The long-running West End hit Les Miserables has topped a poll of the nation's favourite musicals.

The play about the French revolution, which opened in London in 1985, received almost half the votes - 41 per cent of the 400,000 - to scoop the title in the BBC Radio 2 contest.

Actress Elaine Paige, who has starred in several musicals including Chess and Cats, announced the winner on her Radio 2 show and presented the producer, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, with an award.

She said: "I'd like to congratulate Cameron, and on behalf of all the listeners, present him with an award for the nation's most popular musical. Twenty years on it's still an 'essential musical'."

Sir Cameron said: " I ' m completely knocked out, particularly getting it from Elaine. It's amazing. When I heard that we'd won it, I couldn't quite believe it because several of my other shows, which I also adore, were in the running.

"For Les Mis to have won nearly half the votes is fantastic.

"I'm so grateful to all the listeners of Radio 2 and the millions of people all over this country that keep coming to see the show, which next year will become the longest-running musical, and will take over the record from Cats, our other show."

The poll, which was launched six months ago, gave listeners a choice of 50 musicals to vote from. They included shows, such as Cats, Grease and the Sound of Music, all of which failed to make the top ten.

Phantom of the Opera came second and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was third. The King and I came fourth followed by Sunset Boulevard and Evita.

The top ten was completed by Chess, The Rocky Horror Show, Follies and Hair.

Lewis Carnie, head of Live Music and Events at Radio 2, said: "The diversity in the top ten reflects the broad spectrum of listeners to Elaine's show - their interest in musical theatre ranges from Sondheim to Rogers and Hammerstein, Lloyd Webber to Benny and Bjorn."