How to bluff your way through Les Misérables the musical
PUBLISHED: 14:12 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:28 22 January 2020
An Idiot's Guide to Les Misérables the musical ahead of its appearance at Norwich Theatre Royal in March and April: here's everything you need to know if you've never seen the show.
Your fellow ticket holder knows every single scene and every single lyric but you've got absolutely no idea what Les Misérables is all about: let us help.
Cameron Mackintosh's acclaimed production of Boublil and Schönberg's musical will play at Norwich Theatre Royal from March 4 to April 4.
With scenery inspired by the paintings of author Victor Hugo, the magnificent score includes the songs; "I Dreamed a Dream", "On My Own", "Bring Him Home", "One Day More", "Master Of The House" and many more.
Seen by over 120 million people worldwide in 52 countries and in 22 languages, the show's popularity is stellar: but if you've never seen it, here's a quick guide to guide you through the barricades. Mild spoilers follow.
Who wrote Les Misérables? The book was written by author Victor Hugo and was finished in 1862. The action begins in 1815 and follows events over the next 20 years, including the Paris Uprising of 1832. The musical is based on the novel: it's 1,900 pages long.
What's it all about? Deep breath…it's set in 19th century Franca and follows the life of ex-convict Jean Valjean who is seeking redemption having been imprisoned and then hunted by his rival and former guard Javert after he breaks parole. In his quest to turn his life around, he takes on the care of tragic factory worker Fantine's little girl, Cosette. The decision changes his life. The pair travel across France and end up caught in Paris during the French Revolution and suddenly all hell breaks loose, in practically every way imaginable.
Too much detail - describe Les Mis in 14 words: Injustice. Fury. Sin. Compassion. Destruction. Revenge. Misery. Poverty. Hope. Revolution. Love. Loss. Redemption. Croissants. Maybe not the last one.
Talk me through the main characters:
Jean Valjean is the protaganoist and The One To Watch. He's an ex-con with a chip on his shoulder who decides to look for redemption and along the way has QUITE the ride.
Javert is Valjean's nemesis. A narrow-minded police officer, he believes that once someone has committed a crime, they can never change and pursues Valjean for decades.
Fantine is employed by the convict-formerly-known-as-Jean-Valjean and has tough choices to make when she's fired but still has to pay the couple looking after her daughter.
Cosette is the daughter of the above, raised by the ruthless Thénardiers along with their daughter Éponine, who is her age. She's adopted by Valjean.
Marius is a member of a group of students who are agitating for revolution, friends with Éponine and the focus point in a particularly sharp-angled love triangle.
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Éponine manages to avoid being as dreadful as her parents but pays for being mean to Cosette when she was a child by having to wander around in the rain singing sad songs.
Thénardier and his wife Madame Thénardier steal some of Javert's thunder as the baddies of the piece although at least they have far more fun than he does.
Everyone else: a mixture of revolutionaries, nuns, bishops, children, relatives that don't understand Marius and someone that almost loses his head for looking a bit too much like Valjean (Fauchelevent).
Do you hear the people sing? Yes, for around three hours.
Should I take tissues to the theatre? Yes. If you can make it through Les Miserables dry-eyed, you are a monster. Yes. If you can make it through Les Miserables dry-eyed, you are a monster. The more soft-hearted of your party may struggle to make it to the end of the show without needing to be put on a fluids drip.
Is Susan Boyle in it? No.
Is Russsell Crowe in it? No.
Is the Hunchback of Notre Dame in it? No. Stop it.
Three things to say about Les Miserables that will make you look clever:
1) It was first written and performed in French, you know (true, it premiered in Paris in 1980 and was only staged for three months).
2) Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables in Guernsey (he did).
3) Only one scene in the film of the musical was shot in France (it's in Gourdon in Provence, after Valjean leaves the priory).
* Les Misérables is at Norwich Theatre Royal from March 4 to April 4, call the box office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk.