The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera (1986 musical).jpg
Poster
MusicAndrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics
Book
BasisThe Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux
Premiere9 October 1986; 33 years ago (1986-10-09): Her Majesty's Theatre, London
Productions
  • 1986 West End
  • 1988 Broadway
  • 1989 US Tour (Christine Tour)
  • 1990 US Tour (Raoul Tour)
  • 1993 US Tour (Music Box Tour)
  • 1993 UK Tour
  • 1999 UK Tour
  • 2012 UK Tour
  • 2013 North American Tour
  • 2020 UK and Ireland tour
Awards

The Phantom of the Opera is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart, and a book by Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe.

Based on the 1910 French novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opéra House.[1]

The musical opened in London's West End in 1986, and on Broadway in 1988. It won the 1986 Olivier Award and the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical, and Michael Crawford (in the title role) won the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Musical.[2] It is the longest running show in Broadway history by a wide margin, and celebrated its 10,000th Broadway performance on 11 February 2012, the first production ever to do so.[3] It is the second longest-running West End musical, after Les Misérables, and the third longest-running West End show overall, after The Mousetrap.[4][5][6]

With total estimated worldwide gross receipts of over $6 billion and total Broadway gross of over $1 billion,[7] Phantom was the most financially successful entertainment event until The Lion King surpassed it in 2014.[8][9][10] By 2011, it had been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities across 27 countries, and continues to play in London and New York.[8]

Development

Idea

In 1984, Lloyd Webber contacted Cameron Mackintosh, the co-producer of Cats and Song and Dance, to propose a new musical. He was aiming for a romantic piece, and suggested Gaston Leroux's book The Phantom of the Opera as a basis. They screened both the 1925 Lon Chaney and the 1943 Claude Rains motion picture versions, but neither saw any effective way to make the leap from film to stage. Later, in New York, Lloyd Webber found a second-hand copy of the original, long-out-of-print Leroux novel, which supplied the necessary inspiration to develop a musical: "I was actually writing something else at the time, and I realised that the reason I was hung up was because I was trying to write a major romantic story, and I had been trying to do that ever since I started my career. Then with the Phantom, it was there!"[11]

Lyricists

Lloyd Webber first approached Jim Steinman to write the lyrics because of his "dark obsessive side", but he declined in order to fulfill his commitments on a Bonnie Tyler album.[12] Alan Jay Lerner was then recruited, but he became seriously ill after joining the project and was forced to withdraw; none of his contributions (mostly involving the song "Masquerade") are credited in the show.[13][14] Richard Stilgoe, the lyricist for Starlight Express, wrote most of the original lyrics for the production. Charles Hart, a young and then-relatively unknown lyricist, later rewrote many of the lyrics, along with original lyrics for "Think of Me". Some of Stilgoe's original contributions are still present in the final version, however.[15]

Score

Inspired in part by an earlier musical version of the same story by Ken Hill,[16] Lloyd Webber's score is sometimes operatic in style but maintains the form and structure of a musical throughout. The full-fledged operatic passages are reserved principally for subsidiary characters such as Andre and Firmin, Carlotta, and Piangi. They are also used to provide the content of the fictional operas that are taking place within the show itself, viz., Hannibal, Il Muto, and the Phantom's masterwork, Don Juan Triumphant. "Here, Lloyd Webber pastiched various styles from the grand operas of Meyerbeer through to Mozart and even Gilbert and Sullivan."[17] These pieces are often presented as musical fragments, interrupted by dialogue or action sequences in order to clearly define the musical's "show within a show" format.

The musical extracts from the Phantom's opera, "Don Juan Triumphant", heard during the latter stages of the show, are dissonant and modern—"suggesting, perhaps, that the Phantom is ahead of his time artistically".[18][19]

Design, direction, and choreography

Maria Björnson designed the sets and over 200 costumes, including the elaborate gowns in the "Masquerade" sequence. Her set designs, including the chandelier, subterranean gondola, and sweeping staircase, earned her multiple awards.[20][21] Hal Prince, director of Cabaret, Candide, Follies, and Lloyd Webber's Evita, directed the production, while Gillian Lynne, associate director and choreographer of Cats, provided the integral musical staging and choreography.

