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Background on Les Misérables

Alain Boublil

Alain Boublil’s first musical, La Revolution Française in 1973, marked his transition from songwriting to musical theatre and the start of his collaboration with Claude-Michel Schöenberg with the hit album that became the first ever staged French musical. His idea of writing a musical version of Les Misérables brought them together again in 1978.

The acclaimed show was written over a two-year period and recorded as an album before its opening at the Palais de Sports in Paris in September 1980. In 1983 Mr. Boublil met Cameron Mackintosh which led to his first London production Abbacadabra (a musical fairy-tale set to ABBA music) and to working with Claude-Michel and directors and writers on the English language adaptation of Les Misérables.

The show has subsequently opened in 19 countries and 14 languages. Among the many awards Mr. Boublil has received were two Tony Awards in 1987 for Best Score and Best Book for the NY production and a 1988 Grammy for the Best Original Broadway Cast Recording which he co-produced with Claude-Michel Schöenberg. Miss Saigon opened on September 20, 1989 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London and on April 11, 1991 in NY. The show has also played in Tokyo and Toronto with future production scheduled for Sydney, Australia and Stuttgart, Germany. Mr. Boublil will maintain a close association with all the international productions of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon while working with Claude-Michel on the screenplays for motion picture versions of both musicals.

Claude-Michel Schöenberg

Claude-Michel Schönberg is a successful record producer and songwriter who began his collaboration with Alain Boublil in 1973, writing the very first French musical, La Revolution Française. Mr. Schönberg played the role of Louis XVI in that production and also co-produced the double-gold record album of the show. In 1974, he recorded an album, singing his own compositions and lyrics, which included the number one hit single Le Premier Pas. In 1980, after two years’ work on the score, Mr. Schönberg and Mr. Boublil’s musical Les Misérables opened in Paris, where it was seen by more than 1.5 million people. In 1983, Mr. Schönberg produced an opera album in Paris with Julia Migenes Johnson and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. Following work on the London production of Les Misérables (the 3rd longest running musical in British theatre history), Mr. Schönberg co-produced the double-platinum London cast album and became involved in casting all the major overseas productions of the show, including the American, Japanese and Australian companies. He won two coveted Tony Awards, for Best Score and Book, for the Broadway production of Les Misérables and a Grammy Award for the Best Original Cast Recording, which he co-produced with Alain Boublil.

He also worked closely on the symphonic recording of the show. His score for Miss Saigon, again written in collaboration with Alain Boublil, repeated the international success story of Les Misérables. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and again bringing together many members of the creative team behind Les Misérables, Miss Saigon opened with huge success at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London in September 1989, in NY in April 1991, in Tokyo in May 1992 and in Chicago (the first national U.S. tour) in November 1992.

Herbert Kretzmer

Herbert Kretzmer, born in South Africa, came to London in 1954, and has since pursued twin careers as a newspaperman and songwriter. He was a feature writer at the Daily Sketch and a profile writer at the Sunday Dispatch. He joined the Daily Express in 1960 and later became its drama critic, a post he held for 18 years. Since 1979 he has been writing TV criticism for the Daily Mail and has won, in this capacity, two national press awards. As a lyric writer he wrote weekly songs for BBC-TV’s That Was The Week That Was.

He won an Ivor Novello Award for the Peter Sellers/Sophia Loren comedy song Goodness Gracious Me. Other award-winning lyrics include two written for Charles Aznavour: Yesterday When I Was Young and the chart-topping She. Mr. Kretzmer wrote book and lyrics for the West End’s Our Man Crichton, which starred Kenneth More and Millicent Martin, and lyrics for the Theatre Royal Drury Lane’s The Four Musketeers. He also supplied lyrics for the Anthony Newly film Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness? Tony Award, 1987, Best Score, Les Misérables.

MTI

Music Theatre International (MTI) is one of the world’s leading theatrical licensing agencies, granting schools as well as amateur and professional theatres from around the world the rights to perform the largest selection of great musicals from Broadway and beyond. MTI works directly with the composers, lyricists and book writers of these shows to provide official scripts, musical materials and dynamic theatrical resources to over 60,000 theatrical organizations in the US and in over 60 countries worldwide.

By |July 26th, 2014|Categories: 2014 Season|0 Comments

Les Misérables Show Synopsis (Spoiler Alerts!)

ACT ONE

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Cast of Les Misérables

1795

Lights up on a chain gang in early 19th Century France. The men do hard labor. One prisoner, referred to as ‘number 24601,’ appears. His name is Jean Valjean and was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. His time is finally up and he is being released but Javert, an overzealous policeman, reminds him he will always be a sinner. Because he is branded as a former prisoner, it is impossible for Valjean to find work. (1815) Starving again, he is taken in by a bishop and fed; however, he flees in the night, stealing some expensive silver. The bishop, learning his plight, tells the police that he gave Valjean the silver. The bishop has bought Valjean’s soul for God, and Valjean vows to be a good citizen.

