Les Miserables Broadway Vs London
Hello darlings, Wilma here! I’ve just been on a whirlwind holiday to New York, New York, the city so great, they named it twice! Being an avid theatre lover, I like to go to Broadway as often as possible to check out the new shows and indulge in personal favourite’s as well. On this trip I saw my favourite show Chicago, plus Wicked and Cabaret (with Alan Cumming and Sienna Miller).
I also went to see Les Miserables on Broadway because I wanted to see Ramin Karimloo play the role of Jean Val Jean (he was utterly incredible) and I was curious to see what a brand new production of the show might look like compared to the show I have seen in London. What I did not expect was it to be incredibly different to the original; a fresh, new version with a brilliant new set design and video projections, which help create the feel of the show.
So what are some of the differences between the West End production and the new Broadway show?
- At the beginning of the recent film, the prisoners are seen to be rowing in the rain instead of the original stage scene where they are digging. This has now been updated in the Broadway show to run alongside the film version, with video projection showing the rain lashing down.
- There is no revolve on the stage! The west end production is famous for its revolving stage where much of the action takes place to demonstrate scene changes. The new Broadway production has a lavish set, which moves in and out as needed to make scene changes. It is truly wonderful to see the show brought to life with these beautiful pieces of set. Because there is now no revolve, a few things have had to be re-thought.
- When Gavroche climbs over the barricades to collect ammunition from the fallen soldiers, the audience don’t see him, just hear him singing until he climbs over the barricades, back in to view before being shot and falling off the back of the set.
- I’ve not seen Les Mis millions of times but I am familiar with all the different cast recordings that exist and I am pretty sure there have been quite a few changes to lyrics and introductory verses added to some songs. I could be wrong. The new song, Suddenly, which was written for the film, is not included in the new production.
- When Javier commits suicide, in the original production he jumps off of a bridge and disappears over the back of the set. The new production has been cleverly designed so that he climbs over the front of the bridge, balances himself and then jumps forward, leaving him suspended in mid-air, while background video screens give the effect of him falling.
- The scene where the barricades fall and John Val Jean rescues Marius and takes him down through the sewers is also brilliantly done through video projections of tunnels.
- Something that has always niggled at me in the West End production of Les Mis is at the end, when Fantine’s ghost comes to take Jean Val Jean to heaven, she has short hair. Surely, if you died and became a ghost you would want to look like the best version of yourself and not necessarily how you died. Thankfully, in the Broadway production Fantine (played by Ghost’s Cassie Levy) comes back from the dead with her original long hair! I like to think someone has listened to my views on this and decided to change it!
The last few times I have seen Les Miserables in the West End, I have said it feels old and tried, like it is riding the success of the film and complacent that it will sell out every night without having to really try to be as great as it can be. I truly believe that the London production needs to seriously think about the future of this show in the West End and make the leap needed to bring the show into the millennium. There is so much that can be done with a show that may not have been possible thirty years ago when it first opened. The world deserves to see Les Mis fulfill its full potential.
Still one of the greatest shows in the West End, Les Miserables has stood the test of time and rightly so. If you haven’t seen it yet then what are you waiting for? Book tickets for the London production today! I just hope in the not so distant future, the new Broadway production will influence changes in our old but very faithful London version.
West End Wilma
Causing theatrical chaos since 2012