The Phantom of the Opera (1986 musical)

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The Phantom of the Opera
Phantom.jpg
Poster
Music Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics
Book
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • Richard Stilgoe
Basis Le Fantôme de l'Opéra
by Gaston Leroux
Premiere 9 October 1986: Her Majesty's Theatre, London
Productions
See list
Awards

The Phantom of the Opera is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. Lloyd Webber and Stilgoe also wrote the musical's book together.[1] Based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux, its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House.[2]

The musical opened in London's West End in 1986, and on Broadway in 1988, it won the 1986 Olivier Award and the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical, and Michael Crawford (in the title role) won the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Musical.[3] It is the longest running show in Broadway history by a wide margin, and celebrated its 10,000th Broadway performance on 11 February 2012, the first production ever to do so.[4] It is the second longest-running West End musical, after Les Misérables, and the third longest-running West End show overall, after The Mousetrap.[5][6][7]

With total estimated worldwide gross receipts of over $5.6 billion and total Broadway gross of $845 million,[8] Phantom was the most financially successful entertainment event until The Lion King surpassed it in 2014.[9][10][11] By 2011, it had been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities across 27 countries, and continues to play in London and New York.[9]

Development[edit]

Idea[edit]

In 1984, Lloyd Webber contacted Cameron Mackintosh, the co-producer of Cats and Song and Dance, to propose a new musical. He was aiming for a romantic piece, and suggested Gaston Leroux's book The Phantom of the Opera as a basis, they screened both the 1925 Lon Chaney and the 1943 Claude Rains motion picture versions, but neither saw any effective way to make the leap from film to stage. Later, in New York, Lloyd Webber found a second-hand copy of the original, long-out-of-print Leroux novel, which supplied the necessary inspiration to develop a musical: "I was actually writing something else at the time, and I realised that the reason I was hung up was because I was trying to write a major romantic story, and I had been trying to do that ever since I started my career. Then with the Phantom, it was there!"[12]

Lyricists[edit]

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.[13] 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.[14][15] Richard Stilgoe, the lyricist for 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.[16]

Score[edit]

Inspired in part by an earlier musical version of the same story by Ken Hill,[17] Lloyd Webber's score is sometimes operatic in style but maintains the form and structure of a musical throughout, the full-fledged operatic passages are reserved principally for subsidiary characters such as Andre and Firmin, Carlotta, and Piangi. They are also used to provide the content of the fictional "operas" that are taking place within the show itself, viz., Hannibal, Il Muto, and the Phantom's masterwork, Don Juan Triumphant. "Here, Lloyd Webber pastiched various styles from the grand operas of Meyerbeer through to Mozart and even Gilbert and Sullivan."[18] These pieces are often presented as musical fragments, interrupted by dialogue or action sequences in order to clearly define the musical's "show within a show" format, the musical extracts from the Phantom's opera, "Don Juan Triumphant", during the latter stages of the show, are dissonant and modern—"suggesting, perhaps, that the Phantom is ahead of his time artistically".[19]

Design, direction, and choreography[edit]

Maria Björnson designed the sets and over 200 costumes, including the elaborate gowns in the "Masquerade" sequence. Her set designs, including the chandelier, subterranean gondola, and sweeping staircase, earned her multiple awards.[20][21] Hal Prince, director of Cabaret, Candide, Follies, and Lloyd Webber's Evita, directed the production, while Gillian Lynne, associate director and choreographer of Cats, provided the integral musical staging and choreography.

First preview at Sydmonton[edit]

A preview of the first act was staged at Sydmonton (Lloyd Webber's home) in 1985, starring Colm Wilkinson (later the star of the Toronto production) as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Kristin (later Christine), and Clive Carter (later a member of the London cast) as Raoul, 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 Phantom's original mask covered the entire face and remained in place throughout the performance, obscuring the actor's vision and muffling his voice. Björnson designed the now-iconic half-mask to replace it, and the unmasking sequence was added.[16] Clips of this preview performance were included on the DVD of the 2004 film production.[22]

West End[edit]