1802

Seven years later, the poor of France are starving and desperate. Inside a factory at Montreuil, a group of women are desperate to hold on to their jobs. A young woman, Fantine, will not respond to the foreman’s sexual advances. The other women discover she has a daughter out of wedlock who lives with an innkeeper in the country, and worry that Fantine’s trouble will become their trouble. A fight breaks out and the mayor and factory owner – Valjean in disguise – instructs the foreman to sort it out. He unfairly fires Fantine (“At the End of the Day”). (1822) Desperate and alone, Fantine remembers her summer of love and the man who broke his promises that brought her to this point in life (“I Dreamed A Dream”).

Fantine finds herself in the red-light district, surrounded by sailors and whores. She tries to sell her last possessions so that she may have money for her daughter, Cosette, to see a doctor. The Madame she sells to, however, will not give her a fair price. Fantine is forced to sell her hair and then finally herself. However, when the time comes, she cannot bring herself to it and gets into a fight with the gentleman. Javert appears and arrests Fantine, showing her no mercy. Valjean sees her and recognizes that her misfortune is partially his doing. He has her taken to the hospital (“The Docks”).

Next, a cart crashes and Valjean inexplicably lifts it so that the man trapped underneath is pulled clear. Javert recognizes Valjean’s strength as being similar to a prisoner he knew many years ago, but assures Valjean that the man has been recaptured and awaits trial. Valjean wrestles with a moral dilemma – if he lets the other man take the fall for him, he will finally be free and the factory workers dependent on him will be taken care of; however, he also will be damned and will have reneged on his promised life for God. He decides he cannot stay silent and goes to the court, announcing his identity and then rushes away to Fantine’s hospital (“Who Am I?”).

1823

At the hospital, Fantine is in a delirium and Valjean promises to adopt Cosette as Fantine takes her final breath (“Fantine’s Death”). Javert finds Valjean in the hospital, and again shows no mercy despite Valjean trying to explain he must rescue the child. Javert believes that any man who is a sinner will always be a sinner. The two men fight, and Valjean manages to escape.

Miles away, at an Inn, Cosette dreams of a happier life (“Castle On A Cloud”). The greedy and evil Mme. Thénardier, the innkeeper’s wife, interrupts her wistful fantasy. The Thénardiers young daughter, Éponine is there as well. Mme. sends Cosette out into the dark to the well against Cosette’s protests (“Little Cosette”). While the inn fills with patrons, Thénardier revels with the patrons. As they get drunker and drunker, the host enumerates the many ways he cuts corners and takes advantage of his customers (“The Innkeeper’s Song”). Valjean meets young Cosette wandering in the woods and brings her back to the inn. He haggles with the Thénardiers over their darling Cosette and the couple finally settles on a price and turns the child over to Valjean (“The Bargain”).

1832

Ten years pass and we find ourselves in the teeming, squalid streets of Paris. The beggars, led by a young boy named Gavroche, continue to suffer. Everyone is on edge (“The Beggars”). In their midst comes the young revolutionary Marius and his friend Enjolras; they seek justice from the powers in France. Only one politician cares for the poor: LeMarque. He is on his deathbed. The students plan to use his death as a catalyst for revolution. Thénardier, no longer an innkeeper, leads a gang of criminals on the street corner. Éponine, now all grown up, is torn between loyalty towards her father & mother and her attraction to old friend Marius. Suddenly, Valjean and Cosette appear; Thénardier recognizes Valjean and asks for money. They scuffle and Valjean’s shirt is ripped open showing his tattoo. Javert, not recognizing Valjean, tells him to be careful on the street (“The Robbery”). He turns to find that Valjean and Cosette, who had run into Marius, have disappeared. Thénardier tells Javert about the brand on the stranger’s chest and Javert wonders if it could be the man he has been seeking all these years. Javert, the obsessed lawman, swears that he will never rest until Valjean is behind bars (“Stars”).

Elsewhere, Marius meets Éponine to ask her to find the young girl with whom he had met earlier. Éponine then remembers her childhood with Cosette but refuses to mention anything. Out of her love for Marius, she eventually agrees to help him.

At a neighboring inn, revolutionary men talk of their plans and tease Marius about his falling in love for the first time. They prepare for their student revolution (“The ABC Café”). Barricades will rise and they will take to the streets, and all will come when called. As they cheer, Gavroche rushes in to inform them that LeMarque has passed. Enjolras, recognizing the sign to begin, leads the group in a rousing cry to action (“The People’s Song”).

