The unsung hero of Les Miz: Herbert Kretzmer
Posted by: TheBroadwayMaven (DavidBenkof@gmail.com) 03:44 pm EST 11/17/22

From this week's Broadway Maven Weekly Blast:

Though he never got the credit he deserved, wordsmith Herbert Kretzmer was responsible for most of the beloved English lyrics in Les Misérables.

A man who once said he was “born under a rhyming planet,” he resented the word “translation” because he felt it minimized his creative contributions. And indeed, many of his lyrics went well beyond translation.

For example, the French source material by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg had a stirring song “À la Volonté du Peuple” (“At the Will of the People”), but he found the phrase to lack “passion.” So he turned it into the now-famous “Do You Hear the People Sing?”

His lyrics were set to previously composed tunes, but they tended to be re-interpretations (his French wasn’t even all that good.) For example, the words to “On My Own,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “Bring Him Home,” and “I Dreamed a Dream” were his.

One way to measure the heft of his contributions: the original French version of the show was only two hours long. When he was through with it, it lasted three.

You do the math.

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