The Phantom of the Opera will celebrate its tenth anniversary on Broadway Jan. 26 with a comparatively quiet celebration at the theatre and a party at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel ballroom.
A limited number of tickets are on sale for the performance via Tele Charge at (212) 239-6200, and at the Majestic Theatre box office, 247 West 44th St.
Director Harold Prince and other members of the creative team are expected to attend the Jan. 26 performance and be introduced from the stage at the musical, which has run nearly 4200 performances since opening at the Majestic Theatre in 1988. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was to have attended, but sent his regrets Jan. 26, just hours before the performance, saying he was going into the hospital for tests on an unspecified "recurring illness."
Webber issued the following statement: "There is nowhere I would rather be on Monday than the Phantom's tenth birthday. I'm sorry to miss the play and would like to thank everyone who has made the Phantom such a big success."
There is expected to be little or none of the fanfare and balloons that accompanied the tenth anniversary of Les Miserables or the fireworks and proclamations that accompanied Cats becoming the longest-running show in Broadway history, both in 1997. Instead, according to spokesperson Mark Thibodeau, the show will play to an invited audience of family, friends and backers -- plus some 500 "hard core fans" who have been writing the production "for a year and a half," or who indicated unusual interest in attending the performance through the Phantom newsletter and official website.
Those outlets and Playbill On-Line are the only places this week's extra ticket sales have been announced. "We never announced it to the public," said Thibodeau. "Our intention was really to have just the die-hard fans."
Those fans are among the 6.8 million people who've paid more than $2.6 billion to see Phantom worldwide. The fifth-longest running Broadway show of all time, Phantom began first in London, Oct. 9, 1986, at Her Majesty's Theatre. Two years later, the Broadway mounting won seven Tony Awards, including best musical.
Learn more about Phantom's history and why it has run so long in the following Playbill On-Line stories:
Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera was designed by Maria Bjornson (set), Andrew Bridge (lighting) and Martin Levan (sound).
Currently in the New York cast are Thomas James O'Leary (Phantom), Tracy Shayne (Christine) [Adrienne McEwan is the matinee Christine], Gary Mauer (Raoul), Geena Jeffries (Carlotta), Jeff Keller (Andre), George Lee Andrews (Firmin), Frederic Heringes (Piangi), Geralyn Del Corso (Meg) and original cast-member Leila Martin (Mme. Giry).
Martin, who reached her 4,066th performance Jan. 16 (out of a total of 4,175 for the show), told Playbill On-Line she keeps her performance fresh by taking time off every now and then to do other things, such as the musical Wings at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre or a one-woman show about Gertrude Lawrence. "They're very good about giving time off for good behavior," Martin said of the producers. "Hal Prince is in favor of people going off and refreshing themselves. So I hope to stay with it until Hollywood beckons or something like that. The show is wonderful and I enjoy it. So, as long as they let me go and play from time to time, it's a nice place to be."
Backstage after the show has been an equally nice place to be, since an array of notables have paid their compliments over the years. "Elizabeth Taylor came backstage with Malcolm Forbes," Martin remembered. "Fergie got a royal receiving line. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is truly larger than life, came one time. And the wife of that actor-president..." (she paused to recall the name) "Nancy Reagan."
Asked about the wave of firings that hit Les Miz last year and whether that had a chilling effect on Phantom, Martin said, "No job is a lifetime job. One doesn't expect a show to go on forever. We've been having a lot of rehearsals, plus they've apparently spent $500,000 on new costumes, which is quite amazing. The show is spiffy and looks fantastic. And our annniversary performance will be another opening night."
You can also check out the internet's Phantom Nexus at http://members.aol.com/CH522/index.html.