The long-running international hit musical “Phantom of the Opera” will turn 25 in October, and its producers have big plans in the works to celebrate this milestone.
“Phantom” creator Andrew Lloyd Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh are staging three live performances of the show this weekend at London’s Royal Albert Hall to mark the anniversary. More than 200 members will make up the show’s cast and orchestra, with special guest appearances scheduled to include Webber himself and the show’s original leads, Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman.
The most ambitious part of this weekend’s events occurs with Sunday’s evening performance, which will be broadcast live via satellite to several countries, including the UK, U.S., Germany, Australia and Japan. Over 500 movie theaters will carry the event in the U.S. alone.
For those who are unable to attend the live broadcasts, the production will be shown again on October 5, 6, and 11. Canada will run the recorded broadcast in its theaters on October 3 with a second show on October 22. Following the first Australia broadcasts, the show will be re-run from October 13 through the 23.
Starring in the 25th anniversary production is Ramin Karimloo, a veteran stage actor who originated the role of the Phantom in Love Never Dies, Webber’s 2010 sequel to the original story which played in London’s West End. Sierra Boggess, who played opposite Karimloo as Christine Daaé in “Love Never Dies”, will play Christine as a younger girl in this weekend’s production.
These initial events will be followed by the November 14 release of the broadcast on DVD, Blu-ray, CD and digital download, with a limited edition CD/DVD box set following.
Opening on Broadway in 1988, “Phantom of the Opera” achieved the title of longest running show to play on Broadway when it outpaced the musical “Cats” in 2006. The show is the second longest running show in London’s West End, where it is surpassed only by “Les Miserables.” Since it opened, the show has been performed in 149 cities in 25 different countries, with live productions still running in New York, London, Las Vegas, NV, Kyoto, Japan and Budapest, Hungary. The international success of the musical has made it the highest grossing show ever, earning over $800 million in revenue from the New York production alone.
There is no doubt of the status of the “Phantom” in the annals of musical theater, but as the 25th anniversary approaches, does the show still have the audience draw it once did?
“Well, there’s no question that in the beginning it was the one and the only,” Ken Solky, president of Las Vegas Tickets and current president of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, told TicketNews. “It was the top dog; it was the thing everyone had to see, not once, not twice, but often, many times.”
While acknowledging that, as with any show, years of live performances have led to some waning of the intense popularity the show had when it was first a hit, Solky added, “It’s still amazing that it has drawing power to bring people from all over the world for a few hours of fantastic entertainment. The simple fact that it is still in production and plays live every night is definitely a testimony to the quality of the work.”
Solky notes that ticket sales remain solid for “Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular” even though the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino faces certain obstacles to filling seats unique to its location. “The theater is probably two and a half times that of a normal Broadway [venue], so the show has to be creative. It’s probably not a sell out every night, but it’s up against 50-plus shows nightly.”
Jason Berger, president of online ticketer AllShows.com, which sells tickets for the Broadway market, has seen a similar course for the legendary musical. “It’s definitely become very popular with tourists and around holidays. It sells out on the weekends, so it still draws a lot of people. The secondary market doesn’t see a lot of activity, because it doesn’t sell out in advance like it used to, but when there’s a landmark event like [the 25th anniversary], we will see some activity. It’s not a super-hot ticket like it used to be, but we consistently sell on it.”