‘Phantom of the Opera’ celebrates longest Broadway run

The chandelier swinging over the Majestic Theatre’s stage fell for the 7,486th time on Jan. 9, 2006. Exactly 18 years since it previewed on Broadway, the tragic love story of “Phantom of the Opera” has become the longest running show since “Cats.”

Developed by Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber and Cameron Mackintosh from Gaston Leroux’s novel “Le Fant√É¥me de L’Opera,” “The Phantom of the Opera” was born in London in 1986. After a huge success, it made the leap to Broadway in 1988, earning seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. Webber collaborated with director Joel Schumacher in 2004 to bring the Phantom to the big screen.

Under the Paris Opera House lurks the Phantom, a misunderstood and disfigured genius who lives only for his music. Captivated by the lonely chorus girl Christine Daae, the Phantom vows to propel her to Prima Donna, the highest position for a female lead. His na√ÉØve ingenue wins his heart with her soaring soprano and perhaps she falls a little in love with him. When her childhood sweetheart, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, becomes a patron of the opera, he enters a deadly love triangle.

There have been 11 men behind the mask on Broadway, two of which returned for a second turn. Hugh Panaro, a two-time Phantom, is working on the new Elton John and Bernie Taupin musical “Lestat.” The first Phantom, Michael Crawford, is starring in another Webber production, “The Woman in White,” in London.

The current and two-time Phantom, Howard McGillin, holds the record for most bows with over 1,400 performances. He joined the record holding and current Christine, Sandra Joseph, with 1,200 performances, at the gala performance. Three original cast members also remain.

According to www.playbill.com, Phantom is no stranger to big numbers. There have been 43,105 miles of Playbill pages, 7,700 yards of drapery fabric, 281 synthetic candles, 10 candelabras, 150 trapdoors, 230 costumes and 111 wigs in each show. The total box office gross for the three touring companies and the Broadway show is $1.9 billion.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is the composer of two of the longest running shows, “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera,” both produced by Cameron Mackintosh. Mackintosh also produced “Les Miserables,” the third longest running show.

The grand chandelier continues to fall at the Majestic Theatre from Monday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.