The Miserable Ones
August 7, 2010 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Opening Night: October 8, 1985 at the Barbican in London. It scored mixed reviews, but word of mouth still took hold. In the 25 years since that first show, 45,000 performances have been produced in 42 countries, 308 cities and 21 languages that have been seen by 56 million people. It is the third-longest running show in Broadway history. 40 cast recordings have been released. And on October 30th, 2010, a special concert production of the play based on the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo will take place at The 02 Arena in North Greenwich. (YouTube Video)

* Les Miserables: Official Site (autoplaying video and audio)
* A special 25th Anniversary production is already touring.
* Background on the Musical (Wikipedia) Notes that the play’s predecessor premiered in Paris in 1980 and ran for 100 performances.
* Background on the Concert (Wikipedia)

The October concert will feature an ensemble of 300 Les Mis veteran performers and musicians, including Lea Salonga (as Fantine), Jenny Galloway and Matt Lucas. It will also star Nick Jonas (as Marius), Alfie Boe, Norm Lewis, Camilla Kerslake, Samantha Barks and Ramin Karimloo.

The 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Mis is available on YouTube. This version left out a small number of scenes from the on-stage production. It is an unusual performance: the actors mostly stand at the front of the stage and sing into microphones. A special multilanguage encore of “Do You Hear the People Sing / One Day More” was performed by 17 actors who had played the role of Jean ValJean in their native countries.

Act I

1. Overture / Work
2. At the End of the Day
3. I Dreamed A Dream
4. Lovely Ladies / Fantines Arrest / The Runaway Cart
5. Who Am I? / The Trial
6. Fantine’s Death / Come to Me
7. The Confrontation
8. Castle on a Cloud
9. Master of the House
10. The Bargain / Waltz of Treachery
11. Look Down
12. Stars
13. Do You Hear the People Sing
14. ABC Cafe - Red and Black
15. Rue Plumet - In My Life
16. A Heart Full of Love
17. The Attack on Rue Plumet
18. One Day More! (Probably the most well known song from the musical.)

Act II

1. Building the Barricade / On My Own (Beautiful, haunting performance by Lea Salonga as Eponine)
2. Back at the Barricade / Javerts Arrival / Little People
3. A Little Fall of Rain
4. Night of Anguish / First Attack
5. Drink with Me
6. Bring Him Home
7. The Final Battle / Sewers
8. Dog Eats Dog
9. Javert’s Suicide
10. Turning
11. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
12. Every Day (Reprise) / A Heart Full of Love
13. Wedding Chorale / Beggars at the Feast
14. Epilogue
15. Encore I: Do You Hear The People Sing?
16. Encore II: 17 ValJeans, Multilanguage Do You Hear The People Sing? (Keep an eye out for original Iron Chef Chairman Takeshi Kaga at 0:42 and the incredible Jeff Leyton at 2:10)

Additional, related videos:

* Late Japanese pop idol, Honda Minako (本田美奈子.) covering "On My Own"
* 1987 Tony Awards Performance of “At the End of the Day and One Day More
* On 7th October 2006 the original London Production cast reunited on stage at the Queens Theatre: "One Day More"
* 1985: Coverage of the Original London Cast’s Rehearsal Performance
* Robert Marien “Bring Him Home(In English -- He played ValJean in French-language productions in Paris and Montreal)
* Rosalind James, “On My Own” in a televised performance from the 25th anniversary tour: (video is mislabeled on Youtube. It’s in English)
posted by zarq (44 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Me in college to person I was trying to impress: "I thought it was OK but the first act was four-fifths of the book and there wasn't much left after that."

Person I was trying to impress: "They made a book?"
posted by escabeche at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2010 [10 favorites]

Wow. I'll be going through/singing along with all of this later, when no one else is home to judge me.

I remember reading the abridged version of Les Mis in middle school or something. I should really check out the original, it's such a great story.
posted by hopeless romantique at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2010

Cosmic. Going to the final performance at Casa Mañana in Fort Worth tonight.

I won't be singing along. I have my dignity.
posted by skippyhacker at 1:17 PM on August 7, 2010

I'm saddened that nobody from the Broadway casts is going to be there, they actually had a really talented bunch of mostly young performers back before the original closing, except the last 5 or 6 months when they started rotating people in and out at warp speed.

