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Theatre / Les Misérables

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Do you hear the people sing? / Singing a song of angry men
It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart / Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start / When tomorrow comes!
Enjolras, "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

The famous musical adaptation of the novel by Victor Hugo. An ever popular choice for schools and drama companies of all levels, this epic show celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010. Originally a French musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, and Jean-Marc Natel, it compressed the plot of the book even more tightly than the book itself did. Then Cameron Mackintosh got his hands on the rights, and Herbert Kretzmer adapted the libretto.

The result was what can only be called a bona fide musical theatre phenomenon. The show opened at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Barbican Theatre in 1985, and has been running without interruption ever since. It debuted on Broadway two years later, where it won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. "Les Mis" is the longest-running major musical in the world, with the West End production alone having played an astounding 10,000+ performances.


Played over fifty-one thousand times in over 347 cities and forty-four different countries around the world, with over seventy official recordings in twenty-two separate languages, Les Misérables has been hailed as the most famous, most popular, most influential, most beloved, and most-performed work of musical theatre ever written.

Word about the long-awaited film version finally getting a release spread quickly when the official trailer came out in November 2012, and the movie debuted on Christmas Day 2012, with wide and international release in January 2013, which included an engagement in IMAX. See Les Misérables (2012).


The musical provides examples of:

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  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Depending on the production.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Thénardier seems to have a lot of trouble remembering Cosette's name, calling her Colette.
  • Adaptation Distillation: As far as attempts at adaptations of the Doorstopper of a book go, this one is probably still one of the most loyal, even if it does cut out a few characters.
    • A very Pragmatic result of the short time frame: Hugo opens the book with a few chapters talking about the Bishop of Digne and his history of generous, selfless acts. Without that preamble, the Bishop's kindness to Valjean is more surprising and meaningful.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Bamatabois in the musical is a customer who makes advances on Fantine, beats her when she refuses, and tells Javert that she attacked him first. In the book, he sees her in public, taunts her and throws a snowball at her, but there's no indication that he was interested in her sexually, and he doesn't report her to the police, but runs away from the scene.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the novel, Fantine hardly interacts with M. Madeleine before she's fired. It's his policy that unwed mothers cannot work at his factories that gets her fired, and she develops a bitter hatred for him based on the policy alone. The musical and film version has Madeleine present when Fantine gets in trouble, and he brushes aside her concern and leaves the Foreman to fire her. Thus, when she says to him "Yes, you were there, you turned aside" the line packs a real wallop.
    • In the novel, Marius is not an in-member of the Friends of the ABC; the musical usually treats him like Enjolras' second in command. Also, Novel! Marius barely knows Eponine as a pitiable waif who runs errands for him, and he treats her coldly. In the musical, they come off as friends and he deeply mourns her death.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Some songs have this.
    Javert: ”Stars, in your multitudes, scarce to be counted, filling the night, with order and light. You are the sentinels, silent and sure, keeping watch on the night."
  • The Alcoholic: Grantaire. And some productions more than others emphasize Fantine as also getting an alcohol addiction around the time of "Lovely Ladies".
  • All Crimes Are Equal:
    • It's bad enough that Valjean gets five years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread (and breaking a window pane to get it)... but then he gets another fourteen for his multiple escape attempts. Ouch.
    • This is the cornerstone of Javert's entire character. He has a Black-and-White Morality that states that anyone who commits any crime for any reason must be evil, while those who defend and uphold the law are inherently good. He can't understand the notion that someone might commit a small offense to help others (in Valjean's case, he stole the loaf of bread to save his sister's dying son). Later, when Valjean lets him go free despite their long history, Javert is so baffled and shattered by the concept of mercy from a "bad" person that he throws himself into the Seine.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Adapted from the novel by Victor Hugo of the same name.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: "Valjean's Confession".
    • There was another, similar-looking man about to go to prison in his place. Valjean proved who he was by giving his prisoner number: 24601.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Look down" and "Do You Hear the People Sing?"
  • Antagonist in Mourning: The 2017 London production has Javert visibly saddened by the sight dead students strewn across the barricade, crossing himself out of respect, and briefly crying Manly Tears for them before resuming his pursuit of Valjean.
  • Anti-Villain: In his way, Javert is a kind of idealist himself, being possibly a perfect textbook case of Well-Intentioned Extremist. Overlaps with Villainy-Free Villain.
  • Anyone Can Die: Proven true, namely with Gavroche.
  • Arc Number: 24601, Valjean's prison number.
  • Arc Words: "Look down” and “Tomorrow".
  • The Artful Dodger: Gavroche. "This only goes to show what little people can do!"
  • Artistic License:
    • There are sometimes moments, such as the line "They were schoolboys, never held a gun" in the song Turning. When you consider that nearly everyone who died had fought on the barricades only two years before in 1830, and some in other riots, the idea that none of them had fought before is a little ludicrous. (The 2012 film discards this line.)
    • In the same song, "No one ever told them that a summer day could kill"... despite the fact that Javert told them this over and over, and the students themselves acknowledge it several times as well.
    • The use of convicts as actual galley slaves in the 25th anniversary staging counts, since this had been abolished in the eighteenth century.
    • Some productions use anachronistic hoop skirts, which came in a few years after the story is set.
  • As You Know: Granted, awkward exposition is to be expected of the genre. Still, a particularly noticeable example is Valjean's line "I am the mayor of this town" in "At the End of the Day".
  • Ascended Extra: A lot of understudies for the major roles eventually ended up playing the role proper. And the show ran for so long on Broadway—and has run even longer in London—that many of the actors playing the children who left the show when they aged out eventually came back to play one of the adult roles.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Depending on production, but some of them show little mercy for the convict soloists in the "Work Song".
  • Back for the Finale: The "Do You Hear the People Sing" reprise is sung by the entire cast of characters including the ones who died.
  • Backstory Horror: The Tenth Anniversary Concert prominently features Gavroche in the background of "A Little Fall of Rain", looking horrified. This is even more heartbreaking for those who read the book, which explains that Éponine is his sister.
    • The recent Broadway revival makes it even more obvious, as Gavroche is outright sobbing loudly at Eponine's death, to the point where he needs to be comforted by one of the students.
  • Badass Adorable: Gavroche, who joins the revolutionaries, even when they don't want him to get hurt.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Valjean and young Cosette.
  • Balcony Wooing Scene: In some productions, Marius approaches Cosette by throwing a pebble at her window before she steps out onto the balcony to investigate.
  • Bait the Dog: Though this was far from M. Hugo's original intent, the musical gives its most upbeat, funniest, and catchiest musical number to Monsieur Thenardier and his wife, as they swindle, cheat, and serve questionable food to the patrons at their inn, and abuse and starve the little girl they're supposed to be taking care of.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Valjean to the Bishop of Digne. Because this man showed him kindness and love he had not known for nearly 20 years, it inspires Valjean to become a better man.
  • The Big Guy: Varies with the production of course, but Valjean is often cast as this, given his prodigious strength.
  • Big "NO!": Depending on the production, there is sometimes one when Gavroche dies.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Madame Thenardier thinks so.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Inverted; in some productions Gavroche has this attitude towards Eponine who is his older sister. He tries to go to her when she gets shot, and cries after she passes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Well, most of the cast is dead, the rebellion failed and the Thenardiers have gotten away with all their crimes (and will likely continue to do so). But at least our Alpha Couple live happily ever after. And Valjean finally finds absolution at the end of his life. And the ghosts give us hope for a better future.
  • Black-and-White Insanity:
    • Javert. Such an extreme case that when he's finally forced to challenge it, he's driven to suicide.
    • On the French Concept Album, "Javert's Suicide" is even called "Noir ou Blanc" (Black or white).
  • Black Comedy Burst: "Master of the House" is short for, "Allow us to interrupt your regularly scheduled Breaking of the Cuties for some madcap fun as the Thénardiers cheat, poison, and steal from everyone in their inn!"
  • Bookends: "One Day More" begin and end with a Title Drop.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: In "Master of the House", Monsieur Thénardier refers to himself as "comforter, philosopher, and lifelong mate''. Mme. Thénardier makes an Ironic Echo of this by calling him "comforter, philosopher, and lifelong shit".
    • Immediately after this, she describes him, saying "Cunning little brain. Regular Voltaire. Thinks he's quite a lover, but there's not much there."
  • Break the Cutie: Fantine. Also Éponine, and little Cosette. And Marius. Given how the title literally means "The Miserable Ones", this is to be expected.
  • Broken Bird: Fantine starts out as an honest factory worker, motivated by love for her daughter, but when her reputation is ruined, the only route for her is prostitution. In the space of a couple of songs, she's reduced from a kindhearted dreamer to an alcoholic, embittered wreck who spits on Valjean's face.
  • BSoD Song: "What Have I Done?," Valjean asks. The Bishop's kindness has put him to such shame that Valjean is driven to a complete reckoning of his life and soul. In the end, he decides to break his parole and start a new life.
  • Bystander Syndrome: See Adaptation Relationship Overhaul above: Valjean was present when Fantine got into trouble, but he handed the matter over to his Foreman. When they meet again and Fantine brings this up to him, Valjean is horrified and resolves to make it up to her.
    • "The Runaway Cart" sequence: a cart full of pottery pins down a random pedestrian. The bystanders tell one another to look away, because there is no way to save him. Subverted, then, when the Mayor arrives and lifts the cart a fraction, whereupon everyone rushes to help.

