Following a blockbuster premiere in London's West End, the musical opened at the Broadway Theatre on March 12, 1987.
New York Times reviewer Frank Rich praised the production's "electrifying showmanship," also writing, "If anyone doubts that the contemporary musical theater can flex its atrophied muscles and yank an audience right out of its seats, he need look no further than the Act I finale of Les Misérables."
The musical received 12 Tony nominations, including nods for Colm Wilkinson, Terrence Mann and Judy Kuhn. Frances Ruffelle and Michael Maguire won for their featured performances as Eponine and Enjolras, and Trevor Nunn and John Caird shared a Tony for Best Direction. Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil received honors for their book and score, and the production took home the 1987 Tony for Best Musical.