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Les Miserables the Musical

Updated on December 19, 2015
Les Miserables marque
Les Miserables marque

Why I'm making this page about Les Miserables the musical

I'm making this page about Les Miserables the musical because I saw a performance of it and was simply blown away. And, even though the one I saw was the school edition, you really wouldn't know there was any difference. The director told me afterward that there was only about 20 minutes cut from the original version, and you never notice it.

It was a moving and Spiritual experience. Schonberg is a musical genius, whose work aptly showcases Victor Hugo's wonderful literary masterpiece and makes it come alive in great new way.

Now that I've seen the movie, I appreciate it even more.

NOTE: This year (2014) I saw a performance of the complete version and was even more blown away. The music stays with you for a while.

The book itself, as I have noted, was a masterpiece of French literature. It was written by Victor Hugo, a former Catholic and deeply spiritual free thinker, who, had he lived in Luther's time might have joined him in the reformation. (for more details read the article in the link list "Victor Hugo's religious beliefs" below*.) Despite it's slight vulgarity in parts, Les Miserables has deep Spiritual significance and meaning, as I will point out shortly.

What makes this musical unique?

Why do I choose it over other Broadway musicals?

Of course I love all Broadway musicals, but Les Miserables is special for several reason:

It's actually more like an opera than a Broadway musical, as there is almost no talking. Yet the music is far from operatic, but is catchy and moving. The music and the quick movement of scenery both serve to keep the show moving right along without any lapse and without any loss of understanding what is going on.

But the thing that makes the show really outstanding is Shoenberg's music. Not only are there memorable songs, but they flow right into one another, making the show a complete musical experience. The musical themes are repeated often with different emphases or in different keys. For example much of ValJean's music is also used for Javar but in a minor key. This sets these characters aside as the two main protagonists and marks Valjean as the hero and Javar as the villain. It is a very clever and musical trick which most viewers would probably not even notice, but which nevertheless does add to the beauty of the show, even though we may not know why.

Jean Val-Jean, prisoner 24601
Jean Val-Jean, prisoner 24601 | Source

THE STORY BRIEFLY: Jean Val-jean is released on parole, after 19 years..

..on the chain gang for stealing a piece of bread and trying to escape.

He must by law display a ticket-of-leave, pegging him as an outcast. Only a saintly Bishop treats him kindly and Val-jean, embittered by years of hardship, repays him by stealing silver. Val-jean is caught and brought back by police, and is astonished when the Bishop lies to the police to save him, also giving him two candlesticks, asking that he use the silver to better himself.--it was, he says a ransom for the soul of val-jean, who in shame repents.

8 years later he is a factory owner and the mayor of a city. One of his workers, Fantine, has a secret illegitimate child. When the other women discover this, they cause a ruckus, demanding her dismissal. Val-jean turns the matter over to his foreman, whose advances Fantine has rejected, who in turn fires her.

Desperate for money to pay for medicines for her daughter, Fantine ends up becoming a prostitute. Degraded by her new trade she gets into a fight with a prospective customer. She is about to be take to prison by Javier when "The Mayor" arrives and demands she be taken to a hospital instead.

The Mayor rescues a man pinned down by a cart. Javier is reminded of the abnormal strength of convict 24601 Jean Val-jean, a parole-breaker he has been tracking for years, but who, he says has just been recaptured. Val-jean, unable to see an innocent man go to prison in his place, confesses to the court that he is prisoner 24601 and runs away.

At the hospital Val-jean promises the dying Fantine to find and look after her daughter Cosette. Javier arrives to arrest him, but Val-jean escapes.

Cosette has been lodged for five years with the Thénardiers who run an inn, horribly abusing the little girl, while indulging their own daughter, Eponine. Val-jean pays the Thénardiers to let him take Cosette away and takes her to Paris. But Javert is till on his tail..

Nine years later there is unrest in the city because of the likely demise of the popular leader General La-marque, the only Government official left who shows any feeling for the poor. Among the street-gangs is one led by Thénardier and his wife, which sets upon Jean Val-jean and Cosette. They are rescued by Javier, who fails to recognize Val-jean until after he escapes. The Thénardiers' daughter Eponine, who is secretly in love with the student Marius, reluctantly agrees to help him find Cosette, with whom he has fallen in love. .....

A group of idealistic students prepare for the coming revolution.

scene from Les Miserables the musical
scene from Les Miserables the musical

Upon news of La-marque's death, they, stream out into the streets to whip up popular support. Only Marius is distracted by the thoughts of the mysterious Cosette.