  • Call-and-Response Song: The first "Look Down" is sung this way among the prisoners; "Red and Black" turns into one, first Marius talks about love and Grantaire mock him, and then Enjolras calls the Amis to arms and they take up the refrain.
  • The Caretaker: Valjean, briefly, to Fantine (he blames himself for her reduced circumstances) and, on Fantine's deathbed, he swears he will look after her daughter. Valjean adopts Cosette and becomes a good, loving father.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the 25th anniversary staging, "Stars" is sung on a bridge over the Seine. Javert later commits suicide by throwing himself off of this bridge.
  • Colorful Song: "Red And Black".
  • Compressed Adaptation: The book is a proper Doorstopper. Some elements that got cut include the Bishop's backstory and history of good works before meeting Valjean, Fantine's love affair and meeting with the Thenardiers, how exactly Valjean became Mayor of M-sur-M, detailed character profiles of every Friend of the ABC, a whole plotline with Marius' father and grandfather, and a wee kerfuffle called the Battle of Waterloo.
  • Connected All Along: A meta-example: The original novel mentions that Gavroche is Eponine's brother, but the modern plays seldom mention this.
  • Consummate Liar: Valjean lives under false identities during most of the story.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Usually the fact that all important characters happen to show up in the same place at the same time.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "The Confrontation", "A Heart Full of Love" and its reprise "Everyday".
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: Champmathieu gets arrested in Jean Valjean's place because he just happens to look exactly like him. Of course, depending on the actors portraying them on stage, this can range from entirely believable, or you needing to have a Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
  • Cross-Cast Role: In professional productions Gavroche is sometimes understudied by an adult female member of the cast.
  • Crowd Song: "Red And Black", "One Day More" and "Do You Hear The People Sing?"
  • Crucified Hero Shot: The death of Enjolras.
  • Daddy's Girl: Cosette to Valjean. As long as he allows her to.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • Thenardier waltz - The robbery
    • Castle on a cloud - Attack on the Rue Plumet
    • Eponine's errand - A little fall of rain
    • Little People
    • Valjean's Soliloquy and Stars - Javert's suicide
    • Bring him home - Bring me home
    • The first time Valjean's melody plays is after his soliloquy where he declares he will devote himself to goodness. All subsequent appearances of his melody gets sadder in context. On "Who Am I?", he must expose his identity to save an innocent man. His melody plays again when Cosette and Marius meet. On "One Day More", Valjean is weary of always running. Finally, "Who Am I?" is reprised when he reveals his identity to Marius and leaves Cosette to him.
  • The Darkness Before Death: During Fantine's death scene she mentions "a darkness that comes without a warning" and after things grow dark for her she spends her last moments in a happy, feverish delirium.
  • Death by Despair: Jean Valjean, after being separated from Cosette.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Eponine
  • Death Glare: Valjean and Javert typically exchange a few of these.
  • Death Song: Oh, dear God. Take your pick.
    • "Come To Me" Fantine
    • "A Little Fall Of Rain" Eponine
    • "The Second Attack" Gavroche
    • "The Final Battle" The students
    • Javert's Suicide
    • Valjean's Death
  • Defiled Forever: Fantine's one lover abandoned her and the child. She's trying to live honestly in Montreuil-sur-Mer, but once word gets out of her child out of wedlock, it's enough to get her fired. Then she can't get work anywhere else in the town... except prostitution.
  • Demoted to Extra: Inevitable, in this show, but Gavroche gets a lot less screen time in the play than in the book because his subplot's cut, going from one of the more memorable characters to a few solos and glossing over the fact that he's a Thénardier. Barring a change in songs, though, his death scene is kept mostly intact.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • "I dreamed a dream..."
    • "Please do not send me out alone / not in the darkness on my own."
    • "Men like you can never change / A man such as you. / Men like me can never change. / Men like you can never change."
    • "Good evening, dear inspector, lovely evening, my dear. / I know this man, my friends, his name's Inspector Javert."
  • The Determinator: Both Javert and Valjean.
  • Died Happily Ever After: After his adoptive daughter is finally married to the man she loves, and is set for a happy life of her own, Jean Valjean dies peacefully in Cossette and Marius' arms as the spirits of Fantine and Eponine come to collect his soul and guide him to his eternal reward in Heaven.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Éponine dies in Marius's arms in "A Little Fall of Rain."
  • Dissonant Laughter: It's common to have Thénardier let off some cackles during the "Dog Eats Dog" number.
  • Distant Duet: Marius and Cosette (who are actually distant lovers longing for each other), Eponine and Enjolras (who is joined by Marius deciding what to do) on "One Day More".
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Les Amis.
  • Double Entendre:
    • Opening "Lovely Ladies" is, "I smell women, smell 'em in the air / Think I'll drop my anchor in that harbor over there..."
    • In "At the End of the Day", one of the factory workers, when talking about the foreman, says, "Take a look at his trousers, you'll see where he stands.'
  • Downer Beginning: The first song in the entire musical is about a group of prisoners singing about how miserable they are doing slave labor and being tormented with the knowledge that they'll be stuck there for the rest of their lives. And it just gets worse from there, kiddies!
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: When Valjean is trying to explain his theft to Javert in the first song.
    Valjean: "My sister's child was close to death, we were starving—"
    Javert: "You'll starve again!"
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Javert disguises himself as an insurgent and lies low in order to spy; Valjean wears a French National Guard uniform so he can cross the barricade.
  • Driven to Suicide: Javert, because of the cognitive dissonance caused by having his life saved by Valjean.
  • Drunk Rolling: In his song "Master of the House," Thenardier cheerfully admits to robbing his patrons when they're too drunk to notice, alongside all his other shady business practices.
    Master of the house, keeper of the zoo
    Ready to relieve 'em of a sou or two
    Watering the wine, making up the weight
    Pickin' up their knick-knacks when they can't see straight
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Éponine, to Marius, in the song "A Little Fall Of Rain".

