The multiple award-winning Les Misérables has become a global success on stage and screen, sweeping audiences through an epic tale of broken dreams, passion, and redemption, against the backdrop of a nation seething with revolution. Les Misérables is now the longest running musical in the world. Here, writers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg discuss the staying power of their most well-known musical.
Les Misérables started its musical life in 1980 as a concept album, which became a stage show at Le Palais des Sports, a large arena in Paris. It was a huge success, playing for three months to an audience of 200,000. We were thrilled by this unexpected outcome and believed that it was the end of a uniquely exciting adventure. But three years later, we received a call from London.
During our first meeting to discuss the English version of Les Misérables, Cameron Mackintosh told us excitedly, “You do not realize what you have written.” He had heard a few tracks of our concept album at a friend’s house and wanted to produce the show.
That was more than 35 years ago. Neither he nor we could have imagined that in 2018, so long after that first encounter, we would be launching yet another production of Les Misérables with a brand new company to tour North America. An unprecedented success like this cannot be explained by its creators. This work was born in a state of grace which we were completely unconscious of at that time. Stravinsky once said, “A real creator does not know what he is doing.” We only knew that we needed to do it as much we needed to breathe, eat, and love.
The spirit of Victor Hugo protects us all. His novel proclaims its message around the world—to all nationalities, cultures, and ages. Still, it is astounding to see this young generation rush to the box office of a show that was written before they were born. Too often, musicals age with their audience, but in this case, we are the only ones who age while onstage Cosette, Marius, the students’ revolt, and their ideas are still as young as ever.
Attending one rehearsal at The Barbican Theatre in 1985—where in front of our eyes was mounted the musical which exceeded our wildest dreams—Alain said, “I hope that we will still be here in two months.”
Incredibly, almost thirty-five years later, we still are!
About the Show
Cameron Mackintosh presents the new production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon, LES MISÈRABLES. With its glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, this breathtaking new production has left both audiences and critics awestruck. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, LES MISÈRABLES tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption- a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Featuring the thrilling score and beloved songs “I Dreamed A Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” and many more, this epic and uplifting story has become one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history.
I am a six-year fan of Les Mis- starting with the film, which would start after giving it a 2nd chance. The musical means a lot to me in so many ways.