Statistically, the numbers say it all: “Les Miserables” as the musical has more than hit higher than all records. It is one one of the top three best selling, longest running, highly acclaimed stage production, musical, theater show in all of West End of London and Broadway of New York.
From the time the time the musical score was created by Claude Michel Schonberg and Alai Boubill with Herbert Kretzmer adopting the lyrics and after the initial French stage production in 1980, Les Miserables has been produced and shown in 38 countries, adopted into 21 different languages, viewed and appreciated and given standing ovations by 54 million audiences consistently within the musical’s more than 10,000 performances – so far, and counting.
It was however the initial London production of Cameron Mackintosh of October 8, 1985 that laid the card; paved the way and spread the red carpet for the burgeoning popularity, clamor and critical acclaim of the “Les Mis” or “Les Miz” (its pop culture nickname). After two years, the “Les Mis” “rush, gush and flash” of reviews, recommendations, and resonances crossed the Atlantic and took Broadway by storm. It was on March 12, 1987 that the tandem of Schonberg, Boubill, Kretzmer and Mackintosh first opened “Les Miserables” in Broadway.
Capping the thunderous maiden performance in Broadway, “Les Miserables” was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 1988 – capping a whooping 7 trophies to bag major wins. Based on the 1862 French novel of Victor Hugo, the complexity of the plots and the comprehensive principles that the protagonist of the story, Jean Valjean exuded in his traverse and struggles in life – it was all captured, enacted and brilliantly portrayed on the stage.
With all the paradox there is in stage and/or theatre production (limitations, as in the physical and time frame to mobilize a story, and extensions, as in the artistic and strategic skills to palpably express live the story), “Les Miserables” the musical captured the essence, enormity and ecstasy of the life of Jean Valjean and everyone else he encountered in the their struggle for revolution and redemption.
The more than 1,000 pages of the narration of Victor Hugo in his novel to come alive within 3 hours of play, the heart, mind, soul, being and spirit of all audiences were, are and will continually and powerfully be touched through the musical. “This power derives both from the enormous strength of the theatrical adaptation………. and from the timeless reality of the titanic novel upon which the show is based….. ” (About the Show, 2005)
How the musical grippingly portrayed the emotional epic of Jean Valjean after serving 19 years of prison life and tried to redeem and restructure and restore whatever nobility he could muster his life – proves that the conceptualization and institutionalizing the musical was derived not just on the interest of the proponents on the story, but the heartfelt passion and faith they shared with Hugo. That is, life can offer the best yet to be inspite of any challenges and travails. To such end, the seemingly excruciating planning and artistic design of Schonberg, Boubill, Kretzmer and Mackintosh came to play.
Every nuances and pursuits of love, social, political, historical ideals of Jean Valjean and the novel were sufficiently captured in the musicial. And this is considering further that there are so many characters that has individual reasons for being and own stories to be told – the craftsmanship of encapsulating all that cohesively and coherently in the musical is a feat indeed. And of course, the melodies and lyrics of all the songs that are now classics contributed tremendously to the enchanting, entrancing and eclectic dimensions of the musical.
The heights and depths of the harmony, rhythm, rhyme of the songs are all well suited and timed for each of the characters; the transformation of settings and scenes and the development of the circumstances of the story. Indeed the music encapsulated the effect on the emotions and passion and intellect of all audiences – capped by the instrumental accompaniment of the orchestras that played. It cannot go without mention that all the various performers and actors of all the stagings of the musical went through a tedious and long process of characterization and training to imbed the spirit of the story with its theme, message and songs.
It is therefore most interesting that stories and musicals like “Les Miserables” become timeless, ageless. The strength of the purpose and message of the story does that – highlighted by the application of a whole gamut of art and technique to elevate such timelessness and agelessness to the pinnacle of accolades.
Reference: “Introduction: Creation of a Musical”. 2005 About the Show. The Official Website of Les Miserables http://www. lesmis. com/index2. htm