On 8 October 2006, Les Miserables celebrates its 21st birthday and becomes the world's longest running musical (See News, 2 Aug 2006). To celebrate the occasion, producer Cameron Mackintosh and the BBC have teamed up to produce a specially adapted 75-minute concert version of the show

The current West End cast – featuring John Owen-Jones (as Jean Valjean), Hans Peter Janssens (Javert), Jon Lee (Marius), Sophia Ragavelas (Fantine), Sabrina Aloueche (Eponine), Chris Vincent (Thénardier) and Tracie Bennett (Madame Thénardier) - and the BBC Concert Orchestra will record the concert before a live audience on Friday 15 September 2006 at the Mermaid Theatre. It will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on the show's actual birthday Sunday 8 October.

Once it passes its 21st birthday, Les Miserables, which is currently booking through to December 2007, will break the previous West End record, set four years ago by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats when it closed at the New London Theatre on its 21st birthday (See News, 8 May 2002). The landmark Royal Shakespeare Company production had its first performance on 8 October 1985 at the Barbican Theatre before transferring, care of Mackintosh, to the West End’s Palace Theatre two months later. It ran at the Palace for 18 years and over 7,500 performances before moving down the road to the Queen’s on 3 April 2004 (See News, 21 Nov 2003)

Based on Victor Hugo's humanitarian novel about a persecuted man in 19th-century revolutionary France, Les Miserables has a book by Alain Boublil, music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. It’s directed by Trevor Nunn with John Caird and designed by John Napier.

In May 2003, the original Broadway production of Les Miserables closed following a 16-year run, but just three years later, Cameron Mackintosh is already preparing to revive the Boublil and Schonberg musical, which will reopen at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre this November. Globally, Les Miserables has been seen by over 53 million people in 38 countries and 21 languages.

At the Queen’s, there will also be a special celebratory finale following the Saturday evening performance on 7 October, details of which are due to be announced shortly. A limited number of tickets, priced at £20 and limited to two per person, are available to buy for the BBC recording of the concert version at 3.00pm on 15 September. They can be booked by calling 0870 950 2121.

- by Terri Paddock