Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, and Herbert Kretzmer, Les Misérables, “Stars”
Broadway shows originating abroad have in many cases qualified as classics. One of the most spectacularly successful is Les Misérables, a through-composed adaptation of Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel. Most of the show’s vast international audience may not be aware that the show was written in French and was first experienced by the public as a concept album. Premiered onstage in Paris in 1980 (at the 4,500-seat Palais des Sports, a space larger than even the world’s largest opera houses), it arrived in London in English translation in 1985, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It took Broadway by storm two years later, and touring companies continue to bring it to millions of theatergoers internationally.
Les Misérables is more operatic in nature and scale than most Broadway shows of the past 40 years, with many of the central characters calling for voices of impressive range, size, and timbre. The story’s antagonist, Javert, is a police inspector who for years has been intent on apprehending the convict Jean Valjean, who he believes has been wrongly released from prison and whom he intends to bring to justice. In his stirring soliloquy, “Stars,” the implacable, self-righteous Javert asserts that just as surely as the stars keep watch at night, he will stop at nothing to find Valjean.