On March 1, 2014, the anticipated new revival of Les Misérables began previews at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre, where the first American production of the musical ran from 1987 to 2003. With music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, book by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, and based off the novel by Victor Hugo originally published in 1862, Les Misérables tells the epic and uplifting story of a French peasant named Jean Valjean and his quest for redemption amidst a revolutionary period in 19th century France. Opening night will take place on March 23, 2014.
Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, this newly reimagined production of Les Misérables has been receiving rave reviews on its tour across North America, having grossed more than $160 million in two and a half years, and it has also broken box office records with capacity crowds at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Toronto. This version of the musical has also seen great success internationally, with productions in the U.K., France, Spain, Japan, Korea, and soon to be Australia. Furthermore, this incarnation, which premiered in the U.K. in 2009, is said to have inspired filmmakers to make the 2012 film which won Academy, Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards. In May 2013, it was announced that the show would return to Broadway, encouraged by the widespread success of this revised production.
The revival is produced by Cameron Mackintosh, who has been shepherding productions of this show around the world since its first English-language incarnation in London’s West End, which is presently in its 28th sell-out year. In October 2006, Les Misérables earned the title of Longest Running Musical Worldwide, followed by two other Cameron Mackintosh shows: The Phantom of the Opera and Cats. As for Broadway, Les Misérables is the fourth longest-running Broadway production of all time.
The new Broadway cast features Ramin Karimloo (Les Misérables London and Toronto) as Jean Valjean, Will Swenson (Hair, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) as Javert, Caissie Levy (Ghost, Hair, Wicked) as Fantine, Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon) as Eponine, Andy Mientus (Smash) as Marius, Samantha Hill (Les Misérables Toronto, The Phantom of the Opera) as Cosette, Cliff Saunders (The 39 Steps) as Thenardier, Keala Settle (Hands on a Hardbody) as Madame Thernadier, and Kyle Scatliffe (The Scottsboro Boys London) as Enjolras. The design team includes sets by Matt Kinley, who took as inspiration the paintings of Victor Hugo, as well as costumes by Andreane Neofitou, additional costumes by Christine Rowlands, lighting by Paula Constable, sound by Mick Potter, and projections by Fifty-Nine Productions.
The musical features many timeless songs including I Dreamed A Dream, On My Own, Bring Him Home, Do You Hear the People Sing?, One Day More, Master of the House, and At the End of the Day. There have been 47 cast recordings made of Les Misérables, including the original London recording which won multiple platinum accolades, as well as the Broadway cast and symphonic recordings, both of which won Grammy Awards. The show has been translated into 22 languages and seen in 42 countries, and new productions are constantly been mounted worldwide.
This revival is especially timely in light of the widely praised Les Misérables film that opened in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day 2012, grossing over $441 million worldwide and receiving nominations for eight Academy Awards, winning three. The movie was co-produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Working Title Films, distributed by Universal Pictures, and starred Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, and Eddie Redmayne.
Despite all of this success in other realms, the timing of this Broadway revival may seem surprising, considering how a recent revival attempt was relatively disappointing in terms of box office. That revival ran for only 463 performances and 17 previews from November 2006 to January 2008. Just a handful of years later, will this musical manage to take Broadway by storm? It certainly has the household recognition and history of global achievement to woo audiences with promises of breathtaking entertainment. Most notably, last year’s film succeeded in capturing American hearts, proving that there is still great love for the material. We will not be able to anticipate the future of this production until the weekly gross figures begin to come in after the show’s official opening on March 23rd. Still, we can expect that the Broadway revival will benefit from the recent renaissance of this masterpiece.