By Robert Crowe
In the realm of musical theatre, Phantom of the Opera is the all-time leader in performances and income. It is the longest running musical in the history of Broadway … eight shows per week for 29 years … over 12,000 presentations and still going. In addition, touring groups are presenting the play world-wide.
The music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber with book and lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. The story line is based upon a novel by Frenchman Gaston Leroux, known mainly for his detective novels. The genesis of the musical play was that Webber found a used copy of the 1910 Leroux story in a second-hand New York bookstore. Webber asked a friend what he thought of the novel and the answer was that it was one of the great love stories ever written.
Here are some facts about the production as noted by Playbill Magazine.
The play opened in 1986 in London. The Broadway opening was in 1988 and cost over $8 million to stage; today the expense would be about $20 million to produce.
Over 400 actors have appeared in the NY production. Fifteen actors have portrayed the Phantom beginning with Michael Crawford. The part of the female lead, Christine, was initially played by Sarah Brightman who was married to Andrew Lloyd Webber at the time. Howard McGillin has the record for most performances ever on Broadway: 2,500 performances as the Phantom.
300 Phantom masks have been custom made, each one crafted to fit the contour of the actor’s face.
The musical continues to run at Broadway’s Majestic Theatre. For the staging of this show, there are 150 trap doors, mostly small flaps for making candles appear.
Presenting the New York Phantom takes 125 people in the cast, stage crew and orchestra for every show.
There are 230 costumes for each production. Fourteen dressers assist the actors with costume changes. It takes two hours to apply the Phantom make-up and thirty minutes to remove.
400 pounds of dry ice are used each day to create the underground fog. Also, ten fog and smoke machines are utilized.
The Majestic Theatre chandelier has 6,000 beads and weighs 2000 pounds.
Phantom is the recipient of 70 major theatre awards.
Musical album sales exceed 40 million copies.
Phantom shows are offered worldwide in 15 different languages. The show has been in 35 countries and 166 cities. Over 140 million people have seen the play and the income is almost 6 billion dollars.