Why does this sprawling novel work as a musical? Steyn quotes producer Cameron Mackintosh, the one who took all the risks:
Les Mis works because Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg found the right subject and told it the right way. Whereas most musicals pick the wrong subjects and do them the same old way... Les Mis is the world's most popular musical because Victor Hugo's book is the great universal social novel: it strikes a chord wherever its story is told - Vienna, Osaka, Reykjavik. With canny timing, it snuck under the Iron Curtain just in time for communism's death-throes: in Budapest it was seen as a parable of the 1956 uprising; in Gdynia, Poland, the little urchin girl's tatty tricolour was replaced by the Solidarity flag. And in New York it sells a ton of merchandising.Do you hear the people sing? You still can at the Palace Theatre, London WC2.