West End and Broadway

First preview at Sydmonton

A preview of the first act was staged at Sydmonton (Andrew Lloyd Webber) (Lloyd Webber's home) in 1985, starring Colm Wilkinson (later the star of the Toronto production) as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Kristin (later Christine), and Clive Carter (later a member of the London cast) as Raoul. This very preliminary production used Richard Stilgoe's original unaltered lyrics, and many songs sported names that were later changed, such as "What Has Time Done to Me" ("Think of Me"), and "Papers" ("Notes"). The Phantom's original mask covered the entire face and remained in place throughout the performance, obscuring the actor's vision and muffling his voice. Maria Björnson designed the now-iconic half-mask to replace it, and the unmasking sequence was added.[15] Clips of this preview performance were included on the DVD of the 2004 film production.[22]

West End

Phantom began previews at Her Majesty's Theatre in London's West End on 27 September 1986 under the direction of Hal Prince, then opened on 9 October.[23] It was choreographed by Gillian Lynne and the sets were designed by Maria Björnson, with lighting by Andrew Bridge.[24] Michael Crawford starred in the title role with Sarah Brightman as Christine and Steve Barton as Raoul. The production, still playing at Her Majesty's, celebrated its 10,000th performance on 23 October 2010, with Lloyd Webber and the original Phantom, Michael Crawford, in attendance. It is the second longest-running musical in West End (and world) history behind Les Misérables, and third overall behind The Mousetrap.[25][26]

A 25th-anniversary stage performance was held in London on 1 and 2 October 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall and was screened live in cinemas worldwide.[27] The production was produced by Cameron Mackintosh, directed by Laurence Connor, musical staging & choreography by Gillian Lynne, set design by Matt Kinley, costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe, and sound design by Mick Potter. The cast included Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine, Hadley Fraser as Raoul, Wynne Evans as Piangi, Wendy Ferguson as Carlotta, Barry James as Monsieur Firmin, Gareth Snook as Monsieur Andre, Liz Robertson as Madame Giry, and Daisy Maywood as Meg Giry. Lloyd Webber and several original cast members, including Crawford and Brightman, were in attendance. A DVD and Blu-ray of the performance was released in February 2012,[28] and it began airing in March 2012 on PBS's "Great Performances" television series.[27]

In March 2012, a new production directed by Laurence Connor began a UK and Ireland tour to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the show, beginning at the Theatre Royal Plymouth and travelled to Manchester, Bristol, Dublin, Leeds, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, and Southampton. John Owen-Jones and Earl Carpenter alternated as the Phantom, with Katie Hall as Christine and Simon Bailey as Raoul.[29]

The 30th anniversary was on 10 October 2016 with a special appearance of the original cast during the curtain call.[23]

The production was forced into a lengthy hiatus beginning 16 March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2020 it was announced the show would not reopen in 2020.[30] After which it was confirmed an extended closure would be required to refurbish the sets and the theatre.[31]

Broadway

Phantom began Broadway previews at the Majestic Theatre on 9 January 1988 and opened on 26 January. Lloyd Webber had hoped to open in Toronto prior to Broadway, but political pressure forced the change.[32][failed verification] Crawford, Brightman, and Barton reprised their respective roles from the West End. The production continues to play at the Majestic, where it became the first Broadway musical in history to surpass 10,000 performances on 11 February 2012.[33] On 26 January 2013, the production celebrated its 25th anniversary with its 10,400th performance.[34] It is, by over 3,500 performances, the longest-running show in Broadway history. The 30th anniversary was on January 26, 2018 with special activities and an extra performance during the week.[35] By April 2019, Phantom had been staged over 13,000 times.[36]

Critical reviews were mostly positive on opening. The New York Times' Frank Rich writes: "It may be possible to have a terrible time at The Phantom of the Opera, but you'll have to work at it. Only a terminal prig would let the avalanche of pre-opening publicity poison his enjoyment of this show, which usually wants nothing more than to shower the audience with fantasy and fun, and which often succeeds, at any price."[37] Howard Kissel from New York Daily News commended the production, calling it "a spectacular entertainment, visually the most impressive of the British musicals", and praised Lloyd Webber's score despite its "synthetic, borrowed quality" as well as Michael Crawford's "powerful" performance.[38] Maria Björnson's set and costume design in particular garnered critical acclaim, with reviewers calling it "a breathtaking, witty, sensual tribute to 19th century theater" as well as "marvels of period atmospheric detail and technical savvy".[39][40]