Phantom began previews at Her Majesty's Theatre in London's West End on 27 September 1986 under the direction of Hal Prince, then opened on 9 October. It was choreographed by Gillian Lynne and the sets were designed by Maria Björnson, with lighting by Andrew Bridge.[23] Michael Crawford starred in the title role with Sarah Brightman as Christine and Steve Barton as Raoul. The production, still playing at Her Majesty's, celebrated its 10,000th performance on 23 October 2010, with Lloyd Webber and the original Phantom, Michael Crawford, in attendance. It is the second longest-running musical in West End (and world) history behind Les Misérables, and third overall behind The Mousetrap.[24][25]

A 25th-anniversary stage performance was held in London on 1 and 2 October 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall and was screened live in cinemas worldwide.[26] The production was produced by Cameron Mackintosh, directed by Laurence Connor, musical staging & choreography by Gillian Lynne, set design by Matt Kinley, costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe, and sound design by Mick Potter. The cast included Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine, Hadley Fraser as Raoul, Wynne Evans as Piangi, Wendy Ferguson as Carlotta, Barry James as Monsieur Firmin, Gareth Snook as Monsieur Andre, Liz Robertson as Madame Giry, and Daisy Maywood as Meg Giry. Lloyd Webber and several original cast members, including Crawford and Brightman, were in attendance. A DVD and Blu-ray of the performance was released in February 2012,[27] and it began airing in March 2012 on PBS's "Great Performances" television series.[26]

In March 2012, a new production directed by Laurence Connor began a UK and Ireland tour to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the show, beginning at the Theatre Royal Plymouth and travelled to Manchester, Bristol, Dublin, Leeds, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, and Southampton. John Owen-Jones and Earl Carpenter alternated as the Phantom with Katie Hall and Olivia Brereton as Christine and Simon Bailey as Raoul.[28]

Broadway[edit]

Phantom began Broadway previews at the Majestic Theatre on 9 January 1988 and opened on 26 January.[29] Crawford, Brightman, and Barton reprised their respective roles from the West End, while advance ticket sales amounted to a record-breaking $17 million,[30] the production continues to play at the Majestic, where it became the first Broadway musical in history to surpass 10,000 performances on 11 February 2012.[31] On 26 January 2013, the production celebrated its 25th anniversary with its 10,400th performance,[32] it is, by over 3,500 performances, the longest-running show in Broadway history. By November 2016, Phantom had been staged over 12,000 times over 28 years,[33] the 30th anniversary was on January 26, 2018 with an extra matinee and the regularly scheduled Friday evening performance. The celebration performance was performed on the 24th, with members of the original cast and alumni in attendance along with an invite-only audience.[34]

Critical reviews were mostly positive on opening. The New York Times' Frank Rich writes: "It may be possible to have a terrible time at The Phantom of the Opera, but you'll have to work at it. Only a terminal prig would let the avalanche of pre-opening publicity poison his enjoyment of this show, which usually wants nothing more than to shower the audience with fantasy and fun, and which often succeeds, at any price."[35] Howard Kissel from New York Daily News commended the production, calling it "a spectacular entertainment, visually the most impressive of the British musicals", and praised Lloyd Webber's score despite its "synthetic, borrowed quality" as well as Michael Crawford's "powerful" performance.[36] Maria Björnson's set and costume design in particular garnered critical acclaim, with reviewers calling it "a breathtaking, witty, sensual tribute to 19th century theater" as well as "marvels of period atmospheric detail and technical savvy".[37][38]

Amateur productions[edit]

In 2013, the rights to perform "Phantom" were released to non-professional groups.[39] CLOC musical theatre staged the world amateur premiere in May 2013 at the National Theatre in Melbourne, Australia; in June 2013, Windmill Theatre Company staged the production at the Drum Theatre in Dandenong. Also in June 2013, Wellington Musical Theatre debuted the New Zealand premiere starring Chris Crowe and Barbara Graham.

