Even if you’re never bought a theatre ticket or belted out a show tune, you’ve likely heard of Les Misérables.
It's Victor Hugo's story of an escaped criminal trying to live a moral life during a revolution. (For the record, not the French Revolution. For the somewhat shocking truth about that, drink with me...)
The first version of the musical opens in a Paris sports arena in 1980.
It closes in three months. That’s a fail in musical terms, folks.
And that would have been finí for Les Misérables, except someone "knew a guy" and sent him the album of the now “failed” musical.
Probably with a note that said, "This reminds me of you" or, "I think you'll like this." Who knows, right?
Anyway that "guy" has “connections” at The Royal Shakespeare Company and he convinces them to produce the French flop.
Now the Royal Shakespeare Co. is one of those venerable British institutions that has the power to give anything credibility. Those Brits can put a shine on a thing when they want to.
So, now this thing is starting to get “legs”, as they say.
It opens in London. The verdict:
Two thumbs down. The British critics hate it.
This musical famously asks, "Do you hear the people sing?"
The British public revolts and says, "Hell yes!"
Critics be damned.
and then this happens...
Crowds nickname it Les Miz.
It becomes famed for people going to see more than one performance. (Remember Dirty Dancing? Same thing!)
Tickets are scalped at 4x face value.
It runs for years and years.
Les Miz is nominated for 12 Tony Awards, wins eight, including Best Musical. It's translated into 21 languages and plays in 42 countries.
Have a big fat “Failed” effort.
Connect with a new patron.
Try again and get some really bad reviews and some fans.
Keep putting it out there and connect with new audiences who love what you're putting out there.
In real estate they say: Location. Location. Location.
Adjusted for a virtual world, that's
Visibility. Visibility. Visibility.
Les Miz has cast of rebels but the revolt and attendant barricade are not of the famed French Revolution. In fact this revolution came 40 years later.
The truth will blow your mind.
In Paris in the spring of 1832, a deadly cholera epidemic brings on an economic crisis (I know!)
People gathered to follow the funeral cortège of a dead French General and it morphs into a mob and revolt. Victor Hugo is writing a play in Paris a few blocks from where all this begins. Hearing shots, he goes out to see what's happening and gets trapped in the barricades during the most violent part of the revolt.