As of March 12, 2020, the show suspended production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The show's production will be suspended until September 6, 2020 at the earliest.[41]

Synopsis

Prologue

In 1905 Paris, the Opéra Populaire hosts an auction of old theatrical memorabilia. Among the attendees is the elderly Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, who purchases a papier-mâché music box with a monkey figurine that has sentimental value to him.[42][43] The auctioneer then presents a shattered chandelier that has been renovated with electrical wiring, alluding to a connection with "the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera, a mystery never fully explained." As the porters remove the drop cloth covering the fixture, it flickers to life and ascends to the ceiling as the auditorium's former grandeur is restored, thus framing the main plot as a flashback ("Overture").

Act I

It is now 1881[44] and the cast of a new production, Hannibal, are rehearsing onstage when they learn that new owners, Firmin and André, are taking over the Opéra Populaire ("Hannibal Rehearsal"). Carlotta, the Opéra's resident soprano prima donna, begins to perform an aria for the new managers when a backdrop inexplicably falls from the flies, barely missing her and prompting anxious chorus girls to whisper, "He's here! The Phantom of the Opera!". The managers try to downplay the incident, but Carlotta angrily insists that such things have been happening for "three years" and she storms out, quitting the show. Madame Giry, the Opéra's ballet mistress, informs Firmin and André that Christine Daaé, a chorus girl and orphaned daughter of a prominent violinist, has been "well taught" and can sing Carlotta's role. With cancellation of the sold-out show being their only other alternative, the managers reluctantly audition her and are surprised to discover that she is indeed talented. As Christine sings the aria during the evening performance, the Opéra's new patron, Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, recognises her as his childhood friend and playmate ("Think of Me").

Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman performing the title song

Backstage after her triumphant début, Christine confesses to her friend Meg, Madame Giry's daughter, that her singing has been inspired by an unseen tutor she knows only as the "Angel of Music" ("Angel of Music"). Raoul pays a visit to Christine's dressing room and the two reminisce about "Angel of Music" stories that her late father used to tell them. Christine confides that the Angel has visited her and taught her to sing ("Little Lotte"). Raoul indulges what he assumes are fantasies and insists on taking Christine to dinner. When Raoul leaves to fetch his hat, Christine hears the jealous Phantom's voice and entreats him to reveal himself. The Phantom obliges by appearing as a ghostly, partially masked face in her mirror ("The Mirror/Angel of Music (Reprise)"). Believing him to be the Angel of Music sent by her deceased father, Christine is irresistibly drawn through the mirror to the Phantom, who leads her down into the shadowy sewers below the Opéra house. The two board a small boat and cross a subterranean lake to his secret lair ("The Phantom of the Opera"). The Phantom explains that he has chosen Christine to sing his musical compositions. When he reveals a mirror that reflects an image of her in a wedding dress, the figure in the mirror gestures to Christine, and she faints from shock. The Phantom then covers her tenderly with his cloak and puts her on a bed ("The Music of the Night").

As the Phantom is composing music at his organ, Christine awakens to the sound of the Phantom's monkey music box ("I Remember"). Overcome with curiosity, she slips behind the Phantom, lifts his mask, and beholds his grotesquely disfigured face. The Phantom rails at her prying gesture, and Christine runs in fear. He then ruefully expresses his longing to be loved ("Stranger Than You Dreamt It"). Moved by pity, Christine returns the mask to the Phantom, and he escorts her back aboveground.

Meanwhile, Joseph Buquet, the Opéra's chief stagehand, regales the chorus girls with tales of the "Opéra Ghost" and his terrible Punjab lasso. Madame Giry arrives and warns Buquet to exercise restraint or face the Phantom's wrath ("Magical Lasso"). In the managers' office, André and Firman read notes from the Phantom and are interrupted by Raoul, who accuses them of sending him a note saying that he should make no attempt to see Christine again. Carlotta and Piangi then burst in, demanding to know who sent Carlotta a note warning that her "days at the Opéra Populaire are numbered". As André and Firmin try to calm Carlotta, Madame Giry delivers another note from the Phantom: he demands that Christine replace Carlotta as the Countess in the new opera, Il Muto, and that Box 5 be kept empty for him. The managers are warned they will face a "disaster beyond imagination" if these demands are not met ("Notes"). Firmin and André assure the furious Carlotta that she will remain their star and Christine will play the Pageboy, a silent role ("Prima Donna").

