Record-breaking West End star John Owen-Jones (pictured), currently starring as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre, will make his Broadway debut when he trades places with Drew Sarich, his counterpart in the New York production of the Boublil and Schonberg musical.

Sarich will make his West End debut at the Queen’s Theatre on 22 October 2007; the next day Owen-Jones will step into his shoes at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre.

Earlier in his career, Owen-Jones broke the record as the youngest ever Jean Valjean when he played the role, at the age of 26, at the musical’s previous West End home, the Palace Theatre. He returned to Les Miserables, then moved to the Queen’s, two years ago. In between, he broke another West End record at Her Majesty’s Theatre where he became the longest-running Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, completing more than 1,400 performances between 2001 and 2005.

Based on Victor Hugo's classic humanitarian novel about a persecuted man, Jean Valjean, 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.

The landmark Royal Shakespeare Company production had its first performance on 8 October 1985 at the Barbican Theatre before transferring, care of Cameron 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).

In May 2003, the original Broadway production of Les Miserables closed following a 16-year run, but just three years later Mackintosh revived the musical at the Broadhurst Theatre, where it opened in November 2006. At that time, Sarich played the role of Grantaire; he took over the role of Jean Valjean this past July. His other Broadway credits include Armand in vampire musical Lestat.

Globally, Les Miserables has been seen by over 55 million people in 38 countries and 21 languages, resulting in 33 cast recordings to date.

- by Terri Paddock