  • Early Installment Weirdness: The original 1985 production had some major differences from the musical as most of us know it today. "Stars" was placed rather awkwardly between "Waltz of Treachery" and "Look Down" as opposed to its more familiar location after "The Robbery".note  "Little People" had almost entirely different lyrics, was substantially longer, and was sung prior to "Drink with Me" instead of before "A Little Fall of Rain". A song called "I Saw Him Once" which is no longer present at all preceded a shorter version of "In My Life". A lot of smaller lyrical differences also existed, but these ones are definitely the most blatant ones. The show was edited into its more familiar format once it was brought to Broadway in 1987, and though some edits have been made since then, its structure remains more or less the same as it was once that change was made.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: Well, mostly anyway. The exceptions are Marius, Cosette and the Karma Houdinis.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The revolutionaries refuse to let Gavroche put himself in the line of fire, because he's the youngest of all of them. He has to sneak past them to get the shells they need, ignoring their protests.
  • Embarrassing Rescue: Valjean sees Javert is slated for execution and requests that he have the privilege of killing the spy. Being killed by Valjean squares with Javert's rigid view of the world and he accepts it, feeling like a martyr. When Valjean unties him, fires into the air and urges him to flee, Javert at first thinks it's a trick, and is so shocked that he later self-terminates due to the ensuing cognitive dissonance. His entire view of the world is crumbling, and furthermore, as long as he is alive he must pursue Valjean, but at the same time he feels he should not pursue a man who saved his life.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Miserable People.
  • Exact Words: Thenardier wasn't lying when he said he served "food beyond belief" or when he said he treated Cosette like "one of [his] own".
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Enjolras, just as in the book, stands tall before a firing squad.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Thénardier tries this several times. He instead comes off as a nasty and distasteful crook, while still being Plucky Comic Relief.
  • Final Love Duet: "A Little Fall of Rain" serves as one for Eponine: she dies in Marius' arms and even expresses her love for him, while Marius sings comfort in counterpoint.
  • Flanderization: It's inevitable with such a Compressed Adaptation... but there is more to Javert than chasing Valjean (snuff, for instance) and there's more to Éponine than loving Marius (mental illness, for instance.) The barricade boys also have a bit more character that the little that actually gets sung.
  • For the Evulz: The woman factory worker who tells lies about Fantine and delights in her consequent firing, for no apparent reason.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: A Subverted Trope. Marius and Cosette are sighing that they were born to love each other after about twenty minutes of conversation. But after Marius is gravely injured, Cosette nurses him during a convalescence of at least several weeks, and their relationship grows much stronger for it.
  • Foreshadowing: In the 25th Anniversary staging, "Stars" is sung on a bridge over the Seine. The bridge shows up later.
    • Also, prior to "Master of the House," Thenardier's guests sing about Thenardier's past in which he stole from the dead soldiers after the Battle of Waterloo. He later does exactly the same thing after the rebellion fails.
  • Friendship Song: "Drink With Me", an ensemble number where the Friends of the ABC remember the good times and raise toasts to one another.

