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:
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