Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

Lights up on a chain gang in early nineteenth century France. The men do hard labor. One prisoner, referred to as "number 24601," appears. His name is Jean Valjean, and he was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child. He is finally being released, but Javert, an overzealous policeman, reminds him that he will always be a sinner. Because he is branded as a former criminal, it is impossible for Valjean to find work. Starving again, he is taken in by a bishop and fed, but he steals some silver and flees into the night... right back into the custody of the police. The bishop learns of his plight and tells the police that he made of the silver a gift, effectively buying Valjean's soul for God; the former prisoner vows to be a good citizen ("Prologue").

Seven years later, the poor of France are starving and desperate. Inside a factory at Montreuil, a group of women are desperate to hold on to their jobs. A young woman, Fantine, will not respond to the foreman's sexual advances. The other women discover that she has a daughter out of wedlock who lives with an innkeeper in the country, and worry that Fantine's trouble will become their trouble. A fight breaks out, and the mayor and factory owner — Valjean in disguise — instructs the foreman to sort it out. He unfairly fires Fantine ("At the End of the Day"). Desperate and alone, Fantine remembers her summer of love and the man who broke his promises that brought her to this point in life ("I Dreamed a Dream").

Fantine finds herself in the red-light district, surrounded by sailors and whores. She tries to sell her last possessions so that she may have money for her daughter, Cosette, to see a doctor, but the Madame to whom she sells her things will not give her a price. Fantine is forced to sell her hair and then, finally, herself. However, when the time comes, she cannot bring herself to do it and gets into a fight with the gentleman. Javert appears and arrests Fantine, showing her no mercy. Valjean sees her and recognizes that her misfortune is partially his doing, so he has her taken to the hospital ("The Docks").

Next, a cart crashes, and Valjean miraculously lifts it to free the man trapped underneath. Valjean's feat of strength reminds Javert of that of a fugitive prisoner he knew many years ago, but assures Valjean that the man has been recaptured and awaits trial ("Cart Crash"). Valjean wrestles with a moral dilemma: if he lets the other man take the fall for him, he will finally be free, and the factory workers dependent upon him will be secure; however, he will also be damned and will have reneged on his promised life for God. He decides that he cannot stay silent and goes to the court, revealing his identity before rushing away to Fantine's hospital ("Who Am I?")

At the hospital, Fantine is delirious, and Valjean promises to adopt Cosette as Fatine takes her final breath ("Fantine's Death"). Javert finds Valjean in the hospital and still refuses to show any mercy, despite Valjean's explanation that he must rescue the child. Javert believes that any man who is a sinner will always be a sinner. The two men fight, and Valjean manages to escape.

At an inn miles away, Cosette dreams of a happier life ("Castle on a Cloud"). The greedy and evil Mme. Thenardier, the innkeeper's wife, interrupts her wistful fantasy. Thenardier's young daughter, Eponine, is there as well. Mme. sends a frightened Cosette out to the well in the dark ("Little Cosette"). The innkeeper, Thenardier, revels with the patrons who are filling his establishment. As they get drunker and drunker, the host enumerates the many ways that he cuts corners and takes advantage of his customers ("The Innkeeper's Song"). Valjean meets the young girl wandering in the woods and brings her back to the inn. He haggles with the Thenardiers over their "darling Cosette;" the couple finally settles on a price and turns the child over to Valjean ("The Bargain").

Ten years pass, and we find ourselves in the teeming, squalid streets of Paris. The beggars, led by a young boy named Gavroche, continue to suffer. Everyone is on edge ("The Beggars"). Into their midst come the young revolutionaries, Marius and Enjolras; they seek justice from the powers in France. Only one politician cares for the poor: LeMarque, but he is on his deathbed. The students plan to use his death as a catalyst for revolution. Thenardier, no longer an innkeeper, leads a gang of criminals on the street corner. Eponine, now all grown up, is torn between loyalty to her parents and her attraction to her old friend, Marius. Suddenly, Valjean and Cosette appear; Thenardier recognizes Valjean and asks for money. Valjean's shirt is ripped open in the ensuing scuffle, exposing the tattoo of his prisoner number. Javert arrives but does not recognize Valjean, telling him to be careful on the street ("The Robbery"). Valjean and Cosette, who had run into Marius, disappear in short order, and Thenardier reports to Javert about the brand on the stranger's chest; the obsessed lawman wonders if it could be the same man he has sought all these years. Javert swears that he will never rest until Valjean is behind bars ("Stars").

Elsewhere, Marius meets Eponine to ask her to find the young girl with whom he met earlier. Eponine recalls her childhood with Cosette, but mentions nothing. Out of her love for Marius, she eventually agrees to help him.

At a neighboring inn, revolutionaries discuss their plans and tease Marius about his falling in love for the first time. They prepare for their student revolution ("The ABC Café"). Barricades will rise as they take to the streets, and all will come when called. As they cheer, Gavroche rushes in to inform them that LeMarque has passed. Enjolras, recognizing the sign to begin, leads the group in a rousing cry to action ("The People's Song").

