at the Broadway Theatre through October 10, 1990, when it moved to the Imperial Theatre. It was scheduled to close on March 15, 2003, but the closing was postponed by a surge in public interest, probably as a result of the announcement. After 6,680 performances in sixteen years, when it closed on May 18, 2003, it was the second-longest-running Broadway musical after Cats. More recently, its position has fallen to the third-longest-running Broadway musical after The Phantom of the Opera ascended initially to the second and, in 2006, to the number one spot.

The musical's emblem is a picture of the waif Cosette, usually shown cropped to a head-and-shoulders portrait with the French national flag superimposed. The picture is based on an illustration by Émile Bayard that appeared in the original edition of the novel.

Well-known songs from the musical include "Look Down," "I Dreamed a Dream", "Master of the House", "Who Am I," "Do You Hear the People Sing?", "On My Own", "A Little Fall Of Rain", "Bring Him Home," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", "Stars", "At the End of the Day", "Castle On A Cloud", "Red and Black", "Javert's Suicide," and "One Day More".

It was announced on February 17, 2006, that Les Misérables would be making a six-month return to Broadway, beginning on November 9, 2006 at the Broadhurst Theatre. The cast will include Alexander Gemignani (Jean Valjean), Norm Lewis (Javert), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Fantine), Jenny Galloway* (Madame. Thénardier), Gary Beach* (Thénardier), To Be Announced (Éponine), Ali Ewoldt* (Cosette), Adam Jacobs* (Marius), Aaron Lazar (Enjolras).

* These Actors have appeared in seperate productions of Les Misérables elsewhere.

The first school age theatre to gain the rights to the musical was The King's Theatre, in Sydney, Australia, in late 2000, performing the official edition in March 2001. This first performance prompted a student edition to become available through Musical Theater International in 2002. This is notable because it is unusual for a student edition to be released while professional productions (London and US touring productions) are still showing. However, all the actors in the school edition must be students (under 19 and unpaid), in order to prevent theatre companies from performing the show. It is also shorter than the "official" version, although no major scenes or songs have been removed. The official poster and cover art for the student edition features Cosette wearing a letterman jacket and holding several textbooks.

The immense popularity of the show has caused hundreds of high schools across the USA to pick up the show's rights and perform it. Millard North High School in Omaha Nebraska was the first high school in the United States to put on Les Mis School Edition (LMSE), performing it just two hours before a performance in California on the same day. In the UK it has been available to schools (and subsequently to youth groups) since late 2002. A comprehensive list of the hundreds of British youth organisations to perform LMSE in just four short years can be found at the website of the publisher, Josef Weinberger (www.josef-weinberger.com).

The longest running performance of this Student Production was and is to this day in St. George, Utah at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre Center For the Arts Institute Program in which they ran for over five weeks.

The Student Edition contains several cuts from the original show. One or two appear to be because of unsuitable language or sentiment (e.g. Thénardier's line "this one's a queer, but what can you do?" in "Beggars at the Feast") but most cuts have been made - expertly - merely to shorten this taxing show to a manageable length for young performers. A few subtle changes of vocal pitch have also been made for the same reason. "Stars" by Javert and "Castle of a Cloud" lose a verse each; Valjean and Javert sadly lose their thrilling face-off duo just after Fantine's death ("I am warning you, Javert"). "Dog Eats Dog" by Thenardier is heavily truncated as well. However, LMSE is by no means an inferior product to the original - just different. What it loses in completeness it gains in intensity and pace; and at 2½ hours plus no audience feels short-changed by it.

Most productions have been based on the Broadway version of the show, including the 1991 Paris version which mixed original lyrics with new French lyrics for the additional and altered songs. The show has been produced in 38 countries and translated into 21 languages.

In Germany, the Broadway version has been presented in Duisburg and in Berlin. In addition to this, the musical been produced with great success by a number of opera houses, among them Bonn, Saarbrücken and Detmold. A production in Meiningen is planned for winter 2007.

The musical has always been very popular in Japan. It is the first country outside England and the United States to stage the updated version musical. They have made a total of 6 cast recordings, with each cast recordings having a specific color label. (Blue, Red, Light Blue, Green, Purple, and Orange)

Les Miserables opened in 2000 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, being the second version in Spanish after the 1993 Madrid version. It ran for eight months at Teatro Ópera. The Spanish-speaking version (Madrid, Buenos Aires and México, in which Mexican Soprano Claudia Cota, one of the world's greatest voices, played the role of Cosette) is the only international version having changed its name from "Les Misérables" to "Los Miserables". No recording was made from the Buenos Aires production, making the Madrid production the only Spanish recording of the show. It also was performed in portuguese during 2001/2002 season iin São Paulo, Brazil, opening the newly restored Abril theatre, where other musicals have been staged thereafter, such as Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Chicago and currently The Phantom of the Opera (2005/2006).

In 2002, Lés Miserables became the first Broadway musical to be staged in mainland China. Running for twenty-one performances at Shanghai's Grand Theatre, the American Touring Cast's production was spectacularly successful, grossing 12 million yuan.

On April 8 2004, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale this became the first West End play ever to be performed at Windsor Castle.

A film adaptation of the musical has been in development, on and off, since the late 1980s.

Alan Parker was reported to be attached to the adaptation at an early stage.

In 1992 Cameron Mackintosh announced that the movie would be directed by Bruce Beresford and co-produced by Tri-Star Pictures, but this project was abandoned some time later.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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