Beginning previews March 1, “Les Miserables” represents a notable test case. Unlike prior Broadway productions that have all gotten box office boosts from even mediocre pic adaptations — everything from Oscar winner “Chicago” to cineplex flops “Rent” and “The Phantom of the Opera” — “Les Miz” wasn’t actually running on the Main Stem when the movie hit the bigscreen in late 2012. Is it now too late to expect a Broadway halo effect from a film released more than a year ago?
Maybe not. Despite the fact that the last Broadway revival of “Les Miz” lasted a disappointing 14 months, advance sales for the new production — in the Imperial, the same Broadway house in which the 80s megamusical played most of its original 13-year run — are said to be remarkably strong.
Cameron Mackintosh, the Brit producer who backed not only the original London and Broadway productions of “Les Miz” but also the prior and current New York revivals, has a couple of theories about it.
“There was a point during the life of ‘Les Miz’ when I thought maybe a fabulous end is something to think about,” Mackintosh said. “But then a few things happened.”
First on his list is Susan Boyle, whose headturning perf on “Britain’s Got Talent” went viral and made a nouveau standard out of “Les Miz” song “I Dreamed a Dream.” That was in 2009, more than a year after the first Rialto revival closed.
Then came the launch of the 25th anniversary tour, a new staging, from a mostly new team of directors and designers, that eschews the massive turntable that’s become so iconically linked to “Les Miz” that it spawned a Forbidden Broadway spoof that’s legendary among Gotham legiters.
The well-received new production premiered in a 2009 U.K. tour that was followed by a 2010 U.S. road incarnation. Also in 2010, a starry anniversary concert in London gave another publicity boost to the property.
According to Mackintosh, all this together added momentum to the sales of the original, still-running West End production of “Les Miserables,” which has been playing the Queens Theater since 2004 (after a nearly 20-year stint at the Palace).
Mackintosh credits the revitalized success of the new touring production with helping to prod the greenlight of the long-in-gestation film adaptation, too.
“On the West End, we didn’t get as big a box office lift from the ‘Les Miz’ film as ‘Phantom’ did, because ‘Phantom’ hadn’t already had the benefit of things like Susan Boyle and the ‘Les Miz’ tour,” Mackintosh said. “The ‘Les Miz’ movie did us good, but we were already at a very high level at the Queens.”
As for how the property’s rise in prominence over the last five years will factor into sales for the new Broadway incarnation, that answer won’t become clear until the weekly sales figures start to roll in.
At least one thing is certain about the new production, which brings to Broadway the 25th anniversary staging sans familiar turntable. “They’ll have to rewrite the jokes for Forbidden Broadway,” Mackintosh quips.