Today is a big day for theater goers. The Broadway show “The Phantom of the Opera” is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. It has held the record for being the longest running show on Broadway for quite some time. Playbill.com reported in their Dec. 23, 2012 count of Longest Running Shows that it had played 10,359 times. In the number two spot is another show by the man who wrote the music for the Phantom, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. His show “Cats” played 7,485 before closing.
As we celebrate this remarkable achievement, those of us who love “The Phantom of the Opera” know why it continues on like it does. The music is hauntingly beautiful, it has a storyline that not only mystifies, but defines how theater should be played. The characters develop and display throughout the show many sides of their personality and in the end good wins out. It is a classic no doubt.
I hope my readers and editors will allow me a moment to reminisce about my own experiences with the show. It remains my favorite show of all time because of the attributes mentioned above. But it has a personal story that makes it even dearer to me.
It all started back sometime in 1987 when my parents returned from a trip to England. While staying in London, they heard about “The Phantom of the Opera” which had opened on the West End in 1986. They told me that every place they went, the music from the show was being played. My father, who was an accomplished piano player, was especially taken with the song “The Music of the Night.”
Then news broke that the show would be opening on Broadway in January, 1988. At the time, I was working a few blocks from the Majestic Theatre. One night on my way back to the Port Authority, I stopped at the box office and purchased three tickets for a March performance. Back in those days, there was no internet, so going to the theater box office was a common way of buying tickets for people who lived in the area. Hard to believe we used to do that regularly right? I can’t remember what I paid, but I got us front row seats center section of the Mezzanine for a Saturday afternoon matinee.
The seats were outstanding especially watching the chandelier as it rose and fell. I recall Sarah Brightman as Christine being brilliant in the role and Michael Crawford made the Phantom a standout among theatrical characters. To watch Christine go through the mystical entrance way into the Phantom’s lair and watch as he paddled her away in the boat with all the illusions accompanied with it was something I had not seen before on a stage. Seeing the Phantom disappear into thin air during “Masquerade” left people actually saying out loud, “where did he go?” But recognizing the underlining theme of the cruelty that human beings display towards those who are different and how one person can give the love that is needed to overcome that pain kept this show in the forefront of my mind always. My parents and I had been to other Broadway shows before this one, but this one turned out to be most memorable for us. It was also the last show on Broadway that they ever attended. I later bought the official cast album. We played it a lot and the wonderful memories of attending that show were always present.
My father took sick a few years after that and he died in 1994. My mother passed on to join him in 1996. It took me a few years to be able to pull out that album and listen to the music from the show that we had so enjoyed together. But finally one day I did. And I never stopped after that. In fact I even bought the same “album” on a CD and listen to that now. It took a kind friend who asked me to join her to see the Phantom on Broadway several years ago to get me back into the Majestic Theatre. That return was amazing. I saw the show with totally different eyes than I had as a younger woman nearly 18 years before. The story and the characters took on new and heightened meaning for me. The ability to transcend the years and still have power in the story and the music made me realize what a classic “The Phantom of the Opera” is and will continue to be.
I’ve been back several more times to see the show and will continue to do. But for today, I raise my glass today in a toast and say thank you to all who have been involved with the show for so many memories. Congratulations on this grand theatrical achievement and I wish "The Phantom of the Opera" continued success for another 25 years!