The West End's two longest still-running musicals - Boublil and Schonberg's Les Miserables and Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, both produced by Cameron Mackintosh - celebrate birthday milestones this week. Les Mis, at the Palace Theatre, turns 17 tomorrow (Tuesday 8 October 2002) while, just a year and a day behind, Phantom, at Her Majesty's, turns 16 on Wednesday (9 October).

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Mis has been seen worldwide by over 47 million people in more than 33 countries and in 20 languages. Originally adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the musical is written by Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg.

Though the Broadway production of Les Miserables last week confirmed that it would close in March 2003, three days after its 16th birthday there, the West End original is now booking to the end of June 2003 and has recently welcomed a high-profile new cast, led by Michael Sterling, Jerome Pradon, Paul Manuel and Rosemary Ashe.

The Phantom of the Opera, which opened at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1986, has recently extended its public booking by two months to 22 February 2003, while groups of 15 or more can book as far ahead as 19 December 2003. In 1999, the Lloyd Webber musical, based on Gaston Leroux's gothic novel about a masked man who falls in love with an ingénue singer at the Pairs Opera House, was named as the 20th century's most successful money-making show, dwarfing even Hollywood rivals like Titanic at the box office. Earlier this year, Phantom received a special Laurence Olivier audience award for most popular long-running West End production.

- by Terri Paddock


TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR £27.50 LES MISERABLES TICKET OFFER, CLICK HERE. OFFER ENDS 19 OCTOBER 2002.