Later, on the Rue Plumet, Cosette contemplates her past life, which she cannot seem to remember, and all of her father's secrets ("Rue Plumet"). Eponine leads Marius to the street and her home. She tells of her unrequited love for Marius, who exchanges affectionate words with Cosette ("A Heart Full of Love"). Suddenly, one of Thenardier's men come to rob the house of Valjean, but Eponine vows to protect Marius instead of helping her father. When her father refuses to be dissuaded, she screams and the robbers make for the sewers in order to escape ("The Attack on Rue Plumet"). Marius thanks Eponine for saving them and, rather than betraying Eponine, Cosette tells her father that it was she who screamed because of a mysterious man at the gate who ran away. Valjean now mistakenly fears that the men who were lurking in the street were with Javert. He plans to flee from France with Cosette in order to escape Javert. Marius is heartbroken at the thought of losing his love, as his compatriots prepare for battle ("One Day More").

Act Two

A barricade is being built in the streets of Paris. Marius sees Eponine and asks her to deliver a letter to Cosette; she agrees, even though it breaks her heart. On the Rue Plumet, Eponine meets Valjean and gives him the letter ("Building the Barricade"). He realizes that Marius is in love with Cosette and quickly exits. All alone in the city streets, Eponine laments the intensity of her feelings for Marius, who does not return her affection ("On My Own").

The barricade has been completed and, even though the revolutionaries will get no official help, they believe that the people will rise up to throw off the yoke of tyranny. Javert climbs the barricade, tells them of their enemies' plans and is called a liar by Gavroche, who knows the truth. Javert is tied up to be taken to a people's court, which he renounces ("Javert at the Barricade"). Eponine, fatally wounded, climbs the barricade and dies in Marius' arms as he weeps and tells her of his deep love and admiration ("A Little Fall of Rain"). Valjean then arrives to help and protect Marius, unbeknownst to him.

There is an attack, and Valjean helps the students. Enjolras thanks him and joins in officially welcoming him ("The First Attack"). Because of this, Enjolras gives Valjean the opportunity to take care of Javert. Valjean, however, shows a mercy that was never reciprocated to him, cutting the lawman's bonds and urging him to flee before the others find out. Javert tells Valjean that, even if he is freed, he will continue his efforts to capture Valjean, but he responds that the policeman is free unconditionally and that, if they survive, he can find him on Rue Plumet. Javert leaves, his faith shaken.

Later that night, the men drink and reflect on their situation. Valjean watches over Marius and hopes that he will survive the battle, for Cosette's sake ("Night"). The second attack begins. Marius and Valjean argue as to who will climb the barricade to pick up desperately needed ammunition from the corpses in the street. While they argue, Gavroche climbs the barricade in defiance and is shot to death ("The Second Attack").

The final battle begins, the revolutionaries refuse to give up and are all killed ("The Final Battle"). The only survivors are Valjean and a seriously wounded Marius. More determined than ever, Valjean carries Marius into the sewers. They come across Thenardier, who is looting corpses. Valjean collapses with exhaustion, and Thenardier steals Marius' ring from the unconscious man's finger ("Dog Eat Dog"). When he recognizes Valjean, Thenardier flees. A revived Valjean, still carrying the body of Marius, continues his journey through the sewers. As they emerge, they are confronted by Javert, and Valjean pleads to be allowed to save the boy's life before surrendering himself. Javert tries to reconcile Valjean's letting him go free when he could have taken his revenge; the lawman releases his nemesis. In shock, Javert's world is totally shaken as he wanders to a bridge, where he decides to commit suicide by throwing himself into the river ("Javert's Suicide").

Several months later, although delusional and haunted by the ghosts of his dead friends, Marius is slowly recovering ("Café Song"). Encouraged by Cosette, he becomes stronger and stronger. The young lovers proclaim their feelings for one another, and Marius acknowledges his debt to Valjean. With Cosette out of the room, Valjean reveals his plans of leaving forever, but not before he tells Marius of his past crime, punishment and breaking of parole. He insists that he must leave in order to protect Cosette from his dark past ("Marius and Cosette").

Now at Marius and Cosette's wedding, the Thenadiers arrive, disguised as the Baron and Baroness de Thenard. Posing as nobility, they decline Marius' request to leave, replying that, for a small price, they will reveal who saved him the night the barricade fell. When a ring is revealed, Marius informs Cosette that Valjean is his savior; they must go see him. The Thenadiers stay behind and celebrate with stolen silver ("The Wedding").

We transition to Valjean, alone in his room, waiting to die. The spirit of Fantine appears to tell him that, because he fulfilled his promise by raising Cosette, he will finally be with God. Marius and Cosette then enter, and Marius thanks Valjean for saving his life. Valjean gives Cosette his last confession: the story of those who loved her. The ghosts of Fantine and Eponine take Valjean to his glory while Valjean reminds Cosette that love is of highest importance... and they will all be free when "tomorrow" comes ("Epilogue").