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The Phantom of the Opera is the first victim of the Broadway crisis

The Phantom of the Opera – Credits: @NYT

The Phantom of the Opera, Broadway’s longest-running show, will close in February 2023 and is, until now, the biggest victim of the progressive decline in theater attendance in New York after the pandemic. It is known that the great musicals are an essential tourist attraction that brings many millions of income to the city. In the case of The Phantom of the Operaof Andrew Lloyd Webber, since its premiere in January 1988, overcame recessions, wars, cultural changes but could not do so with the coronavirus pandemic. The closure will arrive less than a month after its 35th anniversary (which will be fulfilled on January 26). Both the New York Post first as the specialized magazine Playbill afterwards they affirmed that the last function will be on February 18. Lastly, the New York Times confirmed the information at 7pm yesterday with those directly responsible for the production and then the journalistic version became absolutely serious and real. At that same hour, and minutes before the scheduled performance of the show, the whole cast found out. Yesterday’s announcement made the artistic community of the Big Apple mourn the departure of this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that premiered on January 26, 1988, in co-production with Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Harold Prince.

The show had returned to offer functions on October 21, 2021, following the pandemic and a “refresh” of the costumes and scenography. At that time, they began to talk about the end of The Phantom of the Opera, in 2023, but not for economic reasons, but to give way to a prequel that Webber was developing, focused on the adolescent period of the future ghost, when he lived alone in the Paris Opera and fell in love with a young Madame Giry. Other data that circulated then is that the protagonist of the prequel would be nothing more nor nothing less than Daniel Radcliffe (the star of the Harry Potter film saga); than the official closing date of The Phantom of the Opera it would be March 31, 2023 and that’s it previews of the prequel they would begin exactly one month later.

It is assumed that this is how Lloyd Webber tried to compensate for the displeasure caused in 2010 by the bad reviews and poor reception of the London premiere of the sequel to The Phantom of the Operaentitled Love Never Dies, which he then planned to transfer to Broadway. And si bien años más later he achieved a better version of his new work, carried out in Australia (of which there is a professional film record, which could be seen in cinemas and which can now be enjoyed on DVD or Blu-ray), the plans for the internationalization of the sequel ended there. The transfer to the cinema of The Phantom of the Opera in 2004, in charge of the director Joel Schumachercon Gerard Butler as protagonist, he also failed to arouse the attention of the general public.

The spider that falls three meters from the heads of the spectators, during The Phantom of the Opera, in the Majestic Theater

The spider that falls three meters from the heads of the spectators, during The Phantom of the Opera, in the Majestic Theater – Credits: @SARA KRULWICH

The Phantom of the Opera it is an expensive musical to maintain, with revolving stages, stage props that go up, down, destroy and rebuild. In total there are 22 scene changes. Its costumes are very elaborate and it has a large cast and orchestra on stage. The famous spider that threatens to shatter over the heads of the spectators in the preferential stage weighs no less than 450 kilos. The total Broadway production in 1988 cost 600 million dollars.

Box office grosses have fluctuated since the show reopened at the Majestic, after the pandemic. It has more than a million dollars in weekly losses, and its income from ticket sales has been gradually decreasing, to the point that last week it only collected $867,997. This has evidently been reason enough for the drastic decision of its main producers: Cameron Mackintosh and The Real Usefull Group (by Andrew Lloyd Webber). With this rise, more than 300 people involved in the daily functions of The Phantom of the Opera. It should be noted that over the course of these three and a half decades, 6,500 people were involved in the New York production, including 400 actors, who today flood the networks with their messages of surprise, consternation and sadness.

Based on a novel by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a deformed composer who frequents the Paris Opera and falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine. Among the splendid songs that Andrew Lloyd Webber conceived for this piece are “Masquerade”, “Angel of Music”, “All I Ask of You” and “The Music of the Night”. Although the compositions are entirely Webber’s, the lyrics are shared by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. Harold Prince was the innovative director of the musical (for which he won all the awards) and Gillian Lynne was the choreographer who set the dance scenes in motion, while Maria Björnson was in charge of the wonderful scenography and lavish costumes.

Hugh Panaro and Trista Moldovan, the protagonists of The Phantom of the Opera

Hugh Panaro and Trista Moldovan, two of the many protagonists of The Phantom of the Opera – Credits: @NYT

The first production of The Phantom of the Opera it premiered in London in 1986 and, since then, the show has been seen by more than 145 million people in 183 cities and has been presented in 17 languages ​​in more than 70,000 performances. Only on Broadway, the musical had more than 13,700 performances for 19 million people at The Majestic Theatre. It also premiered at the Teatro Ópera de Buenos Aires on March 19, 2009.

It should be remembered that in The Phantom of the Opera arrived on Broadway in 1988, with two of the original protagonists of the London production: Michael Crawford y Sarah Brightmanthan the first one preview (or test function) took place on January 9 and the official premiere was on the 26th. In different reports Andrew Lloyd Weber confirmed that he had written the musical with Brightman in mind for the female lead role of Christine, so his woman And although from that work the soprano’s career took off internationally, and today she is one of the most important crossover singers in the world, the critics did not fully validate her talent at that time and her performance as the love object of fantasma did not reach her to get a nomination for the precious Tony awards, which she and Weber then experienced as an affront. At this moment the character of Christine is played for the first time by an African-American artist: Emilie Kouatchou.

The second show with the greatest permanency in the lineup is the revival of Chicago, which has been on stage for 25 years and performed 10,090 functions. It is not yet known what show will be staged at the Majestic, once the famous spider no longer hangs over the heads of the spectators.

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