The Longest Running Musical for a Reason
Wednesday night, seven thirty, the seats fill up and the lights turn down in the Queen’s theatre in Soho. The cast shakes off their last minutes jitters, smoke begins to rise and another performance of Les Misérables begins.
Coming to the theatre that night the only knowledge I had of the show is what I had seen from the movie and everyone constantly saying it is the best musical they’ve ever seen. I hoped that they didn’t set my expectations too high, and I kept an open mind as the words, “Toulon, France 1815” appeared on the stage in front of me. The play surrounds the story of a man named Jean Valjean who stole bread for his sister’s starving family. The play follows him throughout his life, from turning his life around and no longer wanting to be a thief to fighting in the French Revolution to look after a man who loves the girl that Jean took in as his own, Cosette.
The play opened in 1985 at the Barbican Theatre, which means 2010 marked the 25th anniversary since the musical opened. The fans loved this because not only did they have one production running during the 25th anniversary, they had three, all in the same city. A concert at the 02, a production at the original theatre, and one at the Queen’s Theatre, fans encompassed all over London to attend these viewings.
When the musical came out the first reviews were not in favor of Les Misérables, however the people did not agree. These unfavorable reviews didn’t keep the play down, the day after the review was released the musical sold a record-breaking 5,000 seats before noon. This was just the start of the success for the musical. It is now the world’s longest running musical and was shown at the Palace theatre for eighteen years before it moved to the Queen’s theatre where I saw it just the other night.
The musical was not what I was expecting, it was much more impressive. The stage set was remarkable. The spinning stage provided motion to the scenes that brought the entire musical to life. It made me feel as if I were there hustling along the street with Jean. The set wasn’t the only thing that brought the musical to life; the actors did more than enough to make the entire theatre feel as though they were there. My personal favorite actors of the night were Carrie Hope Fletcher, who played Eponine, and Rob Houchen, who played Marius. It could have been the chemistry between the two or the flawless voices that made me fall in love and pulled me in. But either way at the end of the night I knew I wanted Rob singing to me as if I were Cosette.
The show has now become a worldwide success and is bringing in people night after night to hear the iconic music. From the power of “One Day More” that closes the first act to “On My Own” that brings tears to the entire crowd, everyone leaves wanting more and more. That’s how it was for me, the lights went up and the applause eventually died down and all I wanted was to watch it again.