Theatre History: LES MIZ and the affect it has had on the theatre industry in the past 30 years

It seemed apt to talk about the 30th Anniversary of Les Miz today and the massive affect it has had on modern musical theatre; not only because of the history that I can remind you all of on this momentous day, but also because I started blogging thanks to the release of the film adaptation of the stage show. You can read the review here and even though it's awful, I created my blog in the first place just so I could share my love for the musical I'd geeked out over for as long as I can remember.

Nowadays, Miz has fallen into the category of shows that I needn't mention because they are supermusicals through and through (that includes shows like Wicked and Phantom and stuff like that), but let's take a moment today to look back on some facts about Les Miserables since the start of its journey back in 1985.

Let's start with some geography first. Now even though I am pants at it, I love theatres so knowing a show's journey from theatre to theatre is vital in my eyes. Miz started its English speaking journey back in October 1985 at the Barbican Theatre, but it's important to remember that the musical actually started five years before that in Paris. In 1980, Boublil and Schonberg created a concept album based on Victor Hugo's famous novel and then staged it at the Palais des Sports in Paris for 100 performances. The show was such a success that they took the show to London where it ran at the Barbican for a couple of months following previews from late September. On December the 4th, the show headed into central London despite mixed reviews from critics and the show took residence at the Palace Theatre. The original cast included theatre legends like Michael Ball, Frances Ruffelle, Colm Wilkinson and even Patti LuPone as Fantine who took an Olivier home for her performance. The show was only nominated for a mere four Olivier Awards that year and failed to win any apart from LuPone's award. Regardless of the show not winning Best Musical in 1986, the show has won the Audience Award (which is voted for by the general public) in both 2012 and 2014. In April 2004, Miz relocated to the more intimate Queen's Theatre and the show still runs there to this day - a production of the show opened up at the Barbican around the time of the 25th Anniversary as a celebration, too.

As for Broadway, Les Miz is actually now playing its second revival. The original production started performances at The Broadway Theatre on March 12th 1987 after 8 weeks of tryouts at The Kennedy Center in Washington. Wilkinson and Ruffelle reprised their roles and Judy Kuhn stepped in as Broadway's original Cosette. After this, Kuhn went on to voice Pocahontas in the 1995 Disney movie and is now starring in Fun Home on Broadway, which she earned her fourth Tony-nomination for (her first was for Cosette in Miz). The show ran at the Broadway for three years and then moved to the Imperial in 1990 and ran for a further thirteen years before preparing to close in March 2003. Due to a sudden surge in interest though, the show didn't actually close until May 2003, which made it Broadway's second longest running show in history at the time, behind Cats (it's now the fifth). The show received a whopping 12 Tony nominations in 1987 and won eight of them including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. Only three years later in late 2006, a revival opened at the Broadhurst to celebrate the show's 20th Broadway anniversary. Even though it was originally supposed to run for a limited season, the run was made open ended and featured Broadway stars like Norm Lewis, Celia Kennan-Bolger, Anna Harada and Lea Salonga throughout its time at the Broadhurst before finally closing in January 2008; the show failed to garner any Tony nominations in 2007. Judy Kuhn joined the revival to celebrate 20 years of the show as well and succeeded Salonga as Fantine in late 2007. In March 2014, the show was revived once again at the Imperial Theatre where the original production ran for thirteen years and is still running to this day - the revival received three Tony nods including one for Best Revival of a Musical but failed to take home any.

The legacy of this mega-musical is pretty insane when you stop to think about it. So many great people have lended themselves to this show throughout its lifetime so far, including: Sutton Foster, Lea Michele, Alfie Boe, Ramin Karimloo, Anne Hathaway, Lea Salonga, Sierra Boggess, Norm Lewis, Michael Ball, Patti LuPone, Nick Jonas, Matt Lucas, Ricky Martin, Kerry Ellis and even Gareth Gates. The show's also been staged in 22 different languages in over 347 cities across 44 different countries. In total, the show has played over 51,000 professional performances which means that over 70 million people have now seen the show and even more may have listened to at least one of their 47 cast recordings. There have also been over 4,000 productions of the school's version across the UK and USA and the London production is officially the longest running musical on the Globe.

Thank you Les Miserables for being both a fantastic show and a beautiful credit to the musical theatre world; not only is your content amazing, but the fact that your immense productions across the globe manage to employ so many people in the business and build careers for some of the world's most esteemed performers and stagehands is a true credit to the theatrical world. It's a joy to see the show still going strong in both London and New York and I look forward to seeing you again very soon - long live Miz!

No comments