Les Mis at 25: Matt Lucas Dreams the Dream


Les Mis at 25: Matt Lucas Dreams the Dream

Les Miserables is the world's best-loved musical. Matt Lucas, a lifelong fan of 'Les Mis', fulfils his dream of performing in the show.


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Les Miserables is the world's longest-running musical.

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It's moved and mesmerised audiences in more than 300 cities

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around the world and has been seen by nearly 60 million people.

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But it nearly never happened.

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Written in the '70s by two unknown French composers,

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Les Miserables was all but forgotten after it first played in Paris.

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If I hadn't gone, "This is something I have to do"

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I suspect it would never have left France.

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And it got panned by critics when it launched in London in 1985.

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We woke up the next morning and the reviews are awful!

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I mean, they reduce everything to a kind of sentimental, mawkish gibberish.

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Now, Les Mis is celebrating its 25th birthday with the largest of the production of the show

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at London's O2 Arena, a massive concert featuring more than 400 performers.

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-Yeah, but, no, but...

-Little Britain star Matt Lucas,

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one of Les Mis's biggest fans, has been invited to fulfil a lifelong dream by performing in the show.

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My mum loves Les Miserables as much as I do.

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Aside from being in Coronation Street, this is about the best present I can give her.

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But Matt will be the only performer on stage it never to have been in the show before.

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-This will be the ultimate test of his performing skills.

-What?

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What's that? Start when I like?

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-Right, I was...

-You were waiting for me, I was waiting for you!

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This is the story of how Les Miserables took over the world

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and how Matt Lucas got to live out the dream of dreams.

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Oh, my word!

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Oh, no!

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Do you know that this is actually Cameron Mackintosh's office?

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Look at the ceiling. Look at that. It's pretty grand, isn't it?

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Look, Cameron Mackintosh knows Christopher Biggins.

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Look. This is pretty cool. Seriously.

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Cameron Mackintosh and Lionel Bart,

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that genuinely is rather magical.

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You can't see it,

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but there's also Cameron with Colonel Gaddafi round there. LAUGHTER

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# Ah-ah-ah-ah

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# Ah-ah-ah-ah

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# Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah... #

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As a child, I fell in love with musicals.

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My parents took me

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and a friend to see Oliver when I was five or six.

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I think Ron Moody was in it, actually, at the Albery.

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I was just blown away by it.

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# Eh-eh-eh-eh... #

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'I continued to go and watch shows.

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'My grandmother would take me, my parents would take me.

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'42nd Street with Frankie Vaughan at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, was a favourite.

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It just felt like a safer world to me than the one I was in,

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because I was six years old and my hair fell out

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and I'm atopic, so I had asthma and eczema, all that sort of stuff.

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For me, it was a real refuge, the world of musicals, long before

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I knew I was gay, actually, because there is this correlation

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between being gay and loving musicals, I'm not quite sure why.

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But maybe that was my coming out.

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I first became aware off Les Mis when it was on in its original production at the Barbican,

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because my mum went to see it and she came home crying and she said,

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"I've seen this marvellous show," and she was raving about it.

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For my 13th birthday, I was taken along with family and friends

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to see the show. And I loved it.

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From that moment on, it has been my favourite musical.

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I think I'm going to have to carry you up.

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I am an enormous admirer of Matt's skill at creating, then sticking to a character, whatever it is.

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But when he first mentioned

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that Les Miserables had been a really important milestone

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in his decision to become a performer,

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I said, "Let's do a little bit of work."

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Righty-ho. No time like the old present. Oh!

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I told him what a fan I was of Les Miserables and he said, "Why don't you play Thenardier?"

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As one of just two comedy characters in the show,

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the role of the unscrupulous innkeeper Thenardier

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is perfect for Matt to play.

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But I've never had that time clear in my schedule to come and do it.

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So when the opportunity came to do a shorter run here at the O2,

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I wrote him letter after letter

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and said, "You've got to let me do this, please."

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And he very kindly wasn't able to find anyone else.

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Matt Lucas will be joining a show that's become a phenomenon,

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with its universal story of revolution, love and redemption.

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# I had a dream my life would be... #

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For 25 years, Les Mis has entertained audiences across the world

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with its infectious songs and unforgettable staging.

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# Everybody bless the landlord

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# Everybody bless his spouse... #

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It's a success story that no-one could have envisaged when the musical was first conceived

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more than 30 years ago.

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# ..more. #

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The story starts in 1970s Paris, with two young Frenchmen.

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One was a songwriter, the other a music publisher.

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They shared a mutual passion for one thing in particular -

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the world of music theatre.

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We used to travel and to watch musicals in England.

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Once we went to Broadway to see a musical in the '70s.

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One day, Alain saw in New York Jesus Christ Superstar

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and you realise that two guys like Andrew and Tim,

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being pop song writers, managed to put on stage a musical.

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They were reintroducing an operatic form to the musical

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because they were writing through sung operas,

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which is what Jesus Christ Superstar was. And that spoke to me.

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Alain came back to Paris and told me, "Why don't we try to do

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"the same thing with the 1789 French Revolution?"

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# Francaise

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# Francaise

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# La revolution de la liberte

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# Citoyens

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# La Bastille est tombee... #

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Claude-Michel and Alain had written a great rock opera years before Les Miserables

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called La Revolution Francaise,

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which is a musical theatre version

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of the whole of the French Revolution.

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# Lutte sans pitie

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# Pour sa liberte... #

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You think Les Miserables was ambitious, boy!

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Definitely, Alain and me were caught by the virus of musical shows on stage.

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Without having any culture of musicals.

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# Consider yourself at home... #

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Years before they were destined to meet, Alain Boublil

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found himself seeing Cameron Mackintosh's revival of Oliver in London.

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It made him think of a young boy from the story of Les Miserables.

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I was enjoying immensely this musical, until the Artful Dodger suddenly started to disturb my mind

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and that's the minute I remember thinking of Gavroche.

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And from there on, of the whole novel.

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Victor Hugo was a great political figure,

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an artistic figure in 19th-century France.

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He grew in stature all through his career

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until he really became the father of the nation.

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You don't have one town in France without a Victor Hugo Street,

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Rue Victor Hugo, or Avenue Victor Hugo in all the French towns.

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His works are very remarkable because they tell thumping good stories on the one hand

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and they tell an extraordinary number of truths about French history on the other.

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And it's that mixture of history and romance that makes them so powerful.

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It's about all the big words -

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redemption, truth, forgiveness.