Cosette is consumed by the thoughts of Marius, with whom she has fallen in love. Val-jean refuses to tell her anything of her past. In spite of her own feelings for Marius, Eponine sadly brings him to Cosette and then prevents an attempt by her father's gang to rob Val-jean's house. Val-jean, convinced it was Javier who was lurking outside his house, tells Cosette they must prepare to flee the country. Cosette and Marius part in despair of ever meeting again; Eponine mourns the loss of Marius; and Val-jean looks forward to the security of exile. The Thanardiers, meanwhile, dream of rich pickings underground from the chaos to come.

The students prepare to build the barricade. Marius, noticing that Eponine has joined the insurrection, sends her with a letter to Cosette, which is intercepted by Valerian. Eponine decides to rejoin Marius at the barricade.

The barricade is built and the revolutionaries defy an army warning that they must give up or die. Javier is exposed as a policy spy. Returning to the barricade, Eponine is shot and killed. Val-jean arrives at the barricades in search of Marius. He is given the chance to kill Javier, but instead lets him go.

The students settle down for a night on the barricade. Val-jean prays to God to save Marius from the coming onslaught. The rebels are all killed except Val-jean and Marius, who is injured.

Val-jean escapes into the sewers with the unconscious Marius, meeting Thénardier, who is rubbing the corpses of the rebels. Val-jean emerges into the light only to meet Javier once more. He pleads for time to deliver the young man to a hospital. Javier decides to let him go. His unbending principles of justice having been shattered by Val-jean's own mercy, Javar kills himself by throwing himself into the river.

unaware of the identity of his rescuer, Marius recovers in Cosette's care. Val-jean confesses the truth of his past to Marius and insists that after the young couple are married, he must go away rather than taint the sanctity and safety of their union. At Marius and Cosette's wedding the Thanardiers try to blackmail Marius. Thénardier says Cosette's "father" is a murderer and, as proof, produces a ring which he stole from the corpse in the sewers the night the barricades fell. It is Marius' own ring., and he realizes it was Val-jean who rescued him that night. He and Cosette go to Val-jean, where Cosette learns for the first time of her own history before the old man goes to his eternal salvation, joining the spirits of Fantine, Eponine, and all those who died on the barricades.

For more on the story... - ...Read the book

Les Misérables (Modern Library (Hardcover))
Les Misérables (Modern Library (Hardcover))
In this major new rendition by the acclaimed translator Julie Rose, Victor Hugo's tour de force, Les Misérables, is revealed in its full unabridged glory. A favorite of readers for nearly 150 years, and the basis for one of the most beloved stage musicals ever, this stirring tale of crime, punishment, justice, and redemption pulses with life and energy. Hugo sweeps readers from the French provinces to the back alleys of Paris, and from the battlefield of Waterloo to the bloody ramparts of Paris during the uprising of 1832.

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo | Source

Spiritual references and implications in Les Miserables:

Since Victor Hugo was a deeply spiritual free thinker, there are some obvious spiritual references in this work as well as at least one glaring implication which may or may not have been intended by the author.

  1. I will start with the obvious. In the opening scene at the prison, one prisoner prays "Dear Jesus, hear my prayer." This is answered by another prisoner saying: "Dear Jesus doesn't care." So we have the conflict between faith and skepticism right from the start.
  2. Then there is the scene at the home of the priest, where the priest gives Val-jean the silver, telling him to use it to better himself and that he is buying back his soul. This is a beautiful picture of redemption, since silver in the Bible always represents redemption (see Numbers 3:47-50). Val-jean is touched by the fact that the priest said he has a soul, a fact of which he was previously unaware and the realization of which causes him to repent and give his life to God.
  3. Val-jean's redemption and eternal salvation is shown by his subsequent changed character and acts of kindness.
  4. Then there is his heartfelt prayer to God for the dying Marius, "Bring him home."
  5. Although probably not intended by the author, the fight between the students and the establishment on behalf of the poor could represent the ever going fight between good and evil -- between God and Satan. The death of La Marque should have been the rallying cry, as the death of Christ should be our rallying cry. Unfortunately the people were apathetic as many are today. The only difference is that their fight ended unsuccessfully, whereas as Christians, we know that we will win in the end.
  6. Finally, there is Val-Jean's own dying prayer at the end where he prays, "Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory."