The première of Il Muto initially goes well, until the voice of the Phantom suddenly cuts through the performance, enraged that Box 5 was not kept empty for him as he had directed. As Christine whispers that she knows the Phantom is near, Carlotta reminds her that her role is silent, calling her a "little toad". The Phantom states that it is Carlotta who is the toad and enchants the diva's voice, reducing it to a frog-like croak. Firmin rushes to defuse the situation by announcing to the audience that Christine will take over the starring role, and he instructs the conductor to bring the ballet forward to keep the audience entertained. Suddenly, the corpse of Joseph Buquet drops from the rafters, hanging from the Punjab lasso. Firmin and André plead for calm as mayhem erupts and the Phantom's sinister laugh is heard throughout the auditorium ("Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh").

In the ensuing chaos after "Il Muto", Christine escapes with Raoul to the roof and tells him about her subterranean encounter with the Phantom ("Why Have You Brought Me Here?/Raoul, I've Been There"). Raoul is sceptical but promises to love and protect her; Christine reciprocates his vow ("All I Ask of You"). Christine and Raoul go back inside, unaware that the Phantom has overheard their entire conversation. The heartbroken Phantom angrily vows revenge before returning to the auditorium and crashing the chandelier onto the stage during the curtain call ("All I Ask of You (reprise)").

Act Il

Steve Barton and Sarah Brightman in the final scene

Six months later, the Opera house hosts a masquerade ball. The Phantom, who has been conspicuously absent since the chandelier disaster, suddenly reappears in costume as the Red Death. He announces that he has written an opera entitled Don Juan Triumphant during his absence, and demands that it be produced with Christine (who is now secretly engaged to Raoul) in the lead role, and he warns of dire consequences if his demands are not met. Noticing an engagement ring on a chain around Christine's neck, the Phantom angrily pulls it from her and vanishes in a blinding flash of light ("Masquerade/Why So Silent").

As the masquerade attendees scatter in fear, Raoul accosts Madame Giry and demands that she reveal what she knows about the Phantom. Madame Giry reluctantly explains that the Phantom is actually a brilliant scholar, magician, architect, inventor, and composer who was born with a terrifyingly deformed face and was ostracized for it. Feared and reviled by society, he was cruelly exhibited in a cage as part of a traveling fair until he eventually escaped and disappeared. He subsequently took refuge beneath the opera house, which has now become his home.

The Opera managers, believing they have no choice, reluctantly plan to produce the Phantom's opera. Before rehearsals begin, Raoul plots to use the première of Don Juan Triumphant as a trap to capture the Phantom and put an end to his reign of terror. Carlotta falsely accuses Christine of being the mastermind, suggesting that it is all a ploy to make her the star. Christine angrily defends herself, explaining that she is his victim just like everyone else. Raoul, knowing of the Phantom's obsession with his fiancée, asserts that the Phantom will attend the opera's première and begs a reluctant Christine to help lure the Phantom into the trap, but she refuses ("Notes/Twisted Every Way"). During rehearsal, Piangi is unable to sing his part in the new opera, causing frustration and chaos for everyone. The piano suddenly begins to play the piece by itself (having been possessed by the Phantom) and the entire company immediately sings the proper notes in unison.

Torn between her love for Raoul and her awe of the Phantom, Christine visits her father's grave, longing for his guidance ("Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"). The Phantom appears atop the mausoleum, again under the guise of the Angel of Music ("Wandering Child"). The weary Christine begins to succumb to the Phantom's influence, but Raoul arrives to rescue her. The Phantom taunts Raoul, hurling fire balls at him until Christine begs Raoul to leave with her. Furious, the Phantom declares war upon them both and causes flames to spring up around the mausoleum ("Bravo Monsieur").

With armed policemen having secured the auditorium and watching for the Phantom, Don Juan Triumphant premieres with Christine and Piangi singing the lead roles. During Don Juan's and Aminta's duet, Christine comes to the sudden realization that the Phantom has somehow replaced Piangi ("Don Juan Triumphant/The Point of No Return"). Mimicking Raoul's vow of devotion on the rooftop, the Phantom once again expresses his love for Christine and forces his ring onto her finger. Christine rips off his mask, showing his horrifically deformed face to the shocked audience. Exposed, the Phantom hurriedly drags Christine off the stage and back to his lair. Piangi's garroted body is revealed backstage and the opera house plunges into chaos. An angry mob, vowing vengeance for the murders of Buquet and Piangi, search for the Phantom. Madame Giry tells Raoul how to find the Phantom's subterranean lair and warns him to beware the magical lasso. ("Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer").