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It's about two strong men facing each other,

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two men of equal moral strength and certainty.

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The hero of Les Miserables is the ex-convict Jean Valjean. He jumps parole, changes his name

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and becomes a town mayor. But he's pursued relentlessly by his nemesis, the self-righteous Inspector Javert.

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Valjean's journey takes him to 1830s Paris, amidst the destitute and the students of the June Rebellion.

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As he goes through his life, he learns the value of love.

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And all the other things that are wrapped up in the story

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are nowhere near as important as that central idea.

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We spent a two years between '78 and 1980 to write the show.

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I did a demo tape of the show with me at the piano singing every part and the tape is still over there.

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# La journee est finie 14 heures a la peine

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# Le nez sur l'etabli 14 heures a la chaine

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# C'est fini, ca recommence

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# Dans la vie, nous les femmes on a la chance

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# D'avoir un deuxieme patron a la maison... #

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And during several months, nobody was interested by it.

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Nobody. They thought Les Miserables as a musical was irrelevant,

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that musicals were not working in France.

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After much persistence, in September 1980, Boublil and Schonberg finally managed

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to get their new French musical off the ground in Paris.

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And Les Miserables was born.

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# La journee est finie 14 heures a la peine

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# Le nez sur l'etabli 14 heures a la chaine

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# C'est fini, ca recommence

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# Dans la vie, nous les femmes on a la chance

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# D'avoir un deuxieme patron a la maison

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# Que l'on sert en silence... #

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The French have never really embraced musicals and indeed,

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when they premiered Les Mis in 1980

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as an arena stage production,

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it was a success and an album but it didn't have a long life.

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It completely vanished.

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# On ne peut que s'aimer bien

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# Pour mettre un peu d'azur dans notre enfer

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# Et pouvoir encore sourire

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# Continuer a vivre... #

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LOUD PIANO AND MAN SINGING

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I have been in one musical before called Taboo, which is Boy George's musical.

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I finished in Taboo early in 2002, so eight-and-a-half years ago,

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and I haven't really done much singing since,

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apart from Shooting Stars.

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# Baked potato changed my life

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# Baked potato showed me the way... #

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One of the songs that I'm most fond of is the Baked Potato Song.

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# B-A-K-E-D P-O-T-A-T-O

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# Baked potato! #

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Yeah! Baked potato!

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I have performed in front of large audiences before, but never under the pretence of being a singer.

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More of being a comedian.

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So I'm pretty nervous.

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It was in October 1982, just after I'd opened Cats on Broadway,

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and a Hungarian director, Peter Farago,

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walked into my office and said to me, "Look, I'd like to talk to you about Les Miserables.

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"I've got a concept album, a French concept album, of the show that was done in Paris

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"in 1980, and I'd be really interested for you to look at it."

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And I put it on, and by the opening... I was tingling, by the second and third track.

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There was just something extraordinary about it.

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# La misere enfante la detresse

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# Bien des vices et toutes les faiblesses... #

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Suddenly we had a phone call from London that a guy called Cameron Mackintosh,

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who had been producing Oliver! and Cats wanted to meet us.

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I said I wanted to rebuild it with them and take them on a journey

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and find the collaborators that could actually turn it into

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a proper musical that anyone who'd never read Les Miserables would be able to understand.

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To find the people who would create the new Les Mis, Cameron Mackintosh turned to

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a trusted collaborator who'd recently staged another 19th-century tale - the director Trevor Nunn.

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Not only had I worked with Trevor on Cats, but in the meantime I had

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obviously seen Nicholas Nickleby, which was a brilliant piece.

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Of course, people said,

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"You can't possibly do a musical with "miserable" in the title.

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"There is no such thing!

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"What are you saying?!

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"You're asking everybody to pay their money and come and have a miserable experience.

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"It's intolerable, you can't do that."

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On the face of it, Les Miserables is

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a very bad idea as the book of a musical.

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Just the title alone, Les Miserables - it sounds awful, doesn't it?

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And it's huge. It's 1,500 pages long. And it's in French.

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New words in English were written by the acclaimed poet James Fenton, but in time,

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the team realised that someone more steeped in song lyrics was required

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for this Herculean task.

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Fortunately, there was just the man for the job. His credits included writing the words of a TV theme tune

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for another Frenchman that went on to become a worldwide hit.

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# She may be the face I can't forget

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# A trace of pleasure and regret... #

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When I was brought in to Les Miserables in January '85,

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a lot of work had already been done on it.

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For six months, we laboured in my flat in Basil Street.

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We were working like dogs.

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Because we have been reshaping and rewriting the show until the previews.

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I felt very often that I was going to have to disappoint my collaborators and friends

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because the work had not been done in that time.

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The cast was only handed the first act when they gathered together on August 1st.

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Some of the key songs had not yet been written.

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A song like Bring Him Home had not even been conceived when rehearsals began.

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When it came to casting the show, the first challenge was to find the star role, Jean Valjean.

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The directors needed someone with stature, stamina and the best voice in the West End.

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Colm Wilkinson suddenly came into the frame.

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There was something otherworldly about him, there was a life experience in him.

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# When the feeling hit me

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# Yet I had to move along

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# You said, "You were right, I guess

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# "You must sing your song"

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# And a man is born to do one thing

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# And I was born to sing... #

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Trevor Nunn said, "We need a guy who looks like a convict,

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"can carry a guy on his shoulders and sing like an angel,"

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and he says, "That's Colm Wilkinson!"

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And he came to see us at the New London, where the Cats set was,

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and moment he picked up these songs, we knew we'd found our Jean Valjean.

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# Take an eye for an eye

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# Turn your heart into stone

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# This is all I have lived for

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# This is all I have known... #

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# A heart full of love... #

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I'd heard about Michael Ball from friends, and I trotted up to Manchester,

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to the Opera House, to see him play Frederick in a tour of Pirates Of Penzance, opposite Bonnie Langford.

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We went to a matinee, and at the end of the matinee, I went back to meet him.

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I said, "You've got to come and play Marius."

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The first day of rehearsal, Trevor asked if everybody had

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read the book, and everybody put their hands up,

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except for me. I was sitting next to Michael Ball.

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He put his hand up. And he was gorgeous, as well.

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He was so gorgeous in those days, and Michael, you still are gorgeous,

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but he was absolutely so handsome, giggly, little dimples.

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I'd had two ambitions when I left drama school. I wanted to

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work for the RSC, I wanted to be in Coronation Street.

