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Published:January 15th, 2006 14:08 EST
The Phantom Of The Opera Haunts Broadway As The Longest Running Musical

The Phantom Of The Opera Haunts Broadway As The Longest Running Musical

By Maria Grella

The honor of being the longest running musical in Broadway history is still attributed to Andrew Lloyd Weber, but for a different story.  After 18 years on the Great Whiteway, over 50 major theatre awards, including 7 Tonys, “The Phantom of the Opera” has surpassed the previous record holder, “Cats”.  As of January 9th, it has performed at the Majestic Theatre in NY for 7,486 performances, where “Cats” ended it’s run at 7,485 shows.  The third place honor goes to “Les Miserables”, with 6,680 performances. 

Based on Gaston Leroux’s novel, “Le Fantome de L’Opera”, the musical is about a disfigured operatic genius who haunts the Paris Opera house.  In the dungeons of his black despair, he comes to the surface to teach an emerging young soprano his musical talents, but she teaches him a hard lesson in love.

The original London cast, who unleashed the opera in England October 1986, starred Michael Crawford as Phantom, the tragic leading man, and Sarah Brightman as the young and tortured Christine Daaè.  Gathering at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in true masquerade fashion, cast and crew were on hand to join in on the celebration for the show’s success.  Crawford, who also opened the phenomenon on Broadway back on January 26, 1988, saw the spectacle for the first time as an audience member.
Though not as vocally strong as Crawford, Howard McGillin does his best to keep the audience’s emotions running rampant.  First in anger, then in pity and sorrow, the Phantom is an unlikely hero.  Sandra Joseph makes a suitable replacement for the leading lady, Christine.

January 9th’s show had a white feline dance with McGillin, as the baton was passed from “Cats” to the “The Phantom of the Opera”.  Monday night’s show also featured curtain calls of previous actors, as well as behind-the-scenes people essential to the production; producer Cameron Mackintosh, director Harold Prince and choreographer Gillian Lynne were among the participants. 

Stranger than anyone dreamt it, this rock opera has seen worldwide success, too.  Presented in two dozen countries, it has grossed over $3.2 billion, with nearly $600 million coming from New York’s Majestic.  More than 11 million theatergoers have seen it in NY, and more than 80 million people have experienced the musical worldwide. 

Pondering about the reasons why “The Phantom of the Opera” is such Broadway royalty, musical composer, Andrew Lloyd Weber, suggested that it was due to the classic love story. 

“I think there isn’t another musical that has been written in the last two decades or so, which has a plot that is so escapist, that allows high romance to happen.” 

Mackintosh, “P.O.T.O.’s” producer, concurred, stating, “the musical is a kind of beauty-and-the-beast story.  It appeals to everyone because it is about an impossible love, which I think many of us have had.”  People can relate because while this tale takes place in a world of opulence and grandeur, the core feelings are universal.  “The whole framework or design of the show is that you are sucked into this mythical world below the opera house and yet shown something where we can feel the same emotions as one can feel in normal life.”