Herbert Kretzmer, English Lyricist of Les Misérables, Dies at 95

Kretzmer is responsible for pushing the running time of the musical to over three hours.

Herbert Kretzmer
Herbert Kretzmer
(© David Gordon)

Herbert Kretzmer, the English lyricist of the global sensation Les Misérables, has died at the age of 95.

Born in South Africa in 1925, the journalist and lyricist moved to London in the 1950s to pursue a career in the UK. He worked as profile writer for the Sunday Dispatch and the Daily Express (where he later became senior drama critic for 18 years).

Kretzmer's early work included lyrics for the BBC's That Was the Week That Was, before moving on to stage projects such as Our Man Crichton and The Four Musketeers.

This preceded Kretzmer's work on the English version of the titanic hit Les Misérables, which continues to run across the world to this day. Augmenting the original French work by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg (and in the process pushing the two-hour musical into a three-hour epic), Kretzmer received Tony and Grammy Awards for his contributions. He was later nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for 2012 tune "Suddenly," added into the Les Mis film.

More recently, Kretzmer worked on musicals such as Marguerite, which was nominated for an Evening Standard Award, as well as Kristina, which was seen at Carnegie Hall in 2009.

In 1988, Kretzmer was elected a Chevalier of L'Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 New Year Honors for services to music. He is survived by his wife, Sybil Sever, his two children, Matthew and Danielle, and two grandsons.

In a statement, Les Mis producer Cameron Mackintosh said of Kretzmer, "His wonderful words for Les Misérables will live on in his memory forever more and the Christmas season at the Sondheim will be all the more poignant for all of us as we hear the people sing without having him there. God bless you, Herbie."