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While I was doing Pirates in Manchester, I got two episodes of Coronation Street. Result!

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Two weeks later, I'd got my audition and got into Les Mis at the RSC.

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So as far as I'm concerned, I was thrilled.

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I'd never done a big musical before.

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I'd done Poppy at the RSC a couple of years before,

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I'd done Kiss Me, Kate in rep,

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I'd a lot of shows that required music and singing, but I'd never done a big musical like this before.

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The first week was generally improvisation and games.

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We had to be cartoon characters.

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I played Woody Woodpecker, so I don't quite know what effect that had on my character!

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When we got into rehearsal, the first act was pretty much written,

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except there were two or three major songs that hadn't been written.

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On My Own hadn't been written, Stars hadn't been written, but we didn't even know

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we are going to have a song called Stars at that point. But the second act was almost entirely unwritten.

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It was really only sketched.

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And the second act was written in the first three weeks of rehearsal.

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Everybody knew that it was something very special that we were doing.

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We knew that there was something there that was totally unusual.

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After a year's long slog, on 8th October 1985,

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the show finally opened, at London's Barbican Centre.

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# At the end of the day, you're another day older

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# And that's all you can say for the life of the poor

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# It's a struggle, it's a war

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# And there's nothing that anyone's giving

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# One more day standing about, what is it for?

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# One day less to be living... #

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Tonight at London's Barbican Centre, they're already celebrating the opening of an ambitious new musical,

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which seems certain to offer stiff competition

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to the 12 other musical shows already running in the West End.

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Joan Bakewell is down there,

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covering the first-night celebrations. Joan.

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The performance ended over an hour ago, and the party is now in full swing.

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The music is very simple, and full of instantly-likeable tunes.

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The audience loved it.

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-It was tremendous.

-This is absolutely marvellous.

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One of the best we've ever seen.

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Magnifique!

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'We had a party afterwards, in the Barbican, in the atrium there, and I can remember

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'myself and Becky and Frances being interviewed by Joan Bakewell.'

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I'd never been on telly before!

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And all of us trying to be our best received pronunciation, trying to talk sensibly.

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What do you think are the merits of the piece?

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I think the beauty of it is that it's so unique.

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-I don't think there's anything you can compare it with.

-We love it!

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And then we woke up the next morning, and the reviews are awful!

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Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, is one of those daunting French novels

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that generally comes in two volumes.

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I've had them in the house for 20 years and still haven't read them.

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But I've never seen, till now, any of the attempts made to popularise the book.

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-Well, have they managed it?

-I mean, it gave me a headache, I have to admit.

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I'd have thought that it was impossible to pastiche the music

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of Andrew Lloyd Webber, given that the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is entirely pastiche.

0:21:390:21:44

We are also given an endless sequence of extremely banal lyrics, and songs which seem to be

0:21:440:21:50

specifically arranged not to refer to the drama.

0:21:500:21:53

What these lyrics actually manage to do is an-all purpose bland-out.

0:21:530:21:58

They reduce everything to a kind of sentimental, mawkish gibberish.

0:21:580:22:02

The first reviews were very poor.

0:22:050:22:07

I mean, almost entirely bad. Rather predictably so, because the average

0:22:070:22:11

drama critic in England then, and pretty much the same now,

0:22:110:22:16

they don't really like musicals very much.

0:22:160:22:20

We read in some dailies,

0:22:200:22:22

"What could be worse than a bad musical? A French musical!"

0:22:220:22:28

Cameron used to have a lunch after the opening night, and the lunch of Les Miserables

0:22:280:22:33

after the opening at the Barbican was like attending a funeral.

0:22:330:22:38

It was joyless, and everybody depressed.

0:22:380:22:46

The great Bernie Jacobs, who owned half the theatres in New York at that time,

0:22:460:22:50

came and he said, "My advice to you, gentlemen, is, if you've git a stiff, you bury it."

0:22:500:22:57

We thought that the critics are so bad that we do the run at the Barbican for two months,

0:22:570:23:03

because it was the Barbican, and that's it.

0:23:030:23:06

Cameron Mackintosh had just 24 hours to decide whether to keep Les Mis alive and to transfer it

0:23:080:23:14

into London's West End.

0:23:140:23:16

He'd already paid a substantial deposit on the 1,100-seat Palace Theatre.

0:23:160:23:20

It's like trying to get through to the box office at the Barbican.

0:23:200:23:24

To my surprise, I had to make several attempts, and eventually

0:23:240:23:29

I got through, and the box-office man... I said, "What's been happening?"

0:23:290:23:33

He said, "It's extraordinary.

0:23:330:23:35

"We can't understand it.

0:23:350:23:37

"We've sold 5,000 tickets already.

0:23:370:23:39

"We've never had a rush for tickets in the way that this has happened.

0:23:390:23:43

"And we can't explain it."

0:23:430:23:44

Against all the odds, in December 1985, Les Miserables opened at the Palace.

0:23:480:23:54

It soon became a massive hit, and has been selling out in the West End ever since.

0:23:540:24:00

It was very hard, other than looking at the box-office figures,

0:24:000:24:03

to work out what your indictor of success might be.

0:24:030:24:06

And in our case, they were the ticket touts who arrived outside your theatre!

0:24:060:24:10

The one problem they had, that everybody had, they couldn't pronounce it.

0:24:100:24:15

I remember one day a particularly large, burly guy,

0:24:150:24:18

who I'd seen outside Cats

0:24:180:24:19

many times before, walked along, going,

0:24:190:24:22

"Lesbian Rebels! Lesbian Rebels! Get your tickets for Lesbian Rebels!"

0:24:220:24:27

I found myself correcting him. After all, I said, "Call it what you like, it's fine!"

0:24:270:24:32

Hello there.

0:24:350:24:36

Can I go to the O2, please? Thanks.

0:24:360:24:38

Today, I'm going for my very first rehearsal for these two Les Miserables concerts.

0:24:380:24:44

It's Saturday and the show's on next Sunday. I did do a couple of days of singing rehearsal, and I had

0:24:440:24:50

one session with Jenny Galloway, who plays Madame Thenardier, and Alfie Boe, who's playing Jean Valjean.

0:24:500:24:56

I haven't had much of a chance to rehearse properly with them. I'm a bit in awe of Jenny.

0:24:560:25:00

She's sort of famous for never having done the same performance twice.

