The Phantom of the Opera’ closes on Broadway after 35 years

The New York production of “The Phantom of the Opera” drew its final curtains Sunday, wrapping up Broadway’s longest run with a thunderous standing ovation, champagne toasts and gold and silver confetti bursting from its famous chandeliers.

It was the 13,981st performance at the Majestic Theatre, and concluded with a re-enactment of “Music of the Night” by current cast members, former cast members of the show — including original star Sarah Brightman — and crew in civilian clothes .

Andrew Lloyd Webber took to the stage last in a black suit and tie and dedicated his final performance to his son Nick, who died after a long battle with stomach cancer and pneumonia died last month. He is 43 years old.

“He heard some of this music when he was a little boy,” Lloyd Webber said. Brightman shook his hand in agreement: “Andrew was there when he wrote it. So his son is with us. Nick, we love you so much.”

Producer Cameron Mackintosh left some in the crowd wishing they’d see the apparition again, and possibly sooner than they thought.

“A question I keep getting asked – will the Phantom return? As a producer for over 55 years, I’ve seen all the great musicals come back and The Phantom is one of the greatest, “He said. “So, it’s just a matter of time.”

The musical has run on Broadway since its opening on January 26, 1988, and has weathered recessions, wars, terrorism and cultural change. But a prolonged pandemic could be the final straw: The musical is expensive to maintain, with elaborate sets and costumes, and a massive cast and orchestra. Sunday’s curtain call showed how The Phantom doesn’t fit in with the rest of Broadway, but also how glamorous a big, compelling musical can be.

“If there was ever a bang, we’d go out with a bang. It’s going to be a good night,” John Riddle said before storming inside to play Raoul for the last time.

The Phantom, based on the novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, tells the story of a freak composer who haunts the Paris Opera and falls madly in love with the naive young soprano Christine. Weber’s extravagant hits include “The Masquerade,” “Music Angel” and “All I Ask You.”

In addition to Riddle, the New York producer bid farewell to Emilie Kouatchou as Christine and Laird Mackintosh to replace Ben Crawford as Phantom. Crawford was unable to sing due to a bacterial infection, but was cheered at the curtain call and walked to the side of the stage. Phantom waved him, Riddle and Kouatchou to stand beside him.

There are many video introductions of actors who have played key roles in the show over the years, and the orchestra seats are filled with Christine, Raouls and Phantom. The late director Hal Prince, choreographer Gillian Lynn and set and costume designer Maria Bjorsen were also honored.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Glenn Close, who performed in two separate Broadway productions of Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard,” were in attendance. Complimentary champagne was served during intermission and flutes of champagne were handed out on stage during the curtain call.

Riddle first saw The Phantom of the Opera as a 4-year-old in Toronto. “It was the first musical I ever saw. I didn’t know what a musical was,” he said. “Now, 30-plus years later, I’m wrapping up on Broadway. So it’s incredible.”

Kouatchou, who became the first black woman in New York to take on the role, doesn’t think the show will ever stop. “I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to start running, ‘Phantom’ is going to go on, they’re going to be more people of color,” she said. “But that’s it.”

The first production premiered in London in 1986 and has since been seen by more than 145 million people in 183 cities, with more than 70,000 performances in 17 languages. On Broadway alone, it grossed more than $1.3 billion.

When “Phantom” opened in New York, “Die Hard” hit theaters, Adele was born, and floppy disks were at the cutting edge of technology. A stamp cost 25 cents, and the year’s most popular songs were Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It,” George Michael’s “Faith” and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Critics were positive, with the New York Post calling it “a well-made musical”, the Daily News calling it “spectacular entertainment”, and The New York Times saying it “just wants to give The audience brings fantasy” and fun. “

Other Lloyd Webber musicals include Cats, Astrostar, Evita, Sunset Boulevard and School of Rock. The end of “The Phantom” means the composer has only one show left on Broadway, the much-maligned “Bad Cinderella.”

Originally scheduled for release in February, “Phantom” was pushed back to mid-April as audience interest and ticket sales surged, taking in more than $3 million a week. The closing means the crown of longest-running show now belongs to Chicago, which opened in 1996. The next one was The Lion King, which opened in 1997.

Broadway has been hit hard during the pandemic, with all theaters closed for more than 18 months. Some of the most popular shows — “Hamilton,” “The Lion King” and “Wicked Wicked” — bounced back well, but others struggled.

Making ends meet usually requires a steady stream of tourists, especially Mirage, and the city has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. The pandemic has also driven up costs across all programs, including routine COVID-19 testing and staff safety officials. Phantom becomes the face of Broadway’s comeback — he’s partially masked, after all.

Fans can always see Mirage elsewhere. The London-based flagship production celebrated its 36th anniversary in October and has productions in Japan, Greece, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Korea and the Czech Republic. One is about to open in Bucharest and another in Vienna in 2024.

Kouatchou, who walked the red carpet ahead of his final performance in a pink sheath gown with a sweetheart neckline and cutout, said the big sendoff undercut the bitterness. Most Broadway shows have literally slipped into the dark.

“It’s kind of sweet, right?” she said. “We’re going to celebrate when this is over. We get together and drink and laugh and talk about the show and all the highs and lows. It ends on a big note.”


mark kennedy

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