Personally I always liked it best in French (although there were some great casts in other languages). Aside from the fact that it was the only way to hear the lyrics Boublil actually wrote, I felt that the tone of the French lyrics was more appropriate to the story.
posted by graymouser at 1:33 PM on August 7, 2010

I saw two of the people from the O2 concert during the revival on Broadway. Norm Lewis as Javert and Lea Salonga as Fantine. Both were great. Good times.
posted by inturnaround at 2:05 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love Les Miserables. It's my favorite musical of all time.

No matter what anyone might say, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (particularly as sung by Alan Ball) is utterly heartbreaking. There are so many songs to love in this tale. I've also read the unabridged book, and loved it.

It would be a dream for me to attend that O2 show (especially to see Lea Salonga and Norm Lewis), but alas there is an ocean between us.

But now, I'm off to go listen to the 10th anniversary concert.

Fun fact: I graduated from college with the then-Marius, who was in the show when I saw it for the first time.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:19 PM on August 7, 2010

(Broadway, that is).
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:19 PM on August 7, 2010

(Probably the most well known song from the musical.)

I would argue that's "On My Own".
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:26 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

And I meant Michael Ball, of course. Oops.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:27 PM on August 7, 2010

(Probably the most well known song from the musical.)

Surely it's "Bring Him Home?" And I can't imagine the 25th anniversary without Colm Wilkinson.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:31 PM on August 7, 2010

I was thinking of the radio and television commercial spots, which always included the chorus of One More Day. Of course, I live in NY, where they had aired for 2 decades. :)
posted by zarq at 2:39 PM on August 7, 2010

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (particularly as sung by Alan Ball)

World Cup, yeah, sure. But what he really wanted to do was act.
posted by Put the kettle on at 2:45 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

I really love Les Miserables, because it is so operatic (operatique?). I only ever knew the English language version to which I first got introduced to by an American exchange student. (Well, actually that American exchange student's friend who was also my friend.)
It is a musical with great source material and accompanied me through growinfg up and becoming an adult.
My favourite songs are "Who Am I" and "Javert's Suicide". Make of it what you what you want but for me it always symbolized the quest for your own self and that I needn to be carefull that i do not define myelf in such a rigid way that I need to suicide to reconcile myself with reality/ the truth.
But I am sappy this way.
(Never liked Castle on a Cloud, though. Damn whiny kid.)
posted by mmkhd at 2:51 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

6. Bring Him Home

Gives me 'goosebumps' every time I hear it.

This song was played at many funerals/memorial services in the early 90s of friends who died as a result of complications due to AIDS.
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on August 7, 2010

I still prefer the Forbidden Broadway mini-Les-Mis-musical:

God, it's high
this song's too high
pity me
change the key
bring it down
bring it down
it's too high
it's too high
much too HIGH!

posted by tzikeh at 2:57 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, I would argue that at this point, thanks to Susan Boyle, the most famous piece from Les Mis is "I Dreamed a Dream."
posted by tzikeh at 3:00 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Being a fan of both Les Mis and Neil Patrick Harris I have always loved this clip
posted by Captain_Science at 3:06 PM on August 7, 2010 [11 favorites]

Given that I already have tickets, this seems like a good excuse for a London meetup. So I have created an IRL page for a pre-concert Les Mis meetup.

Grey - the snark of angry men!
Blue - the snark of ages past!
Grey - a tiff about to spawn!
Blue - the thread that ends at last!

posted by honest knave at 3:25 PM on August 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Fun fact: I graduated from college with the then-Marius, who was in the show when I saw it for the first time.

Which one?
posted by graymouser at 3:41 PM on August 7, 2010

I found Jean Valjean's ordeals almost impossible to bear when Hugo's masterpiece fell into my hands by accident at age twelve, but many years later I met a woman who had been kidnapped by two pedophiles when she was eleven, along with a little girlfriend of hers who did not survive, and she was helped immensely to come to terms with her own ordeal, and to rejoin the world of the living, by reading Les Miserables, also at age twelve.
posted by jamjam at 3:49 PM on August 7, 2010 [7 favorites]

I felt terrible for two (English) teenagers who turned up at the non-fiction desk of the large bookshop where I work, looking for the book "based on 'Les Miserbaubles'" last week - I sent them down to fiction. I hope they get to this.

