Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera began previews at Her Majesty's Theatre in London on September 27, 1986 and opened on October 9, 1986. It was directed by Hal Prince, choreographed by Gillian Lynne, and lighting designed by Andrew Bridge.
Lloyd Webber first approached Jim Steinman to write the lyrics because of his "dark obsessive side", but he declined in order to fulfill his commitments on a Bonnie Tyler album. Alan Jay Lerner was then recruited, but he became seriously ill after joining the project and was forced to withdraw; none of his contributions (mostly involving the song "Masquerade") are credited in the show. Richard Stilgoe, the lyricist for ALW's previous show Starlight Express, wrote most of the original lyrics for the production. Charles Hart, a young and then-relatively unknown lyricist, later rewrote many of the lyrics, along with original lyrics for "Think of Me". Some of Stilgoe's original contributions are still present in the final version, however.
|The composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber|
|The iconic "Music of the Night" pose|
The late Maria Bjornson designed the extravagant and breathtaking sets for the show. She designed the sets and over 200 costumes, including the spectacular ones in the Masquerade sequence. Her set designs, including such indelible elements as the chandelier, subterranean gondola, and the sweeping staircase, set a standard for stage spectacle seldom equaled, and earned her multiple awards.
|The Grand Staircase during "Masquerade"|
|The Hannibal Scene|
A preview of the first act was staged at Sydmonton (Lloyd Webber's home) in 1985, starring Colm Wilkinson (later star of the Toronto production) as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Kristin (eventually changed to Christine) and Clive Carter as Raoul (who later played the same role in London). This very preliminary production used Richard Stilgoe's original unaltered lyrics, and many songs sported names that were later changed, such as "What Has Time Done to Me" ("Think of Me"), and "Papers" ("Notes"). The original Phantom's mask, which covered the entire face and remained in place throughout the performance, obscured the actor's vision and muffled his voice, as can be seen from the video below. Björnson designed the trademark half-mask to replace it, and the unmasking sequence was added.
The original London production starred Michael Crawford, who replaced Steve Harley, as the title character, Sarah Brightman as Christine Daae and Steve Barton as Raoul. It won 2 Olivier Awards for Best New Musical and Best Actor (Crawford).
|Her Majesty's Theatre, home of West End Phantom for the past 25 years|
|Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman|
|Steve Barton and Sarah Brightman|
|Richard Stilgoe, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman|
at the Opening Night in London 25 years ago
|The stage Phantom's makeup|
|The Majestic Theatre, home of Broadway's Phantom|
|Sarah Brightman during "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" number|
|Steve Barton, Richard Stilgoe, Michael Crawford, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman|
at the Opening Night on Broadway
|Judy Kaye in her Tony winning performance as the jealous Prima Donna La Carlotta|
seen here with Nicholas Wyman and Chris Groenendaal in "Prima Donna"
Phantom London celebrated its 10,000th performance at the matinee on October 23, 2010 and is West End's second longest-running musical (behind Les Miserables). Phantom Broadway celebrated its 9,000th performance in January 1999 and surpassed Cats as Broadway's longest-running musical on January 9, 2006.
Celebrating its 25th year in London, John Owen-Jones and Sierra Boggess was chosen to perform the title song at the 2011 Olivier Award.
It was made into a movie in 2004 starring Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson and was nominated for 3 Academy Awards including Best Cinematography (John Mathieson) and Best Art Direction (Anthony Pratt and Celia Bobak), both lost to The Aviator. It was also nominated for Best Original Song for the newly written "Learn to Be Lonely" (Lloyd Webber and Hart; sung by Minnie Driver) which was performed live by Beyonce with Andrew Lloyd Webber at the piano at the event. It lost to Jorge Drexler's song from The Motorcycle Diaries.
|Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum in the movie version|
On June 24, 2006, a new production of Phantom opened at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas in a theatre built specifically for the show. The production runs 95 minutes with no intermission and features updated technology and effects including advanced pyrotechnics an strobe lighting and a much-heraled, re-engineered chandelier. 45 minutes' worth of material was eliminated, including most of the spoken lines within the libretto, dance sequences, and scenes (such as the Don Juan Triumphant rehearsal) which enhance the Phantom's back story but are not crucial to the overall plot. While most of the musical numbers were left intact, "Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh" and "The Point of No Return" were significantly shortened, engendering some criticism. Other changes resembled many of the alterations made in the 2004 film such as staging the chandelier crash at the plot's climax (during performance of "The Point of No Return") rather than mid-story (reprise of "All I Ask of You"). Anthony Crivello/Brent Barrett, Sierra Boggess/Elizabeth Loyacano and Tim Martin Gleason made up the original Vegas cast in the three leading roles.
|Sierra Boggess during "The Point of No Return"|
|Tim Martin Gleason, Charles Hart, Richard Stilgoe,|
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gillian Lynne
at the Las Vegas opening night
I have seen Phantom 5 times in my life and it was one of my first musical theatre experience outside of Thailand. Here are the list of my Phantom experience:
1st: April 1999, Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol
Scott Davies and Zoe Curlett
I was on an English summer course in Bath and saw the ad and just had to see it. I remember sitting right at the very back of the balcony but the musical was still very impressive for me, despite my weak English skills back then, and I really had a great time and it totally opened a new world for me.
2nd: May 2003, Her Majesty's Theatre, London
John Owen-Jones and Celia Graham
I was in London for an English Speaking Competition and my parents and I went to see this and this time we got the seats in the very first row of the stall. It gave me a good chance to appreciate a close-up look of the acting of the actors and the chandelier fall was so much fun.
3rd: May 2003, Her Majesty's Theatre, London
John Owen-Jones and Celia Graham
I had a spare day so I didn't know what to do and since I didn't know a lot of musicals back then, I decided to go back and see it again and could you believe it, I was in the exact same seat! I remember that the noose that caught around Raoul's neck in the final scene didn't work, talking about a stage mishap. :)
4th: October 2006, The Venetian, Las Vegas
Anthony Crivello and Kristi Holden
I was very excited to find out how the Vegas production will be and the production itself was just spectacular. The scenes and the effects were beautifully done and we got decent seats this time, not too far and not too close. However, the acting left me kinda disappointed, to be honest.
5th: January 2011, Her Majesty's Theatre, London
John Owen-Jones and Tabitha Webb
It was a New Year's Day and I was very looking forward to seeing Phantom again, especially with John Owen-Jones as the Phantom and the show was just as amazing as it was. It was truly the "brilliant original".
|The amazing John Owen-Jones in his Phantom makeup|
Well, until then, here's an early Happy 25th Birthday to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!
|The look of the stage before the show begins|
|At an auction|
|Christine during "Think of Me"|
|The Journey to the Phantom Lair|
|The Music of the Night|
|Christine returned the mask to the Phantom|
during "Stranger than You Dreamt It"
|Another important characters in the show, Meg and Madame Giry|
|The new managers of the Opera House, M. Andre and M. Firmin|
|"Pool Fool, He Makes Me Laugh!"|
|Raoul and Christine on the rooftop of the Opera House|
|Phantom aboard the angel during the reprise of "All I Ask of You"|
|"Wandering Child, so lost so helpless"|
|Raoul and Christine in the Phantom's Lair at the end of the show|