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Photo credit: Ashley Gilmour as Enjolras, Harry Apps as Marius and Company in Les Misérables (Photo by Johan Persson)

Everything You Need to Know About 'Les Misérables' in London

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

The musical chant of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables is arguably one of the most recognisable songs of all time. The revolutionary 20th century production transformed the future of dramatic storytelling forevermore, adapting Victor Hugo's epic into a two-act musical.

Telling the story of convict-cum-insurgent Jean Valjean living in 19th century France, Les Miserables is a passionate, powerful story where sacrifice and redemption triumphs all. Set to a rousing soundtrack by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, Les Miserables has been seen by over 70 million people worldwide, and the English language version all started in London.

Here's our complete guide to the West End production of Les Miserables, with Les Miserables tickets available on LondonTheatre.co.uk.

What is Les Miserables about?

Jean Valjean is a prison convict. After serving 19 years for the small act of stealing a loaf of bread, he's given his ticket of leave. Dreaming of a new life, all hopes are immediately dashed when his chain gang status follows him around. Stealing silver from a bishop doesn't help, but when the bishop lies to police to protect Valjean, his future truly starts.

While Valjean's on the run, Inspector Javert does all he can to track him down. But, with Valjean now dedicating his life to looking after Cosette, a prostitute's daughter, they finally escape to Paris, thus out of Javert's presence forevermore. That's until the pair find themselves on the Parisian barricades.

Love triangles, deaths and new relationships form throughout Les Miserables, where different classes come together to protect one another.

When did Les Miserables premiere?

Before the English translation version opened, which runs in London's West End today, Les Miserables was originally performed in French. Performances began in September 1980 at the Palais de Sport in Paris, where it ran for 105 performances. Audiences reached over half a million, ensuring Les Mis' commercial success.

The first English production began performances at the Barbican on 28 September 1985, before an opening night on 9 October 1985. After two months, the musical transferred to the Palace Theatre, where it played for 19 years. Currently, the London production of Les Miserables is at the Sondheim Theatre, where it's been since 2004.

The Broadway premiere opened on 12 March 1984 at the Broadway Theatre, with the production running for almost twenty years. To date, Les Miserables has been staged in 42 countries; the first international production was actually staged in Norway in 1988.

Ashley Gilmour as Enjolras, Jon Robyns as Jean Valjean & Harry Apps as Marius (Photo by Johan Persson)

Who wrote Les Miserables?

Les Miserables is adapted from a 19th-century novel by Victor Hugo, a French novellist and dramatist. Hugo is also the brains behind The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which has also since been adapted into a musical Notre Dame de Paris.

The Les Miserables musical features a book, music and lyrics by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. Together, the lyricist and composer have worked on a variety of musicals, all rooted in different eras. These include Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre, The Pirate Queen and Marguerite. 

Who is in the cast of Les Miserables?

Currently, the Les Miserables cast includes Jon Robyns as Jean Valjean, previously playing King George III in Hamilton. Bradley Jaden plays Javert, with Chanice Alexander-Burnett as Fantine, Sha Dessi as Eponine, Charlie Burn as Cosette, Harry Apps as Marius, Gerald Carey as Thenardier, Josefina Gabrielle as Madame Thenardier and Jordan Shaw as Enjolras.

In order to bring the spirit of revolutionary France to life, Les Miserables employs a large ensemble. The full Les Miserables cast is completed by Kelly Agbowu, Emma Barr, Richard Carson, Cellen Chugg Jones, Rodney Earl Clarke, Danny Colligan, Matthew Dale, Matt Dempsey, Jessie Hart, Connor Jones, Jessica Joslin, Michael Kholwadia, Sarah Lark, Georgie Lovatt, Ellie Ann Lowe, Luke McCall, Leo Miles, Claire O'Leary, Kathy Peacock, Mark Pearce, Sam Peggs, Sake Wijers, Mared Williams, Phoebe Williams and Samuel Wyn-Morris.  

Who was in the original cast of Les Miserables?

Les Miserables has run continuously in London for over 30 years, but the original West End cast definitely had star power. Colm Wilkinson originated the role of Jean Valjean in London, later reprising his performance in worldwide productions. The two-time Olivier Award actress Patti LuPone played Fantine, recently in London for the West End revival of Company.

