"Les Miserables" bills itself as "The World's Most Popular Musical." And, now that "Cats," the longest running show in Broadway history, is slated to close in June, the "Les Mis" boast may not be overstated. With "Cats" out of the picture, "Les Mis" will be the longest running show that is, well, still running.
When the national touring production opens its two-week run here Tuesday, it will be the fifth time Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel has played the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, one of the smallest theaters this large production visits.
Though Jean Valjean, the nov-el's protagonist, starts out in such impoverished circumstances that he steals a loaf of bread, the musical has done quite well for itself, merci beaucoup.
Here are a few "Les Mis" facts and figures:
* In its present form, "Les Mis" made its world premiere in London in October 1985. Its American premiere took place at Washington's Kennedy Center in December 1986, and it opened on Broadway March 12, 1987. An earlier version made its debut in a Paris arena in 1980.
* Gross box office receipts, worldwide, exceed $1.8 billion.
* Globally, more than 53 million people have seen the show, 25 million in the United States alone.
* Thirty-eight productions have been seen by audiences in 29 countries, where the show has been translated into 18 languages ranging from Finnish to Mauritian Creole. Eleven productions are now playing in cities including Gothenberg, Sweden, and Gyndi, Poland.
* Actor Craig Schulman has played Jean Valjean the longest -- more than 1,900 performances on Broadway, in national tours and in Singapore. Baltimore's Jean Valjean will be Ivan Rutherford, who played the role in the 10th anniversary company on Broadway.
* Valjean's nemesis, Inspector Javert, will be played here by Stephen Bishop, who made his Broadway debut in the role of the innkeeper, Thenardier. He also played Javert in the Toronto production, opposite the original Valjean, Colm Wilkinson.
* The set's central feature, a giant turntable on which the scenes revolve, measures 34 feet in diameter, weighs approximately 10,000 pounds and makes 63 revolutions per performance.
* The barricades built by the student revolutionaries in the second act weigh 12,250 pounds.
* Each performance uses 500 pounds of dry ice and five fog machines.
* The costumes include 45 wigs and 150 pairs of shoes.
* In addition to 36 actors and 18 musicians, the backstage personnel includes 28 crew members and 20 wardrobe staff.
* The correct pronunciation of the title is "Lay Miz-air-RAHB." Among the garbled versions box offices have heard over the years are: "Lost Marbles," "Lay Magazine," "Lee Misery" and "Lace Miserah-blays."
* A common audience misconception about the musical is that it is about the French Revolution. Actually, the plot, which spans nearly two decades, begins 17 years after the revolution's end. The uprising depicted on stage is a student-led insurrection that took place in 1832.
* The show's logo, a picture of the urchin Cosette, who becomes Valjean's ward, is taken from an engraving by Hugo's favorite illustrator, Emile Bayard. Ad campaigns in various touring cities often picture Cosette with a symbol of each city. In Philadelphia, for example, her face has been seen, upside down, as the clapper in the Liberty Bell. In Omaha, Neb., she has peeked out from the middle of a giant ear of corn, and in Grand Rapids, Mich., she paddled a canoe. When the show first came to Baltimore, she wore an Orioles baseball cap.
* Baltimore can hardly claim the record for the most engagements. "Les Mis" has played St. Paul, Minnesota, eight separate times. (Eight states -- Mon Dieu! -- have missed "Les Mis" entirely.)
Where: Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, 25 Hopkins Plaza
When: April 11-23. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m. (7:30 p.m. April 16); matinees 2 p.m. Saturdays (and Friday, April 21), 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23