26-year-old musical resurges on West End, road
LONDON — Now in its 26th year, the original London production of “Les Miserables” is the world’s longest runner — and currently carries its largest box office advance ever at £5 million ($8.2 million), an astonishing figure for a show of that vintage.Meanwhile, the three-year worldwide tour of the new version is playing to auds between 97% and 105% of capacity across the U.S., with further incarnations set for Spain, Japan, South America and South Africa. Later this year, Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) will direct the movie version from a script by William Nicholson. The “Les Miz” resurgence is a surprise even to the show’s producer, Cameron Mackintosh. Seven years ago, he moved the production down Shaftesbury Avenue from the Palace Theater to the smaller Queen’s Theater, and for the first few years its meager profit was largely due to lower rent and creatives pooling royalties. He admits he could have pulled the plug. But the musical got traction and began to build. “It was partly the 21st anniversary, partly Susan Boyle,” he says, crediting her version of one of the show’s big hits. And then there was the broadcast of the recent 25th anni concert, which didn’t only help the Mackintosh coffers. After its showing, pledges to PBS rose by 30%.