As someone who's never seen the show, my fondest memory is that on the march through central London against the Iraq war in 2003 the cast of Les Mis leaned out of the theatre windows (this was when they were still in Cambridge Circus) and waved the Tricolor, which led to a short-lived attempt at the Marseillaise from the marchers (of course, no one remembered the words after "Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé!").
posted by featherboa at 4:02 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Fun fact: I graduated from college with the then-Marius, who was in the show when I saw it for the first time.

Which one?

/snare hit
posted by hal9k at 4:28 PM on August 7, 2010

One Man, One Day.
posted by kipmanley at 4:44 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fun Fact: I've seen Les Mis 7 times and have participated in multiple goth rooftop Les Mois singalongs.

Sad Fact: My Thénardier skillz have wasted away from years of disuse.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:44 PM on August 7, 2010

greymouser: I'm saddened that nobody from the Broadway casts is going to be there

I think Frances Ruffelle is going to be there, who was the original RSC Eponine as well as the original Broadway Eponine. She's not in the anniversary cast, of course. But she's among the "ensemble of 300 performers" mentioned on the Wikipedia entry.

Here's my fun fact: Ruffelle and Rebecca Caine, who was the RSC Cosette, have been close friends ever since that first production. They're constantly sending messages to each other on Twitter. And, as a Les Mis geek from days of yore, I find it entertaining. The cast members from past and present seem to make up a large, supportive community.
posted by zerbinetta at 5:46 PM on August 7, 2010

I love that musical immoderately. When I was six years old I saw it with my family and had to be carried out crying out at the end. It didn't help that Gavroche was played by a boy whose parents were friends of my parents and so I had known him all my life. When my family went to London together when I was in my late teens we made damn sure we saw Les Misérables. My favorite song is "Do You Hear the People Sing?" Every time I listen to it I'm pretty much on the cusp of going out into the streets to put up barricades.
posted by Kattullus at 6:01 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, jeez. Les Miz. Wow. The first time I sat down and listened to the original London Cast Recording, I cried like a baby. Bring Him Home and On My Own. And A Little Fall Of Rain. And Javert's Suicide completely encapsulated my own internal struggles with religious literalism.

And then I read the full length novel, and was introduced into a much deeper world of Paris than I ever thought I would ever want to know and loved every minute of it. (Even if Hugo's digressions are a bit, um... lengthy and arcane at times.)

And then I finally saw the show after 5 years or so, and started weeping before the Prologue was over, and didn't stop for hours. I'm sure I looked a mess during intermission, but who cares?

Sadly, when I next saw the show (a decade later), either that night's performance was a bit lackluster, or the show had lost its grip on me. I didn't feel that emotional-religious buzz, I didn't find it all that amazing, even the marvelous stagecraft of Javert jumping off the bridge has lost its magic.

At times, I wonder if I'll ever feel that again for the show. I wish I could, but I'm a tad afraid to revisit it much. It meant so much for so long, and then suddenly it didn't. That loss stings to this day, and I long for the days when One Day More would move me beyond my physical self. Maybe they'll return. I'll try again someday, that's for sure. It's one of those timeless amazing works of art.
posted by hippybear at 6:22 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

My favorite Les Mis laugh.

In the middle of an informal run-through of On My Own, my son calls his wife a "book ripper." She thinks he said something else and loses it. Fun starts around 1:35.

Two other moments not to miss: How Sofie removers her hands from the keyboard just before the I love hims (3:30) and Dvorah's comments starting around 4:10.
posted by governale at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2010

I have a 24601 tattoo.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:06 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

My college best friend and I would do Fantine's death scene at parties, we were music students, we were pretty damn good!!

(and yes, we were drunk. Some of my best work ever!!)

Love this post!! My favorite, favorite, favorite!!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:22 PM on August 7, 2010

As to the discussion about the "most famous" song... I am 40 years old, have never seen any incarnation of the show. I've never listened to a soundtrack recording, and only have a vague idea as to what it's even about (like all musical theater that I haven't seen, I assume it's like Grease, only in a different setting). However, at any point in my adult life, if you had asked me to name one song from Les Mis. My answer would be "One Day More", and I could even sing a bit of it.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:51 PM on August 7, 2010

I saw a production in London in 1990 that was the first major musical I'd ever been too. I was enthralled, and am determined to drag my musical-hating husband to one someday. It was amazing.
posted by emjaybee at 8:57 PM on August 7, 2010

Sorry. Can't resist. Here's another Les Mis laugh.