0:25:000:25:04

When I met her, she was very quiet and very reserved,

0:25:040:25:07

and apparently in the rehearsal room, she can be quite quiet,

0:25:070:25:11

but then when she gets out on that stage, all hell breaks lose!

0:25:110:25:15

Thank you very much. What's the damage?

0:25:220:25:24

Matt's first rehearsal is being run by co-directors James Powell and

0:25:240:25:28

Laurence Connor, both of whom have previously performed in the show.

0:25:280:25:32

# Master of the house, quick to catch your eye... #

0:25:320:25:35

'You need quite a lot of stamina and quite a lot of breath to sing this song.

0:25:350:25:39

'And it's very wordy, and I'm always getting the words mixed up.'

0:25:390:25:43

# Everybody's boon companion, gives 'em everything he's got

0:25:430:25:48

# Dirty bunch of geezers

0:25:480:25:50

# Jesus, what a sorry little lot! #

0:25:500:25:52

Ok, good. Good.

0:25:520:25:54

'Monsieur and Madame Thenardier are the comic relief of the show.

0:25:540:25:58

'Much needed, I have to say, because...'

0:25:580:26:01

Phew! Oh, it's depressing!

0:26:010:26:04

Oh, it's bleak!

0:26:040:26:05

'I think you're quite grateful when they come on.'

0:26:050:26:08

-What's going on? Going all right?

-Look!

-I'll have a look.

0:26:080:26:15

# My band of soaks, my den of dissolutes... #

0:26:190:26:21

Well, Matt's got this great anarchy, which I find really interesting.

0:26:210:26:26

Bit of a drunken swagger here.

0:26:260:26:28

And he has a completely different take on it. And he's Matt Lucas,

0:26:280:26:32

we wanted to see a little bit of that.

0:26:320:26:34

Little girl walks in, pursued by...

0:26:340:26:38

I found her wandering in the woods, very good...

0:26:380:26:40

Today, Matt needs to create his version of Thenardier, and to rehearse the bargain scene, in which

0:26:400:26:46

he and his greedy wife take money from Jean Valjean in exchange for giving away the orphan, Cosette.

0:26:460:26:53

"This is my girl." Do you know what I mean? To really try and...

0:26:530:26:57

-Face in to...

-Yeah...

0:26:570:26:58

I've got to link myself with her in order to justify getting all this money.

0:27:010:27:05

# Beggar at the feast, master of the dance

0:27:060:27:09

# Life is easy pickings if you grabs your chance

0:27:090:27:12

# Everywhere you go, law-abiding folk

0:27:120:27:14

# Doing what is decent, but they're mostly broke... #

0:27:140:27:17

'What I think this musical really has... Every song has a soaring, rousing melody,'

0:27:170:27:25

the most delightful, catchy tunes.

0:27:250:27:27

They lyrics are emotive without being sentimental,

0:27:270:27:32

and intelligent and witty, but without taking you out of the show.

0:27:320:27:38

I really don't think any musical has come along in the last 25 years to topple it.

0:27:380:27:44

# I dreamed a dream in time gone by

0:27:510:27:56

# When hope was high and life worth living... #

0:27:580:28:03

I wrote it, of course, for French lyrics,

0:28:030:28:07

and we used for the start of the song

0:28:070:28:11

what Victor Hugo had written in his book, "J'avais reve de notre vie."

0:28:110:28:17

# Then I was young and unafraid

0:28:170:28:22

# And dreams were made and used and wasted

0:28:230:28:28

# There was no ransom to be paid

0:28:300:28:34

# No song unsung, no wine untasted... #

0:28:360:28:42

The tragic thing is, it's not a song sung by an old person

0:28:420:28:49

about the dreams of their youth.

0:28:490:28:52

It's sung by a very young person,

0:28:520:28:55

about the fact that her life is over all too soon.

0:28:550:29:00

# He slept a summer by my side

0:29:000:29:05

# He filled my days with endless wonder

0:29:060:29:11

# He took my childhood in his stride

0:29:130:29:18

# But he was gone when autumn came... #

0:29:180:29:23

# Bring him home

0:29:240:29:29

# Bring him home

0:29:290:29:33

# Bring him home... #

0:29:330:29:37

We asked Claude-Michel

0:29:370:29:38

to go away and write a song for Jean Valjean. More specifically, to write a song for Colm Wilkinson.

0:29:380:29:45

# If God had granted me a son

0:29:450:29:49

# The summers die one by one

0:29:490:29:53

# How soon they fly on and on

0:29:530:29:58

# And I am old and will be gone... #

0:29:580:30:04

'When I heard it being played, and then I heard Herb Kretzmer's lyrics to it,'

0:30:040:30:10

it just was beautiful.

0:30:100:30:13

# Bring him joy

0:30:160:30:20

# He is young

0:30:230:30:26

# He is a only a boy... #

0:30:270:30:31

In the score, it's called the prayer.

0:30:310:30:33

It's a moment for me to really seriously pray on my own.

0:30:330:30:38

And once you get that attitude, that feeling inside your body that

0:30:380:30:42

you are praying, then the song really does carry you.

0:30:420:30:46

# Let him live

0:30:460:30:49

# If I die, let me die

0:30:510:30:58

# Let him live... #

0:31:000:31:04

The big moment in the song is

0:31:060:31:08

the last line...

0:31:080:31:10

# Bring him home... #

0:31:100:31:13

We can all hit it for a little bit. Even quite long. Hit it to the end of the phrase. Try it.

0:31:130:31:19

# Bring him home... #

0:31:190:31:26

And he was doing it without breathing!

0:31:340:31:36

He'd go...

0:31:360:31:37

# Bring him home... #

0:31:370:31:40

You're going, "How can you do that?!"

0:31:400:31:42

APPLAUSE

0:31:450:31:48

When I've had the misfortune of doing it in concert, you go...

0:31:480:31:52

# Bring him ho... #

0:31:520:31:55

VOICE FADES OUT

0:31:550:31:58

# ..ome! #

0:31:580:31:59

Make it look like the mic's got you, "They're too loud! The mic's a little bit..." And you cheat it!

0:31:590:32:04

It's the only way I can do it!

0:32:040:32:06

# One day more

0:32:070:32:09

# Tomorrow you'll be worlds away

0:32:090:32:14

# And yet, with you my world has started... #

0:32:140:32:19

I cannot think of a more rousing end to an act in any musical ever

0:32:190:32:27

than One Day More.

