Now, nearly 30 years later, the Tony Award-winning musical is still a box-office draw and has been performed by professional, semi-professional, community and school theatres around the world. In addition, Broadway World recently announced the musical would return to the Great White Way next year.
The story, set during the French Revolution, is about ex-convict Jean Valjean's redemption.
For three Park City-area girls, Zoe Heiden, Maggie Scott and her sister Abigail, the musical means so much more. All three have landed roles in the Pioneer Theatre Company production that opens Friday, May 3.
Heiden and Maggie Scott have been double cast as Little Cosette and Abigail Scott will take the stage as the role of Little Eponine. The three talked with The Park Record about how these roles have helped them develop artistically and personally and what the musical means to them.
Zoe Heiden, 11, a student at Weilenmann School of Discovery
Heiden got involved with theatre because she liked singing, and has appeared in the Egyptian Theatre YouTheatre productions of "Guys and Dolls" and "Seussical Jr."
She tried out for PTC's "Les Miserables" last August after her mother, Karen, found an audition noticed in the newspaper.
Heiden said she is excited to part of the production because she loves the themes of the musical.
"'Les Mis' is a heart-breaking story and can be sad and happy at the same time," she said. "You see that in the character of Cosette."
Cosette has a dream to find that proverbial castle in the sky, but has essentially become a slave to the Thenardiers, a family Cosette's mother left her with to be taken care of.
The Thenardiers exploit the child, who works for the family as a maid at their inn, until she is rescued by Jean Valjean, Heiden said.
"Even though things are hard, she's so obedient and kind through it all," Heiden said. "She is so pure and does what ever people ask her to do. And she is always hoping to get to that castle in the clouds.
"I like that she is so innocent, and when I play that part of her, I feel like I'm right on the spot and in that right place," she said. "I think there is a little bit of me in Cosette, because at school, I'm not really a troublemaker, but I'm one of the shy ones who sits in the back."
Heiden has two favorite scenes in the production, one that she's in and another that she has seen from the audience.
"The one I'm in is where Jean Valjean buys and frees Cosette from the Thenardiers," she said. "I like it because Cosette is so happy when she finally gets to leave the Thenardiers, even though they are angry with her."
The other scene is the musical's centerpiece, "The People's Song."
"This is where all the beggars and the slaves try to regain their lives," Heiden said. "I love the music, and it touches my heart, because all these people are trying to rise out of their situations."
The actress said these scenes are why she enjoys acting.
"(A production like this) always brings out the best you can be, even if you're playing a bad person," she said. "Sometimes the scheduling can be hard, because there are really long hours, but it's all worth it. Everyone in the cast and crew for the play has been so supportive, and my experience has made me love the musical so much more.
Abigail Scott, 10, a student Soldier Hollow Charter School
Playing Little Eponine, the spoiled daughter of the Thenardiers, is a fun role for Abigail Scott, because she gets to expand her skills.
"Eponine grows up with Cosette, and is so unkind to her," Scott said. "She's kind of like Cosette's little snotty sister who thinks she can do whatever she wants, but acts like perfect little angel around other people."
Scott said she likes the role because it's different than others she has performed.
"I haven't played many mean characters, but now I have and I found that these roles are actually fun," she explained. "Another reason I Iove playing Eponine is because of who she becomes in the play."
Another fun aspect about the role for Scott is having her older sister Maggie play Cosette.
"It helps a little bit for me to get into the role," Scott said with a giggle. "But it's still kind of hard because I don't like to be snotty to Maggie."
Scott isn't a stranger to acting. Last winter she appeared in PTC's "A Christmas Carol."
"I played a little girl who lost her mom and I was supposed to be sad," she said. "When I play Eponine, I'm supposed to act like a rich, spoiled girl. So, it's a big difference."
Scott was bitten by the acting bug a few years ago when she saw her sister in another production of "Les Miserables," in South Jordan.
"I thought it was a beautiful story, because it's about a guy who wants to become a better person and does all he can to do that," she said. "I really thought it would be cool if I could be in it, and now I am."
Maggie Scott, 11, a student at Timpanogos Intermediate School
Having her younger sister play Eponine just makes Maggie Scott want to perform better as Cosette.
"I have to rise to the occasion, Scott said. "If she can be this spoiled little brat, I have to become the opposite of her, so the audience can really see the difference.
"So, when Abigail acts that helps me feel my own emotions and lets me react to what she's doing," Scott said. "It is interesting to see her play a mean person, because she's not usually very spoiled. But she's a good actress, so she can be so convincing. So, I need to do some convincing myself."
While the pressure is there, Scott said it's still fun working alongside her sister.
"One of the things that's funny is that there is a time when she has to push me on stage, and I think that's her favorite part of the whole play," Scott said with a laugh.
In addition, Scott says there are some similarities between her and Cosette.
"First of all, she's very hopeful and very sweet and I like to think that I'm like that," Scott said. "Cosette also likes to dream and is very imaginative, and I'm pretty imaginative myself."
Scott's favorite line in the musical is when Jean Valjean says, "To love another person is to see the face of God."
"That really sums up the play," she said. "'Les Mis' is about loving and forgiving others and being kind and caring."
This is the second time Scott has played Cosette in a "Les Miserables" production, but the roles are a little different.
"In the Pioneer show, I have a whole new scene that was cut out of the other one," she said. "But the idea is still the same."
Acting is a craft that Scott would like to continue when she gets older.
"I like being able to go through the journey and emotions that the characters are feeling," she said. "I also like to touch the audience with the message of the story and make a connection."
Pioneer Theatre Company's production of "Les Miserables" will run from May 3 until June 1, at the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East on the University of Utah campus. Curtain Mondays through Thursdays is 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday performances start at 8 p.m. and Saturday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Tickets are available by visiting tickets.pioneertheatre.org.