Les Miserables has been going so long we sometimes forget that it is a perfect choice for a theatre break. The show has been in the West End for 25 years and is the longest running musical. Les Miserables is also the world’s most popular musical. It has been seen by over 50 million people, in 38 countries and in 21 languages. Now even more people will see the forthcoming film, but I don’t think it will ever equal the original London stage production. There is something about seeing high quality live theatre that makes it a much more powerful experience.
The Cast of Les Miserables
One of the ways Les Mis, as Les Miserables is affectionately known, keeps fresh is by adding new and interesting cast members. Many of us watched the BBC programme where comedian Matt Lucus fulfilled a life-long ambition and took on the role of the inn keeper Thenardier. What you might not have realised was it he wasn’t there just for one performance!
Big names that have been in the show recently include the rather gorgeous Ramin Karimloo, who was followed by David Shannon. Geronimo Rauch is now playing Jean Valjean again after a break of a couple of years. This is a recurring theme in Les Miserables, actors come into the show, stay for a while and then move on. They are often tempted back later, at least in part, because working in a big show like this is such a great experience.
Leading ladies in Les Miserables take the role of Fantine. Currently this role is being played by the wonderful Sierra Boggess. She has an amazing soaring soprano voice and I loved her in Love Never Dies (which, by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed and was sad to see close!) I’d love to hear her sing “I Dreamed a Dream” which is probably Fantine’s most famous song.
Sierra’s partner Tam Mutu is playing Javert at the moment so it’s a great chance to see them working together.
The role of Eponine, which I suppose you might describe as the ingénue is often played by young, upcoming actresses. Alexia Khadime (my favourite Elphaba!) played Eponine until she was replaced by Over the Rainbow winner 2011 Danielle Hope last summer. Danielle did really well in The Wizard of Oz and she seems to be getting good reviews for her performance as Eponine.
The cast of leading actors and actresses is backed up by the huge ensemble. That is the thing about Les Mis, it really is an ensemble show, with powerful, stirring moments like this one:
Les Miserables – The Story
The basic story is drawn from Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name but with some substantial plot and character changes. In the musical ex-convict Jean Valjean is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole. In his new life Valjean agrees to find and care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette.
Cosette is the waif who’s image has become the symbol of the musical. She is abused and overworked by the inn keeper and his family. We see both her and Eponine (the inn keepers daughter) as children and then later as young women. The musical makes Éponine much more sympathetic than the novel or film adaptations. This has made her one of the show’s most popular characters.
Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre
The Queen’s theatre is one of the slightly smaller West End theatres. It has a seating capacity of under 1000 seat (989) but a full West End sized stage. This means that the show is regularly sold out and leads to a great atmosphere. The show moved to this venue in 2004 and seems to just go on and on there. Getting tickets isn’t always easy but there are almost always theatre break packages available. (Check your dates for Les Mis theatre breaks)
The theatre is on Shaftesbury Avenue (51) and easy to find. Originally built in the 1900s the original theatre foyer suffered damage during the London blitz. Over the years the theatre had mixed fortunes but things began to look up with the arrival of Les Mis in 2004.
In 2009 The Queen’s Theatre was totally refurbished to improve the public areas and increase the capacity, with new seating and boxes reinstated at dress circle level. It’s lovely now and fully restored to its former glory, as you can see from this photo of the auditorium.