0:32:270:32:29

# One more day with him not caring

0:32:290:32:33

# I was born to be with you

0:32:330:32:36

# What a life I might have known

0:32:360:32:40

# And I swear I will be true... #

0:32:400:32:42

It's what's know in music as a quodlibet, which is

0:32:420:32:45

all the different tunes being brought together

0:32:450:32:49

in a great sort of cauldron of different contrapuntal tunes.

0:32:490:32:54

# One more day before the storm

0:32:540:32:58

# At the barricades of freedom... #

0:32:580:33:05

The entire company's on stage -

0:33:070:33:08

everybody is singing about their own predicament, their own fears, their own hopes, their own needs.

0:33:080:33:16

# The time is now, the day is here

0:33:160:33:20

# One day more

0:33:220:33:23

# One more day to revolution, we will nip it in the bud

0:33:230:33:28

# I will join these little schoolboys

0:33:280:33:31

# They will wet themselves with blood

0:33:310:33:34

# Watch 'em run amuck, catch 'em as they fall... #

0:33:340:33:36

'Everyone thinks their part is the best.

0:33:360:33:39

'But I think Marius is, because he has that final...'

0:33:390:33:42

# My place is here, I fight with you! #

0:33:420:33:46

# My place is here, I fight with you... #

0:33:460:33:52

# One day more, I did not live... #

0:33:520:33:55

And I just love it to bits.

0:33:550:33:58

# Tomorrow we'll discover what our God in Heaven has in store

0:33:580:34:04

# One more dawn

0:34:050:34:07

# One more day

0:34:080:34:11

# One day more! #

0:34:120:34:16

APPLAUSE

0:34:280:34:29

You've got lots of hats -

0:34:420:34:45

you've had different actors with different-sized heads playing this role.

0:34:450:34:48

-So, am I going to be wearing a hat worn already by somebody?

-Yeah.

0:34:480:34:52

Who wore this hat?

0:34:520:34:54

'At the costume fitting, I met Tracy, who had worked on the show since its inception.

0:34:540:35:00

'I looked through some of the costumes that people have worn,

0:35:000:35:04

'and I got very excited at the prospect of wearing

0:35:040:35:06

'Alun Armstrong's hat, because he was the original Thenardier.'

0:35:060:35:10

-All right.

-The buckle goes at the back.

0:35:100:35:12

-No, the other way.

-The other way round? Like that? And it fits!

0:35:120:35:16

There's got to be a wig underneath.

0:35:160:35:18

So, I've got one of the smallest heads in show business.

0:35:180:35:22

Vic Reeves probably has the biggest head, along with Rory Bremner.

0:35:220:35:25

These are the things you learn.

0:35:250:35:27

So, Alun Armstrong, we know, had...

0:35:270:35:31

He doesn't have a small head - he certainly had a small head. So there's a Les Mis fact for you.

0:35:310:35:36

How about that? Now, how many items of clothing are there

0:35:360:35:39

in the production of Les Miserables, roughly?

0:35:390:35:42

-It's over 500.

-Over 500?

0:35:420:35:45

Not including all the understudy stuff, which we have to keep as well.

0:35:450:35:49

For me, the character comes alive when I'm actually performing it, but a big part of it is

0:35:490:35:54

the costume and make-up, so it's really important to get these things right.

0:35:540:36:00

'It was fun to put the costume on, and the hair, as well, with the hat.'

0:36:000:36:04

Here we go.

0:36:040:36:05

'It looks pretty grotesque, which is something I always enjoy playing, grotesque.'

0:36:060:36:12

Brilliant. Love it. Do you need to take pictures?

0:36:120:36:14

They're for my album. We've got two different albums.

0:36:150:36:19

Another British success has

0:36:260:36:27

crossed the Atlantic to a rapturous reception.

0:36:270:36:30

This time it was the Royal Shakespeare Company's

0:36:300:36:33

epic musical Les Miserables,

0:36:330:36:34

which has already been a smash hit in London's West End.

0:36:340:36:37

Broadway is used to British success.

0:36:380:36:40

Cats has been the greatest hit for years, Me And My Girl is doing quite nicely, thank you,

0:36:400:36:45

and now, Les Miserables.

0:36:450:36:47

Right in, please. Don't block the doors, folks.

0:36:470:36:50

Last night it opened, and if the critics are anything

0:36:500:36:53

to go by, it will stay open for some considerable time.

0:36:530:36:56

It became the biggest box-office ticket sale in New York.

0:36:560:37:01

It was absolutely lauded by every critic in New York.

0:37:010:37:06

My last night on Broadway, they were selling tickets for 2,500.

0:37:060:37:11

I said, "Why didn't you tell me, for Christ's sake?

0:37:110:37:14

"I would have got a few and went out and sold them myself!"

0:37:140:37:17

With the Broadway show up and running, in just a year Les Mis was also launched in a handful of

0:37:190:37:24

other countries, including Japan, where it plays to this day.

0:37:240:37:29

The Japanese came to me very shortly after in January and said, "We want to open it

0:37:330:37:39

"in June of the following year," which is incredibly fast

0:37:390:37:42

for the Japanese, I mean literally,

0:37:420:37:44

I said, "Don't you want to wait and see how it goes on Broadway?,"

0:37:440:37:47

and they went, "We don't care what happens to Broadway."

0:37:470:37:50

I met the Japanese translator,

0:37:500:37:53

and he said it takes three words to equal one word in the English version.

0:37:530:37:58

If he was to translate every single word, it would be a nine-hour show.

0:37:580:38:03

I said, "Well, even the hardy Japanese would

0:38:030:38:06

"find that difficult going."

0:38:060:38:08

Then Norway came.

0:38:230:38:25

The National Theatre in Norway said, "We'd like to put it on." I said, "Where?"

0:38:250:38:29

"In the National Theatre." They closed down the National Theatre in Norway

0:38:290:38:34

and ran for 15 months with a reproduction of our show.

0:38:340:38:37

We put it on there. It played to 15% of the entire population of Norway, which is unheard of!

0:38:370:38:45

And the only reason they took it off is because they felt they had to put some Ibsen back on!

0:38:450:38:50

HE SINGS IN NORWEGIAN

0:38:500:38:53

What had struck me about the show is how it evokes these identical responses all around the world.

0:39:010:39:07

Even if I don't understand the language, even if I'm hearing it

0:39:070:39:10

in Swedish or Japanese, there are points in the show where you feel the emotion of the audience.

