Phantom’s 18-year success story

“The Phantom of the Opera” has been haunting the Majestic Theatre on Shubert Alley for 18 years with no visible end in sight. The musical by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber romanticized the Gaston Leroux novel and gave a new public the opportunity to become acquainted with the man behind the mask. A sensuous music score, dazzling costumes and a heart-wrenching story proved to be a winning combination. “The Phantom of the Opera” has told its tragic love story to 20 countries and performed over 65,000 performances.

The original London production found its way to Broadway two years after its creation which gave the creative team, headed by director Harold Prince and choreographer Gillian Lynne, time to work out the massive music numbers and tricky stunts. Together they created an anti-hero the audience finds both terrifying and soulful. Maria Bj√É∂rnson’s set reflects the fairy tale quality of the story infusing rich gold tones and lavish statues to represent the French society of the time.

The story reflects the year 1870 at the Paris Opera House where the new managers are placed in a tricky situation. The current reining diva storms off after the mysterious Phantom ruins her rehearsal. She is substituted with a chorus girl named Christine Daae. Having received private lessons from an unknown tutor, Daae takes the stage and receives zealous praise. She gains the attention of a childhood sweetheart and patron of the opera, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. Charmed by his admiration she accepts his dinner invitation only to be berated by her Angel of Music. Fearing that her tutor will leave her she agrees to follow him beyond the walls of the Opera. Christine is whisked away by none other than the Phantom who masqueraded as the Angel of Music her father promised he would send from heaven. Afraid and yet drawn to this mysterious figure, Christine must decide which man her heart truly belongs to.

It is this inner turmoil that ultimately draws the audiences back time after time. Some can relate to the Phantom’s feelings of detachment and the pain of unrequited love. Others understand Raoul’s need to protect loved ones. Still others like Christine find themselves torn between responsibility to the heart and sensibility. Her decision is complicated by both men’s need to defeat the other and she is constantly manipulated by both to that end. The Phantom wins her roles to prove his love while Raoul uses her as a pawn to catch the Opera Ghost. In the end, Christine faces her demons alone.