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Publication - Dr Bradley Stephens

    ‘Les Misérables' from Epic Novel to Epic Musical


    Stephens, B & Grossman, KM, 2017, ‘‘Les Misérables' from Epic Novel to Epic Musical’. in: Olaf Jubin, Robert Gordon (eds) The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical. Oxford University Press, Oxford


    One of Britain’s most profitable musical exports, 'Les Misérables' has captivated audiences worldwide with its mix of stirring spectacle and high emotion. Critical response has, however, been deeply divided. Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s “megamusical” has often been accused of trivialising the mammoth nineteenth-century novel by Victor Hugo on which it is based, reducing Hugo’s epic of social injustice to populist sentimentalism. To challenge the cliché of the inferiority of adaptations and the bias toward “high art” that such criticism generates, this essay specifies the relationship between Hugo’s global bestseller and the world’s longest-running musical. This connection has received much less scholarly attention than the fame of each work would suggest. By exploring their affiliation within the contexts of both Hugo’s Romanticism and the libretto’s collaborative development from Paris to London, a revealing likeness is identified that clearly underpins the success of the “show of shows.”

    Full details in the University publications repository