Hugo’s novel into a musical? But when you take it for what it is, it’s a superb show. People who are not necessarily into musical theatre would love Les Mi: because of its story and its content.’

The cynic in me might suggest that Les Miserables appeals to something akin to the Runrig fan in all of us. It’s a show to be serious to. One to make us feel important. It gives the impression of nourishing us with high-minded thoughts. flatters us for our sophistication, even if in truth its real appeal is as a simple love story set against an intricate epic backdrop. Critical snobbery? Maybe, but however elusive the reasons for its success, there is some agreement that it is the story that swings it. ‘lf 1 had to choose one ingredient that has made it the most successful musical,’ says Mackintosh, ‘it would


‘It makes most people feel at the end of the evening that lite ls worth living and that it’s worth fighting for what you believe in.’

musicians and untold legions back stage, the current production cost £i.7m to put on in Manchester and a further £500,000 for its Edinburgh transfer. Director Trevor Nunn still keeps an eye on the show (even if his name is strangely hard to find in the publicity), ensuring that Les Miserables is full of beautifully busy tableaux, switching from bar-room to barricade with slickly executed precision. it’s an ensemble piece with a sense of grandeur, atmosphere and spectacle; its tone might not waver much, but it operates on a more elaborate level than your average musical, dealing less with heroes and villains than with finely-tuned human relationships. ‘1 know when l have an audience who like it for its performance qualities rather than its content,’ says McCarthy, ‘but people who come to see it a second or third time zoom in and listen more to what everyone has to say. That’s what you do with the show. I’ve seen it in earlier productions maybe eight times and every time you follow a different character and you make links, there is a lot to take in.’ 0

Les Miserables, Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thurs 16 Sept—Sat 8 Jan I994.


Above, left: the [es Miserables cast In not-so-giurn publicity shot. The temous les Mlziogo (below) is based on a contemporary book Illustration of Cosette by Emilie Bayard. Above: It has been treeiy adapted to promote productions all over the world - Australia and los Angeles shown here.

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be that it is about the survival of the human spirit. it makes most people feel at the end ofthe evening that life is worth living and that it’s worth fighting for what you believe in. If you _ look back at the musicals that survive, it’s the

ones with the great stories. Who remembers 3') I; Hello Dolly of this generation? That’s the { most decorated Broadway musical, but we

don’t remember it. Who remembers The Music Man which beat West Side Story out? Stories are the basis of great musicals.’

The combination of music and story is what gives the show its emotional tug, the thing that sends the more ardent devotees back to the theatre time and again, but there’s no denying the impressive scale of the spectacle istelf. With a cast of 35 including children, 22




The List 10—23 September 199313