Synopsis[edit]

Prologue[edit]

In 1911 Paris, the Paris Opéra hosts an auction of old theatrical props,[40] among the attendees is the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, who purchases a papier-mâché music box and eyes it sadly, remarking how the details are "exactly as she said."[41][42] The auctioneer presents "a chandelier in pieces" as the next item up for bid, alluding to a connection with "the Phantom of the Opera", as the porters remove the drop cloth covering the fixture, it flickers to life and ascends to the ceiling as the auditorium's former grandeur is restored ("Overture").

Act I[edit]

It is now 1881[43] and the cast of a new production, Hannibal, are rehearsing onstage when they learn that new owners, Firmin and André, are taking over the Paris Opera House ("Hannibal Rehearsal"). Carlotta, the Opéra's resident soprano prima donna, begins to perform an aria for the new managers when a backdrop inexplicably falls from the flies, barely missing her and prompting anxious chorus girls to whisper, "He's here! The Phantom of the Opera!". The managers try to downplay the incident, but Carlotta angrily insists that such things have been happening for "three years" and she storms out, quitting the show. Madame Giry, the Opéra's ballet mistress, informs Firmin and André that Christine Daaé, a chorus girl and orphaned daughter of a prominent violinist, has been "well taught" and can sing Carlotta's role, with cancellation of the sold out show being their only other alternative, the managers reluctantly audition Christine and are surprised to discover that she is indeed up to the challenge. As Christine sings the aria during the evening performance, the Opéra's new patron, Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, recognizes her as his childhood friend and playmate ("Think of Me").

Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman performing the title song

Backstage after her triumphant début, Christine confesses to her best friend Meg (Madame Giry's daughter) that she knows her mysterious teacher only as an invisible "Angel of Music" ("Angel of Music"). Raoul pays a visit to Christine's dressing room, the two reminisce about the "Angel of Music" stories that her late father used to tell them and Christine confides that the Angel has visited her and taught her to sing ("Little Lotte"). Raoul indulges what he assumes are fantasies and insists on taking Christine to dinner. When Raoul leaves to fetch his hat, Christine hears the jealous Phantom's voice and she entreats him to reveal himself, the Phantom obliges by appearing as a ghostly, partially masked face in her mirror ("The Mirror/Angel of Music (Reprise)"). Believing him to be the Angel of Music sent by her deceased father, Christine is irresistibly drawn through the mirror to the Phantom, who leads her down into the cellars of the Opéra house, the two then board a small boat and cross a subterranean lake to his secret lair ("The Phantom of the Opera"). The Phantom explains that he has chosen Christine to sing his music and serenades her. When he reveals a mirror that reflects an image of her in a wedding dress, the figure in the mirror gestures to Christine and she faints, the Phantom then covers her tenderly with his cloak ("The Music of the Night").

As the Phantom is composing music at his organ, Christine awakens to the sound of the monkey music box ("I Remember"). Overcome with curiosity, she slips behind the Phantom, lifts his mask, and beholds his grotesquely disfigured face, the Phantom rails at her prying gesture, as Christine hides in fear. He then ruefully expresses his longing to look normal, and to be loved by her ("Stranger Than You Dreamt It"). Moved by pity, Christine returns the Phantom's mask to him and the Phantom shepherds her back above ground.

Meanwhile, Joseph Buquet, the Opéra's chief stagehand, regales the chorus girls with tales of the "Opéra Ghost" and his terrible Punjab lasso. Madame Giry arrives and warns Buquet to exercise restraint or face the Phantom's wrath ("Magical Lasso"); in the managers' office, André and Firman read notes from the Phantom aloud and are interrupted by Raoul, who accuses them of sending him a note saying that he should make no attempt to see Christine again. Carlotta and Piangi then burst into the office, demanding to know who sent Carlotta a note saying that her days at the Opéra are numbered, as André and Firmin try to calm the distressed Carlotta, Madame Giry delivers another note from the Phantom: he demands that Christine replace Carlotta in the new opera, Il Muto, lest they face a "disaster beyond imagination" ("Notes..."). Firmin and André dismiss the threat and assure an enraged Carlotta that she will remain their star ("Prima Donna").

