The face that's launched thousands of Standing Room Only signs in theater box offices around the world.And probably the most famous waif this side of Little Orphan Annie.
Cosette's not the most important character in Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" (the heroic Jean
Valjean gets that award hands down), but she is the centerpiece of a remarkable advertising campaign that turned Cameron Mackintosh's production of the Alain
Boublil/Claude-Michel Schonberg musical version of Hugo's epic novel into a megabucks hit.
On Wednesday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m., "Les Miz" returns to the Capitol Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City for an unprecedented four-week run - twice as long as its previous en
gagement in the spring of 1991.
In nearly every city where "Les Miserables" has been presented, the show's famous logo - the sad little pauper with the unkempt hair and soulful eyes - has been customized to mirror each locale.
The Deseret News is welcoming "Les Miserables" back to town by holding a contest utilizing 28 different versions of the Cosette logo. Readers are invited to submit their guesses on which city "Les Miz" was playing for each of the variations.
Russ Eglin, creative director of Dewynters, the London-based advertising agency that came up with the concept of Cosette as a logo for the production, said in a recent telephone interview that the Cosette logo was adapted from French illustrator Emile Bayard's original engraving from the world famous novel's first edition.
I wondered why they had focused the ad campaign's attention on Cosette rather than Valjean.
"We tried," said Eglin, "but it always looked rather depressing."
Cosette first graced the cover of the album from the original French version of the musical in 1980, and Eglin refined that concept for the first London production in 1985.
"The album sleeve had Cosette as a full-length figure holding one of those twig brooms. She looked too much like Cinderella not going to the ball," he said.
So the creative designer, who's worked with Mackintosh for 25 years, focused on Cosette's enlarged face.
"It's a powerful image," he said. "The face is very appealing."
For most of the show's advertising material - posters, playbills, souvenirs, etc. - Cosette blends into a background of the tri-color French flag. But when the show began traveling around the world (at least 41 countries at last count), marketing teams on both sides of the Atlantic began individualizing the youngster.
Eglin believes that Cosette is probably the most abused little girl in the world, although the most outrageous changes never make it beyond the sketchpads passed around the designers' offices.
"We never change the face," he said. "The nearest we got was putting sunglasses on her for Las Vegas." (And that's not a clue to Nos. 3, 13 and 16 in the drawings on today's cover.)
He noted that "Les Miserables" is about to open in Madrid (where Cosette will probably be given some sort of bullfighting motif), in Prague ("that may be trickier . . . there's no specific icon or monument . . . maybe holding a Czechbook?") and Berlin ("this will be exciting; with the comparative story of another revolution, they'll really be able to identify with the production").
- CONTEST - If you'd like to win a couple of tickets to the touring production of "Les Miserables" at the Capitol Theatre, or a chance at such prizes as Broadway cast recordings, shirts or key chains, here are the rules for the Deseret News/Theater League of Utah "Les Miz" Quiz:
On a sheet of standard, 81/2-by-11-inch paper (lined or unlined), write the numbers 1 through 29. Then match 1-28 with the correct cities (and foreign countries) represented by the drawings of Cosette on the cover of today's Arts Section.
For No. 29, the tie-breaker, list which drawing depicts Cosette with a change in her facial expression, explaining what feature has been revised.
Entries should be delivered or mailed to the Deseret News by no later than 5 p.m. Monday, July 20.
Mail them to:
"Les Miz" Quiz
c/o Deseret News (Today Section)
P.O. Box 1257
Salt Lake City, UT 84110
Or deliver them in person to the Deseret News at 30 E. 100 South.
Be sure to include your name, address and telephone number.
Prizes will include: tickets for two to a performance of "Les Miserables" at the Capitol Theatre; a compact disc recording of the Broadway original cast; "Les Miz" sweatshirts (two prizes); T-shirts (five winners), and 10 "Les Miz" key chains.
Winners' names will be announced on Sunday, July 26.
- TICKETS - The national touring company has just released a limited number of "house" seats for several performances of the show. For reservations or further information, call the ARTS-TIX box office at 355-2787.
The show opens Wednesday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m., for the first of 32 performances at the Capitol Theatre. Nearly 60,000 seats have already been sold for the four-week run, which initially began as a two-week engagement, then was extended to three and later four weeks as the box office was flooded with orders.
Performances are nightly at 7:30 p.m. (except all Mondays, two Tuesdays and the final Sunday), with matinees at 2 p.m. on Thursdays (except Aug. 6), Saturdays and Sundays. There are no performances on July 20-21, July 27-28 and Aug. 3.
- CAST MEMBERS have tentatively scheduled a benefit revue for the Utah AIDS Foundation on Monday, Aug. 3, with location and details to be announced. This will not be a performance of the show itself, but will likely be similar to the benefit variety show sponsored by the cast of "A Chorus Line."