|“Les Miserables” is more than just a musical - it’s a look into storied French history. Originally a novel written by author Victor Hugo in 1862, the book has been adapted into several musicals, movies and plays and is still considered to be one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.
In 1980, it was made into a musical in French, which was presented at Palais des Sports. However, it only ran three months before its booking contract expired. Then, in 1983, Cameron Mackintosh, producer of “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera” and many more, took the show under his wing to produce an English-speaking (and singing) version. After years of development, the show opened in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Eventually, its success led to a Broadway production and came to be one of the most successful musicals to ever take the stage.
A historical scope
“Les Miserables” takes place in 19th century France. It follows the story of many characters, although the main protagonist is Jean Valjean, a French peasant. Valjean was imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister. After his parole, he starts a new life on a quest for redemption, and adopts a daughter, Corsette. However, he is followed by a police officer, Javert.
The story then fast forwards many years later, and the audience finds themselves in the middle of the French Revolution. Times are tough and poverty is widespread. Many people, including important characters, are plotting to rebel against the French monarchy by creating a barricade. During all the action, two of the main characters, Marius and Corsette , fall in love. The show, much like that period’s history, ends in blood and chaos.
Perhaps the most magical part of the musical is the music. With decades underneath its belt, various casts, including those from the original London, original Broadway and even the 25th Anniversary productions, have performed its hits. Songs like “At the End of the Day,” “I Dreamed a Dream” “Do You Hear the People Sing” and “One Day More” have become famous within the musical community.
The original English language version’s lyrics were written by Herbert Kretzmer with help from James Fenton. It’s not a literal and direct translation of the French original but rather an adaption. For instance, this interpretation added a prologue to tell the back story of Jean Valjean, something the French version lacked.
The original London cast was a talented bunch, with Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Patti LuPone as Fantine, Rebecca Caine as Cosette, Frances Ruffelle as Eponine and Michael Ball as Marius. The vocal range and acting skills alike made for a one-of-a-kind performance.
Universal Pictures produced a film version in 2012. The all-star cast included Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks - in addition to other big-name stars.
The cast sang their performances live during the filming, and was praised for the work. In addition, the film won a handful of Golden Globes, including awards for best picture, best actor and best supporting actress, which were won by Jackman and Hathaway, respectively.
A winning show
The show has won a handful of Tony awards, proving itself as one of the most successful entertainment shows out there. Cities across the globe come back to “Les Miserables” to see a show that encapsulates the human spirit. As one of the longest-running shows of all time, there is always an opportunity to experience it firsthand, or see it again for those who just cannot get enough.
“Les Miserables” is a timeless story about the human experience intertwined with suffering and love, and it’s one you cannot miss!