After 11,000 performances, a musical drama could be forgiven if it began to show some wear. In theater time, a run of more than 25 years is a very long lifetime.
The Phantom of the Opera, in its 27th year on Broadway, at the Majestic Theatre, hasn’t aged, or rather it has aged well. This is not a show resting on its laurels. Or on its worldwide success in tours all over the US, in Stockholm or Budapest or Istanbul, among the many places it has found a home.
Despite the myriad other accomplishments of his career, Phantom may prove to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s crowning legacy. It was a breakout hit from its opening night at the Majestic in 1988, where it walked away with 7 Tony Awards, including for Best Musical, Design and Direction.
The music, by Webber with lyrics by Charles Hart, breaks over you in tidal waves of emotion. It’s lush and romantic, familiar yet very strange. Webber along with Richard Stilgoe (who has also provided some of the lyrics) fashioned the story from Gaston Leroux’s gothic novel, “Le Fantome de L’Opera.”
The Phantom of the Opera creates a world of its own; it emerses us in it. Through our willing suspension of disbelief, we descend into this netherworld of fantastical creatures and objects masterminded by the fiendish Phantom (James Barbour.) The story takes us into a Paris opera house haunted by a frighteningly demanding ghost. The Phantom’s obsession with a young soprano, Christine Daaé (Kaley Ann Voorhees) overwhelms him. She mistakes the monster for “the Angel of Music” her father promised to send her. At first, she is deceived by the Phantom’s exacting taste and guided by his instruction. When a childhood love, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (Jeremy Hays) becomes a patron for the Opera House, the Phantom’s jealousy has diabolical consequences.
There are many pleasures in revisiting Phantom, not the least of which is seeing the excellent cast and operatic staging. Hal Prince directs the players, while Gillian Lynne provides the musical staging and choreography. The production is designed by Maria Björnson.
The large ensemble proffers many delightful performances, with Michelle McConnell as the diva, Carlotta Giudicelli, the Phantom shuns in the opera within the musical, just one of many.
To learn more about The Phantom of the Opera, and for tickets, please visit http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/new-york. Not in New York, check out the touring companies and worldwide productions here.