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Les Misérables at Queen's Theatre (Photo: Johan Persson)

Les Mis: Everything you need to know

By Carly-Ann Clements, Published December 27, 2017


You know the lyrics. All your friends and family have seen it… so have 70 million other people. Les Misérables is one of the biggest musicals in the world. Have you heard the people sing? Here are 10 key things you need to know about Les Mis.

Les Misérables background

Les Misérables, affectionally known as Les Mis, is the stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name. The sung-through musical was originally written in French by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boubil and Jean-Marc Natel and staged in 1980. After a short run in Paris, Cameron Mackintosh heard the soundtrack and decided to produce an English-language version for a British audience. Working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Mackintosh’s Misérables opened in 1985 with new lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The legendary show about ex-convict Jean Valjean and his rival, policeman Javert, received mixed reviews from critics but blew audiences away. The initial two month run at the Barbican Centre was a sell-out, guaranteeing a place on the West End at the Palace Theatre where it ran from 1985 to 2004. It then moved to Queen’s Theatre where it still runs today – making it the longest-running musical in the world.

Les Misérables has had three runs on Broadway – one of which earned it eight Tony Awards – and has toured the world. Les Mis is a cultural phenomenon that can’t be avoided. And for good reason. The grand score is often covered, both by artists such as Katherine Jenkins and Susan Boyle – famed for auditioning with “I Dreamed A Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent – and parodied in comedies such as Forbidden Broadway and Netflix’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It was adapted into a film in 2012 which starred Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne and Sacha Baron Cohen. It received eight Academy Award nominations and won three. Les Misérables is a timeless musical which is still thrilling audiences night after night – it’s even won the critics over.

One Day More. Photo by Johan Persson

What is Les Misérables about?

Set in 19th century France, Les Misérables follows the life of Jean Valjean – an ex-convict who seeks redemption despite being hunted for decades by his rival and ex-guard Javert after breaking parole. In his quest for absolution, Jean Valjean agrees to take care of Cosette – the daughter of tragic factory worker Fantine – changing his life forever. The pair travel across France avoiding the wrath of Javert until they find themselves in Paris during the French revolution. Despite the social and political struggle, there is love, passion and courage to be found. But dreams can be broken and adoration unrequited. So how will it end for these poor souls?

Where is Les Misérables playing?

Les Mis is currently playing at Queen’s Theatre. It transferred to Queen’s Theatre in 2004 after a 19 year run at the Palace Theatre.

What age is Les Misérables appropriate for?

Les Mis is suitable for children aged 8 and over.

How long is Les Misérables?

Les Mis is 2 hours and 50 minutes including one interval. There are performances of Les Mis at 7.30pm Monday to Saturday with matinees at 2.30pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Carley Stenson as Fantine. Photo by Johan Persson

Who is in the current cast of Les Mis?

Les Mis has had some of the biggest names in musical theatre take leading roles including Alfie Boe, Micheal Ball and Kerry Ellis. It currently stars Olivier Award-nominated Killian Donnelly as Jean Valjean and Carley Stenson as Fantine.

  • Killian Donnelly plays Jean Valjean. A well-known face and voice of the West End, Killian’s credits include Kinky Boots, Memphis, The Commitments and The Phantom of the Opera.
  • David Thaxton plays Javert. The Olivier Award-winner has played both Javert and Enjolras and made his return to Les Mis earlier this year.
  • Steven Meo plays Thénardier. With credits that include Gavin and Stacey and Torchwood, Steven Meo brings some much needed comic relief to Les Mis.
  • Paul Wilkins plays Marius. Paul’s first acting job after graduating was in the ensemble of Les Mis where he was soon offered the role of Marius. In anniversary concerts, the role has been played by pop stars Gareth Gates and Nick Jonas.
  • Carley Stenson plays Fantine. Though starting on TV in Hollyoaks, Carley quickly became a regular leading lady on the West End. Her credits include Legally Blonde, Shrek the Musical and Spamalot. Anne Hathaway won an Oscar when she played the role of Fantine in the 2012 film.
  • Karis Jack plays Eponine. Karis Jack’s credits include Urinetown and Hairspray. Previous Eponines include Samantha Barks and Carrie Hope Fletcher.
  • Jacqueline Tate as Madame Thénardier. West End appearances from Jacqueline Tate include Avenue Q, The Phantom of the Opera, and Allegro.
  • Hyoie O’Grady plays Enjolras. Hyoie is making his West End debut in Les Mis. Both Killian Donnelly and David Thaxton have played the role of Enjolras in the past.
  • Charlotte Kennedy plays Cosette. Charlotte is making her West End debut in Les Mis. Glee’s Lea Michele’s first role was Cosette on Broadway.

How do I get to Queen’s Theatre in London?

The Queen’s Theatre is located on Shaftesbury Avenue. The nearest stations to Les Mis are Piccadilly Circus (250m) and Tottenham Court Road (650m). You can also get to Queen’s Theatre via overground train to London Charing Cross (800m).

Where did Les Misérables originally open?

Les Misérables was originally written and performed in French. It premiered in Paris in 1980 but only for three months. Three years later, Cameron Mackintosh heard a recording of the concept album and decided to make an English-language musical. With the Royal Shakespeare Company, Mackintosh created the musical we know and love and staged it at the Barbican Centre in 1985. It was a sell-out and in December 1985, Les Misérables opened at the Palace Theatre. Les Mis transferred to Queen’s Theatre in 2004 where it has played ever since. It is the longest-running musical not only in the West End but the world. In addition to the record-breaking run in the West End, Les Misérables had 6,680 performances on Broadway between 1987 and 2003. During the initial run, Les Mis received 12 Tony nominations of which it won eight. It’s since had two Broadway revivals, one from 2006 to 2008 and the second from 2014 to 2016.

Paul Wilkins (Marius), Karis Jack (Eponine) and Charlotte Kennedy (Cosette). Photo by Johan Persson

Will Les Misérables be touring?

Les Misérables isn’t currently touring the UK. The only place to see it is Queen’s Theatre.

Will I like Les Misérables?

33 years in the West End, eight Tonys, and an Academy Award-winning film adaptation… they’re doing something right. It’s been seen by over 70 million people worldwide in 45 countries and in 22 languages and shows no signs of slowing down. There’s literally something for everyone in Les Misérables. It’s an epic musical about passion, destruction, revenge, poverty and hope all set against the French revolution. It’s a relatable story about redemption and survival coupled with a goosebump-inducing score. With some of the most well-known, memorable and loved songs in musical history – including “I Dreamed A Dream”, “On My Own”, “Do You Hear The People Sing?” and “One Day More” – you’ll want to sing along to this incredible show even on your first viewing. If you can speak through your sobs, that is. Les Mis is the quintessential musical which has achieved legendary status across the world. Sounds pretty good now, doesn’t it?

Where can I buy Les Mis tickets?

Right here with us! Just visit Official London Theatre’s Les Misérables ticket page to find the best available tickets for great prices.



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