  • Garden of Love: The "A Heart Full of Love" sequence, in which Marius and Cosette romance each other, is set in the garden of her house on Rue Plumet. In the song's second-act reprise, Valjean uses the trope a metaphor as he reflects upon his daughter's blossoming relationship.
    Love is the garden of the young...
  • Good Shepherd: The Bishop of Digne.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Les Amis's response to Javert being a spy is, depending on the production, knocking him out, tying him up, or both. After Eponine dies, they are even more set against the military (and, presumably, Javert), and when Valjean arrives, they essentially force him to help them fight off the First Attack on pain of death.
  • Grief Song: "Turning" and "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables". There's also a brief one after "Little Fall of Rain", where Les Amis vows to not let Eponine die in vain.
  • Groin Attack: Some stagings of "Master of the House" have Madame Thénardier do this to her husband at the end.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Less strong than in the book, but Valjean still makes it rather clear that he wasn’t exactly a criminal before being sent to prison.
  • Happily Adopted: Cosette.
  • Happy Place: Young Cosette's "Castle on a Cloud".
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Invoked. "One Day More" is an upbeat, looking-forward type song. Only later do you realize that one more day is all most of them got.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Gavroche may not actually be an orphan, but he still fits.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Javert's suicide as a result of his cognitive dissonance over Valjean's mercy.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Valjean after being pardoned by the bishop. Javert after Valjean refuses to kill him. Marius has one after he learns Valjean saved his life, though he was never as much of a "heel" in this sense as he was in the book.
  • Hellhole Prison: Depending on the staging of the production, this goes a bit into Informed Attribute territory. The lyrics even compare the prison to hell, but at least in the “replica” staging, chains and tools were imaginary…
  • Hero Antagonist: Inspector Javert is a subtrope of this…
  • The Hero Dies: Valjean himself at the end.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Fits Valjean to a T. He may have saved the lives of everyone and their dog, but to those who know his identity, he is still an ex-convict/convict on the run and more often than not treated accordingly.
  • Hero vs. Villain Duet: "Confrontation" is sung by Jean Valjean and Javert. Both characters start trying to explain their point of view to each other, but soon they start singing at the same time while fighting.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Played mostly straight with Fantine, who resorts to prostitution as her only available way to provide for herself and her daughter. Throughout, she still retains her love for Cosette.
  • Horny Sailors: The number "Lovely Ladies" begins with a bunch of sailors singing about how much they want to have sex. The song in general is about prostitutes who cater to sailors, told from various perspectives.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Played with. At first it seems the Bishop of Digne's Christian kindness was wasted on Valjean as he stole from him. However his faith in the inner goodness of Valjean pays off in the end.
  • Hypocritical Singing: In "Master of the House," Monsieur Thernardier sings about what an honest and decent innkeeper he is... all the while constantly cheating and conning everyone in the inn.

  • I Am the Noun: "I am the law" sung by Javert.
  • Iconic Outfit: Valjean's prison outfit, Cosette's black dress, Éponine's trenchcoat and hat, and the "Red Vest Of Doom" that Enjolras wears from the Act 1 finale onwards.
  • Icon of Rebellion: The red flag, which was used as a symbol of revolution since 1789.
  • Identical Stranger: Champmathieu, who almost takes the rap for Valjean. Depending on staging that ranges from credible to Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
  • If I Can't Have You…: At least it seems that way with Éponine in "One Day More." Marius is debating to himself whether to follow Cosette to England or fight with the students. Éponine, standing beside him, practically makes the decision for him by grabbing him by the arm and the two of them running off. A minute later, they are next seen with Enjolras and the other students, and Marius tells Enjolras "My place is here, I fight with you."
  • Ill Girl: Fantine is reduced to a "ghost of herself," suffering from a never-exactly-named disease (implied to be Tuberculosis, which was rampant at the time), and acts as a motivator for Valjean to go and retrieve her daughter, and then dies.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Cosette. Also heartbreakingly averted with Gavroche.
  • Incredibly Long Note: The last notes of "Who Am I?", "I Dreamed a Dream", "Stars" and "Bring Him Home" as typically performed.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Fantine often coughs in “Lovely Ladies” and/or “Fantine’s Arrest”, though typically nowhere else. The book implies that she's contracted tuberculosis, an often fatal disease then for rich and poor alike, and describes her decaying spirits in depth.
  • The Ingenue: Cosette as a grown-up.
  • Inspector Javert: The Trope Namer.
  • Institutional Apparel: Typically brown-greyish rags. Sometimes Valjean will be shown coming out of prison with a dehumanizing label on his chest listing him merely as 24601.
  • Ironic Echo & Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • Deliberately, as many of the songs are re-used throughout the musical for different people, situations and moods. However, these usually bear some relation to each other and their musical association adds an extra layer of meaning. Good examples are "Do You Hear The People Sing?", later re-used for the revolutionaries' chorus in the finale, with altered text. Another example is the prisoners' "Work Song", which is later re-used for the beggars' "Look Down", once again with altered lyrics (however, the situations are so painfully similar that these tropes are perfectly justified).
    • "What Have I Done" and "Javert's Suicide" are also painfully similar, with the same melody, and in some places the same words, but with a different meaning. This seems to be, again, well-justified, as they are both sung at times of great emotional and mental upheaval as a result of another person's mercy. The most significant difference is that the first one ends in redemption, and the second one ends in suicide.
    Valjean: I am reaching, but I fall,
    And the night is closing in,
    As I stare into the Void,
    To the whirlpool of my sin.
    I'll escape now from the world,
    From the world of Jean Valjean.
    Javert: I am reaching, but I fall,
    And the stars are black and cold,
    As I stare into the Void,
    To a world that cannot hold.
    I'll escape now from the world,
    From the world of Jean Valjean.
    There is nowhere I can turn.
    There is no way to go OOOOOOOOOOON!
    • The same melody is also used by Javert breaking up the scene on the street where Thénardier is accosting Valjean, in a completely different tone - depending on the production, it could be righteous anger or nothing more than just another day on the job.
    • Bits and pieces of the second theme from "I Dreamed a Dream" show up in all sorts of other places - Valjean's line "Now her mother is with God / Fantine's suffering is over" when speaking to the Thénardiers, for example.
    • As a climactic musical number, "One Day More" is cobbled together from pieces of "I Dreamed a Dream," "Master of the House," "Do You Hear the People Sing" (appropriately enough), "On My Own," and others.
    • Purely an Ironic Echo example: Marius warns Eponine, "Get out 'Ponine / you might get shot." And Eponine responds with, "I've got you worried now I have / that shows you like me quite a lot!" Later on, Eponine does get out fine, but is fatally wounded returning from Marius' errand, before the fighting even starts. Marius, appropriately, is much more worried than he originally was, when he realizes she's dying.
    • The Bishop of Digne's melody is later heard again as "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." The Bishop survived the first French Revolution, but lost almost all of his friends and family. Marius has survived the student rebellions, but at the cost of all of his friends.
    • Javert threw back " You know nothing!" and "Jean Valjean is nothing now!" during "The Confrontation".
    • Valjean and Javert's first meeting.
      Javert: "You will starve again! Unless you learn the meaning of The Law."
      Valjean: "I learned the meaning in those 19 years, a slave of the law."
    • "Turning" and "Lovely Ladies" have a similar cynical mood sung by the same women- one about their lives as hookers, one about all the revolutionaries killed at the barricade and how little their deaths will change.
    • Played for laughs in "Red And Black".
  • Irony: Of the Situational sort. Fantine is fired from the factory when one of the other workers implies that she sleeps around for extra cash. She does not. Her inability to get any other job leads to her becoming a prostitute.
  • It's All My Fault: Valjean has a tendency to accept blame even when his involvement was minor at best.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: In "Master of the House", the inn's patrons sing that Thénardier's stew tastes like something he scraped off the street and his wine is like turpentine (even elaborating "must have pressed it with his feet").
  • It Was a Gift: Valjean's candlesticks from the Bishop of Digne. He keeps them until the end of his life.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Valjean, although he didn’t think that maybe his daughter might be happier with him around
    • Éponine helps Marius to find Cosette, despite the fact that she’s also in love with him.
  • Job Song: "Lovely Ladies" is about some prostitutes trying to pick up clients.
  • Justified Criminal: When you've got the choice between stealing and starving, few people would hesitate…

