Why, you will ask, do a review of a show that opened in 1988?
Well, first, it’s The Phantom of the Opera, for goodness sakes, and it’s the longest-running show in Broadway history. Second, long-running shows should be checked in on every decade or so to see how they’re holding up.
What 'The Phantom of the Opera' is About
Phantom is about two things, really. It’s about the plot of the show, and it’s about itself, about the spectacle, about near-cult status it has achieved after two decades in New York and London and numerous international tours.
Set in and around the Opera House in Paris in 1881, Phantom tells the story of a disfigured genius who will stop at nothing to see his protégé, Christine Daaé, become the first lady of the stage and sing his works. The orphaned Christine sees the Phantom as the “angel of music” her father promised would protect her when he died.
On the eve of Christine’s successful debut, the theater’s new patron, handsome, rich Raoul, realizes Christine is a childhood friend, and he is again smitten.
So begins a cat-and-mouse competition for Christine between the Phantom and Raoul.
At its heart, Phantom is about the obsessive pursuit of something, anything that will give the pursuer peace. At times, the object of pursuit is revenge, recognition or riches, but in the end, it is a show about the redeeming qualities of love, qualities that redeem both the lover and the one loved.
What You’ll Like About 'Phantom'
I’ll go out on a limb and say you’ll like the music. In fact, I’ll go a little farther on the limb and say it will be in your head for a long time after you leave the theater.
Composer and co-book writer Andrew Lloyd Webber just has the knack for crafting memorable melodies.
Phantom is a spectacle, in the best sense of that word. Most are familiar by now with the boat ride across the misty underground lake, but the costumes and staging of Masquerade, the second-act opener, are stunning.
Through no specific plan, I saw two other long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber shows in London in the last year of their runs, Cats and Jesus Christ Superstar. The lethargy that had set into those productions put me off long-running shows for a long time. Don’t make that mistake with Phantom. It retains an opening-night crispness, excitement and quality.
Howard McGillin’s performance as the Phantom gives great insight into a pathetic yet predatory creature twisted inside and out by things he does and does not control. Tim Martin Gleason as Raoul has a voice you’ll want to hear again. And as Christine, I saw Susan Owen, who understudies the role, and she was excellent.
And be sure to take note of George Lee Andrews, who gives a great turn and comic relief as Monsieur Andre. He has been with the show since it opened.
Things to Consider
This is a melodrama, which means popping flares, strobe lights, nooses, and a gun shot.
But it’s also an operatic melodrama. The thirty-something man sitting next to me was telling his wife, “That couldn’t happen,” at various time during the show. Of course, it couldn’t happen, but that’s not the point, is it? The point is the music, the stage magic that’s created, and the emotional moments the characters share.
Who Put This Show on and Stars in It?
The Phantom of the Opera stars Howard McGillin, Marni Raab, Elizabeth Loyacano, Tim Martin Gleason, Patricia Phillips, George Lee Andrews, David Cryer, Rebecca Judd, Evan Harrington, Polly Baird, Geoff Packard, John Kuether, Fank Mastrone, Kenneth Kantor, Richard Poole, Jeremy Stolle, Daniel Rychlec, Jack Hayes, Kris Coop, Chris Bohannon, Sally Williams, Rayanne Gonzales, Susan Owen, Melody Rubie, Wren Marie Harrington, and Paul A. Schaefer,
Harold Prince directed, and musical staging and choreography are by Gillian Lynne. Lyrics are by Charles Hart, with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe. The book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The Phantom of the Opera
- Majestic Theatre
247 West 44th Street
- Show Times and Tickets
- Opening: January 26, 1988
- Closing: Open-ended run
- Run Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (including intermission)