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Hearing the People Sing: The Never-Ending Appeal of Les Misérables

Posted by:  Megan Rapp, Former Drexel Co-Op Public Relations Intern on June 21, 2024

This blog is a repost from November 4, 2022, in honor of the return engagement of Les Misérables this August 27 – September 8, 2024, at the Academy of Music. 

As one of history’s longest running musicals, Les Misérables has touched the lives of audience members around the world. Its tale of perseverance has influenced generations. Our former Drexel Co-Op intern wrote about why Les Misérables is her favorite musical, and why you should see it when it returns to Philadelphia. 

Like many people, Les Misérables is my mom’s favorite musical.My interests have always followed hers, so in the same fashion that Han Solo is my favorite Star Wars character and Raúl Ibañez is my favorite baseball player, Les Misérables had to be my favorite musical, too. Though some of my stolen favorites have waned over time, Les Misérables is the one that remains. It is not just my favorite musical, but one of my favorite [creative] works of all time. 

Les Misérables has been a mainstay in my life since I was born (mostly because of my mother!). Hours were spent with my sister watching the VHS we had of the 10th anniversary countless times. The 1988 Complete Symphonic Recording was immediately downloaded to my first iPod and had me running around in my backyard pretending I was Éponine. My family gathered to watch the 25th Anniversary Concert DVD when it premiered in 2010. I saw the 2012 film the day it was released in theaters. Though I only have seen it live on stage twice, I can see the touchpoints of Les Misérables influencing me throughout my entire life. 

Now you may have heard of Les Misérables, but you might not know what it is about. Here’s a quick crash course: adapted from the 1862 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables is a tragic (it has “miserable” in the name for a reason), yet enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Set against the backdrop of 19th century France, it follows the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who spent nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his nephew. Valjean breaks parole after his release and seeks redemption by becoming an honest man, but he is constantly pursued by Javert, a devout officer of the law determined to bring Valjean to justice. The tale spans over 20+ years with the majority of Act Two taking place during the June Rebellion of 1832 in Paris where all the characters become entangled in fighting between barricades on the streets. 

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“Red and Black” - Devin Archer as Enjolras and company 

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy 

Les Misérables includes rich and unforgettable characters, each intertwining with their own compelling story. Early on, Valjean meets Fantine, a single mother who has been forced into life on the streets, [then] finds himself taking in her sweet and innocent daughter Cosette as his own when Fantine passes. Flashforward 20 years and Cosette is now a young woman who finds love with Marius, a young idealist that is friends with many of the revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the government. Caught up in unrequited love for Marius is young Éponine (my favorite character!), the daughter of comedic duo the Thénardiers, a corrupt innkeeper and his wife. 

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“Beggars at the Feast” - (From L) Matt Crowle as Thénardier and Victoria Huston-Elem as Madame Thénardier 

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy 

Les Misérables first took the stage in 1980 in Paris with original French lyrics by French composer Claude-Michael Schönberg with Alain Boublili. It was then adapted into an English-language version produced by the legendary Cameron Mackintosh, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and additional material by James Fenton. This version of the show premiered in London on October 8, 1985, and is one of the longest running musicals in the West End. It first appeared on Broadway in 1986 with a cast of would-be stars including Colm Wilkinson, Judy Kuhn, and Terrance Mann to critical acclaim. 

The musical has won many awards over the years, including the Tony® Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Actor, and Best Actress during its original run. It continues to be introduced to new generations of musical-lovers through multiple recorded concert productions and new cast albums released over the years. Finally, a film version of the musical, by director Tom Hooper, premiered in 2012 and was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, winning 3 of them. 

Want to hear the music of Les Misérables over the years? Check out our Music of Les Miserables Spotify playlist, gathering all the recordings in one place. 


Les Misérables is known as one of the most popular musicals in the world, and with good reason. The entire musical is sung-through, leading to over forty songs with strong musical motifs throughout, giving the story an extra powerful and memorable edge. From the tragic “I Dreamed a Dream” to the comedic “Master of the House;” the powerful “Do You Hear the People Sing” to the grief and guilt-driven “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” this magnificent score will leave you breathless. But the song that takes Les Mis from amazing to downright excellent for me is the famous showstopper and Act One finale “One Day More.” In this song, every character gets their moment in the spotlight with a solo, but all come in at the end to overlap in beautifully controlled chaos to convey one clear message: something big is coming for all of them in Act Two. 

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“One Day More” 

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy 

Les Misérables has something for any musical lover to enjoy. See it on your own or bring friends; just make sure you bring some tissues because have you heard the people sing? I can profess the greatness of Les Mis, but at the end of the day, it is up to you to make the decision to come. Do not look down and miss even a second of this outstanding performance. Do not leave empty chairs and empty tables at our theater! Do not let even a little fall of rain stop you from coming to see this show. I dreamed a dream you would see this fantastic musical take the stage.  This musical will leave you with a heart full of love and eyes full of tears. You will not regret coming to see this musical, this I swear by the stars. I cannot wait one day more for this musical to come to Philly. 

Les Misérables returns to Philadelphia from August 27 – September 8, 2024, at the Academy of Music. Don’t miss your chance to see one of the world’s most beloved musicals! Grab your tickets today here. 

Megan Rapp is an avid writer who wishes to someday work on an animated TV or web series.


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