With a blast of confetti and a blizzard of blue, white and red balloons March 12, the musical Les Miserables celebrated its tenth anniversary on Broadway.
Gathered in the glow of the new lighting system in front of the refurbished set at the Imperial Theatre for the curtain call, the original creative team applauded the largely new cast and thanked God, Victor Hugo and their own determination for the show's success.
The show drew a standing ovation from the invitation-only crowd, including 600 audience members who had won their tickets in a trivia contest run by the producers as a way of thanking the show's devoted fans. One of the highlights of the evening for truly devoted fans: being the first to see a brief new scene interpolated by the authors. Details below.
Lyricist Alain Boublil told the crowd, "Long ago I dreamed a dream that Claude-Michel [Schonberg] and I would be able to write a decent musical - and look what happened."
He said the whole show started with an idea "in a room. All our friends called us mad -- stupid at best. They told us we wouldn't make any money with it. [Audience laughter.] But we kept faith." Composer Schonberg took the microphone and said "I want to thank from the deep of my heart [the American audiences] who gave so much love" during the past decade." He also promised, "We'll keep the show as fresh as it was on the 12th of March, 1987."
Schonberg explained that the original French lyric for "One Day More" is "Le Grand Jour," literally translated "The Big Day." (The "One Day More"is part of Herbert Kretzmer's English lyrics.) Schonberg thanked Broadway for giving him another "big day" in the 10th anniversary. The show's new Jean Valjean, Robert Marien, then led the company and creative team in singing the Act I finale, with Marien singing Valjean's part of the lyric in French.
At the final chord, a rack lowered from the apron bearing fireworks that burst above the stage. As the audience oohed, cannon at the sides of the Imperial auditorium discharged blue, white and red confetti over the crowd, followed by a cascade of balloons in the same colors, each bearing the show's logo and the date.
We know that a substantial number of Playbill On-Line users were among those who won the free fan tickets. For those who attended, please write your impressions of the evening, what you thought of the fine-tunings to the show, and your emotions upon watching the gala. E-mail them to Managing Editor Robert Viagas at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read their first-hand accounts in Theatre News.
Here is a rundown of the changes to the show, as reported by the production:
Libretto: A short new scene has been inserted into Act I, along with minor lyric changes throughout the show. In the original show, the Thenardiers ordered Young Cosette out into the dark woods to fetch water, even though she tells them she's terrified. Immediately following, Valjean appeared with her, admonishing the evil couple that he had found the child wandering in the woods. In the inserted new scene, we actually see Cosette cowering in the woods. Valjean now discovers her there and takes her in his arms, thus establishing their emotional bond and his role as her protector from the start. The scene starts with new music and concludes with a quote from "Castle on a Cloud."
Production spokesman Marc Thibodeau said the changes will be added to the national touring company, starting with the May engagement in Boston. He said he was not sure when they would go into international productions.
Cast: Of the 38 cast members playing the she show in late 1996, 18 have been retained, including Christopher Innvar as Javert. Christeena Michelle Riggs switched from Eponine to Cosette; Peter Lockyer moved up from the chorus to Marius. The 20 new cast members include Robert Marien, who comes to the production from Montreal, Paris and London productions, and Fuschia Walker as Madame Thenardier.
Sets: Under designer John Napier's direction the sets have been refurbished, in. All scenery has been repainted and new scrims were constructed, to help the play's many ghosts appear and disappear.
Costumes and Hair: More than 160 new costumes have been designed by Andreane Neofitou for the Broadway production, including a more revealing blouse for Eponine. Plus all new wigs.
Lighting: Lighting technology has been upgraded by Tony-winner David Hersey, though the dramatic scenes in the Paris sewers and Javert's leap from the bridge remain largely the same.
Sound: Andrew Bruce has completely revamped the sound design, allowing for more three-dimensional effects in the auditorium, like echoes and gunshots that seem to come from over and behind the audience. A state-of-the-art synthesizer has also been added to the pit.
Among the celebs (including many original cast members) spotted at the event were Randy Graff (City Of Angels), Judy Kuhn (Chess, King David) and Debbie Gibson (Funny Girl tour). Rock star Sting showed up at the post-show party at Sardi's theatrical restaurant.