The première of Il Muto initially goes well, until the voice of the Phantom suddenly cuts through the performance, enraged that Box 5 was not kept empty for him, as Christine whispers that she knows the Phantom is near, Carlotta reminds her that her role is silent, calling her a "little toad". The Phantom states that it is Carlotta who is the toad and reduces Carlotta's voice to a frog-like croak. Firmin quickly tries to calm the situation by telling the audience that Christine will take over the starring role, moving forward the ballet to keep the audience entertained. Suddenly, the corpse of Joseph Buquet drops from the rafters, hanging from the Punjab lasso. Firmin and André plead for calm as mayhem erupts and the Phantom's diabolical laughter is heard throughout the auditorium ("Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh").

In the ensuing chaos, Christine escapes with Raoul to the roof and tells him about her subterranean encounter with the Phantom ("Why Have You Brought Me Here?/Raoul, I've Been There"). Raoul is skeptical but promises to love and protect her, and Christine reciprocates his vow ("All I Ask of You"), the heartbroken Phantom, having overheard their entire conversation, angrily vows revenge before returning to the auditorium and bringing down the chandelier during the curtain call ("All I Ask of You (Reprise)").

Act II[edit]

Steve Barton and Sarah Brightman in the final scene

Six months later, in the midst of a masquerade ball, the Phantom makes his first appearance since the chandelier disaster, in costume as the Red Death, he announces that he has written an opera entitled Don Juan Triumphant and demands that it be produced immediately, with Christine (who is now secretly engaged to Raoul) in the lead role, and he warns of dire consequences if his demands are not met. Noticing an engagement ring on a chain around Christine's neck, the Phantom angrily pulls it from her and vanishes in a blinding flash of light ("Masquerade/Why So Silent").

As the masquerade attendees scatter in fear, Raoul accosts Madame Giry and demands that she reveal what she knows about the Phantom. Giry reluctantly explains that the Phantom is actually a brilliant scholar, magician, architect, inventor, and composer who was born with a terrifyingly deformed face. Feared and reviled by society, he was cruelly exhibited in a cage as part of a traveling fair until he eventually escaped and disappeared, he has since taken refuge beneath the opera house, which has now become his home.

During rehearsals, Raoul – tired of the tyranny with which the Phantom rules the Opera – thinks to use the première of Don Juan Triumphant as a trap to capture the Phantom and put an end to his reign of terror once and for all. Carlotta falsely accuses Christine of being the mastermind and that it is her plan so she can be the star. Christine angrily defends herself, saying she is not the Phantom's accomplice, but his victim. Raoul, knowing of the Phantom's obsession with his fiancée, asserts that the Phantom will be sure to attend the opera's première, and begs Christine to help him lure the Phantom into the trap, but she refuses ("Notes/Twisted Every Way"), during rehearsal, Piangi sings note after note off-key, causing frustration for everyone. The piano suddenly starts playing by itself-having been taken over by the Phantom-and soon the whole company sings the correct notes in unison.

Torn between her love for Raoul and her fear of the Phantom, Christine visits her father's grave, longing for his guidance but understanding that she must move on ("Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"), the Phantom appears atop the mausoleum, again under the guise of the Angel of Music ("Wandering Child"), and sings to Christine. Christine, tired and heartbroken, once again accepts her "Angel" as a friend, nearly succumbing to the Phantom's influence, but Raoul arrives to both rescue her and confront The Phantom, the Phantom taunts Raoul, hurling fire balls at him until Christine begs Raoul to leave with her. Furious, the Phantom declares war upon them both and causes flames to spring up around the mausoleum ("Bravo Monsieur").

With armed policemen having secured the auditorium and watching for the Phantom, Don Juan Triumphant premieres with Christine and Piangi singing the lead roles, during Don Juan's and Aminta's duet, Christine comes to the sudden realization that she is singing not with Piangi, but with the Phantom himself. Mimicking Raoul's vow of devotion on the rooftop, the Phantom once again expresses love for Christine and forces his ring onto her finger. Christine rips off his mask, exposing his horrifically deformed face to the shocked audience ("The Point of No Return"), the opera house is plunged into chaos. Piangi's garroted body is revealed backstage, the cast and audience fly into a state of panic, and the Phantom seizes Christine and flees the theatre. An angry mob, vowing vengeance for the murders of Buquet and Piangi, searches the theatre for the Phantom, while Madame Giry tells Raoul how to find the Phantom's subterranean lair, and warns him to beware his magical lasso. ("Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer").

