What is it about “Les Mis” that makes it the longest running show in the West End and the world? Why do audiences just love it so much? It has been running in the West End since 1985 and it still is there. There is something about the storyline and the songs that drive you in. It is a very inspirational musical even though it is not the happiest of musicals. In order for a show to be successful, you need to have an emotional connection to the material and the songs have to sound like they are part of the same musical.
Being a massive “Les Mis” fan, I understand why it is so successful, but it is hard to explain. Musicals have an amazing ability to connect audiences to the storyline and characters through song. But with “Les Mis”, the show is entirely sung, which shows emotions in a different way. It is a show where there is always something to connect and relate to. Its themes are still relevant to society today which range from unrequited love, humanity, and injustice. There is something that you can always take away from it and it is an experience that is worth it. It sounds surprising that a tragic musical is the longest running musical in the West End, but it teaches you to go beyond tragedy and see it for what it is. “Les Mis” is more of an inspirational story than a sad one, even though it will always be tragic.
The journey of Valjean going from a hardened, harsh, angry man into a compassionate, thoughtful man is very spiritual. He shows compassion towards everyone especially towards Fantine and Cosette. He does saint-like actions such as promising to raise Cosette as his own and rescuing Marius from the barricades. Valjean’s spiritual journey would not have been successful if it was not for the kindness, compassion, and forgiveness of the bishop. The bishop gave Valjean a chance when no one else would and forgave Valjean after he stole his candlesticks. Through this actions, Valjean was redeemed and it showed Valjean how to become a better person.Throughout the show, Valjean continued to act in ways that made his redemption stronger.
“Les Mis” has a unique ability of taking you on a highly emotional journey. The storyline is epic and extremely powerful and takes you through so many emotions in just three hours. It is filled with lots of hope, compassion, heartbreak, and death. It is special how the inspirational and the depressing world of the show come together because it helps make the experience worth it. There is compassion when there is desperation and there is hope even if the show takes place in a dark time in France. Valjean always try to do the right thing and not let his past define him. He tries not to let his bitterness return, but he knows he is making an impact on those he is helping. He learned how to love after he adopted Cosette after unexpected circumstances.
Both Valjean and Cosette were broken people, but through each other, they rose above their backgrounds. As a child, Cosette was horribly abused and Valjean had a harsh treatment in prison. They relied on each other to get through all of the trauma they had to face in their past. The storyline shows how important it is to stand up for what you believe in. Enjorlas and the students started the uprising because they were angry at the unstable government. Even though their uprising was unsuccessful, they stayed passionate no matter what even when they felt hopeless. Through the Thenardiers, the audience gets a much-needed laugh every so often. Through Eponine, you see her showing true love to Marius even if the love is unrequited. That is the special thing about Eponine because even though Marius will not love her back, she still wants to protect him and cares about his happiness more than her own. Through Javert, you see a man trying to do the right thing even if it may not always be right.
So many of the characters are facing a major conflict and they still manage to thrive. All of their storylines eventually come together and connect back to the main storyline. That is because Cosette is a part of all the different storylines. For starters, she is Fantine’s daughter and when Cosette was just a child, she lived with the Thenardiers. When she was eight, Valjean came and took her away from the Thenardiers and raised her as his own even if it risked his life because Javert was trying to recapture him. Cosette is part of a love triangle with Eponine and Marius. Finally, Marius is one of the student revolutionaries, which allows Cosette to connect to the story of Enjorlas and the students.
“Les Mis” taught me a lot and showed me to see beyond tragedy. Originally I pushed tragedies back and did not want them to become a part of my life. I hoped tragic musicals would never exist. But I soon realized the beauty and joy of experiencing tragedy. Through “Les Mis”, I learned from the past and realized that tragedies are more than being sad. Ever since seeing the movie, I kept on asking myself why I always feel uplifted by the end. It made me search the musical and see if I could find anything to answer that question. I soon realized that the show has many elements of spirituality. Those are elements such as compassion, forgiveness, humanity, love, hope, and redemption.
I am a strong spiritual person and that is what I relate to in the show. I relate to the spirituality of the show and that is why I have such a strong emotional connection to the material. On top of that, I have a deep connection to those living in poverty and homelessness and a lot of “Les Mis” characters connect to that such as Eponine and the Thenardiers. “Les Mis” offers you chances to laugh and cry and by the end, you become uplifted. I always knew that there was something unique about the score because I know that the kind of score is rarely seen in musical theatre. The musical is still fresh in my life and I feel fortunate to have seen the show in London in the middle of its 30th year. Seeing it in the West End made the show even more powerful and emotional because emotions I have felt before became stronger. A lot of the inspirational elements were so strong in this production because I felt them so truthfully. The West End cast I saw was very brilliant and they truly made the characters come alive and I had an understudy as Valjean.