Monday, January 26, 2009

The milestone of the night

Broadway's Phantom of the Opera is 21 years old as of tonight's performance. I've done my bit: I saw the show not long after it opened with my family, took my in-laws to see it a year or two back, and cop to liking the 2004 movie, which irons out some of the plot wrinkles and succeeds despite a lackluster lead. Pictured is Howard McGillin, who has played the role more than 2,300 times--that's a lot of renditions of "The Music of the Night." Here's the PR:

"The most successful stage musical of all time, the Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Group, Inc. production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, directed by Harold Prince, will reach an unprecedented milestone when it celebrates its Twenty-First Anniversary on Broadway on Monday, January 26, 2009.  On that date, playing its 8,732nd performance at The Majestic Theatre (247 West 44th Street), it will become the first Broadway production ever to have run 21 years.

The longest-running show in Broadway history (a feat it achieved in January 2006 when it surpassed the run of Cats), the musical is the winner of 7 1988 Tony Awards including Best Musical.  Since its Broadway debut on January 26, 1988, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has grossed $715 million, making it the highest-grossing show in Broadway history.  Total New York attendance is at 13 million.  Having since surpassed Cats’ record by a phenomenal 3 years and 1,200 performances, it has now played over 8,700 performances – the only show in Broadway history to do so – and all with no end in sight.

As a major vote of confidence in the future of the Broadway production, last August the producers took the extraordinary step of installing a brand-new Digital Sound System (at an investment of $750,000) to bring the production’s sound design technology into the 21s Century.  The move followed last May’s successful installation of the same new Digital Sound System into the London production.

Its international success – equally staggering – is represented by total worldwide grosses estimated at over $5 billion.  This colossal figure makes PHANTOM the most successful entertainment venture of all time, surpassing not only any other stage production, but also far surpassing the world’s highest-grossing film Titanic (at $1.2 billion) and such other blockbusters as The Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park and Star Wars.  Worldwide attendance is over 80 million people. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber recently confirmed that he has greenlit production on a sequel to the show, Phantom: Love Never Dies.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has always been a record-breaker, with the New York production setting benchmarks that have dominated the industry: for capitalization (a then-spectacular $8 million), total advance (a then-enormous $18 million), total gross and attendance ($715 million and 13 million and counting), total performances (becoming the first and still only show to ever reach 7,500; 8,000; 8,500 and now over 8,700 perfs), and even the number of years before a single ticket  was ever sold at the TKTS ticket booth in Times Square (over 14 years, which is still the record, by a long shot).  And since becoming the longest-running show in Broadway history in 2006, each performance has set a new longevity record. 

The musical has also broken all touring records.  It continues to be the longest continuously-touring show in U.S. history, with the first of its three National Tours having gone out over 20 years ago in May 1989.  The current tour is the longest-running touring production in U.S. history, having recently celebrated its 16th Anniversary on December 13, 2008, and having played over 6,500 performances.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA had its world premiere on October 9, 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, winning every major British theatre award including the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards.  The New York production opened on January 26, 1988 with a then record advance of $18 million.  The musical went on to sweep the 1988 Tony Awards, winning seven, including Best Musical. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA also won seven Drama Desk Awards and three Outer Critics Circle Awards.  The original London cast recording was the first in British musical history to enter the charts at number one.  It has since gone both gold and platinum in Britain and the U.S. selling over 40 million copies worldwide.

Base on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it.  He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA stars Howard McGillin in the title role with Marni Raab as Christine and Tim Martin Gleason as Raoul.  Having donned the mask over 2,300 times, Mr. McGillin holds the record for having performed the title role more than any other actor in the Broadway production.  The musical also co-stars George Lee Andrews (Monsieur André; Mr. Andrews is the only cast member to have been with the Broadway production for the entire run), David Cryer (Monsieur Firmin), Patricia Phillips (Carlotta), Rebecca Judd (Madame Giry), Evan Harrington (Piangi) and Polly Baird (Meg Giry).  At certain performances, Elizabeth Loyacano plays Christine.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is directed by Harold Prince.  Lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has production design by the late Maria Björnson, lighting by Andrew Bridge and sound by Martin Levan.  Musical staging and choreography is by Gillian Lynne.  Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber."

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