Today we continue our expansive look at the most memorable moments from the sixty-plus years of the Tony Awards by saluting one of the biggest hit musicals of all time that is about to hit the silver screen in a big budget adaptation starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway - the emotionally devastating and faith-affirming mega-hit mega-musical LES MISERABLES.
There are only a handful of musicals in theatre history that have managed to capture the public’s imagination and interest in the impossibly incredible way that LES MIZ has over the last twenty-five years, but, originally, in 1985, when it made its debut at the Barbican Theatre under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the show was met with anything but approbation - by critics and audiences. Yet, undaunted, lead producer and production instigator Cameron Mackintosh journeyed on and soon interest began to build in the Trevor Nunn/John Caird-directed adaptation of perhaps the most famous classic French novel of all time, Victor Hugo’s iconic LES MISERABLES (translated to mean, roughly, The Miserable Ones), particularly as a result of the as-yet-unforeseen stagecraft on display thanks to the ingenuous original design by John Napier and the uplifting and inspired score by Claude Michel Schonberg and Alan Boublil. Then, there was the original London cast - no slouches there, either - including Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Frances Ruffelle as Eponine and that year’s Olivier Award winner, Patti LuPone, as the tortured Fantine. While only Wilkinson and Ruffelle made it to Broadway from the original ensemble, both the original London cast and original Broadway company are cases of chocolate ice cream and vanilla ice cream and how it is virtually impossible to choose between the two, or even attempt it. To add to the mix, Mackintosh went on to produce an unprecedented and star-studded tenth anniversary concert - cited by LES MIZ fans as “The Dream Cast” - and, more recently, a twenty-fifth anniversary extravaganza at the O2 Arena. And, now, seeing the first shots of the forthcoming feature film adaptation in the trailer released yesterday, it only takes a few bars of that sweeping score to bring us right back to where it all began, whether our first experience of the show was at an early preview in the UK when the show was still unknown, at the Imperial Theater on Broadway where it ran for nearly twenty years, or, perhaps, it was the Tony Awards performance by the original Broadway company on the 1986 Tony Awards that we first fell in love with LES MIZ.
So, see the original Broadway cast of LES MISERABLES, led by Tony Award-winners Colm Wilkinson, Michael Maguire, Frances Ruffelle and the rest as they perform a snippet of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” leading into “One Day More”, the epic musical’s unforgettable Act One Finale.
As a special bonus, check out original Eponine, Frances Ruffelle, on a British talk show singing her big ballad, “On My Own”, in this amusant vintage clip.
Now, take in the trailer that Broadway babies the world over are all abuzz about - LES MISERABLES: THE MOVIE MUSICAL, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, directed by Tom Hooper and produced by Cameron Mackintosh.
So, what is the most enticing element of the epic entertainment event that is LES MISERABLES in your estimation? Is it the enveloping, emotional score that wins all? The beautifully drawn and intriguing characters? The overall message and themes of the show? The grandeur and artistry of the design? All of the above? Something else entirely? There are so many reasons to love LES MISERABLES in any form and so many motivating factors compelling us to return to it over and over again - whether when you first fell in love with it coming courtesy of the West End, Broadway, tour or revival(s); or, even, as a result of witnessing the Tony clip featured here in this very column - and the upcoming feature film will be a cause celebre for LES MIZ fans the world over to give us yet another opportunity to fondly remember why we did not really live until the day we first experienced LES MIZ in all its heavenly glory.