Do you like lists? I like lists. They’re fun.
1. Backstory. Reading Les Miserables is like watching the reading the appendices of the musical – it gives you more backstory on the characters and era than you ever wanted to know.
2. Jean Valjean goes back to prison after he reveals himself in court to save the wrongly accused man. He escapes by faking his own death.
3. Gavroche is the Thernadiers’ abandoned son. They also have another daughter besides Eponine, and two more sons that they sell to be raised as nobles.
4. Jean Valjean and Corsette live in a monastery for most of her childhood. Valjean first enters the monastery by using his mad-convict skillz to scale the outer wall. He then smuggles himself out in a coffin, and re-enters by the front door to apply for the job of gardener.
5. Some characters are elevated in the musical, others are ignored. Javert plays a much larger role in the musical, serving as a philosophical counter-point to Jean Valjean (the former embodying hell-fire and brimstone, the latter redemption and charity). In the book, he has both less depth and less prominance. Conversely, the character of Monseur Gillenormand is a wonderfully comic character that features heavily in the novel, but is barely present in the musical.
6. Marius feels indebted to Thernadier for saving his father’s life at the battle of Waterloo. This almost results in Jean Valjean’s death when Marius hesistates in calling for help when…
7. The Thernadiers and their gang lure Jean Valjean into a trap. Valjean escapes, and they are captured by Javert and imprisoned.
8. Paris rises up. The musical depicts the 5 July uprising as a fizzer, in which a small band of students try to inspire a revolution that comes to nothing. In the novel, huge chunks of the populace rise up to occupy one third of Paris. Regardless of the scale, though, it still ends badly.
9. Madame Thernadier dies in prison. So I guess her and Thernadier couldn’t do a duet about their how their special brand of corruption will always endure.
10. Marginally less singing.