1832

Later, on the Rue Plumet, Cosette contemplates her past life, which she cannot seem to remember, and all of her father’s secrets (“Rue Plumet”). Éponine leads Marius to the street where Cossette lives. Éponine tells of her unrequited love for Marius who exchanges affectionate words with Cosette (“A Heart Full Of Love”). Suddenly, one of Thénardiers men come to rob the house of Valjean, but Éponine vows to protect Marius instead of helping her father. When her father refuses to be dissuaded, she screams and the robbers make for the sewers in order to escape (“The Attack On Rue Plumet”). Marius thanks Éponine for saving them and rather than betraying Éponine, Cosette tells her father it was she who screamed because of a mysterious man at the gate who ran away. Valjean now mistakenly fears the men who were lurking in the street were with Javert. He plans to flee from France with Cosette in order to escape Javert. Marius is heartbroken at the thought of losing his love, as his compatriots prepare for battle (“One Day More”)

ACT TWO

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Cast of Les Misérables

A barricade is being built in the streets of Paris. Marius sees Éponine and asks her to deliver a letter to Cosette; she agrees, though it breaks her heart. On the Rue Plumet, Éponine meets Valjean and gives him the letter (“Building the Barricade”). He realizes that Marius is in love with Cosette and quickly exits. All alone in the city streets, Éponine laments the intensity of her feelings for Marius, who does not return her affection (“On My Own”).

The barricade has been completed and even though the revolutionaries will get no official help, they believe that the people will rise to throw off their yoke of tyranny. Javert (in disguise) climbs the barricade, tells them of the enemies’ plans and is called a liar by Gavroche who knows his true identity. Javert is tied up and is to be taken to a people’s court, which he renounces (“Javert at the Barricade”). Éponine, fatally wounded, climbs the barricade and dies in Marius’ arms, as he weeps and tells her of his deep love and admiration (“A Little Fall Of Rain”). Valjean then arrives to help and protect Marius, unbeknownst to him.

There is an attack and Valjean helps the students. Enjolras thanks him and they officially welcome him (“The First Attack”). Because of this, Enjolras gives Valjean the opportunity to take care of Javert. Valjean, however, shows mercy and cuts his bonds urging him to flee before the others find out. Javert tells Valjean even if he is freed he will continue to try to ensnare Valjean. Valjean tells the policeman he is free with no conditions and if they survive he can find him on Rue Plumet. Javert leaves, his faith shaken.

Later that night, the men drink and reflect on the situation. Valjean watches over Marius and hopes that he will survive the battle for Cosette’s sake (“Night”). The second attack begins. Marius and Valjean argue as to whom will climb the barricade to pick up desperately needed ammunition from the corpses in the street. While they argue, Gavroche climbs the barricade in defiance and is shot to death (“The Second Attack”).

The final battle begins, the revolutionaries refuse to give up, and all are killed (“The Final Battle”). The only survivors are Valjean and a seriously wounded Marius. More determined than ever, Valjean carries Marius into the sewers. They come across Thénardier, who is looting from the corpses. Valjean collapses with exhaustion and Thénardier steals Marius’ ring from the unconscious man’s finger (“Dog Eat Dog”). When he recognizes Valjean, Thénardier flees. A revived Valjean, still carrying the body of Marius, continues his journey through the sewers. As they emerge from the sewers, they meet Javert. Valjean pleads with Javert that he must save the boy’s life and that in one hour he will be Javert’s prisoner. Javert lets him go and wanders to a bridge in shock as he tries to reconcile Valjean’s letting him go free when he could have taken his revenge. His world is totally shaken and he decides to commit suicide by throwing himself into the river (“Javert’s Suicide”).

Several months later. Marius, although delusional and haunted by the ghosts of his dead friends, is slowly recovering (“Café Song”). Encouraged by Cosette, he becomes stronger and stronger. The young lovers proclaim their feelings for one another and Marius acknowledges his debt to Valjean. With Cosette out of the room, Valjean reveals his plans of leaving forever but not before he tells Marius of his past crime, punishment, and breaking of parole. He insists he must leave in order to protect Cosette from his dark past (“Marius and Cosette”).

1833

Now at Marius and Cosette’s wedding, the Thénardiers, disguised as Baron & Baroness de Thenard, arrive. Posing as nobility, they refuse to leave and for a small price, reveal who saved Marius the night the barricade fell. When a ring is revealed, Marius informs Cosette that Valjean is his savior; they must go see him. The Thénardiers stay behind and celebrate with stolen silver (“The Wedding”).

We transition to Valjean, alone in his room, waiting to die. The spirit of Fantine appears to tell him that because he fulfilled his promise by raising Cosette, he will finally be with God. Marius and Cosette then enter and Marius thanks Valjean for saving his life. Valjean gives Cosette his last confession: the story of those who loved her. The ghosts of Fantine and Éponine take Valjean to his glory while Valjean reminds Cosette that love is of highest importance and they will all be free when ‘tomorrow’ comes (“Epilogue”).

Source: Music Theatre International
By |July 21st, 2014|Categories: 2014 Season|0 Comments