Act I Edit
In Bagne prison in Toulon, France, in 1815, the prisoners work at hard labour ("Work Song"). After 19 years in prison (five for stealing bread for his starving sister's son and her family, and the rest for trying to escape), Jean Valjean, "prisoner 24601," is released on paroleby the policeman Javert. By law, Valjean must display a yellow ticket-of-leave, which identifies him as an ex-convict ("On Parole"). As a convict, Valjean is shunned by society though the Bishop of Digne offers him food and shelter. Overnight, Valjean steals the Bishop's silver and flees but is captured by the police. The Bishop tells the police that the silver was a gift and not only lets him keep the silver he stole, but also gives him two more valuable candlesticks. The Bishop tells Valjean that he must use the silver "to become an honest man" and that he has "bought (Valjean's) soul for God" ("Valjean Arrested, Valjean Forgiven"). Ashamed, yet humbled by the Bishop's kindness, Valjean tears up his yellow ticket, breaks his parole and resolves to redeem his sins. ("Valjean's Soliloquy" / "What Have I Done?").
Eight years later, in 1823, Valjean has assumed a new identity as Monsieur Madeleine, a wealthy factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. One of his workers discovers that Fantine (another worker) is sending money to her secret illegitimate daughter, Cosette, who lives with an innkeeper and his wife ("At the End of the Day"). Valjean tells his factory foreman to resolve the conflict, but the foreman, whose advances Fantine previously rejected, dismisses her. Fantine reflects on her broken dreams and about Cosette's father, who left her ("I Dreamed a Dream"). Desperate for money, she sells her locket and hair, finally becoming a prostitute ("Lovely Ladies"). When she fights back against an abusive customer (Bamatabois), Javert, now a police inspector stationed in Montreuil-sur-Mer, arrives and arrests her. The Mayor arrives and, realising his part in Fantine's circumstances, orders Javert release her before taking her to a hospital ("Fantine's Arrest").
Soon afterwards, the Mayor rescues a man pinned by a runaway cart ("The Runaway Cart"), reminding Javert of the abnormally strong Jean Valjean, whom he has sought tirelessly for years. Javert apologizes for comparing the Mayor to a criminal, and assures the Mayor that Valjean has in fact been arrested recently. At first, Valjean thinks the man could be his chance to escape his past life, but is unwilling to see an innocent man (Champmathieu) go to prison in his place, and so confesses his identity to the court ("Who Am I?—The Trial"). At the hospital, a delirious Fantine dreams of Cosette. Valjean arrives and promises to find Cosette and protect her ("Come to Me" / "Fantine's Death"). Relieved, Fantine succumbs to her illness and dies. Suddenly, Javert confronts Valjean. Valjean asks Javert for three days to fetch Cosette, but Javert refuses to believe his honest intentions. They struggle, but Valjean overpowers Javert. Valjean once again promises to Fantine he "will raise (Cosette) to the light" and escapes ("The Confrontation").
In Montfermeil, the duplicitous innkeepers, the Thénardiers, use Cosette as a servant while extorting money from Fantine claiming that Cosette is seriously ill, all the while indulging their own daughter, Éponine. Cosette dreams of a life where she is not forced to work and is treated lovingly ("Castle on a Cloud"). Madame Thénardier arrives and orders Cosette to retrieve water from the woods. The Thénardiers successfully cheat their customers in various ways, though Madame Thénardier shows contempt for her husband ("Master of the House"). Valjean finds Cosette in the woods and accompanies her back to the inn ("The Well Scene"). He offers the Thénardiers payment to take her away, and informs them of Fantine's death ("The Bargain"). The Thénardiers feign concern for Cosette and bargain with Valjean, who pays them 1,500 francs to let him take her away. Valjean and Cosette leave for Paris ("The Waltz of Treachery").
Nine years later, in 1832, Paris is in upheaval because of the impending death of General Lamarque, the only man in the government who shows mercy to the poor. The young street urchin Gavroche mingles with the prostitutes and beggars on the street, while students Marius Pontmercy and Enjolras discuss what will happen after Lamarque's death ("Look Down"). The Thénardiers have since lost their inn, and Thénardier now leads a street gang. They prepare to con some charitable visitors who turn out to be Valjean and Cosette. Éponine also takes part. Before taking watch, she has a conversation with Marius, whom she secretly loves. As the gang is about to con the visitors, Éponine warns Marius to stay out of it and runs away. As Marius chases after her, he bumps into Cosette and falls in love with her at first sight, much to the dismay of Éponine. Thénardier suddenly recognizes Valjean, and he and the gang attack him. Éponine then warns that Javert is coming ("The Robbery"). He arrives on the scene and thwarts the robbery, not recognizing Valjean until after he and Cosette escape. Thénardier informs Javert of a brand he saw on Valjean ("Javert's Intervention"). Javert vows to the stars that he will find Valjean and recapture him ("Stars"). Marius persuades Éponine to help him find Cosette. Despite her own feelings for him, she reluctantly agrees to help ("Éponine's Errand").
At a small café, Enjolras prepares a group of idealistic students for revolution. Marius interrupts the serious atmosphere by fantasizing about his new-found love, Cosette and is mocked by Grantaire ("The ABC Café—Red and Black"). When Gavroche brings the news of General Lamarque's death, the students march into the streets ("Do You Hear the People Sing?"). At Valjean's house, Cosette thinks about Marius and laments that she doesn't truly know her history or Valjean's ("Rue Plumet—In My Life"). Marius and Éponine arrive, and Marius confesses his love to Cosette, which she reciprocates, while Éponine looks on sadly ("A Heart Full of Love"). Thénardier and his gang arrive intending to rob Valjean's house, but Éponine stops them by screaming ("The Attack on Rue Plumet"). The scream alerts Valjean who believes that Javert must have found him. He tells Cosette that they must flee the country.
