Some things we do or see are great, some are remarkable and a very few fall into the phenomenal category. There is no doubt that LES MISÉRABLES is one such show. Now it’s set up home here, we thought we’d mark the occasion with a look back over it’s history and actually, the strange reaction from critics when it first opened.

But first, is the touring production any good and does the show itself stand the test of time? The simple answer is yes and most definitely yes. We cannot praise it highly enough, it is simply magnificent and flawless.

Unusually, I want to start in reverse and mention the set and orchestra, as they are the first thing you see and hear. What is on stage is everything you would expect from a show like LES MISÉRABLES. It is vast and contemporary and in some way almost ‘movie like.’ It really does feel like you’re in the centre of a massive blockbuster film at times and it’s that element which has brought the show bang up to date.

Cameron Mackintosh said this production is what inspired the movie with Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne and Anne Hathaway, and you can see how. Yet around all of this none of the shows heart and emotion is lost.

The orchestra, under the direction of Ben Atkinson are incredible, there’s no other way to put it. They are as much a part of this show as the performers on stage singing every word. As for the cast themselves, you would expect nothing but perfection and that’s what they deliver.

This is a big piece, you’re in the theatre for over three hours and the cast took us through this powerful tale without missing a beat. Of course the lead character, Jean Valjean, is the most demanding and Dean Chisnall carries it off with captivating brilliance. His voice is more than impressive. He brought a lot of us to tears with his rendition of Bring Him Home. Nic Greenshields as Javert is equally commanding in both voice and stature.

But what did the audience think of the production?

We’ve put together a MEET THE CAST special. It’s worth a watch if you’re going to see the show, you’ll get a little peek behind the scenes….

Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Boublil and Schönberg’s magnificent score of includes the songs, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “On My Own”, “Stars”, “Bring Him Home”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, “One Day More”, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, “Master Of The House” and many more. Songs we know and love and can enjoy now LES MISÉRABLES is in Cardiff.

With glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, this breathtaking new production was conceived in 2009 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary and broke box office records throughout the UK followed by productions in North America, France, Canada, Australia, Korea, Japan, Spain, Manila, Singapore, Brazil and Dubai. The production  returned to the Imperial Theatre on Broadway for a run of over 1,000 performances.

Keoni Blockx, Megan Gardiner, Lee Ormsby and Martin Ball (Photo – Helen Maybanks)

The original production of LES MISÉRABLES opened on 8th October 1985 at the Barbican. The first West End cast was pretty spectacular too. It starred Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Patti LuPone as Fantine, Roger Allam as Javert, Michael Ball as Marius and Frances Ruffele as Eponine.

While the reviews now are incredible, always five star right across the board. Initially, critics didn’t like it. In fact the show had some pretty scathing reviews. One critic even stating it was ‘witless and synthetic’, doing little in testament to the Victor Hugo novel it was inspired by. Hmm, wonder what that critic is doing now?

Michael Ball as Marius and Frances Ruffele as Eponine.

Audiences loved the musical however. The show transferred to the Palace Theatre in December 1985, where it lived for over 19 years. Playing to larger audiences, the musical quickly gained momentum to become a must-see show across London theatres.

We love this. It’s from American TV’s 20/20 segment on Les Mis circa 1987. Featured are original London cast members Colm Wilkinson, Frances Ruffelle, Michael Ball, and Peter Polycarpou. The performances are from the London Company and the Broadway rehearsals.

It’s now played all over the world, over 40 countries in fact. It’s been translated into 22 languages and picked up more awards than we could mention here. So to say it’s going to be a popular stay in Cardiff is a little bit of an understatement. To find out more about the history of the show go HERE.

In the meantime, here are the SOUTH WALES LIFE – LES MISÉRABLES Facts – nice to share with your friends during the interval…..

  • After West End success, the show transferred to Broadway, opening in March 1987 at the Broadway Theatre, running to May 2003. During this time, it became the second longest-running musical in Broadway history.
  • The show did not pick up the Olivier Award for best new musical in 1985, losing out to Me and My Girl.
  • Patti LuPone, Colm Wilkinson and Alun Armstrong all received Olivier nominations for their performances.
  • The show moved to the Queen’s Theatre in April 2004, where it has been ever since.
  • In the West End production, there are 392 costumes that feature throughout, including 85 wigs and over 5,000 separate pieces of clothing.
  • As well as its global presence, the book and lyrics have been translated into 22 languages, including Hebrew, Castillian, Flemish and Mexican Spanish (to name four).
  • In celebration of Les Miserables’ continuous run, Queen Elizabeth II requested the musical to be performed to commemorate the Anglo-French alliance. Jacques Chirac watched 40 minutes of Les Miserables at Windsor Castle, with Cameron Mackintosh claiming the musical “is the most successful and most exciting artistic collaboration between France and England ever”.
  • Les Mis became the longest-running musical on 7th October 2006, with The Phantom of the Opera. The show is currently the third longest-running in the West End, behind The Mousetrap and The Woman in Black respectively.
  • The production celebrated its 10,000th performance on 22nd January 2010.
  • It has won two Audience Awards for most popular show in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The show is back at the Wales Millennium Centre next summer (2021) to find out more, go HERE.