Michael Ball played Marius, but he's also played Javert in the all-star concerts at the Sondheim Theatre. With Roger Allam as Javert and Frances Ruffele as Eponine, the original cast paved the way for future generations starring in Les Miserables.

Have any celebrities starred in Les Miserables?

Many West End stars as well as world-renowned television and actors have got their theatre break in Les Miserables. Here's just a few you'll recognise:

Before starring in Wicked, Kerry Ellis played Fantine in Les Miserables for a year.

Matt Lucas first played Thenardier in the 25th anniversary concert, but has since reprised the role numerous times, including the all-star concerts at the Sondheim Theatre in 2020.

After playing Gavroche in the Broadway production, Nick Jonas made his adult musical debut in the 25th anniversary concert.

What theatre in London is Les Miserables playing at?

Les Miserables is currently running at the Sondheim Theatre in London. The Sondheim Theatre is the new name for the Queen's Theatre, which was changed in 2019 to honour American composer Stephen Sondheim. Les Miserables has ran at the Sondheim Theatre since 2004. Previous shows at the Sondheim Theatre include The Rocky Horror Show and The Hobbit.

Carrie Hope Fletcher as Fantine and Company (Photo by Johan Persson)

What is the running time of Les Miserables?

The running time of Les Miserables is 2 hours and 50 minutes, including a 15 minute interval.

What are the songs in Les Miserables?

Songs in Les Miserables have become famous outside of the musical theatre realm, including "One Day More", "I Dreamed A Dream" and "On My Own". As Les Miserables is a sung-through musical, the song list is extensive. Here's all the songs in Les Miserables.

Act 1

"Prologue: Work Song" - Chain Gang, Javert, Jean Valjean
"Prologue: On Parole" - Jean Valjean, Farmer, Labourer, Innkeeper's Wife, Innkeeper, Bishop of Digne
"Prologue: Valjean Arrested, Valjean Forgiven"- Constables, Bishop of Digne
"Prologue: Soliloquy/What Have I Done?"- Jean Valjean
"At the End of the Day" - Fantine, Foreman, Factory Girl, Jean Valjean, Factory Workers, Ensemble
"I Dreamed a Dream" - Fantine
"Lovely Ladies" - Fantine, Sailors, Whores, Old Woman, Crone, Pimp, Ensemble
"Fantine's Arrest" - Bamatabois, Fantine, Javert and Jean Valjean
"'The Runaway Cart" - Fauchevelant, Javert, Jean Valjean, Ensemble
"Who Am I?" - Jean Valjean
"Come to Me" - Fantine and Jean Valjean
"The Confrontation" - Javert and Jean Valjean
"Castle on a Cloud" - Young Cosette, Madame Thénardier
"Master of the House" - Thénardier, Madame Thénardier, Ensemble
"The Well Scene" - Jean Valjean and Young Cosette
"The Bargain / The Waltz of Treachery" - Jean Valjean, Thénardier, Madame Thénardier, Cosette
"Look Down" - Gavroche, Old Woman, Prostitute, Pimp, Enjolras, Marius, Company
"The Robbery" - Thénardier, Madame Thénardier, Marius, Éponine, Jean Valjean
"Javert's Intervention" - Javert, Thénardier
"Stars" - Javert
"Éponine's Errand" - Éponine and Marius
"Red and Black" - Enjolras, Marius, Grantaire, Combeferre, Feuilly, Courfeyrac, Joly, Lesgles, Prouvaire, Gavroche
"Do You Hear the People Sing?" - Enjolras, Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Feuilly, Ensemble
"In My Life" - Cosette, Jean Valjean, Marius and Éponine
"A Heart Full of Love" - Marius, Cosette and Éponine
"The Attack on Rue Plumet" - Thénardier, Brujon, Babet, Claquesous, Montparnasse, Éponine, Marius, Jean Valjean and Cosette
"One Day More" - Jean Valjean, Marius, Cosette, Éponine, Enjolras, Javert, Thénardier, Madame Thénardier and Company