0:39:100:39:16

# Oh, my friends, my friends, forgive me

0:39:180:39:21

# That I live and you are gone

0:39:240:39:27

# There's a grief that can't be spoken

0:39:290:39:32

# There's a pain, goes on and on... #

0:39:330:39:38

When we see Marius sing Empty Chairs At Empty Tables, he's returned to the ABC Cafe, where he used to meet

0:39:390:39:46

with his friends, all the other students, who believed they could make the world better.

0:39:460:39:50

But this time, he's gone back and he finds himself alone, of course,

0:39:500:39:54

because his friends have died, fighting for what they believe in.

0:39:540:39:57

# Oh, my friends, my friends

0:39:570:40:02

# Don't ask me what your sacrifice was for

0:40:030:40:09

# Empty chairs and empty tables

0:40:120:40:15

# Now my friends will sing

0:40:170:40:24

# No more. #

0:40:240:40:26

'It's an incredibly emotional song.

0:40:310:40:34

'It's where Marius becomes a man, where he loses his idealism, where he realises that the price that

0:40:340:40:40

'one pays fighting for what you believe in is enormous.'

0:40:400:40:44

APPLAUSE

0:40:440:40:45

The O2 arena events in six days' time will involve no fewer than

0:40:520:40:56

400 Les Mis performers past and present,

0:40:560:40:59

the largest-ever production of the show.

0:40:590:41:02

Today, they have been called to rehearse the start of Act I, and to greet a newcomer to their ranks.

0:41:020:41:09

-I'm Gemma.

-Hi, I'm Matt.

-I'm Laura.

-Nice to meet you. Matt.

0:41:090:41:13

-Hello, you all right?

-Kyle.

0:41:130:41:15

Hi.

0:41:150:41:16

Yeah. Yeah, I'm a bit nervous.

0:41:160:41:19

The star role of Jean Valjean will be sung on Sunday at the O2 by the celebrated tenor Alfie Boe.

0:41:190:41:26

Someone like me would never normally get to meet, let alone perform with,

0:41:260:41:30

someone of the magnitude of Alfie Boe. Yesterday, he invited me to come to one of his shows,

0:41:300:41:35

and I said, "Of course," and I said, "Where is it?," and he said, "Oh, it's at the Albert Hall."

0:41:350:41:41

I said, "Wow, who are you singing with?" He said, "Jose Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa."

0:41:410:41:45

So it's pretty amazing to think that I'll be working with the genuine article.

0:41:450:41:50

And wipe.

0:41:510:41:53

# The earth is still, I feel the wind

0:41:580:42:02

# I breathe again... #

0:42:020:42:05

OK. That's good.

0:42:050:42:06

Matt, a while back, said to me,

0:42:090:42:10

"I can't sing, I don't have a voice.

0:42:100:42:13

"It's just characters that I do."

0:42:130:42:15

But I was convinced that he had an ability to sing,

0:42:150:42:18

that he has an ability to sing, by the way

0:42:180:42:21

he does his characters, all the different voices he puts on.

0:42:210:42:26

'You can hear it in those accents that he can hold a tune.'

0:42:260:42:30

# At the end of the day, you're another day older

0:42:300:42:33

# And that's all you can say for the life of the poor

0:42:330:42:37

# It's a struggle, it's a war

0:42:370:42:38

# And there's nothing that anyone's giving

0:42:380:42:40

# One more day standing about, what is it for?

0:42:400:42:43

# One day less to be living... #

0:42:440:42:46

Guys, sorry, I'm going to pick on you on the text here, OK?

0:42:460:42:50

At the moment, we're not really giving a story here.

0:42:500:42:53

"At the end of the day, you're another day colder,

0:42:530:42:56

"and that's all you can say for the life of the poor."

0:42:560:42:59

-What is it? "It's a struggle, it's a war, and there's nothing that those

-BLEEP

-are giving." Yeah?

0:42:590:43:05

Really bite into the text. The text is everything. One more time.

0:43:050:43:08

# At the end of the day, there's another day dawning

0:43:080:43:12

# And the sun in the morning is waiting to rise

0:43:130:43:16

# Like the waves crash on the sand

0:43:160:43:17

# Like a storm that'll break any second

0:43:170:43:20

# There's a hunger in the land

0:43:200:43:24

# There's going to be hell to pay

0:43:240:43:28

# At the end of the day! #

0:43:280:43:29

Split! Good. Much better, guys.

0:43:290:43:31

As rehearsals continue, Cameron Mackintosh has invited Matt for

0:43:320:43:36

a sneak preview of the enormous set being built in the arena.

0:43:360:43:39

Thank you for letting me be in your show. I'm so thrilled.

0:43:420:43:46

-Look at this.

-Oh, no!

0:43:460:43:48

-I mean, look.

-Oh, my word! How many are we going to be playing to?

0:43:480:43:53

The last figure I heard was about 16,500, in this configuration.

0:43:530:43:59

But it's amazing how good the sightlines are. We've managed to sell absolutely everything.

0:43:590:44:04

Even the matinee, which is the extra show we put on, has now only got a few hundred seats left.

0:44:040:44:10

-So it'll be packed by Sunday.

-What was the budget for this show?

0:44:100:44:13

One of the reasons we're doing two shows on the Sunday is that

0:44:130:44:18

-I knew it would cost about £2 million to stage this one day.

-Really?

0:44:180:44:22

When the first one sold out, we could take about 1.3 on the first concert.

0:44:220:44:29

So we knew we had to do a second.

0:44:290:44:31

Luckily, we're going to more than break even, which is a great relief!

0:44:310:44:36

-What's next for Les Miserables?

-The next big adventure is that

0:44:360:44:40

-I've just signed a contract to make the movie, at long last.

-Really?! This is very interesting news!

0:44:400:44:45

-Which I'm doing with Working Title.

-Congratulations.

0:44:450:44:48

The author of the screenplay will be watching one of the performances this weekend.

0:44:480:44:52

So we hope, within the next year or two, that will finally happen.

0:44:520:44:57

By 2009, Les Mis had sold more than 50 million tickets around the globe.

0:45:010:45:06

With its 25th anniversary looming, a new production was unveiled,

0:45:060:45:10

which broke audience records on tour across the UK.

0:45:100:45:15

But no-one could have predicted that the next chapter of this remarkable story would

0:45:150:45:20

come from outside the world of theatre altogether.

0:45:200:45:22

Susan Boyle and Britain's Got Talent was

0:45:260:45:29

one of those extraordinary things, the thunderbolt from leftfield

0:45:290:45:32

that changed the way everybody thought about the show.

