Broadway's Les Miz Closing March 15, 2003

News   Broadway's Les Miz Closing March 15, 2003

 

The company of Les Misérables.

Photo by Joan Marcus

The song, "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" will have a new meaning in March 2003, when the Broadway blockbuster Les Misérables closes March 15, three days after it celebrates its 16th anniversary in New York City. The cast of the blockbuster at the Imperial Theatre was informed of the closure following the Oct. 2 matinee. Audiences in the coming months are expected to flock to the acclaimed pop opera, considered by many to be the most mature and moving of the sung-through musicals that Britain produced in the 1980s. Special pricing scales are being offered by producer Cameron Mackintosh, including a plan to sell tickets at the 1987 prices, meaning the top ticket price this fall and early winter will be $47.50 at selected performances.

By the final curtain, the performance count of the Victor Hugo-based show by Alain Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schönberg will be 6,612 performances. It is the longest running show still playing on Broadway, and the second longest-runner in Broadway history, just behind Cats, another Mackintosh show.

Les Miz, with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, direction by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, premiered in its current form in London following a spectacle created by Jean-Marc Natel, Boublil and Schönberg in Paris. Mackintosh shepherded it to its current form.

"I never dreamed that a musical like Les Misérables could become one of the longest-running shows of all-time, and I am very grateful to American audiences for embracing such a different kind of musical in such an overwhelming way," producer Mackintosh said in a statement. "Though the show has always remained profitable except during those extraordinary recent times that affected the industry as a whole, I want Les Miz's first Broadway reign to conclude with the same kind of excitement and celebration that was enjoyed by my productions of Cats and Miss Saigon, with audiences once again fighting for tickets. I have also realized that I can't have a crack at the Tony for Best Revival until I close the first production! Although Broadway will be less 'miserable' for awhile, the show will continue to live on around the world in a variety of incarnations, including tours, international stadium concerts, regional productions, and most importantly, performed by hundreds of schools. Will I be sad when Les Miz ends its run? A little...but after all, au revoir does not mean goodbye."

Mackintosh wants the show's run to end while it's still making its weekly nut back, though Les Miz — known for its large cast and crew, and high weekly running cost — hasn't fared well in recent weeks. The week of Sept. 23-29 the show grossed $292,800, representing an average capacity of 46.3 percent, according to industry figures. The weekly running costs are thought to be about $350,000.

The production is immediately launching The Au Revoir and Thank You Price Scale bringing back its original 1987 top ticket price of $47.50 for Monday-Friday performances Oct. 3-Dec. 20, as well as $25 rear mezzanine seats.

Additionally, special weekend prices of $60 (orchestra and front mezzanine) and $35 (rear mezzanine) will be implemented for all weekend performances, Oct. 5-Nov. 16.

For $100, 200 prime center orchestra seats will remain available at all performances. Weekend performances Nov. 23-Dec. 22, plus all performances as of Dec. 23, will be priced at $100 for orchestra and front mezzanine, and $60 and $35 for rear mezzanine. Tickets for performances March 12-15 will not be on sale until plans are finalized for the anniversary and final performance celebrations.

Theatregoers unfamiliar with the show are expected to finally visit the work, which opened March 12, 1987. It has been seen by some 9 million people on Broadway alone. The show's Broadway production, which took home Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Director, Best Book, Best Score, Best Scenic Design, Best Lighting, Best Featured Actor (Musical) for Michael Maguire and Best Featured Actress (Musical) for Frances Ruffelle has grossed $390 million so far. Audiences are routinely made up of return visitors who want to lose themselves in the pop-music retelling of ex-con Jean Valjean, who is pursued in France over the years by Inspector Javert in the context of personal and political change in Paris of the early 19th-century. Colm Wilkinson originated the role of Valjean in London and Broadway. Terrence Mann originated Javert on Broadway.

Additional material for the show was written by James Fenton. Designers are John Napier (scenic), David Hersey (lighting), Andreane Neofitou (costumes) and Andrew Bruce (sound).

The current Broadway cast of Les Miz includes J. Mark McVey (as Jean Valjean), Philip Hernandez (Javert, David Masenheimer takes over Nov. 4), Jacquelyn Piro (as Fantine, Lauren Kennedy takes over Nov. 4), Kevin Kern (Marius), Diana Kaarina (Eponine), Sandra Turley (Cosette), Christopher Mark Peterson (Enjolras), Nick Wyman (Thénardier) and Aymee Garcia (Madame Thénardier).

Informed by Playbill On-Line that the show that gave her her first big Broadway role (as Fantine) was closing, Randy Graff said "I think it had a healthy run and I'm glad as many people got to see it as they did."

Mackintosh's The Phantom of the Opera is currently in its 15th year, becoming Broadway's third longest-running show of all-time Oct. 12. The current American national tour of Les Miz (which began in 1988) will March on despite the Broadway close, as will international productions and tours.

On Broadway, Les Misérables plays 8 PM Monday-Saturday, with matinees 2 PM Wednesdays and Saturdays. For tickets call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200.

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In July 2002, Les Misérables was made available for school productions while still playing on Broadway. During the first year that the rights have been made available (from July 2002 through July 2003), 269 U.S. schools will perform a modified version of the show, dubbed Les Misérables, the "school edition." There are currently 24 productions set for Australia, and the UK will have its school-edition premiere in October 2002 in Cardiff, with numerous productions to follow.