Originally conceived as a simple recording production, Les Miserables evolved quickly into one of the premiere theatre events of the 1980s. Theatrically on par with Phantom of the Opera, Les Miz is drawn from the Victor Hugo novel of the same name. The story chronicles the life of Jean Valjean, a simple Frenchman who was arrested as a youth for stealing a loaf of bread. After serving five years for that crime, as well as an additional 14 for attempted escape, Valjean is released on parole. Upon changing his name and eluding his parole officer, he becomes the surrogate father of a young girl and a mayor as the French Revolution sets in. As the war rages, he finds that he cannot change the man he is. Les Miserables is typical of theatre in the '80s, with extravagant effects and large, full cast numbers. The beautiful score is full of emotion and humor, including such memorable and noteworthy songs as "Look Down," "Do You Hear the People Sing?," "Bring Him Home," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," and the ubiquitous "On My Own." The international studio cast includes members from the London, Broadway, and Tokyo productions, and was recorded at three different locations.