0:45:320:45:35

The funny thing is, there's this belief that

0:45:350:45:37

the show's been running for 25 years but there's never been a hit from it.

0:45:370:45:41

But there has now, with I Dreamed A Dream.

0:45:410:45:44

# I dreamed a dream in time gone by

0:45:440:45:49

# When hope was high and life worth living... #

0:45:510:45:55

You didn't expect that today, did you? No!

0:45:550:45:57

# I dreamed that love would never die... #

0:45:570:46:02

Within hours, within days, people were talking about it everywhere in the world.

0:46:040:46:08

It became number-one news.

0:46:080:46:10

Perhaps you're one of the more than five million people who've seen

0:46:100:46:14

the world's newest singing sensation online -

0:46:140:46:16

Susan Boyle, from the hit UK show Britain's Got Talent.

0:46:160:46:19

# And dreams are made and used and wasted... #

0:46:190:46:24

Not many people had connected it with Les Miserables, and the fact that everywhere, they kept saying,

0:46:260:46:33

"This is I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables," and that had a profound effect, and indeed

0:46:330:46:40

hugely increased the appetite of audiences

0:46:400:46:43

that possibly hadn't seen it to come and see it live on stage.

0:46:430:46:47

Two days to go till show day, and at an East London studio,

0:46:510:46:54

the cast is assembling for one of the final rehearsals,

0:46:540:46:58

known in theatre speak as the sitzprobe.

0:46:580:47:00

A sitzprobe has always been a very emotional moment,

0:47:010:47:04

because it's the first time

0:47:040:47:06

when the singers are listening to the orchestration, after spending an average of two months with a piano.

0:47:060:47:12

'But of course, I'm here today just to listen to what's wrong and not to what's gorgeous and beautiful.

0:47:120:47:18

'On Sunday, I will enjoy it.'

0:47:180:47:20

Today, we are still checking what's right and what's wrong.

0:47:200:47:24

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our marvellous orchestra and our marvellous cast.

0:47:240:47:28

Today's historic for yet another reason.

0:47:280:47:30

This is the very first time this new orchestration has ever been sung.

0:47:300:47:34

So I want you all to have a fantastic time.

0:47:340:47:37

# Look down and see the beggars at your feet

0:47:410:47:45

# Look down and show some mercy if you can

0:47:450:47:50

# Look down and see the sweepings of the street

0:47:500:47:55

# Look down, look down upon your fellow man

0:47:550:48:01

# 'Ow do you do? My name's Gavroche

0:48:010:48:03

# These are my people, here's my patch

0:48:030:48:06

# Not much to look at, nothing posh

0:48:060:48:09

# Nothing that you'd call up to scratch... #

0:48:090:48:11

# What to do, what to say?

0:48:150:48:19

# Shall you carry our treasure away?

0:48:190:48:23

# What a gem, what a pearl

0:48:230:48:26

# Beyond rubies is our little girl

0:48:260:48:30

# How can we speak of debt?

0:48:300:48:34

# Let's not haggle for darling Colette... #

0:48:340:48:38

Cosette.

0:48:380:48:39

# Cosette - this one

0:48:390:48:41

# Dear Fantine, gone to rest

0:48:410:48:44

# Have we done for her child what is best?

0:48:450:48:49

# Shared our bread, shared each bone

0:48:490:48:53

# Treated her like she's one of our own

0:48:530:48:56

# Like our own, Monsieur... #

0:48:560:48:58

Go on, get it all out now!

0:49:020:49:05

# Your feelings do you credit, sir

0:49:070:49:10

# And I will ease the parting blow

0:49:100:49:12

# Let us not talk of bargains or bones or greed

0:49:120:49:15

# Now, may I say... #

0:49:150:49:17

-Oh,

-BLEEP

-it!

0:49:170:49:19

We've just run Act I, and it is sounding incredible.

0:49:190:49:23

It's the beefed-up, wonderful orchestration, and the voices,

0:49:230:49:28

there's so many voices... It's amazing. I'm thrilled.

0:49:280:49:31

All well and good, but when it comes to Act II, it looks like Matt still has one or two creases to iron out.

0:49:310:49:37

-What? What's that?

-Start when you like.

0:49:380:49:42

I'll start when I like? Oh, right, cos I was watching...

0:49:420:49:46

You were waiting for me, and I was waiting for you!

0:49:460:49:48

I was seeing this...

0:49:480:49:49

We would have been there all night!

0:49:490:49:51

'I'm very excited and very nervous, as you would imagine.'

0:49:510:49:54

And right now, I'm wrecked.

0:49:540:49:56

I'm wrecked. That emotion has really taken it out of me, yeah.

0:49:560:50:00

Show day at London's O2 arena.

0:50:070:50:10

Today, the largest-ever production of Les Miserables will be mounted twice

0:50:100:50:14

in front of audiences of 18,000,

0:50:140:50:16

and beamed live to more than 1,000 cinemas across the world.

0:50:160:50:21

I'm very excited, actually, because I'm a great Les Mis fan.

0:50:210:50:25

I just absolutely love the story and the production, I love the songs.

0:50:250:50:29

Nothing to beat it. I can't see it coming off!

0:50:290:50:33

The story is absolutely fantastic.

0:50:330:50:36

It has you with tears in your eyes all the way through it!

0:50:360:50:39

We're so, so excited.

0:50:390:50:42

I can't believe the cast. The cast is absolutely fantastic.

0:50:420:50:45

Well done, Sir Cameron!

0:50:450:50:47

Oh, my goodness!

0:50:470:50:49

-Flowers, Matt.

-Really?

-Yeah.

-That's very nice.

0:50:580:51:01

-There's a card.

-Thank you very much.

0:51:010:51:03

-You probably want to open it.

-Yeah, let's have a look.

0:51:030:51:06

Aw! It's from Imelda Marcos! How lovely!

0:51:090:51:13

-Hey, Mr T!

-How are you doing?

0:51:180:51:20

-How are you doing?

-How are you feeling?

0:51:200:51:22

I'm all right. Good to see you.

0:51:220:51:25

I just made the mistake of looking at the screen.

0:51:260:51:29

-Have you looked at the screen?

-Not yet, no.

0:51:290:51:31

-Hang on a minute. Don't turn.

-OK.

0:51:310:51:33

-Look at all those people.

-Oh, my goodness.

0:51:330:51:38

I know, I just had one of those moments!