"These are words he'll never say . . . because he's my brother." Fun starts around 22 seconds in.

BTW, I've emailed all my family with a link to this fine post. Thanks.
posted by governale at 8:59 PM on August 7, 2010

Oh man, I love Les Mis. I hope it comes back to Toronto, I'd go again in a flash. I think I've seen it at least 3-4 times in my life so far, and I loved it more every time.

I first heard it because a friend of mine in high school's french mother had the original record in French. I still hear this one whenever I hear those strains of "I dreamed a dream" (in a good way).
posted by Hildegarde at 9:08 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Back in 2001, Catherine Brunell was playing Eponine on Broadway for most of the year, and her then-fiance Christopher Mark Peterson was Enjolras. (Christopher was absolutely one of the nicest people I ever met.) I remember being tickled pink by a photo that floated around for a while of the two of them in costume, together, totally out of character and positively beaming. Can't find it for the life of me, but it was too much fun - happy Enjolras with happy Eponine - almost made me wish they'd run off together during "One Day More."

(Catherine was replaced by Dana Meller, who I managed to catch twice in her one-month run; she had understudied the role for years and was absolutely wonderful in it. The night I saw Dana as Eponine and Philip Hernandez as Javert blew me away in a way no theatrical performance before or since has. The show was never quite the same without those folks in it.)
posted by graymouser at 9:25 PM on August 7, 2010

Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men?

I thought that was the most famous song. Or Master of the House? lol.

Anyway, I do love Lea Salonga. JEALOUS. I'd much rather hear her as Eponine, though.

I should really check out the original, it's such a great story.

I can't remember which translation I read, but I read the full version and it was fantastic. It's like War and Peace, but entertaining.

The musical is supposed to be a guilty pleasure, but I feel no guilt at all. I'd see it again. I saw it in 1986 in London (must have been the Palace, but who knows); I couldn't tell you the cast (I was 14), but it was fantastic. I saw a US touring company in maybe ... 1990? Also great. (still no JC Superstar, though.)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:25 PM on August 7, 2010

I absolutely and completely adore Les Miserables. I loved Hugo's book, even when he went on for untold pages describing some random wall or etc. I watched the musical and I became literally addicted to the soundtrack, I listen to it all the time and much to detriment of whoever is nearby, I sing it at the top of my lungs. Just a couple of days ago, I had so much fun singing the whole thing to my 3 small children and they even started to sing along, at least the high-note parts.

With the utmost respect to the commenter up-thread who said they have been to many funerals where they play 'Bring Him Home', that song has now become very special to me in a different way. As I have mentioned in previous threads, my 7 year old son who has autism is in some ways 'lost' to me, unable to communicate and share this thoughts, his emotions, his desires, his insight on life and etc. I long, I pray, I fight, I do and would do anything possible to talk to him, to know him better. When I hear 'Bring Him Home', now, I hear a song about bringing my son back from the dark maze of autism. Like Jean Valjean, I would gladly die, give my place in this world if it mean that he could live a normal life. That song now has become a raw description that reaches the depths of my soul.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful reminder of this lovely play. I hope to take my children to see it someday.
posted by dealing away at 9:32 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

dealing away, i sincerely hope you get a chance to as well. And thank you for speaking about your son.
posted by zarq at 11:37 PM on August 7, 2010

It was better than Cats, I'll see it again and again.
posted by rhizome at 11:45 PM on August 7, 2010

Never seen it, although I saw the non-musical movie with Neeson, Rush et al. But I've heard recordings of many of the songs and "Bring Him Home" is on my short list of favorite musical numbers ever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:04 AM on August 8, 2010

I saw it at the Kennedy Center in, what, 86? It remains the most artfully staged thing I have ever seen, excepting, of course, the Chinese Olympics opening ceremony.

And the Forbidden Broadway lyrics above are even better when inexplicably sung by the Sims.
posted by umberto at 6:42 AM on August 8, 2010

It was better than Cats

Pretty much sums up every piece of theatre I've ever seen.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:34 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks for linking to the original French version, Hildegarde! I've meant to check it out for years and never got around to it.
posted by Kattullus at 7:57 AM on August 8, 2010

I find a lot of musical theater I loved as a teenager pretty cringeworthy now, but I have a soft spot for Les Miz.
posted by desuetude at 10:41 PM on August 8, 2010

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