It’s just under a week until our musical theatre workshop At The End of the Day so we have been investigating the award-winning musical Les Misérables. Written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alan Boublil, Les Misérables is based on the 1862 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. It follows the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean through France as he tries to find redemption and escape the clutches of police officer Javert. The story culminates in a student revolution (based on the Paris uprising of 1832) and has become incredibly popular since its première in 1985. Les Misérables is one of the most successful musicals ever – it has been performed across the world and is the longest-running show in the West End. A show with this much history is bound to have some interesting stories to tell, so we have done some digging to come up with ten interesting facts that you may not have known about Les Misérables.
- When it opened in the West End in 1985 the reviews were awful! The critics hated the musical but the public fell in love with the show and within 24 hours, an unprecedented 5,000 tickets had been sold. It has since gained critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Tony award for Best Original Score in 1987.
- Each professional performance includes 392 costumes, consisting of over 5,000 individual items of clothing!
- A visit to the musical Oliver! inspired the show. Lyricist Alan Boublil went to see the London revival production and the Artful Dodger instantly reminded him of the urchin Gavroche from Les Misérables.
- The musical was adapted into a film in 2012 starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. Usually the music for film musicals is pre-recorded months before shooting starts but for Les Misérables, all the singing was recorded live on set which required a sound crew three times the normal size!
- In the film, the set used for the barricade scene was the same as the set used for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), just remodelled!
- In Victor Hugo’s novel he dedicates a whole chapter to discussing social reforms of the Parisian sewers. Thankfully this did not make it into the musical, although there is a short scene that takes place in the sewer as a reference.
- The late-Romantic composer Giacomo Puccini was approached about turning the novel Les Misérables into a full-scale opera but declined because he did not feel it was suitable for a stage show. Luckily Boublil and Schönberg did not share this opinion as then the musical may have never existed!
- The stage production in London famously features a revolving stage that allows seamless scene transitions.
- The musical has been translated into an astounding 21 languages, including Hungarian, Korean and Catalan!
- Les Misérables is a sung-through musical, but there are only two soundtrack albums that feature the whole score. One of these, The Complete Symphonic Recording, features cast members from all over the world and had to be recorded in three different places.
Les Misérables certainly has an interesting history and is a musical worth exploring. If these snippets of information have inspired you to want to find out more about the musical, why not come along to our musical theatre workshop At The End of the Day to perform songs from Les Misérables!