In the lair, Christine is forced to don a wedding dress. Raoul finds the lair and attempts to persuade the Phantom to spare Christine, begging him to show compassion, the Phantom refuses, and captures Raoul with the Punjab lasso. The Phantom tells Christine that he will free Raoul if she agrees to stay with him forever, but if she refuses, Raoul will die. Christine, heartbroken, tells the Phantom that it is his soul that is deformed, not his face, as the Phantom and Raoul both plead to her, Christine mournfully wonders what kind of life the Phantom has known. She tells the Phantom that he is not alone and kisses him, showing him compassion for the first time in his life.

The Phantom, having experienced kindness at last, understands that he cannot compel Christine to love him, and sets them both free. Raoul hurries Christine out of the lair, but she returns alone to give the Phantom back his ring, the Phantom tells Christine he loves her, before she tearfully exits with Raoul. The weeping Phantom huddles on his throne and covers himself with his cloak, the mob, led by Meg, enters the lair. Meg pulls the Phantom's cloak from the throne, finding only his mask on the seat, she lifts the mask up into the light and gazes at it in wonder as the curtain falls ("Finale").[44]

Casting[edit]

Original casts[edit]

The original casts of the major productions of The Phantom of the Opera:[45][46]

Character Original West End Cast Original Broadway Cast Original Las Vegas Cast Royal Albert Hall 25th Anniversary Cast[47]
The Phantom of the Opera Michael Crawford Brent Barrett
Anthony Crivello
Ramin Karimloo
Christine Daaé Sarah Brightman
Claire Moore
Sarah Brightman
Patti Cohenour
Sierra Boggess
Elizabeth Loyacano‡
Sierra Boggess
Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny Steve Barton Tim Martin Gleason Hadley Fraser
Carlotta Giudicelli Rosemary Ashe Judy Kaye Elena Jeanne Batman
Geena Jeffries Mattox‡
Wendy Ferguson
Madame Giry Mary Millar Leila Martin Rebecca Spencer Liz Robertson
Meg Giry Janet Devenish Elisa Heinsohn Brianne Kelly Morgan Daisy Maywood
Monsieur Richard Firmin John Savident Nick Wyman Lawson Skala Barry James
Monsieur Gilles André David Firth Cris Groenendaal John Leslie Wolfe Gareth Snook
Ubaldo Piangi John Aron David Romano Larry Wayne Morbitt Wynne Evans

† The role of Christine Daaé is double-cast in most professional productions. The secondary actress performs the role twice a week (on Broadway, Thursday evening and Saturday matinée).[48]

‡ Three roles (The Phantom, Christine, and Carlotta) were double-cast in the original Las Vegas production, with the two actors in each pair singing alternate performances.[49] Later, Las Vegas casting became identical to that in the Broadway production, with single casting for all characters except Christine.[50]

West End replacements[edit]

Broadway replacements[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

Prologue
  • Prologue: The stage of the Paris Opéra House, 1911 – Old Raoul
  • Overture – Orchestra
Act I
  • "Hannibal Rehearsal"- Carlotta, Piangi, Ensemble
  • "Think of Me" – Carlotta, Christine, Raoul
  • "Angel of Music/Little Lotte" – Christine, Meg, Raoul, The Phantom
  • "The Phantom of the Opera"– Phantom and Christine
  • "The Music of the Night" – Phantom
  • "I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It – Christine and Phantom
  • "Magical Lasso" – Buquet and Madame Giry
  • "Notes/Prima Donna" – Firmin, André, Raoul, Carlotta, Piangi, Giry, Meg, and Phantom
  • "Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh" – Carlotta, Confidante, Jeweler, Hairdresser, Christine, Phantom, Ensemble
  • "Why Have You Brought Me Here/Raoul, I've Been There" – Raoul and Christine
  • "All I Ask of You" – Raoul and Christine
  • "All I Ask of You/Act 1 Finale" (Reprise) – Phantom