Beyond the Dream We Dreamed
Les Misérables started its musical life in Paris in 1980 as a concept album, which became a stage show at Le Palais des Sports, a 4,000 seat arena. It was a huge success, playing for three months to an audience of 200,000 and closed as planned to make way for the next show in their program. We were thrilled by this unexpected outcome, and believed that it was the end of a uniquely exciting adventure by all standards known to us. Three years later, we received a call from London.
During our first meeting to discuss the English version of Les Misérables, Cameron Mackintosh told us excitedly, “You do not realize what you have written.” He had heard a few tracks of our concept album at a friend’s house over the weekend, somewhere in the English countryside. That was thirty-five years ago.
Neither he nor we could have imagined that in 2018, so long after that first encounter, we would be launching yet another production of Les Misérables with a brand new company to tour North America. An unprecedented success like this cannot and should not be explained by its creators. This work was born in a state of grace which we were completely unconscious of at that time. Stravinsky once said, “A real creator does not know what he is doing.” We only knew that we needed to do it as much we needed to breathe, eat, and love.
We walked through the magical door leading us to the chain of talents of James Fenton, Trevor Nunn, John Caird and Herbert Kretzmer, and more recently, Laurence Connor and James Powell, who directed this masterful new production under Cameron’s passionate helm. All, and many others, have added their invaluable contributions to our original work which they have brilliantly complemented throughout the years, bringing Les Misérables to maturity and both of us into a world that has been our home ever since. We went on to write Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre, The Pirate Queen and other works, not forgetting La Révolution Française, our 1973 first rock opera, which was the birth certificate of our terminal addiction to musical theatre.
The spirit of Victor Hugo protects us all. His novel has been spreading its message around the world for 156 years, to all nationalities, cultures and ages. Still, it is astounding to see a younger generation filling theatres worldwide today, for a show that was written before they were born. Too often musicals age with their audience, but in this case we are the only ones who age while, onstage, Jean Valjean, Cosette, Marius, the student revolt and ideas are still as young as ever. Unfortunately, so are the problems of injustice and misery, which are at the heart of the novel.
While attending a rehearsal at The Barbican Theatre in 1985, where in front of our eyes was mounted the first English incarnation of what would become the definitive version of our musical, Alain said “I hope that we will still be here in two months.” Many people thought we would not. Incredibly, the marquee of The Queens Theatre in London, proclaims “thirty-three years and counting”!
Les Misérables will be playing at the SHN Orpheum Theatre from August 8 through the 25th. Get your tickets today at shnsf.com!