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A New Production of BOUBLIL and SCHÖNBERG'S Musical Epic
Oct 03 - Nov 09, 2014
Hanna Theatre, Playhouse Square
Run Time: 2 hours & 39 minutes (including intermission)
Based on a novel by Victor Hugo
Directed by Victoria Bussert
The winner of over 100 international awards and witnessed by over 65 million people worldwide, this unforgettable blockbuster musical sweeps audiences through an epic tale of broken dreams, passion and redemption, set against the backdrop of a French nation in the throes of revolution.
Relentlessly pursued by the policeman Javert for breaking his parole, the unjustly convicted Jean Valjean must leave his past behind and keep his vow to raise the orphaned Cosette. With insurrection in the air and Javert closing in, Valjean has no choice but to fight for his life and sacrifice everything to protect the people he loves – in a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.
Les Misérables is part of the Kulas Musical Theater Series at Great Lakes Theater.
Les Miserables Playbill
Prologue: 1815, Digne
After 19 years on the chain gang, Jean Valjean finds that the ticket-of-leave he must display condemns him to be an outcast. Only the Bishop of Digne treats him kindly, and Valjean, embittered by years of hardship, repays him by stealing some silver. Valjean is caught and brought back by the police and is astonished when the Bishop lies to the police to save him. Valjean decides to start his life anew.
Eight years have passed, and Valjean, having broken his parole and changed his name to Monsieur Madeleine, has become a factory owner and Mayor. One of his workers Fantine, has a secret illegitimate child. When the other women discover this, they demand her dismissal.
Desperate for money to pay for medicines for her daughter, Fantine sells her locket, her hair, and then joind the whores in selling herself. Utterly degraded, she gets into a fight with a prospective customer and is about to be taken to prison by Javert when the “Mayor” arrives and demands she be taken to the hospital instead.
The Mayor then rescues a man pinned beneath a cart. Javert is reminded of the abnormal strength of convict 24601 Jean Valjean, who, he says, has just been recaptured. Valjean, unable to see an innocent man go to prison, confesses that he is prisoner 24601. At the hospital, Valjean promises the dying Fantine to find and look after her daughter Cosete. Javert arrives to arrest him but Valjean escapes.
Cosette has been lodged with the Thénardiers, who horribly abuse her while indulging their own daughter, Éponine. Valjean pays the Thénardiers to let him take her away to Paris.
Nine years later there is unrest in the city because of the likely demise of the popular leader General Larque, the only man left in the government who shows any feeling for the poor. A street gang led by Thénardier and his wifesets upon Jean Valjean and Cosette. They are rescued by Javert, who does not recognize Valjean until he has gone.
The Thénardier’s daughter Éponine, who is secretly in love with the student Marius, reluctantly agrees to help him find Cosette, with whom he has fallen in love.
News of General Lamarque’s death circulates in the city, and a group of politically-minded students stream out into the streets to whip up support for a revolution.
Cosette is consumed by thoughts of Marius, with whom she has fallen in love. Éponine brings Marius to Cosette and then prevents an attempt by her father’s gang to rob Valjean’s house. Valjean convinced it was Javert lurking outside his house, tells Cosette they must prepare to flee the country.
The students prepare to build the barricade. Marius, noticing that Éponine has joined the insurrection, sends her away with a letter to Cosette, which is intercepted by Valjean. Éponine decides to rejoin her love at the barricade.
The barricade is built, and the revolutionaries defy an army warning to give up or die. Javert is exposed as a police spy. In trying to return to the barricade Éponine is killed. Valjean arrives at the barricade in search of Marius. He is given the chance to kill Javert but instead lets him go. The students settle down for a night on the barricade and, in the quiet of the night, Valjean prays to God to save Marius. The next day, the rebels are all killed.
Valjean escapes into the sewers with the unconscious Marius. After meeting Thénardier, who is robbing the corpses of the rebels, he comes across Javert once more. He pleads for time to deliver the young man to the hospital. Javert lets Valjean go, and, his unbending principles of justice having been shattered by Valjean’d own mercy, he kills himself.
Unaware of the identity of his rescuer, Marius recovers in Cosette’s care. Valjean confesses the truth of his past to Marius and insists he must go away.
At Marius and Cosette’s wedding, the Thénardiers try to blackmail Marius. Thénardier says Cosette’s “father” is a murderer and as proof produces a ring that he stole from a corpse the night the barricade fell. It is Marius’ own ring, and he realizes it was Valjean who rescued him that night. He and Cosette go to Valjean where Cosette learns for the first time of her own history before the old man dies.
Les Misérables has been a blockbuster hit since 1862; that was the year Victor Hugo's soaring saga of social injustice, revolution, hope and redemption was published in Paris. It took Hugo almost twenty years to write the 1200 pages or 365 chapters that make up what many believe to be one of the greatest novels of all time - it sold out its initial print run on the very first day.
The journey from novel to musical is an interesting one. In 1978, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, friends for more than a decade, attended the London revival of Lionel Bart's Oliver based on the Charles Dickens novel and produced by a young, Cameron Mackintosh. While watching the production, Boublil began to see striking similarities between the Artful Dodger of Oliver and the street urchin, Gavroche, in Hugo's novel; during the performance he continued to uncover more and more character parallels between the two works. Describing that evening Boublil says, "I was in a kind of trance the whole evening and came out of that incredible production obsessed. I was going to do the same. I had no doubts...the characters were all there...so I went back to Paris, spent time with the novel, went through it with my pen thinking this would make a song and this wouldn't, and called Claude-Michel."
The collaborators were so confident and excited by the project that they gave up their jobs and committed their time to writing this epic musical; it became a two-year labor of cutting, condensing and shaping. Alain and Claude-Michel produced a demo tape of their musical with Claude-Michel at the piano singing all the parts - male and female. Robert Hossein, a well-known director, heard their cassette and agreed to tackle the first production at the Palais des Sports which happened to have an unexpected three month scheduling gap between Holiday On Ice and the Moscow State Circus. The initial production had many problems including the testing of a transmitter on the Eiffel tower making the actor's microphones unusable at the first preview. The frustrated director went onstage and ordered the audience to go home; however, most of them waited out the hour and a half delay and didn't leave the theatre until the show's completion at one o'clock in the morning. In those three months of performances, more than 500,000 people packed the sports arena to witness this epic production. "It was a huge success," recalled Schönberg, "but when it finished, it was finished."
Or was it? Much later, the collaborators heard from the French Society of Writers that a British producer named Cameron Mackintosh, the same man who had produced the revival of Oliver, was looking for them. They met for lunch in Paris on February 4, 1983. "We didn't know it," said Schönberg, "but it was the most important day of our lives." Two years later Les Misérables opened at the RSC in London, later transferring to the Palace Theatre, and in 2004 to the Queens Theatre where it has been running ever since. Mackintosh says, "I am often asked what it is that makes audiences and actors so passionate about Les Mis, as the show is fondly known. The abbreviation of the title is maybe a clue - in Hugo's story the characters are so personal, so timeless, so universal, they remain a contemporary mirror of ourselves. Audiences feel possessive of this timeless tale, where the downtrodden have to fight to be heard and sometimes die to be free, yet in their darkest struggle find love, life and laughter, and mankind's most redeeming trait, the unquenchable survival of the human spirit."
Les Misérables originally opened at the Kennedy Center in December of 1986, a city specifically chosen due to its audience's sophistication and political awareness. It made the move to Broadway on March 12, 1987 opening to rave reviews and winning eight Tony Awards. The original production closed in 2003 with revivals in 2007 and 2014. There is no doubt that Les Misérables is a global phenomenon; it's thru composed score changed the landscape of musical theatre and welcomed a new generation of "epic" musicals. And yet, it's somehow especially fitting that Great Lakes Theater and Idaho Shakespeare Festival, the sister companies that share the Royal Shakespeare Company vision of valuing Shakespeare and musicals side-by-side, should bring Les Misérables back into a classical theatre company. Welcome home, Les Mis - tonight we hear the people sing.
Director, Les Misérables
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