It seems like only yesterday that the Broadway community was celebrating the final show of CATS, the spectacular Andrew Lloyd Weber creation from 1982 that became the longest running musical in Broadway history. Actually, that final performance was in September 2000. However, in a special gala performance on Monday, January 9, 2005, Lloyd Weber’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will become the eighth show since Oklahoma reached the milestone 2, 212 performances in 1948 to achieve the “longest running” status while playing Broadway. This astonishing milestone-the 7,486th performance- is a rarified moment of splendid joy for the entire Broadway community. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has been an unparalleled success on Broadway. Ticket sales for this show have had almost no week spots in eighteen years. When other shows shuttered in the wake of September 11, 2001, Phantom of the Opera continued strong. The sensation caused in January, 1988 still reverberates today, and tourists from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the Majestic Theater on 44th Street and Eighth Avenue to see this most beloved of all musicals. The following shows were celebrated as the longest running show for a period of time in the years since 1948.
A CHORUS LINE: 6,137
42ND STREET: 3,486
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF 3,242
HELLO DOLLY!: 2,844
MY FAIR LADY 2,717
Monday evening will be a transcending moment in Broadway history, as no current show could possibly pass Phantom of the Opera in the next few years. And, Phantom of the Opera shows no signs of slowing down on Broadway with record ticket sales in the past year.
Eighty million people have seen a production of Phantom of the Opera somewhere in the world since it opened in London in 1986. The show opened in New York on January 26, 1988. The idea for what would become the most successful musical of all time came to Lloyd Webber one afternoon in the early 1980s while he was browsing through a bookstall on Fifth Avenue on Manhattan Island. That’s where he found a copy of Gaston Leroux’s 19th-century novel about a disfigured composer living beneath the Paris Opera House who falls in love with a beautiful young soprano. “It was a very confusing novel,” Lloyd Webber says. “But I was struck by the last line, which said that when they exhumed the Phantom’s body they found Christine’s ring on his finger.” Lloyd Webber saw “The Phantom” not as a horror story (like the famous Lon Cheney movie) but as a lush romance.
The very first song he wrote was “All I Ask of You,” which set the romantic tone for the show. “The Phantom” is probably the most valuable piece of Lloyd Webber’s vast theatrical empire, The Really Useful Group, a privately held company that controls the rights to his shows with “Cats,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita” being among the most successful. And while statistics that are trotted out extolling the longevity and profitability of the production, it’s the people, both on-stage and behind the scenes, which make the musical work at each performance.
Read the original review by Frank Rick of the New York Times from Janaury, 1988
BackStage Magazine has a wonderful article on this special event.
A fabulous article and graphic illustration in The New York Times.
Great News: Broadway hits an all time high for ticket sales!
Playbill.com has an extensive interview with Andrew lloyd Weber on this marvleous achievement.