18 facts you didn’t know about Les Miserables in the West End
Flying the French Flag in the West End for over 30 years, Les Miserables has become part of London’s theatre fabric. Seen by over 70 million people around the world, the production has become a must-see for any theatregoer. Ahead of the all-star concert starring Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, as well as the reimagined production at the Queen’s Theatre later this year, why not take a look at the history of Les Mis in the West End with us?
A complete guide to Les Miserables
Although many believe the musical is set during the French Revolution era, the production actually takes place during the early 19th century. The musical opens in 1815, with audiences seeing the life of Jean Valjean throughout later decades.
The musical was originally a rock opera, with a concept album created by Claude-Michel Schönberg and John Boublil in 1980. The album sold 260,000 copies.Les Miserables was first performed at the Palais de Sport in Paris, where it ran for 105 performances.
The original production opened on 8th October 1985 at the Barbican.
The first West End cast of Les Miserables starred Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Patti LuPone as Fantine, Roger Allam as Javert, Michael Ball as Marius and Frances Ruffele as Eponine.
Initially, critics did not enjoy Les Miserables, with the production receiving scathing reviews. In fact, the show was considered to be ‘witless and synthetic’, doing little in testament to the Victor Hugo novel it was inspired by.
Audiences loved the musical however, with the show transferring to the Palace Theatre on 4th December 1985, where it took residency for over 19 years. Playing to larger audiences, the musical quickly gained momentum to become a must-see show across London theatres.
After West End success, Les Miserables transferred to Broadway, opening on 12 March 1987 at the Broadway Theatre, running to 18 May 2003. During this time, it became the second longest-running musical in Broadway history.
The show did not pick up the Olivier Award for best new musical in 1985, losing out to Me and My Girl.
Patti LuPone, Colm Wilkinson and Alun Armstrong all received Olivier nominations for their performances.
The show moved to the Queen’s Theatre on 3rd April 2004, where it has been ever since.
In the West End production, there are 392 costumes that feature throughout, including 85 wigs and over 5,000 separate pieces of clothing.
To date, Les Miserables has been performed in over 40 countries around the world. Whether there are productions in the United States, Australia, the Dominican Republic or China, global audiences can witness the iconic marching in ‘One Day More’.
As well as its global presence, the book and lyrics have been translated into 22 languages, including Hebrew, Castillian, Flemish and Mexican Spanish (to name four).
In celebration of Les Miserables’ continuous run, Queen Elizabeth II requested the musical to be performed to commemorate the Anglo-French alliance. Jacques Chirac watched 40 minutes of Les Miserables at Windsor Castle, with Cameron Mackintosh claiming the musical “is the most successful and most exciting artistic collaboration between France and England ever”.
Les Miserables became the longest-running musical on 7th October 2006, with The Phantom of the Opera. The show is currently the third longest-running in the West End, behind The Mousetrap and The Woman in Black respectively.
The production celebrated its 10,000th performance on 22nd January 2010.
Les Miserables has won two Audience Awards for most popular show in 2012 and 2014 respectively.
Think you know it all about Les Miserables? Why not take our quiz all about the musical to see if you’d be able to survive on the barricade!