Liam Rudden: Les Miserables is still storming the box office

Cameron Mackintosh's Les Mis�rables
Cameron Mackintosh's Les Mis�rables
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CAN you hear the people sing? Not yet maybe, but I’m willing to bet my last red flag that I’m not the only one looking forward to the return of Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Misérables to the Capital.

Tickets for next year’s run at the Festival Theatre went on general release this week and already the buzz about the production is palpable, and it’s not just fans of the musical that can’t wait to see it again.

63-year-old writer and composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, who in 1978 conceived the idea with Alain Boublil for a stage musical version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, too is looking forward to coming back to the city.

He says, “I have visited Edinburgh several times over the years, and was last there in January for Miss Saigon. I certainly hope to come back for the opening of Les Misérables. “

Based on Hugo’s classic novel, Boublil and Schönberg’s magnificent score includes I Dreamed a Dream, Stars, Bring Him Home and Do You Hear the People Sing?, along with many more.

Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, it tells the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless Javert for breaking his parole.

When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

“I remember when the show first really took off and we were saying ‘Fight to get a ticket’,” recalls Schönberg, “Now, with our ability to tour a show that is as good in quality [as the West End or Broadway], we are making it accessible to everyone.

“It’s very important to me and it’s very important to Cameron Mackintosh as the show’s producer to take the show out to the people. That’s the ultimate goal of art, to make it available to everyone.”

Like most big musicals, when Les Mis first opened at the Palace Theatre in 1985, the only way to see it was to travel to London.

I remember the trip well, my first West End show and what an experience it was; the revolving stage, stellar cast, running time well inexcess of three hours (which flew by) and of course Schönberg and Boublil’s soaring, mesmeric music.

Today, thanks to the advances in stage technology these epic productions can and do tour, indeed the original production of Les Mis stopped off at The Playhouse in 1993.

Next year, at The Festival Theatre it’s the 25th Anniversary production that returns, having last played here in 2009.

“I am thrilled modern audiences have embraced this production as Les Mis for the 21st century, it is even more spectacular than the original,” says Cameron Mackintosh.

“I’m very proud this extraordinary musical remains as fresh and exciting as ever, and that people are still storming the barricades for a ticket.”

He’s not wrong, at the Festival Theatre, a whopping 17,000 tickets have sold since it went on general sale at the start of the week.