Classic Literature | 26 August 2015The Phantom of the Opera Share article facebook twitter google pinterest It’s one of the most successful pieces of entertainment in any medium. For over 100 years, people have been enjoying the story of the mysterious Phantom and his protégée Christine. But it wasn’t until 1988 that the story was brought to the stage. The Book of Broadway tells the history behind the production that continues to stun audiences on the Great White Way. “Masquerade,” at the beginning of Act II, showcased the lavishness of Phantom’s costumes and sets (both by Maria Björnson). © Joan Marcus Dates: Opened January 26, 1988 at the Majestic Theater (11,239 performances as of February 1, 2015) Synopsis: Christine Daaé unexpectedly ascends the ranks of the Paris Opera House in 1881 with the help of her mysterious voice teacher, a disfigured phantom who falls in love with his protégée. Awards: 7 Tony Awards Noted Revivals and Adaptations: Movie version in 2004 Original Stars: Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Steve Barton, Judy Kaye By 1984, Andrew Lloyd Webber had written five hit musicals— with nothing really resembling romance in any of them. Mary Magdalene didn’t know how to love Jesus, Eva and Juan Perón had more of a marriage of convenience, and T. S. Eliot never got around to writing any feline love songs. Lloyd Webber and superproducer Cameron Mackintosh changed that in a big way when they settled on Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera for their project, with the leading role of Christine tailored to Lloyd Webber’s wife at the time, Sarah Brightman. His original plan was to rely on existing opera music; luckily for him and his accountant, that plan changed. The original cast recording alone has sold more than forty million copies worldwide. Michael Crawford, the original Phantom of the Opera. Crawford performed the role more than 1,300 times. Although theater is no longer the prevailing form of entertainment, The Phantom of the Opera spent more than a decade as the most successful piece of entertainment in any medium, surpassing even the films Avatar and Titanic. The Lion King has since eclipsed it financially, but there’s no competition from the standpoint of longevity. Phantom has a nine-year head start over its closest challenger, the revival of Chicago. Why has it stuck around so long? Are there that many fans of George Lee Andrews, who made the Guinness Book of World Records by playing the opera manager Monsieur André more than 9,300 times? More likely candidates for such fandom include the crashing chandelier at the end of Act I and Michael Crawford, with his remarkably convincing transformation from gawky ingénue circa Hello, Dolly! to man of mystery. Director Harold Prince’s peerless eye for complicated stage pictures helped, too, as did his zeal for keeping standards high: a YouTube montage of a few dozen chandelier crashes shows an incredible, almost spooky consistency over the decades and around the world. And of course, there is Lloyd Webber’s score, a zestful mix of Puccini and pop that promises a new sweeping melody every few minutes. The less admirable lyrics were written by committee, with a group that included Alan Jay Lerner of My Fair Lady fame and Starlight Express’ Richard Stilgoe. Love Never Dies, Lloyd Webber’s 2010 attempt to replicate Phantom’s success with a sequel set in Coney Island, has been only slightly more successful than such previous stage follow-ups as Bring Back Birdie and Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge. But while Love Never Dies died a relatively quick death in London and never made it to New York, the love for its predecessor really does appear to be immortal. Buy from an Online Retailer In North America: In The UK: Relive, or discover, the Broadway productions that have enthralled, enchanted, and enraptured audiences for more than 100 years. The Book of Broadway is a celebratory, gorgeous tome dedicated to what is arguably the quintessential American art form: the Broadway show. The book profiles 150 of the best, biggest, most influential, and most fascinating Broadway musicals and plays ever produced, spanning the mid-nineteenth century to the twenty-first century. Shows profiled include everything from the 1860s musical The Black Crook, which captivated and titillated audiences for more than five hours, to the Pulitzer Prize–winning 2010 play Clybourne Park. The men and women who shaped Broadway history – such as Stephen Sondheim, Tennessee Williams, Bernadette Peters, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Ethel Merman, Marlon Brando, August Wilson, and Nathan Lane – are celebrated for their groundbreaking work. Photographs throughout illustrate the stunning designs of the shows profiled. Author Eric Grode – an arts writer for The New York Times, and author of Hair: The Story of the Show That Defined a Generation – has compiled this ultimate guide to Broadway shows, filled with insider knowledge. Theater fans will appreciate the fantastic Broadway trivia scattered throughout the book as well as the palpable sense of history in this encyclopedic treatment of one of our most beloved pastimes. A handful of the shows featured in this book include: Annie The Book of Mormon Bye Bye Birdie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Chicago Death of a Salesman Fiddler on the Roof Grease Guys and Dolls Hello, Dolly! Kiss Me, Kate Les Miserables The Music Man My Fair Lady The Phantom of the Opera Rent Six Degrees of Separation The Sound of Music A Streetcar Named Desire West Side Story Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.