A Haunting Musical Enthralling for Three Decades
The world has celebrated theater for centuries, the art already well-loved since sixth century BC. Thespis, the first Greek actor, was the first to win a theatrical award. Plays grew more and more in popularity as thousands of decades have passed, with praiseworthy titles that include Euripides’s The Bacchae (405 BC), Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (c. 1592), Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts (1882), William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (c. 1602), or Noël Coward’s The Vortex (1924) lighting up eyes, inspiring minds, and elevating spirits.
The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show in Broadway history, is a 1986 (London’s West End opening) musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics written by Charles Hart. Two years later in 1988, it was opened in Broadway. The story was originally based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux. The plot follows Christine Daaé, an admired soprano who becomes the object of affection, and later, obsession, of an enigmatic musical genius.
The Phantom of the Opera won more than seventy major theater awards, including very prominent titles: an Evening Standard Award, three Olivier Awards, five Outer Critic Circle Awards, seven Drama Desk Awards, and seven Tony Awards, including Best Actor and Best Musical. Its box-office revenues exceeded any play or movie to this day, beating highly regarded films such as Star Wars and Titanic. Album sales are now over forty million.
In the show’s twenty-eight years in Broadway, more than 300 custom-made Phantom masks have been created. In every musical performed, there are 22 scene changes, 130 cast, crew, and orchestra members, 230 costumes, 281 candles, 111 wigs (made of human, synthetic, and yak hair), and 150 trapdoors (Majestic Theater). Moreover, 2,230 meters of fabric (900 specially dyed) for drapes, 250 kilograms of dry ice, and 10 fog and smoke machines are being used. The musical’s Paris Opera House chandelier is built with 6,000 beads that hold 35 beads to each string. The original version was built in just 4 weeks by only 5 people.
To date, 15 actors have played the Phantom on Broadway. Michael Crawford, Steve Barton, Mark Jacoby, and James Barbour are some of them. The play has been seen by over 140 million people in 35 countries and 166 cities all over the globe. It is also played in fifteen languages: English, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Russian. On July 7, 2014, The Phantom of the Opera celebrated its eleven thousandth performance on Broadway.
Wikipedia. 2016. “History of Theatre.” Accessed November 25, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_theatre.
Wikipedia. 2016. “The Phantom of the Opera (1986 Musical).” Accessed November 25, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phantom_of_the_Opera_(1986_musical).
The Phantom of the Opera. “Facts & Figures.” Accessed November 25, 2016. http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/the-show/facts-figures#i4BziCo0BUDQWVw6.97.
Playbill. “28 Rarely Known Phantom Facts and Backstage Stories to Celebrate a Broadway Milestone!” Accessed November 25, 2016. http://www.playbill.com/article/28-rarely-known-phantom-facts-and-backstage-stories-to-celebrate-a-broadway-milestone.