7.There is also the following somewhat enigmatic statement made by Val-jean:

To love another person is to see the face of God

— Victor Hugo (made by Val Jean at the end of Les Miserables)

One writer suggested that this goes along with IJohn4:12 (No man has seen God..., [but] if we love one another, God dwells in us and His love is perfected in us.) Thus the statement may mean that if we truly love someone as God loves (with agape love) we can see God in the person, since we are made in God's image and agape love only sees the best and the potential of another (ICor 13.5c-6).

OR as another person wrote on another lens: "I don't think it was meant to literally mean seeing God's Face, but as an analogy. Simply telling us that if you could see God he would look like love, Love is not something you can see either, you can see manifestations of love, physical demonstrations, but love is how we feel and think and you can't see thoughts or feelings. I think Victor is referring to this in what he says. So it's a play on words, he is comparing something you can't see to the face of God something we as mere mortals can never see."

What do you think? - DO YOU AGREE about this meaning of the quote?

What do you think it means that "To love another person is the seee the face of God"? Do you agree with either of the above statements, or do you have another different interpritation?

Do You agree?

What does the statement, "to love another person is to see the face of God" mean?

See results

Spiritual Implications continued...

8. The ending of the play definitely shows that Val-jean does go to heaven, as Fantine and Eponine appear at the end to take him there. Their appearance back from the dead may be a carryover from Hugo's earlier slight dabbling in spiritualism, but it does serve to cement the reality of life after death, eternal salvation and heaven as the final reward of the true believer.

Val-Jean and Javar
Val-Jean and Javar

A final Spiritual implication:

9. There is another Spiritual implication which can be drawn throughout the work. Whether it was intended by the author or not we can only guess, but I tend to think that it was as it fits with Hugo's renunciation of Catholicism with it's emphases on works for eternal salvation. The implication I'm speaking of is the conflict between law, as represented by Javar, and grace as represented by Val-jean. St. Paul tells us we receive eternal salvation by grace and not by works. Val-jean's redemption was an act of grace and his life demonstrated grace from then on. Javar, on the other hand represented the law in the strictest sense. He was so fanatical to strictly follow and enforce the law that he just could not deal with Val-jean, the "man of mercy.In the end, grace did away with law, as it always will. Yet, as Val-jean's life was now far from being lawless, but rather exceeded the demands of the law in that it was a life given to helping others, so grace does not produce lawlessness but rather the fulfillment of the law in the highest sense. (See Galatians 2:16-21, Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 8:3-4 & Hebrews 10:15-24.)

Do You Agree?

Do you agree that Victor Hugo had all of these Spiritual implications in mind when he wrote the book?

See results

So, go see the musical:

If you haven't seen it on stage as yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. It's quite a moving experience. If you're planning a trip to New York anyway, sometime in the near future, don't miss this opportunity. You can actually bid for a code to get cheaper tickets on tickets on eBay. The listing below is for a discount code to buy tickets online or over the phone. Tickets are as low as $37.00

Movie Poll:

The movie has been out since Christmas day (2012).(See the above listed hub.) I saw the movie and really enjoyed it, even though it did leave out one song from the stage play (See my other lens: Broadway Musicals, Stage to Screen.)

Have you seen the movie, or will you go see it?

Have your seen or will you go see the movie?

See results

The movie is now available on Blue Ray - Watch it in your home tonight.

It's one of the best movies of a musical I've seen. It's perfectly cast. The acting is great and fits with the music quite naturally. Only one sing is missing from the original and it's not noticeable.

The combo pack listed below includes the film on Blu-Ray & DVD as well as a Digital/Ultraviolet copy! This combo pack is brand new & sealed!

Reader Feedback - What do you think of Les Miserables?

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I loved all the songs! I haven't seen the movie or the musical. But I heard it along time ago way back in my country because of Lea Salonga who performed in the musical. Also we've been singing the song 'I dreamed the dream" in our choir.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 

      7 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I loved the movie! For some reason I have never had the chance to see the musical.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a powerful script and the music is unbelievable!

    • iwrite100 profile image

      Maribel Forayo 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      I watched the theatrical play in our University when I was studying. Our Humanities professor required us to watch and make a reaction paper.

    • iwrite100 profile image

      Maribel Forayo 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      I watched the theatrical play in our University when I was studying. Our Humanities professor required us to watch and make a reaction paper.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good lens.

