The London production of Les Misérables is the longest running musical in the world, and adaptations have been performed to a total of 60 million people worldwide. It tells a complex tale of love, honour and rebellion in early 19th Century France, focussing on the French peasant Jean Valjean. He has served 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s hungry child, but he breaks his parole to begin his life anew. Javert, a police inspector, mercilessly hunts him on his perilous journey through France. But Valjean is adamant on redeeming himself; he hides out and becomes part of a town community, eventually becoming Mayor. There he is responsible for the downfall of a local woman, Fantine, and promises to care for her daughter Cosette as her dying wish. This decision changes both Valjean’s and Cosette’s lives forever, but Javert is always close on their trail.
The story is told entirely through song, including ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’, On My Own’, and the much loved ‘I Dreamed a Dream’.
8 July 2015
26 March 2016
Matinees: Wednesday and Saturday 2:30pm
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7:30pm
Les Misérables is suitable for children over 7, but does contain themes of violence and sexually suggestive scenes.
Two days after the theatre opened The Stage published a glowing review of the building, praising the colour scheme in particular. ‘The colour scheme of the walls and roof is white and gold, while green is the hue of the carpets, hangings and upholstery, and of the very charming velvet tableau curtain.’
The theatre opened
The Queen’s Theatre was designed by W.G.R. Sprague in an ornate Edwardian style and opened on 8th October 1907. It was a twin to the Hicks Theatre just next door, which is now the Gielgud Theatre. Its first production was the comedic 'The Sugar Bowl' by Madeleine Lucette Ryley, which wasn’t well received and ran for just over 30 performances.
Tango Teas became a hugely popular, if not slightly odd, pastime during the early 1910s. The Queens Theatre hosted regular Tango Teas, where the Stalls seats were removed and replaced with tables and chairs. People had high tea whilst watching professional tango dancers perform on the stage.
Potash and Pelmutter
The Queen's Theatre didn't have any notable shows until 'Potash and Pelmutter' in 1914, which was based on two Jewish comedy characters of the same name. Before then it had mostly relied on the Tango Teas to gain a good reputation in the West End. The production was by Charles Klein and Montague Glass and ran on Broadway for over 400 performances before transferring to London.
The controversial play 'The Fanatics'
Miles Malleson's play 'The Fanatics' played in 1920, when people were still reeling from the brutality of WWI. His play was extremely anti-war and insulted many people who had lost loved ones in the conflict. It was also one of the first prominent plays to discuss marital problems and even sex. Malleson is best remembered for his later appearances as an actor in British comedies during the 1930s and 1940s.
The theatre's famous visitors
The theatre enjoyed a long run of hugely famous visitors during the 1920s and 1930s, including Fred and Adale Astaire, Tallulah Bankhead, Jack Hawkins and Gertrude Lawrence.
Dear Octopus' by Dodie Smith
‘Dear Octopus’ by Dodie Smith opened on 15th September 1938 and ran for 373 performances until September 1939, when the run was forced to a halt because of World War II. Smith was a successful playwright and novelist, penning ‘The Hundred’ and ‘One Dalmations’, ‘I Capture the Castle’ and ‘The Starlight Barking’.
The Blitz damaged the theatre
The theatre was heavily damaged on September 24th 1940 during the World War II blitz. The show on the time was Daphne du Maurier's ‘Rebecca’ with Celia Johnson, Owen Nares and Margaret Rutherford. The façade was totally destroyed and had to be rebuilt, as did the front of house areas and the back of both circle balconies. The theatre remained closed for almost 20 years following the bombing.
It reopened with John Gielgud's 'Ages of Man'
The theatre officially reopened on July the 8th 1959 with John Gielgud's one man show 'Ages of Man'. It features various Shakespeare speeches organised chronologically to show a man’s progression through life, and takes the title from the famous ‘all the world's a stage’ speech from ‘As You Like It.’
The theatre was rebuilt
Westwood, Sons and Partner began rebuilding the theatre 20 years after the bombing. They designed a much more modern frontage and foyer, and again The Stage reported on the rebuild. In their 11th April 1957 they said a 'contemporary design with an all-glass frontage is planned by the architect Bryan Westwood for the rebuilding of the Queen's, Shaftesbury Avenue, which will be London's first post-war theatre construction.’
The theatre became listed
In June 1972 the building was registered as Grade II Listed by English Heritage, owing to its historical and architectural interest.
‘The Hobbit’ ran from 28th November 2001 to 9th February 2002, adapted by Glyn Robbins from J. R. R. Tolkien's treasured novel.
'Contact' the musical
‘Contact’, a unique ‘dance musical’ by Susan Stroman and John Weildman ran between 23rd October 2002 and 10th May 2003. The show arrived at the Queen’s Theatre after winning the 2000 Tony Award for Best Musical, which was controversial because the show doesn’t contain original music or live signing. As a result a new award was introduced the following year for Best Special Theatrical Event.
The Rocky Horror Show
‘The Rocky Horror Show’ ran between 23rd June 2003 and 5th July 2003, starring Jonathan Wilkes and John Stalker.
'Les Miserables' moved to the Queens
Les Misérables, the beloved musical by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, opened on the 12th April 2004 and is the current show at the Queen’s Theatre. It transferred to the Queen’s after running for 18 years at the nearby Palace Theatre. It’s the longest running musical in the world and celebrated its 20th Anniversary on 8th October 2005.