0:51:380:51:41

-Oh, my word.

-I know.

0:51:410:51:42

Thank you.

0:51:460:51:47

30 seconds, guys.

0:51:500:51:52

Have fun, everybody.

0:51:540:51:55

# At the end of the day there's another day dawning

0:52:170:52:21

# And the sun in the morning is waiting to rise

0:52:210:52:24

# Like the waves crash on the sand

0:52:240:52:26

# Like a storm that'll break any second

0:52:260:52:28

# There's a hunger in the land

0:52:280:52:32

# There's going to be hell to pay

0:52:320:52:35

# At the end of the day! #

0:52:350:52:36

# He slept a summer by my side

0:52:360:52:43

# He filled my days with endless wonder

0:52:430:52:47

# He took my childhood in his stride

0:52:490:52:53

# But he was gone when autumn came... #

0:52:550:52:59

# Who am I?

0:53:020:53:04

# I'm Jean Valjean

0:53:040:53:07

# And so Javert, you see it's true

0:53:090:53:12

# This man bears no more guilt than you

0:53:120:53:17

# Who am I?

0:53:180:53:21

# 24601! #

0:53:220:53:26

# Dare you talk to me of crime

0:53:320:53:35

# And the price you've had to pay

0:53:350:53:37

# Every man is born in sin

0:53:370:53:40

# Every man must choose his way

0:53:400:53:43

# You know nothing of Javert

0:53:430:53:45

# I was born inside a jail

0:53:450:53:47

# I was born with scum like you

0:53:470:53:50

# I am from the gutter too! #

0:53:500:53:53

APPLAUSE

0:53:570:53:58

Thank you. Nice kiss, mate!

0:54:060:54:07

# Aren't any floors for me to sweep

0:54:070:54:10

# Not in my castle on a cloud... #

0:54:120:54:15

APPLAUSE

0:54:200:54:22

Oh, shit!

0:54:270:54:29

# Please do not send me out alone

0:54:330:54:36

# Not in the darkness on my own... #

0:54:370:54:41

Enough of that!

0:54:410:54:42

# Or I'll forget to be nice

0:54:420:54:45

# You heard me ask for something, and I never ask twice

0:54:460:54:51

APPLAUSE

0:55:030:55:04

# My band of soaks

0:55:100:55:12

# My den of dissolutes

0:55:120:55:15

# My dirty jokes

0:55:150:55:17

# My always pissed as newts

0:55:170:55:18

# My sons of whores

0:55:180:55:20

# Spend their lives in my inn

0:55:200:55:23

# Homing pigeons homing in

0:55:230:55:27

# They fly through my doors

0:55:270:55:32

# And their money's as good as yours

0:55:320:55:36

# Welcome, Monsieur... #

0:55:390:55:41

'It's been one of the most challenging, but exciting, jobs I've had.

0:55:410:55:45

'Les Mis has always been a part of my life,

0:55:450:55:48

'but now I'm a part of its life, and I feel very lucky to have had that opportunity.'

0:55:480:55:54

# Seldom do you see honest men like me

0:55:550:56:01

# A gent of good intent who's content to be

0:56:010:56:08

# Master of the house, doling out the charm

0:56:080:56:10

# Ready with a handshake and an open palm

0:56:100:56:13

# Tells a saucy tale, creates a little stir

0:56:130:56:16

# Customers appreciate a bon viveur

0:56:160:56:19

# There to do a friend a favour

0:56:190:56:22

# Doesn't cost me to be nice

0:56:220:56:24

# But nothing gets you nothing

0:56:240:56:26

# Everything has got a little price... #

0:56:260:56:29

He has a masterful sense of timing.

0:56:290:56:32

He's a natural clown.

0:56:320:56:34

You can feel the tears behind the wax, and I think he is

0:56:340:56:39

one of the better Thenardiers we've had over the years.

0:56:390:56:42

# Everybody bless the landlord

0:56:420:56:45

# Everybody bless his spouse

0:56:450:56:47

# Everybody raise a glass

0:56:470:56:50

# Raise it up the master's arse

0:56:500:56:54

# Everybody raise a glass to the master of the house! #

0:56:540:56:57

APPLAUSE

0:57:020:57:04

For 25 years, Les Miserables has been mesmerising audiences around the world.

0:57:200:57:26

Now, with a capacity audience at the O2, and with the show still playing in eight different cities,

0:57:260:57:31

one might wonder how a musical that so nearly never happened has come so far.

0:57:310:57:39

# For the wretched of the earth

0:57:390:57:41

# There is a flame that never dies... #

0:57:410:57:44

Something about that show is larger than life, touching people everywhere in the same way.

0:57:440:57:51

Oddly enough, I predicted 25 years ago that Les Miserables would run for 30 years!

0:57:510:57:58

Let's see if I'm right!

0:57:580:58:00

It broke the mould, and I think it continues to do so.

0:58:000:58:04

It's always got something relevant to say to every audience.

0:58:040:58:09

As long as people continue to love the music and as long as that story has

0:58:130:58:19

a resonance for people, they're going to want to go on seeing it.

0:58:190:58:22

It will be the one show of mine that will be done for evermore as long as anyone goes to the theatre.

0:58:240:58:29

# Will you join in our crusade?

0:58:310:58:34

# Who will be strong and stand with me?

0:58:340:58:36

# Somewhere beyond the barricade

0:58:360:58:39

# Is there a world you long to see?

0:58:390:58:42

# Do you hear the people sing?

0:58:420:58:44

# Say, do you hear the distant drums?

0:58:440:58:47

# It's the future that they bring

0:58:470:58:51

# When tomorrow comes

0:58:510:58:53

# Tomorrow comes! #

0:59:020:59:06

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:59:160:59:18

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:59:310:59:33

E-mail [email protected]

0:59:330:59:36

Les Miserables is the world's best-loved musical. It has been seen by 57 million people and in 2010 celebrated its 25th anniversary with its two largest ever productions at London's O2 Arena. Matt Lucas, a lifelong fan of 'Les Mis', was invited to fulfil his dream of performing in these shows alongside more than 300 stalwarts from previous productions.

This documentary tells the story of a musical that many thought would fail, but which became a worldwide phenomenon with unforgettable songs like I Dreamed A Dream. We follow Matt as he prepares for the performance of a lifetime, we hear from those involved with the show's creation, including Cameron Mackintosh and Michael Ball, and of course we enjoy wonderful moments from the show itself.


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