Phantom Of The Opera Ends After 35 Years On Broadway

“The Phantom of the Opera” concluded the longest run in Broadway history Sunday night with a glittery final performance at which even the production’s signature chandelier, which had just crashed onto the stage of the Majestic Theater for the 13,981st time, got its own curtain call.

The invitation-only crowd was filled with Broadway lovers, including actors who had performed in the show over its 35-year run, as well as numerous other artists (including Lin-Manuel Miranda and Glenn Close) and fans who won a special ticket lottery. Some dressed in Phantom regalia; one man came dressed in the character’s sumptuous Red Death costume.

The final performance, which ran from 5:22 to 7:56 p.m., was interrupted repeatedly by applause, not only for the main actors, but also for beloved props, including a monkey music box, and scenic elements such as a gondola being rowed through a candelabra-adorned underground lake. After the final curtain, the stagehands who made the show’s elaborate spectacle happen night after night, were invited onstage for a resounding round of applause.

“It’s just amazing, really, what has happened,” the composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote the show’s soaring score, said after the final curtain, as he dedicated the performance to his son Nicholas, who died three weeks ago.

Lloyd Webber spoke alongside his longtime collaborator and the show’s lead producer, Cameron Mackintosh. They invited alumni of the original Broadway production to join them onstage, and projected onto the theater’s back wall pictures of deceased members of the original creative team, including its director, Hal Prince, as well as every actor who played the two lead roles (the Phantom as well as Christine, the young soprano who is his obsession).

Toward the end of the evening, Mackintosh acknowledged the one-ton chandelier, which was lowered from the ceiling to a round of applause, and the crowd was showered with gold and silver metallic confetti, some of which dangled in ribbons from the chandelier.

Hours before the curtain, fans gathered across the street, waving and taking pictures and hoping somehow to score a spare ticket. Among them was Lexie Luhrs, 25, of Washington, in a Phantom get-up: black cape, homemade mask, plus fedora, vest and bow tie, as well as mask earrings and a mask necklace. “I’m here to celebrate the show that means so much to us,” Luhrs said.

On Broadway “Phantom” was, obviously, enormously successful, playing to 20 million people and grossing $1.36 billion since its opening in January 1988. And the show has become an international phenomenon, playing in 17 languages in 45 countries and grossing more than $6 billion globally. But the Broadway run ultimately succumbed to the twin effects of inflation and dwindled tourism following the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

It closed on an unexpectedly high note — and not just the high E that Christine sings in the title song. As soon as the closing was announced last September, sales spiked, as those who already loved the musical flocked to see it, and procrastinators realized it could be their last chance; the original February closing date was delayed by two months to accommodate demand, and the show has once again become the highest-grossing on Broadway, playing to exuberant audiences, enjoying a burnished reputation, and bringing in more than $3 million a week.

“For a show to go out this triumphantly is almost unheard-of,” said Mackintosh.Jaime Samson at the theater in a Red Death costume he made himself.Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

After the final performance, the show’s company and its alumni gathered for an invitation-only celebration at the Metropolitan Club, with the show’s iconic mask projected onto a wall next to a marble staircase.

The show, with music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart, is still running in London, where the orchestra size was cut and the set was altered during the pandemic shutdown to reduce running costs, and it is also currently running in the Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea and Sweden. New productions are scheduled to open in China next month, in Italy in July and in Spain in October.

And will it ever return to New York? “Of course, at some point,” Mackintosh said in an interview. “But it is time for the show to have a rest.”

Kernel Reporter

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