Sunday marked the end of an era on Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show in Broadway history, played its final performance after 35 years.
Fans and celebrities packed the Majestic Theatre to say goodbye to the historic production — and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber got emotional dedicating the performance to his son, who recently passed away.
End of ‘Phantom’
The Phantom of the Opera premiered on Broadway in January 1988, after first debuting in London two years earlier. The Broadway production, starring Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as his muse Christine Daaé, was an immediate smash hit and won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
The show’s music, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Charles Hart, includes now-classic songs like “Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You” and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”
The show was also acclaimed for its state-of-the-art special effects — most famously the chandelier that rises during the overture and crashes on stage at the end of Act I.
With productions around the world, Phantom is one of the highest-grossing entertainment events in history. The Broadway production continued to run for decades, a favorite of NYC tourists, and in 2006 surpassed Cats to become the longest-running show ever on Broadway.
However, the show temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and after reopening the show could no longer recoup its expensive production costs.
“Now you look at a $1 million week at the box office and you think, ‘Oh, thank God, we’ve broken even.’ That’s a huge mental shift,” producer Cameron Mackintosh told Variety. “The margins have shrunk hugely.”
Last fall, producers announced the show would finally end after 35 years.
The show received a huge boost in ticket sales for its final months, and finally played its last Broadway performance last night.
The formal event was packed with fans, including celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gayle King and Glenn Close, according to Variety. “I’ve seen the show nine times,” Gayle King said.
It also included former Phantom cast members, including Sarah Brightman, who spoke about the show’s enduring appeal. “Being there at its inception, it was written with a huge amount of love and passion and understanding of the human soul,” she told Reuters. “So, I think this is why people are so connected to it.”
The show received ecstatic response from the crowd, including standing ovations during the show.
Andrew Lloyd Webber spoke on stage after the show: “In the last few months I don’t think… any of us thought that The Phantom would go out quite with the bang it has,” Webber said, according to Reuters. “It couldn’t have gone out with a better performance.”
Dedicated to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s son
And in an emotional moment, Webber dedicated the final performance to his son, Nicholas, who died after a battle with gastric cancer last month. Nicholas was 43 when he died, and was a young child when Phantom first opened.
“I hope you won’t mind if I dedicate this performance to my son,” Webber said. “As Sarah knows, when he was a little boy, he heard some of this music,” he added, addressing his ex-wife Sarah Brightman.
“Yes, he did,” Brightman said. “When Andrew was writing it, he was right there. So his soul is with us. Nick, we love you very much.”
Could ‘Phantom’ return?
While the curtain has finally closed on Phantom on Broadway, the iconic musical can still be seen around the world. The original West End production is still going and is one of London’s longest-running shows.
And the show’s team have hinted that Phantom could one day return to Broadway.
“Maybe it may come back, you never know,” Webber told the crowd last night.
“It will reopen at some point. That’s my instinct about it,” Brightman told Reuters.
“Of course it will return,” Cameron Mackintosh told Variety. “All the great musicals do.”
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Broadway’s longest-running shows
With Phantom‘s closure, the revival of Chicago, which has been playing on Broadway since 1996, becomes Broadway’s oldest still-running production; it is the second-longest-running show in Broadway history. Right behind it is Disney’s smash hit The Lion King, which opened in 1997.
Wicked, which premiered in 2003, recently became the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history after playing more performances than Cats. The Book of Mormon, Aladdin and Hamilton have each played thousands of performances.
Any of those shows could one day beat Phantom of the Opera‘s impressive record, but it will take many years.
Farewell, Phantom of the Opera! What a great musical and what an incredible 35-year run on Broadway. We’ll miss it!
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