The music was composed by Schönberg, and the lyrics were written by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, with an English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer. Set in early 19th-century France, the plot follows the stories of many characters as they struggle for redemption and revolution. An ensemble that includes prostitutes, student revolutionaries, factory workers, and others joins the lead characters.
The musical opened at the Barbican Centre in London, England on 8 October 1985. It is the second longest-running musical in the world afterThe Fantasticks  , the second longest-running West End show after The Mousetrap and the third longest-running show in Broadway history. In January 2010, it played its ten-thousandth performance in London, at Queen's Theatre in London's West End. On 3 October 2010, the show celebrated its 25th anniversary with three productions running in the same city: the original show at London's West End; the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary touring production at the original home of the show, the Barbican Centre; and the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary concert at London's O2 Arena.