  • Karma Houdini: The only reprisal Monsieur Thénardier suffers for all his villainy is a punch in the face from Marius, right before "Beggars at the Feast" (and even that is in or out depending on the production). His wife gets off scot-free. The two of them leave the stage gloating over their ill-gotten riches.
    • The woman factory worker who gets Fantine fired by telling lies about her.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence:
    • Mid-song, in the case of Gavroche.
    • Éponine also dies mid-song.
    • Depending on the production, Valjean can be implied to die either at Fantine's "Come with me" or at "To love another person is to see the face of God."
  • Kill Him Already!: Justified, because much as the rebels would like to kill Javert, they have a reason for holding him prisoner for an extended length of time: they are conserving their powder and bullets, and consider killing him any way other than shooting him to be reprehensible and beneath them.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: Javert to Valjean. Javert does not take it well.
  • Knight Templar: Javert.
  • La Résistance: Les Amis de l'ABC.
  • Last-Name Basis: Justified as this is the 19th century. It gets jarring when all the students call Marius Pontmercy “Marius”, but refer to any other of their group by last name only.
  • Last Stand: Les Amis at the barricade.
  • Laughably Evil: Thénardier and Mme. Thenardier, though both have their moments of genuine menace — Thenardier during "Dog Eat Dog," and Mme. when she's yelling and abusing Cosette.
  • Lawful Stupid: Javert is single-mindedly devoted to law and order and sees them as the only legitimate expression of goodness and considers lawbreakers to be evil by default, so much so that he believes that All Crimes Are Equal and ends up killing himself when Valjean, a convict, proves himself to be a virtuous man.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • Valjean gets a moment in the Prologue, where he describes the evening with the bishop. He might be talking to himself, but addresses the audience in most stagings.
    • When Marius walks into the meeting of the Friends of ABC, going on about how starstruck he is after seeing Cosette for the first time, Grantaire responds, among other witty remarks ("We talk of battles to be won/And here he comes like Don Juan!"), that Marius' display is "better than an opera!"
    • Gavroche addresses the audience directly in 'Look Down,' presenting himself as the audience's guide to the slums.
      Gavroche: "How do you do? My name's Gavroche
      These are my people, here's my patch
      Not much to look at, nothing posh
      Nothing that you'd call up to scratch
      This is my school, my high society
      Here in the slums of Saint Michel
      We live on crumbs of humble piety
      Tough on the teeth, but what the hell
      Think you're poor, think you're free
      Follow me, follow me!
  • Light/Darkness Juxtaposition:
    • "Red and Black": As the students debate passion through the "colours of the world", Rebel Leader Enjolras compares red to "a world about to dawn" and black as "the night that ends at last" in succeeding lyrics.
    • "Stars" sees Javert refer to Valjean as a "fugitive in the night" and extol stars as symbols of order and light in the dark night sky.
  • Lighter and Softer: Despite being touted as the saddest musical ever. Most of the Backstory Horror isn't acknowledged, the Thenardiers become comic relief, Eponine Took a Level in Kindness, and the show ends on a more uplifting note.
  • Load-Bearing Hero: Valjean, when he lifts a toppled wagon off its fallen driver. This costs him dearly, for Javert witnesses the rescue and is immediately reminded of a certain muscular fugitive.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Not as many as in the book, but for a stage show, the number of soloists is still huge.
  • Logic Bomb: Javert's breakdown is sometimes seen as this, but it's played with: Javert expects that Valjean will demand his own freedom as a condition of sparing his life, which would create a conflict of interest in Javert, but would also confirm his image of Valjean as a criminal opportunist (who merely draws the line at murder). Javert wouldn't really struggle with such a dilemma, as he'd choose the law over his own honour every time. When Valjean spares his life without condition, that goes out the window: Javert has only one course of action under the law, and what drives him crazy is realising that for the first time in his life, he doesn't want to obey that law.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Cosette spent a good size of her life alone. The song "In My Life" illustrates that Marius is a wake up call to the fact that there's a whole world outside of her garden.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Fantine in Act I. Her hair is usually waist or hip-length, worn loose during "I Dreamed a Dream" (even if it was covered up earlier), and in particular it confers on her a dignity that she lacks after her Traumatic Haircut.
  • Longing Look: Marius and Cosette exchange a very significant one.
  • Loveable Rogue: This version of the Thénardiers touches on the trope. (Now read the book.) Zigzagged with Monsieur (but only Monsieur) in "Plumet Attack" and "Dog Eats Dog", which are a very creepy contrast with "Master of the House" and its reprise. Monsieur Thénardier's vampiric croon to the harvest moon above him, in which he literally sings that "God is dead", comes across as extremely dark.
  • Love at First Sight: Cosette and Marius. Depending on the chemistry of the actors involved, this can range from genuinely sweet and believable to absolutely ridiculous. Michael Ball and Rebecca Caine, of the 1985 original London cast, were notable for their chemistry onstage, but some other productions haven't been so lucky.
  • Love Theme: "A Heart Full of Love" is most commonly associated with Marius and Cosette, but isn't a fully fledged love theme since it doesn't accompany all of their romantic moments.
  • Love Triangle: Marius, Cosette, Éponine.
  • Loving a Shadow: Éponine's song "On My Own" ends with her having a revelation that she's not really in love with Marius, she's only in love with the idea of Marius, and even after this realization, she still clings to the delusions because it is literally the only thing she has to look forward to.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Lovely Ladies", an upbeat number about the dehumanizing life of a seaside hooker. That the song occurs in the company of Fantine being accosted by an old crone asking to buy Fantine's hair, a request that she succumbs to while also being disgusted by, just adds to the jarring feelings.
    • "I Dreamed a Dream" has the melody and sound of a romantic ballad you might hear at a wedding. The lyrics describe Fantine's happy past (decidedly in the past) and her misery at her current life.
    • "Stars" - Javert's oath to pursue criminals without mercy is set to a lovely, dreamy tune.
    • Also, "Beggar at the Feast". Sure, the upbeat melody works for the wedding and the characters... then you realize they got here after robbing from the dead, and that their daughter and, it's implied, son (Gavroche), have both died. "Clear away the barricades and we're still there" sounds a lot worse afterwards.
    • "At the End of the Day", an upbeat little song about how the life of the poor just keeps getting worse.