    • tedwritesstuff24 profile image


      7 years ago

      3 hours sat in the West End I will never get back!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Lens! I love Les Mis....and will see the movie this weekend!! Saw it several times on Broadway when it opened in the 80s, including going to the "invited guests" dress rehearsal the night before opening night! My friend, Michael Maguire, was part of the original New York incredibly gorgeous and talented actor. He won a Tony for his performance as Enjolras! Simply cannot wait to see the movie! Thanks for sharing your awesome lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      can't wait till the movie!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I've seen it twice. Loved it!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      8 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I've never seen Les Miserables, but I certainly enjoyed reading all about it here. The music is wonderful and I really appreciate your explanation of the spiritual references. Very nicely done!

    • Nightcat profile image


      8 years ago

      I've always loved the character of Javier the best. He is trying in his own way to be worthy of God. Of course he ends up being Godless and cruel in his frantic efforts to distance himself from his shame of poverty and his mother's work.

      I feel only pity for him because he just can't see another way of being. To kill himself at the end, he throws back God's one gift in His face. Which I hope his Creator pitied him for and showd mercy.

      I onnce wrote a paper arguing that Javier desrved forgiveness and admission into heaven because he suffered a spiritual sickness and wasn't right in his heart and head. Wonderful lens and Blessed!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This has got to be one of the best musicals around; I always class it in a 'trinity' of amazing musicals, along with Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon. I have only been to see it once, but everyone was in floods of tears at the end. Apparently the book is very different; for instance: Eponnine saves Marius from being shot, but he literally just steps over her and doesn't realise she's saved his life. Poor Eponnine :(

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting lens ! Thanks.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      You are right, this is a special musical and it is also interesting to see an analysis of the elements of Christianity that run through the novel, sometimes in an uneasy alliance with the hopelessness of people's lives on Earth. It's understandable that it's easier to have unwavering faith if you are one of the wealthy, wearing silks, sitting in your own pew in a church than if you are a worn-out and hungry person wondering why life has turned out so badly.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      love this movie!

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 

      8 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      Haven't seen the show, but enjoyed movie and certainly enjoyed your lens. Thank you very much!

    • nyclittleitaly profile image


      8 years ago

      I saw this show twice and would go see it again. A truly great show.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      One of my very favourite musicals. I saw it in London, have listened to the CDs to the point of near memorization, and once taped the PBS special where they brought together an all-time cast and Valjeans from around the world. Colm Wilkinson all the way for me!

      Great passionate treatment of the lens!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I saw this in London last year and it was a really inspirational performance. Thanks for bringing the inspiration back:)

    • profile image

      julietarot lm 

      9 years ago

      I saw this musical in London in 2005. When the lights came up all the women had black mascara trails down their faces and the blokes were all teary-eyed as well.

    • Rockett LM profile image

      Rockett LM 

      9 years ago

      Nice summary of the musical. I saw a professional tour a number of years ago ... it is awe inspiring!

    • BestRatedStuff profile image


      9 years ago

      This is musical is beautifully touching. The painful, course parts just make it more poignant. As you say one of the best parts is Shoenberg's music.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      9 years ago from Colorado

      Found you in the Forum and stopped by to support the cause. :-) I'd love to see a performance of Les Mis. Feel like I'm missing out. Nice to experience it today vicariously through you.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 

      9 years ago from Scotland

      it was a wonderful weekend in London finished off with a trip to see this musical, very special indeed

    • dezwards profile image


      9 years ago

      Les Miserables is one of my favourite musicals. Very interesting to read your perspective of this great show. Super lens.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Tip: Here's a good place to find tickets on eBay.

      You'll find tickets for bands, concerts, travel, sporting events and more.

    • Louis Wery profile image

      Louis Wery 

      10 years ago from Sarasota, Florida USA

      Thank you for this excellent lens about Les Mis. I love the way th music amplifies the message.

    • July4 LM profile image

      July4 LM 

      10 years ago

      Les Mis is one of the best shows to ever hit the stage! I saw it on Broadway around 15-20years ago, I was blown away. The music is up there with the music from Phantom of The Opera, excellent.

      Great lens! 5*****

    • eccles1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Les Miserables is telling us how miserble humans can be I love this story and it's message

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      11 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Very nicely done. I like your personal touch

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Great Lens! 5*****

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 

      11 years ago

      Cool lens. Never seen the movie or read the book. Guess I'd better get cultured! :) Welcome to the All Things Christian group! Thanks for a great lens!!

    • kerbev profile image

      Kerri Bee 

      11 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I love Les Miserables!


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