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Les Miserables musical is an adaptation of a novel (same title) by Victor Hugo. It is a sung-through musical with a book by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, and lyrics by Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel (French), and Herbert Kretzmer (English). It was written in 1862. It premiered at the Palais des Sports in Paris in 1980.
The musical was first produced and performed in French. The London version was reworked with more content added by James Fenton. A prologue was included in the English production to give a sneak peek into Jean’s life. The lyrics were not directly translated from French to English. A third of the lyrics were a rough translation, another third was adapted to English, and the remaining was freshly written in English.
Background Information and History
Les Miserables is set in early 19th-century France. It shows the story of a peasant, Jean Valjean. He is jailed for nineteen years for stealing a bread loaf to feed his starving sister. He is inspired by a Bishop to redeem himself when out on parole. However, the police officer Javert doesn't let him get away so easily and is determined to send Jena back to jail.
The story deals with the French Revolution and how a group of youngsters (idealists) barricaded a Paris street to overthrow the government.
The first English production of the musical was in Sep 1985 at the Barbican Centre in London. It was adapted and directed by John Caird and Trevor Nunn, with Cameron Mackintosh as the producer. The musical was performed at different venues and celebrated its 10,000th performance in 2010 (5th January). It went on to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2015.
Les Miserables opened on Broadway a year later, in 1986. The pre-premiere tryout ran for two months in 1986, with an official Broadway premiere on 12th March 1987. However, the script was revised and tightened to fix a few minor but important issues. A few songs were also removed, and another had a change of lyrics. The Broadway version ran for sixteen years and had 6680 performances when it closed in 2003.
Les Miserables musical is the second longest-running Broadway show and was revived in 2006 and 2014. It is one of the public favorites in the US and UK. The musical went on numerous tours over the years and saw several changes in the cast. Browse through our website to know more about popular musicals.