Broadway's Les Miserables has been leaner since Dec. 8, when about 14 minutes of trims to the 3-hour-and-12 minute megamusical were incorporated.
Members of the smash show's creative team were in New York City the week of Dec. 4, making cuts and rehearsing the company. According to a production spokesman, theatregoers Dec. 7 saw a unique one-time-only hybrid show in which Act One cuts were performed while Act Two remained its usual length. By Dec. 8, both acts had been trimmed, allowing for producer Cameron Mackintosh's goal of keeping the show under 3 hours in an effort to avoid costly overtime pay to dressers, technical people and others involved in the daily running of the show.
The producer said cuts were internal and no single number was lopped off, preserving the overall artistic integrity — and the life — of the historical-romantic audience favorite by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer.
There are still "minor adjustments" to be made, but the show will not undergo any major surgery. One adjustment concerns a new orchestration not yet created, according to a spokesman.
Since Dec. 8, the show has been clocking in at 2 hours and 58 minutes. *
The changes eliminate $23,000 in weekly overtime costs and preserve the jobs of the company by allowing the show to still be profitable for the producer. The cuts are in lieu of the sort of alterations other shows and artists have suffered in the past — moves to smaller venues, trimmed scenic elements and scaled back casts. Since opening at the Broadway Theatre in 1987 (it later moved to the Imperial), Les Miz has paid some $16 million in overtime costs to dressers, musicians and others, the producer said.
"The show's weekly operating expenses must be reduced to ensure that Les Miserables will continue to run for many more years in its ideal home at the Imperial Theatre," according to a statement released Nov. 16.
No changes were made or are immediately expected in the North American national tour of the show, which runs more than 3 hours.
"We have already had happy experiences with cutting Les Miserables for the hugely successful concert version, which runs 2 hours and 21 minutes and has been one of the greatest successes ever in arenas throughout the world, on television and on video," Mackintosh said in a statement. "None of the power and emotion of Les Miserables was lost…it was just concentrated. There is a long history of classics being trimmed or revised, from Shakespeare to Show Boat, and Les Miserables is undoubtedly a classic that will be re worked by many people many times in the future. It is rather nice that the original creative team will have the chance to do so first."
Produced by Cameron Mackintosh, Les Miz is based on the romantic-historic epic by Victor Hugo, refracted through the talents of book writer Alain Boublil and composer Claude Michel Schonberg, with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, and directed and adapted by Trevor Nunn (Cats) and John Caird (Nicholas Nickleby).
With an intermission, Les Miz used to run 3 hours and 12 minutes, and the show gets more expensive for Mackintosh after three hours passes, putting some of the staff — stagehands, dressers — on overtime. Although the cuts are meant to preserve the whole company in a continuing run, individuals stand to lose thousands of dollars a year in overtime pay.
The changes have been the subject of hot debate among Les Miserables fans on internet chat boards.
Performances continue with J. Mark McVey as Valjean, Shuler Hensley as Javert, Jane Bodle as Fantine, Catherine Brunell as Eponine.
The pop megamusical follows the story of Jean Valjean, a petty thief cruelly punished and pursued over the years by Inspector Javert. Their stories collide in the early 19th century, during a student uprising in Paris. For ticket information, call (212) 279-4200.