On the eve of the 1832 Paris Uprising, Valjean prepares to go into exile; Cosette and Marius part in despair; Éponine mourns her unrequited love for Marius; Enjolras encourages all of Paris to join the revolution as he and the other students prepare for battle; Marius is conflicted whether to follow Cosette or join the other students, but decides to stand with his brothers, while Éponine joins in secret; Javert reveals his plans to spy on the students; and the Thénardiers look forward to robbing the corpses of those who will be killed during the battle. Everyone ponders what this "tomorrow" will bring ("One Day More").
Act II Edit
As the students build a barricade, Javert, disguised as a rebel, volunteers to "spy" on the government troops. Marius discovers Éponine, who disguised herself as a boy, and sends her to deliver a farewell letter to Cosette. Valjean intercepts the letter and learns about Marius and Cosette's romantic relationship ("Building the Barricade—Upon These Stones"). Éponine walks the streets of Paris alone, imagining that Marius is there with her, but laments that her love for Marius will never be reciprocated ("On My Own").
The French army arrives at the barricade and demands that the students surrender ("At the Barricade—Upon These Stones"); though Javert tells the students that the government will not attack that night ("Javert's Arrival"). Gavroche exposes him as a spy, and the students detain him ("Little People"). Éponine returns but is shot by the soldiers crossing the barricade. As Marius holds her, she assures him that she feels no pain and reveals her love for him before dying in his arms ("A Little Fall of Rain"). The students mourn this first loss of life at the barricades and resolve to fight in her name, and they carry her body away while Enjolras attempts to comfort Marius. Valjean arrives at the barricades, disguised as a soldier, in search of Marius ("Night of Anguish"). As the first battle erupts, Valjean saves Enjolras by shooting at a sniper to scare him off. In return, he asks Enjolras to be the one to kill the imprisoned Javert, which Enjolras grants. As soon as Valjean and Javert are alone, Valjean frees Javert and tells him to leave the barricades. Javert warns Valjean that he will not give up his pursuit and rejects what he perceives as a bargain for Valjean's freedom. Valjean says there are no conditions to his release, and holds no blame toward Javert for doing his duty. As Javert leaves, Valjean fires a shot in the air to make it appear that he has executed Javert ("The First Attack"). The students settle down for the night and reminisce. Enjolras tells the other students to stay awake in case the enemy strikes unexpectedly in the night, but he tells Marius to get some sleep. Grantaire gets angry and asks Marius if he fears to die as Marius wonders if Cosette will remember him if he dies ("Drink with Me"). Valjean overhears this, and as Marius sleeps, Valjean prays to God to save Marius from the onslaught that is to come, even at the cost of his own life ("Bring Him Home").
As dawn approaches, Enjolras realizes that the people of Paris have not risen up with them, but resolves to fight on ("Dawn of Anguish"). Gavroche is shot attempting to gather ammunition ("The Second Attack / Death of Gavroche"). The army gives a final warning to surrender, but the rebels fight to the last man with Enjolras exhorting "let others rise until the Earth is free!". Enjolras, Grantaire and the students are killed except Valjean and a gravely wounded Marius who escape into the sewers ("The Final Battle"). Thénardier, also in the sewers, has been looting bodies ("Dog Eats Dog"). He takes a ring from the unconscious Marius, while Valjean sleeps. When Valjean carries Marius to the sewer's exit, he finds Javert who has been waiting for him. Valjean begs Javert for one hour to bring Marius to a doctor, and Javert reluctantly agrees. Javert finds himself unable to reconcile Valjean's mercy with his conception of Valjean as a convict and his need to bring him to justice, and commits suicide by throwing himself into the Seine ("Soliloquy - Javert's Suicide)".
Back on the streets, women mourn the deaths of the students ("Turning") as Marius mourns his friends ("Empty Chairs at Empty Tables"). As he wonders who saved him from the barricades, Cosette comforts him and they reaffirm their blossoming romance. Valjean realises that Cosette "was never (his) to keep" and gives them his blessing ("Every Day"). Valjean confesses to Marius that he is an escaped convict and must go away because his presence endangers Cosette ("Valjean's Confession"). He makes Marius promise never to tell Cosette, to which Marius agrees. A few months later, Marius and Cosette marry ("Wedding Chorale"). The Thénardiers crash the reception in disguise and attempt to blackmail Marius, telling him that Valjean is a murderer and that Thénardier saw him carrying a corpse in the sewers after the barricades fell. When Thénardier shows him the ring as proof, Marius realizes that it was Valjean who saved his life. Marius strikes Thénardier, the newlyweds leave to find Valjean, and the Thénardiers enjoy the party and celebrate their survival ("Beggars at the Feast").
At a convent, Valjean awaits his death, having nothing left to live for. The spirit of Fantine appears to him, thanking him for raising her daughter, and tells him that he has been forgiven and that he will be with God. Cosette and Marius arrive to find Valjean near death. Valjean thanks God for letting him live long enough to see Cosette again and Marius thanks him for saving his life. ("Epilogue - Valjean's Death"). Valjean gives Cosette a letter confessing his troubled past and the truth about her mother Fantine. As he dies, the spirits of Fantine and Éponine guide him to Heaven reminding him that "to love another person is to see the face of God." They are joined by the spirits of those who died at the barricades who ask once more: "Do You Hear the People Sing?" ("Finale")