  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "One Day More". Every Parisian character gets a verse about what the next day will bring, all anchored by Valjean intoning "One Day More;" Fantine is even there in spirit because the music reprises "I Dreamed a Dream."
  • Meaningful Echo: There are abundant examples in the music alone, but one example in the lyrics runs so: in the Prologue, the Bishop of Digne blesses the policemen who arrested Valjean, saying "I commend you for your duty." An act and a half later, when Valjean sets Javert free, he says, "There's nothing that I blame you for... you've done your duty, nothing more."
    • Valjean sang about "the cry in the dark that nobody hears" in his soliloquy. When Patron Minette tries breaking into his house, Cosette's (actually Eponine's) scream drives then away and again he sings he heard a "cry in the dark".
  • Meaningful Name: Many, many, many…
    • Fantine from “enfantine”, childish
    • Marius after Victor Hugo’s own middle name, Marie
    • Montparnasse is named after the quarter of Paris he operates in
    • Jean Valjean's name literally means "John's as good as any other John."
    • Valjean’s alias of Monsieur Madeleine, chosen after Mary of Magdala (Marie-Madeleine in French), the repentant sinner
    • The Bishop lives in Digne, and he treats Valjean with dignity.
  • Mirror Character: Valjean and Javert, from the consonants in their names onward. In "The Confrontation" they both sneer at each other for "knowing nothing of" one another's lives, and Javert reveals he also grew up in poverty; later, Javert's final song echoes the tune and several lines of Valjean's That Man Is Dead declaration in "What Have I Done."
  • Money Song:
    • All of the Thenardier's songs.
    • "Lovely Ladies" shows making money is the ultimate object of prostitution.
  • Mood Whiplash: Mostly in a lot of cast recordings where the reprise of "A Heart Full of Love" is cut, but it goes from the long, dark, depressing line of songs starting from "Dog Eats Dog" to "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" to a triumphant wedding chorale and "Beggar at the Feast". It's incredibly jarring.
  • More Expendable Than You: The rebels try to keep Gavroche away from the line of fire since he literally is a child compared to them, and they say his life is more valuable. He doesn't listen.
  • Musicalus Interruptus:
    • The song of the police who arrest Valjean in the prologue ends abruptly when the bishop backs up his alibi.
    • The students' activities at the cafe halt when Gavroche tells them Gen. Lamarque is dead.
    • A rare non-comedic example at the end of “A little fall of rain”. Éponine dies and Marius has to sing the last word for her.
  • Must Make Amends: Valjean constantly. It's his thing.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: Hot men! Gorgeous women! Incredible music! A glorious revolution! Death! Bloodshed! Humor! This show has everything.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Valjean after his encounter with the bishop. The song is even named “What have I done?” (and continues with “Sweet Jesus, what have I done?”)
    • He gets another one when Fantine reveals that blowing off her fight in his factory led to severe repercussions.
    • Marius, depending on the production, has a smaller one when he discovers the man he sent away is the man who saved his life.
  • Mystery Meat: The Thenardiers' inn serves up some rather bizarre delicacies.
    Kidney of a horse
    Liver of a cat
    Filling up the sausages with this and that!
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Thénardier goes to Marius to blackmail him with his knowledge about Valjean, but ends up telling Marius that Valjean saved Marius from the barricade (although Thénardier believed him to have killed Marius to rob him). Although Marius and Cosette arrive too late to save Valjean, he dies with Cosette at his side and the knowledge that the two know that he was not a bad man.
  • No Name Given: Enjolras's name is actually never spoken in libretto throughout the entire musical due to pronunciation issues. Though beginning the ABC Cafe scene with an exclaimed "Enjolras!" has become a pretty regular ad-lib, nowadays.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Where to start, poor Jean Valjean.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Among the friends of the ABC, Grantaire is an absolute cynic and doesn't give a damn about the revolutionary ideals of his friends, and according to the source material, is really only there because he idolizes and/or loves Enjolras. Later on, Valjean joins up, but he's just there to save his daughter’s lover.

  • Oblivious to Love: Marius to Éponine throughout the musical. He thanks her as a "friend" for bringing him to Cosette, despite her obvious feelings for him, and asks the devoted Éponine to deliver a love letter to Cosette in his name. However, this trope is thankfully subverted in their final scene together.
  • Obsession Song: Celia Keenan-Bolger's "On My Own" is portrayed this way.
  • Official Couple: Marius and Cosette.
  • Offscreen Inertia: Responsible for giving the impression that Javert does nothing but stalk Valjean after he breaks parole, or that Valjean does nothing but hide from Javert; originally their continued meetings are coincidence, but Valjean is branded with his prisoner number(s) and Javert hasn't forgotten the strongest man he'd ever met. Not helped by the scene in Paris where Javert asks (rhetorically) "Could he be the man I've hunted? / Could it be he's Jean Valjean?"
  • One Name Only: Inspector Javert, Fantine, both Thénardiers, all of the students minus Je(h)an Prouvaire and Marius, the bishop, Fauchelevent, Bamatabois…
  • Overprotective Dad: Valjean to Cosette, and it's justified given he rescued her from an abusive situation.
  • Pair the Spares: Many fanfic writers seem to think that Éponine and Enjolras should be paired, on the basis that they are both single. Unless they choose to play off the legendary Ho Yay between Enjolras and Grantaire.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Javert when he tries to spy on the Amis of the ABC. That is, until he is exposed by Gavroche.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Cosette, after her father leaves her mother and Fantine has to leave her with the Thénardiers
    • The original version of the musical still features Marius’ grandfather, who, after the death of his daughter, forced Marius’ father to give the child to him. Marius finds out rather late that his father did not abandon him voluntarily.
    • In a case of All There in the Manual, Gavroche is actually one of the Thenardier's sons who was essentially abandoned and forced to become a street urchin. While it's not ever explicitly mentioned in the show, some adaptations play this up by having Gavroche especially grief-stricken at Eponine's death.
  • Parental Favoritism: The Thénardiers spoil their own daughter, Éponine, while treating Cosette no better than a slave.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The Thénardiers, in a stark contrast to the novel.
  • Primal Fear: Little Cosette is afraid of the dark forest.
  • Prison: Where the very first song is set.
  • Pun: Victor Hugo is well known for his puns. "Les Amis de l'ABC" is one of them: the French pronunciation makes you read "ABC" as "Abaissé", "abased", thus making them "The Friends of the Downtrodden".
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!
    • Both Colm Wilkinson and Gary Morris tended to deliver their lines in this way: "MY NAME IS JEAN! VAL! JEAN!"