Act 2

"Building the Barricade" - Enjolras, Javert, Grantaire, Students, Marius, Éponine
"On My Own" - Éponine
"At the Barricade" - Enjolras, Marius, Grantaire, Students, and Army Officer
"Javert's Arrival" - Javert and Enjolras
"Little People" - Gavroche, Enjolras, Javert
"A Little Fall of Rain" - Éponine and Marius
"Night of Anguish" - Enjolras and Students
"First Attack" - Enjolras, Jean Valjean, Javert, Students
"Drink with Me" - Feuilly, Prouvaire, Joly, Grantaire, Marius, Company
"Bring Him Home" - Jean Valjean
"Dawn of Anguish" - Enjolras
"The Second Attack (Death of Gavroche)" - Enjolras, Marius, Jean Valjean, Gavroche, Students
"The Final Battle" - Army Officer, Enjolras, Company
"The Sewers / Dog Eats Dog" - Thénardier
"Javert's Soliloquy" - Javert
"Turning" - Women of Paris
"Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" - Marius
"Every Day / A Heart Full of Love (Reprise)" - Cosette, Marius and Jean Valjean
"Valjean's Confession" - Marius and Jean Valjean
"Wedding Chorale / Beggars at the Feast" - Marius, Thénardier, Madame Thénardier, Company
"Epilogue: Valjean's Death" - Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Marius and Éponine
"Epilogue / Finale" - Full Company

What are the reviews of Les Miserables?

Initially, critics weren't fans of Les Miserables and it seemed as though the production would have to close quickly, with Michael Ratcliffe calling the musical "witless and synthetic." Now, audiences can't enough of this true, timeless classic.

In a 2020 review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, Mark Shenton said: "The show remains an ensemble effort, as it was when it was first created by Nunn and Caird." The Guardian's Miriam Gillinson said: "For all the poetic power of the staging, it's the singing we've come for - and there's not a missed note all night. Schönberg's soaring score sweeps the audience away... the surging ensemble numbers, which get the whole body tingling. They're inspiring, too, at a time when all of us - in our own way - are hoping for a brighter tomorrow." 

The Evening Standard's Nick Curtis commented that the upbeat, energetic routines usually found in musicals are nowhere to be found. However, "the sea change in musical theatre with Les Mis, towards something serious, impassioned, operatic. There are no dance routines here, just well-drilled scenes of degradation and sacrifice." 

Jon Robyns as Jean Valjean and Bradley Jaden as Javert (Photo by Johan Persson)

What awards has Les Miserables won?

Although Les Miserables is the longest-running musical in London, the production didn't impress awarding bodies as much as you may expect. Walking away with one category from the 1985 Olivier Awards, Les Miserables won multiple Tony Awards for its Broadway transfer. Here's the major awards that Les Miserables has won.

Olivier Awards

Best Actress in a Musical - Patti LuPone
Audience Award for Most Popular Show - 2012/2014

Tony Awards

Best Musical
Best Book of a Musical - Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg
Best Original Score - Claude-Michel Schönberg (music) and Herbert Kretzmer & Alain Boublil (lyrics)
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical - Michael Maguire
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical - Frances Ruffelle
Best Direction of a Musical - Trevor Nunn and John Caird
Best Scenic Design - John Napier
Best Lighting Design - David Hersey

What are some fun facts about Les Miserables?

To create all the authentic revolutionary French costumes, there's a lot of outfits. There's 392 costumes that feature, including 85 wigs and over 5,000 separate pieces of clothing.

The musical has been translated into 21 languages: English, French, two German versions, six Spanish versions, Japanese, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, two Norweigan versions, Polish, two Swedish versions, two Dutch versions, Danish, Finnish, Brazilian Portuguese, Estonian, Czech, Mauritian Creole, Basque, Catalan and Korean.

The production celebrated its 10,000th performance on 22nd January 2010. To date, it's been performed over 13,500 times.

Is there a movie adaptation of Les Miserables?

A film adaptation of Les Miserables was released in 2012, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards including best picture. Casting included Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Eddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers.

West End and Broadway stars also feature, inclduing Samantha Barks plays Eponine and Aaron Tveit as Enjolras. Original cast members Colm Wilkinson and Frances Ruffelle appear in the movie, as well as Hadley Fraser, Killian Donnelly and Alistair Brammer.

How do I get tickets for Les Miserables in London?

Les Miserables will return to London in 2021. Les Miserables: The Staged Concert will take place from 20 May - 5 September. 

Les Miserables performances are scheduled at the Sondheim Theatre in London from 25 September.

Les Miserables tickets are available now.

Photo credit: Ashley Gilmour as Enjolras, Harry Apps as Marius and Company in Les Misérables (Photo by Johan Persson)

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