London’s longest-running musical, 'Les Miserables', reopens amid Covid-19 restrictions

Production adapted to ensure the return of smaller audiences to London’s Theatreland

H5YE1J Stuttgart, Germany. 20th Oct, 2016. British theatrical and musical producer Cameron Mackintosh in the Apollo Theatre in Stuttgart, Germany, 20 October 2016. (Marijan Murat/dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo) *** Local Caption ***  al01ma-stage-mackintosh.jpg

The longest-running musical in London’s West End reopened this weekend in a coronavirus-adapted form for the first time in almost nine months.

Les Miserables, which first played in London in 1985, opened with a smaller, socially distanced audience for a run into February next year.

The producer Cameron Mackintosh told ITV: “London can’t light up properly until the West End and the theatres are alive with people ... this is the start of the fightback.”

The production is one of several scheduled for limited openings after multimillion-pound losses for the arts industry during the pandemic.

It comes after the government allowed restricted openings for theatres in parts of the country but owners sad the restrictions make it unviable for most venues.

One of the largest arts venues in Europe, the Barbican in London, was given a £11.2 million ($15m)  bailout, while many theatres stayed closed throughout the pandemic.

The arts sector has been one of the worst hit in the UK, faring worse than construction and manufacturing during the pandemic, according to the country’s statistics agency.

Seven in 10 employees were furloughed under the government’s job-retention scheme, more than in any other sector apart from the hotel and catering sector. In July, the government announced a £1.57 billion rescue package for the sector.