  • Quarreling Song: All of Valjean and Javert's duets.
  • Race Lift: It gets funny when actresses of different races play child and adult Cosette or Éponine. Or when the parents’ race doesn’t fit that of the daughter (Fantine to Cosette, or the Thernardiers to Éponine)…
  • Rags to Riches: Valjean as M Madeleine. Considering his costumes, even literally…
  • Redemption Equals Death: Definitely for Javert, not quite as much for Valjean
  • Red Light District: At least some interpretations of the show set Lovely Ladies in this area of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Others call it the Docks but imply the same thing.
  • Relationship Compression: Marius and Cosette.
  • Reprise Medley: "One Day More" and "Epilogue".
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The Friends of the ABC are portrayed as heroic defenders of the common man.
  • Rule of Drama: Why the circumstances of Fantine's firing was changed from the book. There, she got fired because of a random background check. In the musical she gets into a fight with a coworker who discovered she had a child.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Javert's Suicide.
  • Secret Identity: Valjean as the mayor.
  • Self-Made Man: Valjean as Monsieur Madeleine.
  • Sell What You Love: When Fantine loses her job, the first thing she sells is a precious locket (in the movie version, it contains a lock of Cosette's hair). Her hair (and crowning glory) is next to go.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: “Lovely ladies” usually includes a few.
  • Shoo the Dog: To make sure Eponine isn't caught in the crossfire, Marius sends her on an errand to deliver a message to Cosette. He may be Oblivious to Love but doesn't want a dear friend killed because of his actions. It doesn't work.
  • Shown Their Work: A lot got cut out, but especially listening to the Complete Symphonic Recording, telling details from the original text sneak in: for example, M. Thénardier making his first fortune by robbing the dead after the battle of Waterloo, the fact that Valjean's Criminal Doppelgänger is mentally disabled, etc.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Valjean in response to Javert before he sets him free from Les Amis. Also combines with a speech "You are wrong, and always have been wrong. I'm a man, no worse than any man. You are free, and there are no conditions, no bargains or petitions. There's nothing that I blame you for. You've done your duty, nothing more."
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: "You know nothing of Javert!"
  • Silver Fox: Javert is sometimes portrayed this way.
  • Slave Galley: The 25th Anniversary staging has Valjean serve time in one of these, despite being a huge anachronism, although the shore prisons in 19th century France were still called “the galleys”. Other productions are usually more accurate.
  • "Somewhere" Song: "Castle On A Cloud", "In My Life" and "Do You Hear The People Sing?"
  • The Song Before the Storm: "One Day More"
  • Song of Prayer: "Bring Him Home", which is actually referred to in the script as "The Prayer", has Jean Valjean praying for the safety of Marius prior to the final battle at the barricade.
  • Sour Supporter: Grantaire. Proved right.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Mme. Thénardier.
    • Also, the gang member Claquesous, who in the novel goes to the barricade under the name Le Cabuc, shoots a civillian and is promptly executed for it by Enjolras. In the musical he never appears again after "Attack on Rue Plumet."
  • Spoiled Brat: Éponine as long as her parents can afford it, which they do by conning their customers.
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    • Éponine joins the fray at the barricade just so she can stay close to Marius.
    • Also Marius, considering he begs Eponine to find out where Cosette lives so he can sing to her outside the gate.
  • Stay with Me Until I Die: Both Fantine and Éponine.
  • Stern Chase: Javert hounding Valjean for decades. (Which is really an artifact of adaptation distillation/compression; Javert is not such a monomaniac in the book.)
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: Thénardier wears a Napoleonic uniform at the start of the play as a remnant from his supposed days as a soldier.
  • Sung-Through Musical
  • Super Strength: In all versions of the musical (film included) Valjean's twenty years of slavery has toughened his muscles and sinews, allowing him to perform almost superhuman feats such as singlehandedy lifting a shipmast or a fallen cart that a dozen men cannot even budge, and effortlessly carrying grown loved ones across his shoulders to safety while running at a brisk pace.
  • Survivor Guilt: "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." "Oh my friends, my friends, forgive me / That I live and you are gone..."