Down in the lair, the Phantom has compelled Christine to don a wedding dress. In a moment of epiphany, she explains that she is not fearful of his physical appearance, but rather his inner nature. Raoul reaches the lair and attempts to persuade the Phantom to spare Christine and begs him for compassion. The Phantom retorts that the world had never shown him any and ensnares Raoul in the Punjab lasso. The Phantom offers Christine an ultimatum: if she will stay with him, he will spare Raoul, but if she refuses, Raoul will die ("The Point of No Return Reprise"). As the Phantom and Raoul both vie for Christine, she sadly asks the Phantom what life he has been forced to live. Finally, she tells the Phantom that he is not alone and kisses him, showing him compassion for the first time in his life.

Having experienced kindness at last, the Phantom realises that he cannot win Christine by force, and frees Raoul. The Phantom makes them swear to never tell and yells for them to leave before collapsing in tears. Raoul hurries Christine out of the lair, but she returns alone to give the Phantom back his ring. The Phantom finally tells Christine he loves her and she tearfully exits the lair to rejoin Raoul. As the angry search mob closes in, the devastated Phantom huddles on his throne beneath his cloak. Meg is first to reach the lair and finds no one there. She approaches the throne with curiosity and quickly pulls away the Phantom's cloak, but finds only his mask. She lifts the mask up into the light and gazes at it in wonder as the curtain falls ("Finale").[45]

Casting

Original casts

The original casts of the major productions of The Phantom of the Opera:[46][47]

Character Original West End Cast Original Broadway Cast Original U.S. Tour Cast[48] Original Australian Cast Original Las Vegas Cast Royal Albert Hall 25th Anniversary Cast[49] 2004 Movie 2019 World Tour Cast
The Phantom of the Opera Michael Crawford Anthony Warlow Brent Barrett
Anthony Crivello
Ramin Karimloo Gerard Butler Jonathan Roxmouth
Christine Daaé Sarah Brightman
Claire Moore
Sarah Brightman
Patti Cohenour
Dale Kristien
Mary D'Arcy†
Marina Prior Sierra Boggess
Elizabeth Loyacano‡
Sierra Boggess Emmy Rossum Meghan Picerno
Clara Verdier†
Raoul de Chagny Steve Barton Reece Holland Dale Burridge Tim Martin Gleason Hadley Fraser Patrick Wilson Matt Leisy
Carlotta Giudicelli Rosemary Ashe Judy Kaye Leigh Munro Christa Leahmann Elena Jeanne Batman
Geena Jeffries Mattox‡
Wendy Ferguson Minnie Driver Beverly Chiat
Monsieur Gilles André David Firth Cris Groenendaal Norman Large John O'May John Leslie Wolfe Gareth Snook Simon Callow Curt Olds
Monsieur Richard Firmin John Savident Nicholas Wyman Calvin Remsberg Jon Ewing Lawson Skala Barry James Ciarán Hinds James Borthwick
Madame Giry Mary Millar Leila Martin Barbara Lang Geraldene Morrow Rebecca Spencer Liz Robertson Miranda Richardson Melina Kalomas
Ubaldo Piangi John Aron David Romano Gualtiero Negrini Christopher Dawes Larry Wayne Morbitt Wynne Evans Victor McGuire Thabiso Masemene
Meg Giry Janet Devenish Elisa Heinsohn Elisabeth Stringer Sharon Millerchip Brianne Kelly Morgan Daisy Maywood Jennifer Ellison Kiruna-Lind Devar
Joseph Buquet Janos Kurucz Phillip Steele Gene Brundage Nick Holder Kevin McNally Victor Wallace

† The role of Christine Daaé is double-cast in most professional productions. The secondary actress performs the role twice a week (on Broadway, Thursday evening and Saturday matinée).[50]

‡ Three roles (The Phantom, Christine, and Carlotta) were double-cast in the original Las Vegas production, with the two actors in each pair singing alternate performances.[51] Later, Las Vegas casting became identical to that in the Broadway production, with single casting for all characters except Christine.[52]

Notable West End replacements