With three productions on Broadway to date, and a West End staging that has never closed, the musical Les Misérables has had “one day more” plenty of times. With each of those days comes another opportunity for the creators and producers to cast another actor to fill the show’s vast cast. Over the years, the musical has hosted a few future Tony Award winners and even an Office of the Order of the British Empire. Here are nine of Les Miz’s most celebrated alumni:
Michael Ball is the only Officer of the Order of the British Empire to have gotten his start acting in Les Miz—at least as far as we found. He made his West End debut in 1985 playing Marius in the original production of the musical. It was the beginning of a long mega-musical career for the man. He went on to star as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera in London and originate the role of Alex in Aspects of Love in London and on Broadway, and Count Fosco in The Woman in White. He has won two Olivier Awards, for Hairspray and a 2013 revival of Sweeney Todd. He’s also had his own television and radio series and has a significant career as a recording artist.
Broadway fame was a long way off when young, unknown Sutton Foster joined the cast of the original Broadway production of Les Miz as an ensemble member and Eponine understudy. Jobs in Grease, Annie, and The Scarlet Pimpernel would come and go before her surprise promotion to the lead part in Thoroughly Modern Millie made her an overnight star and Tony winner in 2002. After that, there was no stopping her. She headlined Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone, Young Frankenstein, Shrek the Musical, Anything Goes, and Violet, winning another Tony for Anything Goes. She also became a television presence, leading the series Bunheads and TVLand’s Younger.
Hunter Foster Both of the celebrated Foster children can thank Les Miz for their careers. Just as it was for his sister Sutton, the musical was the first Broadway credit for Hunter. He was an ensemble member and Marius understudy. Thereafter, he had roles in Grease, King David and Footloose, before finally hitting his stride as a favorite Leo Bloom during the run of The Producers. He originated his first significant Broadway lead when he starred as Bobby Strong in Urinetown in 2001, and won a Tony nomination for his Seymour in the 2003 revival of Little Shop of Horrors. Recent Broadway credits include Hands on a Hardbody and The Bridges of Madison County. His work as a librettist was seen Off-Broadway in 2001 with Summer of ’42. On television, he appeared opposite his sister in Bunheads.
This Broadway trouper won a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for her performance in 1989’s City of Angels, and got two similar nominations for A Class Act in 2001. But the Brooklyn native first came to attention by originating the role of the doomed Fantine in the Broadway production of Les Miz. She was, in fact, the first actor to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” on American shores. Other significant Broadway shows included Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Falsettos, Moon Over Buffalo and High Society. Her most recent Broadway appearance was in the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof.
Anthony Crivello is another Les Miz alum who went on to win a Tony Award. His win came with the 1993 Broadway staging of Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, in which he played Valentin. His only Broadway credit prior to that triumph was Les Miz, in which he filled a wide variety of parts, including Bamatabois and the unforgettable role of Other Drinker. He eventually stepped into the big shoes of Javert. Recent credits include Golden Boy on Broadway and Heathers Off-Broadway. He has had considerable success in Chicago, where he has been nominated for three Joseph Jefferson Awards, winning one.
Stephen Bogardus had only one Broadway job under his belt—as an understudy for Tony in the 1980 revival of West Side Story—when he stepped into the cast of Les Miz in late 1987. He played a variety of roles in the ensemble before he eventually rose to the part of Javert. The years that followed would bring him many successful roles, including ones in Falsettos, Love! Valour! Compassion! (Tony nomination), High Society (opposite fellow Les Miz alum Randy Graff), James Joyce’s The Dead, Man of La Mancha, White Christmas and, most recently, Bright Star.
In 1991, Daisy Eagan made history by becoming the youngest actress ever to win a Tony Award, for her performance in The Secret Garden. She was 11 at the time, but she didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. She made her Broadway debut in Les Miz, playing both Young Cosette and Young Eponine. She went on to star on Broadway in James Joyce’s The Dead.
To many in the theatre, Hugh Panaro is forever associated with The Phantom of the Opera. He first appeared in the musical in 1991, playing Raoul, but thereafter he returned to play the title role many, many times. But he got his Broadway start playing Marius in Les Miz. His other notable Broadway credits including playing Buddy in the original Side Show and essaying the title role in Lestat.
Perhaps the most famous actor to get his start in Les Misérables is an actor whose most famous credit is still Les Misérables. When you say the name Colm Wilkinson, you automatically think of the musical. The Irish-Canadian tenor was largely unknown to the theatre-going public when he was cast to play Jean Valjean, originating the mammoth role in both the West End and on Broadway. Wilkinson had done plenty of stage, album and concert work prior to being cast in the show. (He was, in fact, offered the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, but chose to play Valjean instead.) The musical made him a star.