  • Take a Third Option: Javert is stuck between arresting Valjean or letting him go in a certain climactic scene. Instead, he commits suicide.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Fantine, depending on the actress, she might not be aware of her impending death — however, Valjean is, and he assures her before she dies that he will raise Cosette and take care of her.
    Fantine: Take my hand, the night grows ever colder; Take my child, I give her to your keeping.
  • Tempting Fate: "This time there is no mistake," sings Javert proudly when boasting about how he's at last apprehended Jean Valjean — to Jean Valjean himself. Valjean himself verges into this when (in some versions) he asks Javert if he's sure that he's not Jean Valjean.
  • Tenor Boy: Gavroche, who is ideally played by a prepubescent boy, definitely fits in terms of range, but lovestruck and idealistic Marius fits best for personality.
  • That Man Is Dead: "Jean Valjean is nothing now!". Later he declares "I'm Jean Valjean!". The rest of the play deals with how he can reconcile who he was with who he had become.
  • "They've Come So Far" Song: "Who Am I?" and "A Little Fall Of Rain"
  • Third-Person Person: Javert doesn't always refer to himself in the third person, but he does do it a lot more than other characters.
  • Together in Death:
    • What Éponine hopes will happen to her and Marius. Sadly (for her), he survives.
    • In a non-romantic version, Fantine reappears to escort Valjean to the afterlife.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Fantine gets one to pay for her daughter
  • Triumphant Reprise:
    • "ABC Cafe" uses a triumphant version of "At The End Of The Day" in its dialogue.
    • "One Day More" uses "I Dreamed A Dream" and "Who Am I?" as its primary melodies.
    • "Building The Barricade" used triumphant melodies of "ABC Cafe" and "Red And Black".
    • "Epilogue" is this to "Do You Hear The People Sing?".
  • Turn the Other Cheek:
    • Valjean, to the extreme.
    • And the Bishop of Digne.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The Thénardiers; they do seem to genuinely care about each other...just not their children.
  • Unusual Euphemism: This gem from "Lovely Ladies" is certainly an interesting one:
    "Think I'll drop me anchor in that harbor over there!"
  • Uptown Girl: Marius and Cosette, either way you look at it: on one hand, he appears to be a poor revolutionary falling for a rich philanthropist's daughter, but on the other hand, he's a wealthy baron's son, and she's the illegitimate daughter of a prostitute.
    • Played straighter with Éponine's unrequited love for the upper-class Marius.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Several parts of the story are inspired by real life events Hugo witnessed, was a part of or was told about:
    • Hugo himself saved a prostitute from arrest for assault.
    • So are parts of the love story between Cosette and Marius.
    • The June revolts of 1832.
    • Both Valjean and Javert are based on the same person: Eugene Francois Vidocq, a reformed criminal who went on to reform the French police.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Who exactly was General Lamarque and why was he so significant? It's much better explained in the novel and some non-musical adaptations.
  • Villainous Breakdown: While sung by an Anti-Villain, "Javert's Suicide" still counts.
  • Villainous BSoD: "Javert's Suicide."
  • Villainy-Free Villain:
    • Well, ya know, Valjean did break his parole and all. And becoming a rich mayor under a false identity is grounds for a fraud investigation. And, in the book at least, the Thenardiers swear blind that Valjean kidnapped Cosette. Technically, Javert is in the right to want to rearrest him. Technically.
    • And that's why Valjean doesn't kill him, because he's knows Javert is just following the law.
    Valjean: There's nothing that I blame you for. You've done your duty, nothing more.
  • Villain Song: Thenardier's "Dog Eats Dog" definitely fits the bill. Showcasing Thenardier's true roguery and greed, it's the darkest, most sinister song in the entire show.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: Mm. Thenardier's part on "Master of the House" show how she hates her husband.

  • Welcoming Song:
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Speaking of which, Javert plays this trope so well that he even has a whole sub-trope section dedicated to him.
  • What Are You in For?: Doesn’t actually get asked, but Valjean does tend to answer it rather often nevertheless…
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The catalyst of the story, Valjean's nephew for whom he stole the bread, is never seen nor anything said about him after Valjean gets out of prison.
  • What Is One Man's Life in Comparison?:
    • Valjean brings this up when arguing with himself over revealing himself or not - all the good he's done for the town vs. life in Toulon for Champmathieu. Then he reasons that all the good he's done would mean nothing if he let Champmathieu go in his place.
    • Enjolras brings this up to Marius as to why the latter should favor the revolution over pursuing love and chasing after Cosette.
    Enjolras: Who cares about your lonely soul? We strive towards a larger goal, our little lives don't count at all!
  • What Is This Feeling?: "Valjean's Soliloquy", "In My Life" and "Javert's Suicide ".
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Fantine isn't too happy when Valjean comes to her aid when she's being arrested since, as she says: 'You let your foreman send me away/Yes you were there, and turned aside...'
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Comes into play several times. First of all, Valjean chooses to out himself in "Who Am I?" when he could have passed his whole life in peaceful anonymity. Then, When Valjean is given the duty of executing Javert as a spy. He could easily kill the only man who knows him personally enough to track him down — but without even thinking about it this time, he fakes Javert's execution and lets him go free, giving him his address for good measure so the two of them can settle things later. Many of Valjean's finest moments involve this trope.
    • Eponine also gets this. Marius trusts her to lead him to Cosette, the same girl that she bullied as a child. Eponine loves Marius and resents that he can't see it. She leads him honestly to Cosette's house, and then screams an alarm when her father's gang tries to rob the place. Her father kicks her out as a result, and threatens her harm if he sees her again. She also joins Marius on the barricades after delivering his letter to Cosette, despite him giving her a message to explicitly keep her out of danger.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Marius, Enjolras, heck all the ABCs except Grantaire, though some productions emphasise this more than others.
  • With Catlike Tread
    Valjean: "But when the house was still/I got up in the night/Took that silver/Took my FLIIIIIIGHT!
  • Working on the Chain Gang: The opening song is about the torment the men face in it. Although whether there are actual chains is a matter of production. The “replica” staging (which is generally low on props) did not have any, but the 25th anniversary staging rectified that.
  • Wrongly Accused: Champmathieu when mistaken for Valjean.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: What Javert asks after being unmasked and captured by the students on the barricade. Answer: They don’t want to waste ammunition… yet.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • On the verge of being thrown into prison, Fantine is rescued by Valjean, who promises to bring her daughter to her and pay off all of her debts. When we meet Fantine again, she's lying in a nice, clean, warm hospital, and there's calm music playing. It'll all work out, right? Why does the music echo the line "If there's a God above, He'd let me die instead"? Oh, no...
    • Valjean believes himself safe in his new identity only for Javert to make the whole thing crumble and put Valjean in front of the terrible choice of going back to prison or let an innocent go to prison in his place.
    • Some versions of the show have Gavroche climb over the barricade to collect ammo to a triumphant, fast-paced instrumental of "Do You Hear the People Sing" - until he's shot and slowly bleeds out.
    • Cosette and Marius have managed to get to Valjean when he’s still alive – only for him to die ten minutes later.
  • You Are Not Alone: how Eponine dies. Also the fact that Grantaire often dies alongside Enjolras - he refuses to let the man he idolizes die alone.
  • You Are Number 6: Despite the fact that the book hardly mentions Valjean's prison numbers (yes, in the book, he has two), the musical is crazy about this one. Counting reveals that Javert calls Valjean more often by his number than his name. Valjean refers to himself as "24601" once, to represent him deciding to submit to authority for the sake of clearing an innocent man.
    Javert: Five years for what you did; the rest because you tried to run. Yes, 24601-
    Valjean: My name is Jean Valjean!
    Javert: And I'm Javert! Do not forget my name! Do not forget me, 24601!
  • You Are Worth Hell: Even if he doesn't return her feelings, Eponine considers dying with Marius better than living without him and knowing she could have done something to save himd. In some productions, she takes a bullet for him and tells him it was Worth It.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: When her father attempts to rob Valjean and Cosette, some productions have Eponine guard the front door and attempt to talk down the gang. They respond by tossing her aside, so she screams in alarm instead.

Do you hear the people sing? / Lost in the valley of the night.
It is the music of a people / Who are climbing to the light.
For the wretched of the earth / There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end / And the sun will rise!