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GOOD MORNING BROADWAY FANS! We are getting closer each day to celebrating Broadway’s biggest night. The 74th Annual Tony Awards is only 6 DAYS AWAY. We got more iconic performances coming up on our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. Are you ready to celebrate the return of Live Theater here in NYC?!!!
At # 6 on our countdown, we take you back in time to Paris in the year 1881. There, we meet a mysterious disfigured musical masked living in the subterranean labyrinth lair underneath the Paris Opera House and the young orphaned soprano he has trained and slowly falls in love with. However, when things don’t go the figure’s way, disaster strikes. This is the classic story of The Phantom of the Opera. With a score by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, and a book by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe, it’s based on the famous 1911 French novel by Gaston Leroux.
From the 1988 telecast, Award winner Michael Crawford as the title role and Sarah Brightman as “Christine Daae” perform the musical’s iconic JOURNEY TO THE LAIR scene consisting of the title song and the haunting THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was first concieved by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1984. At the time, he wanted to write a piece for his wife at the time dancer turned soprano Sarah Brightman. He called longtime friend and collaborating producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh about aiming for a romantic story told on the stage. Webber suggested on the classic Gaston Leroux story. To get a visual sense, both watched the iconic 1925 Lon Chaney silent film version and the 1943 Claude Rains film version. However both Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh were unable to see how it could leap from screen to stage. A few months later in New York City while working another show, Lloyd Webber finds a second-hand copy of the original Gaston Leroux novel which supplied more the details and the necessary inspiration to develop a musical. He decided to give PHANTOM a 2nd chance. From there, he went straight to work on the piece. Lloyd Webber contacted Jim Steinman to write the lyrics thanks to his “dark obsessive side”, but he declined in order to fulfill his commitments on several albums he was producing at the time. He then reached out to Alan Jay Lerner who later became seriously ill after joining the project and was forced to withdraw. None of contributions (including the involvement of the song MASQUERADE) are credited in the show. Lloyd Webber’s 3rd contact was lyricist Richard Stilgoe (which they previously collaborated together on the musical STARLIGHT EXPRESS). To give the audience a taste of the story, Lloyd Webber staged an early production / workshop at his home in Sydmonton (located in Hampshire, England) a year later. What they originally saw was an early rough draft with songs being cut and later rewrites by a young unknown writer named Charles Hart. However, parts of Richard Stilgoe’s original lyrics are still in the score today. In addition, the initial mask for “The Phantom” was a full muffled mask where people couldn’t even hear him sing full out. However, it was changed to what we know today as the half-faced white mask. From there, a full creative team was brought together including Maria Bjornson designing the sets and costumes, Gillian Lynne as choreographer, and direction by Hal Prince.
The show began its full-out world premiere in 1987 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End. However most people realize that during its early dress rehearsals and previews, the show went through so much technical problems including the crashing of the chandelier (where thankfully no one was hurt). In addition, the leading lady lost her voice by the 2nd preview which now today makes the show use 2 alternating actresses for the lead role of “Christine”.
The show still went on to become the hottest ticket in London’s West End with the show’s original cast recording selling both of which have been certified 4× Platinum in the US and sold 4.97 million copies all around the world.
The original London production was continuing to play to packed houses every night till the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The show was abruptly shutdown for 16 1/2 months. Most recently, it returned this past July with a fully updated edition of the original staging. In addition throughout the pandemic, Cameron Mackintosh, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and his team also did some updates to Her Majesty’s Theatre giving it a little refurbishment and renovation.
The London production of PHANTOM is currently the 2nd Longest Running Show in West End History. It went on to win London’s Olivier Awards for BEST NEW MUSICAL.
A year later by critical acclaim, the show made its way overseas to our NYC backyard. The Broadway production opened at the Majestic Theatre in 1988. It also became an instant smash hit where it was also playing to packed houses every night. It has been here in NYC for the past 33 YEARS. It’s played over 13,000 sold out performances.
In 2006, the show played its 7,486th surpassing the original production of Cats (another Lloyd Webber smash hit) becoming the top Longest Running Show in Broadway History. Under the direction of Hal Prince and choreography by Gillian Lynne, the cast featured its original West End trio reprising their roles on Broadway consisting of…
Michael Crawford as “The Phantom”,
Sarah Brightman as “Christine”,
the late Steve Barton as “Raoul”.
and more.
Numerous replacements have went on to take over these iconic shows on Broadway and London’s West End.
The Broadway production was also abruptly shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is scheduled to once again re-haunt the Majestic Theatre starting October 22nd, 2021.
The show was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 1988 winning 7 including BEST MUSICAL.
Following its triumph in London’s West End and on Broadway, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA went on to become a worldwide smash hit.
In addition to its success on stage, the musical was captured on film TWICE.
In 2004, Warner Bros. Pictures released the legendary acclaimed film adaptation of the musical. It received mixed reviews but well received by audiences with critics praising the vocals and acting. It grossed over $154.6 million worldwide at the Box Office. Under the direction of Joel Schumaccher, the cast starred…
Gerard Butler as “The Phantom”,
Emmy Rossum as “Christine”,
Tony nominee Patrick Wilson as “Raoul”.
It went on to be nominated for several Awards including the Golden Globes and the Oscars but lost its categories.
The most recent filmed version of PHANTOM happened in 2011. For this version, it was the filming of an acclaimed concert production that played London’s Royal Albert Hall in honor of the musical’s 25th Anniversary of its world premiere. Because of playing a huge concert hall, there was some huge demands with the production that has been figured out including the chandelier and the changing of the sets. Most of the sets were projected onto an LED screen. In addition, the chandelier would not be crashed onto the stage but explode. With the full show, the concert also featured some surprises including the reunion of Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. In addition, 4 previous actors who played “The Phantom” joined forces to perform alongside Brightman and its concert masked man. Under the direction of Laurence Connor (who later directed a new touring production in honor of the show’s 25th), the cast starred..
Ramin Karimloo as “The Phantom”,
Sierra Boggess as “Christine”,
Hadley Fraser as “Raoul”.
Within these past over 30 years, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has played on 6 continents and was translated into every major language. Both the original and new production (that was made for the 25th Anniversary) is still being performed around the world.
In addition, There are already productions of PHANTOM as well being played in schools, community, and regional theaters everywhere.
How beautifully haunting is this musical?
Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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