opinion | Goodbye, “The Phantom of the Opera”: a love letter to the Broadway musical

Emily Cuacho as Kristen and Ben Crawford as The Ghost.
Emily Cuacho as Kristen and Ben Crawford as The Ghost. (Matthew Murphy)

No world, no social circle, it’s cool to love “The Phantom of the Opera”.

It’s not great if you’re a layman – that is, you’re not a theater geek. But it’s not particularly good if you be Theatre-obsessed student. Unlike Stephen Sondheim’s sarcastic social comments, or the healthy fervor of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom” is…too much. Very melodramatic, very special effects. And certainly the eighties too. The synth. smoke machine. Candlesticks. fireworks. All those rhinestones!

It’s a cheese show. Worst – at least in the eyes of New Yorkers – it’s a show for tourists.

However: I adore “Phantom”.

“Phantom” was the first musical I saw at the age of four. It was also the show that made me fall in love with the theatre.

Partially, I loved the story: a mysterious, half-disguised musical genius living under the Paris Opera House becomes obsessed with a beautiful young soprano singer, Christine. He takes Christine as his guard and later seeks revenge when she and the opera producers refuse his guidance. Quote from 1909 a story By Gaston Leroux, “Phantom” is one of a long line of French cautionary tales about society’s cruelty towards uggos And the outcasts. Perhaps such subjects have a clear appeal to unfit children.

But it wasn’t the only story that I loved. I remember being raised before sumptuous degreesoprano Floral high tonesThis is terrifying (for a four-year-old) chandelier crashAnd all these figures sway in their beautiful skirts and heavy, flourishing robes. Also, did I mention rhinestones?

For a long time, I listened to my two cassettes “Phantom” (there were two) every night before bed.

However, somehow, until very recently, I haven’t seen a live show “Phantom” since preschool, even though I stand a chance in the decade-plus I lived in New York. It is the longest running Broadway production; Of course it will be there forever. I can always come at another time.

Apparently, many of us took the show for granted because the unthinkable recently happened: the show’s producers announce It will end its run this winter, shortly after it reaches its 35th anniversary on the Great White Road.

Like many Broadway productions, the coronavirus pandemic continues to have “Phantom” tension. The decline in international tourism led to a decline in ticket sales. Meanwhile, inflation has pushed operating costs close to unprecedented numbers 1 million dollars In the week. The economics of live theater varied during the 1980s when the show was first held. At the time, successful productions could accommodate massive actors, multiple costume changes, and floating and gilded fixed pieces. Today’s programs, even megabytes, tend to be much lower. Cost pressures force them to.

But “Phantom” is all about the spectral landscape. This ghost does Not Is simplicity. Therefore, he was losing money.

Upon hearing “Phantom’s” final curtain call approaching, I knew I had to watch the show again. And readers, I’m happy to report to you: “Phantom” is still as ridiculous and charming as I can remember.

Whenever I feel the urge to move my eyes – to act too calmly to hang out with the tourists – I give in to the charm. Or more precisely: to night music. This iconic scene of Phantom Kristen paddles across a misty lake, filled (inexplicably) with candelabra? He’s a moron but intoxicating. As in much of the show. A friend mentioned that at the break, the men’s room was full of adult men singing To themselves “Doo-doo, the Phantom of the Operaaaaaaa!”

There are few musical phrases that are more appealing and more exciting than those violent little strings in “Phantom’s.” Title song. And there they are Few songs The Broadway canon is more romantic than “All I ask of you. “Beat the note with intricate musical gifts – in the lush contrapuntal waltz of”first opera singeror “ominous hedonism”Masquerade. “

‘Phantom’, in all its compelling, shimmering glory, was just that cheater endlessly over the years. But a cultural phenomenon of this length and global reach is of course derided. Before “Rent,” before “Wicked,” before “Hamilton,” there was “Phantom” (along with Lloyd Webber’s most ridiculous song, “Cats”). It’s the big stool, the godfather of blockbuster music theatre. Fittingly, the Honorary Phantom of the Opera signs his correspondence as “OG”

I may be “The Phantom” (as the “Phantom” groups call themselves), but I’m not alone: ​​19.8 million people watched the production at the Majestic Theater on Broadway; It was watched by another 125 million people worldwide – including the original production in London, which, thankfully, will continue.

It’s not that the spirit of Phantom is really leaving Broadway. As other professors have pointed out: Good luck ever who – which A man off the stage – or, for that matter, from your head.

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