Bohemianism and Counter-Culture

Les Miserables: The Musical

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Hugo's Bohemians On Stage-

In 1980, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg opened Les Miserables in Paris, a country that has relatively no tradition of musical theater. It sold out and did relatively well, but it was by chance, months after its closure that an English producer heard the French recording and from there led it to its translation into English and brought to the British stage. It opened in London in 1985, went on to Broadway and gathered 8 Tony awards, and spawned countless touring companies.

However, it was a monstrous effort, condenscing 1200 pages into three acts, entirely in music with no spoken word. They streamlined the story, giving less background information about the characters than Hugo's gigantic work did, and in fact, less than most of the movies managed.

 Despite the fact that Marius's love for Cosette is really the main plot for the musical, little is seen of either student life or artist life. It is mentioned that it is mostly the students who lead the building of the barricades, but nothing is said about Marius's bourgeois upbringing, or about his grand-father, the Napoloeonic General. The writers did choose to leave the ABC Café, however, though the pun is lost on most of the public especially as it is never said aloud.

 Craig Rumano as Marius Pontmercy in the Broadway production. (Souvenir Brochure and Synopsis.)


 Still, the musical adaptation remains true to most of Hugo's characterization, though the plot is streamlined in the interest of time. The barricading of the street is seen through Marius's eyes, as he debates what is more important, love or freedom for the poor and downtrodden. This is a typical bohemian conflict of ideals.


Click here to learn more about the bohemian revolutionary traditions.


 Students at the ABC Café, from