Andrew Lloyd Webber, Hal Prince and no balloons were promised for the 10th anniversary performance of The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway Jan. 26, but those attending the special performance got exactly the reverse -- along with blasts of glitter and some touching speeches from producer Cameron Mackintosh and choreographer Gillian Lynne.
Prince and Lloyd Webber bowed out at the last minute -- Prince because he was in London preparing Show Boat and Lloyd Webber because of an undisclosed illness. Peter Pan-like, Lynne led the crowed at the sold-out Majestic Theatre in a chant of "Get well, Andrew."
The above was part of a brief ceremony that followed the Jan. 26 performance of the show, which starred Thomas James O'Leary as The Phantom and Tracy Shayne in the final performance of her four years as Christine Daae. The performance was generally uneventful, though Leila Martin's entrance as Madame Giry was greeted by extra applause; she is the last of the principals still with the show from its first Broadway performance.
Like the Phantom, Lloyd Webber was unseen -- but did send a note. Read by Lynne, it said, in part: "I am sad, not to mention extremely pissed off, that I can't be at my beloved Phantom in New York. . . Phantom is the musical that is closest to my personal baby."
Explaining his absence, Lloyd Webber wrote that he's been suffering from "an illness as elusive as the Phantom" that has put him in the hospital. "I hope they get to the bottom of it" -- here Lynne paused for effect -- "unfortunately all too literally." Also joining the cast on the stage for the final curtain was designer Maria Bjornson.
O'Leary's part in the brief ceremony consisted of a farewell to Shayne. He said, "I want to thank you for being my soul-mate."
Producer Mackintosh thanked Lloyd Webber, the creative team, the Shuberts, the "wonderful casts" and "The millions of theatregoers who embraced us from the first performance."
He said that when he started out in show business, "I thought the only 10 year stretch you got was for embezzlement."
Mackintosh also said, "If you're lucky enough to have a hit this big," the great challenge is "keeping up the standard." He noted that while Lloyd Webber and Prince were not present, "This is their triumph."