New Watermark for an Underground Lake: Phantom Hits 8,000

News   New Watermark for an Underground Lake: Phantom Hits 8,000 The 2006 milestone of The Phantom of the Opera becoming the longest running musical in Broadway history is still fresh, and on April 4 the Andrew Lloyd Webber show hits another high point — performance No. 8,000.
Michael Shawn Lewis and Jennifer Hope Wills in The Phantom of the Opera.
Michael Shawn Lewis and Jennifer Hope Wills in The Phantom of the Opera. Photo by Joan Marcus

The ripe, round, even number will be reached at the Majestic Theatre at the Wednesday matinee. After the performance, star Howard McGillin will say a few words and a ripe, round, rich cake will be cut.

(The normally press-shy masked man, who prefers to hang out in his lair on the edge of an underground lake, can't resist a photo op when it's good for business.)

The Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Group, Inc. production, directed by Harold Prince, is now in its 20th season. George Lee Andrews is the only original company member who still continues with the show (he's played various roles over the years and is now Monsieur Andre). Andrews is on vacation and will not perform at the milestone show.

The Phantom of the Opera is the first Broadway musical or play to hit 8,000 performances, a number unimagined in commercial musical theatre 50 years ago — the era when a young Hal Prince was starting out as a producer. Back then, "hit" meant that a show would make back its money in a season, tour and have a stock and amateur life.

Andrew Lloyd Webber recently announced that he is writing a sequel to The Phantom the Opera, to be set in Manhattan and feature Christine and The Phantom. The idea was on-again, off-again in recent years. *

On Broadway, since its debut on Jan. 26, 1988, The Phantom of the Opera has grossed nearly $645 million, making it the highest-grossing show in Broadway history.

Total attendance is at 11 million.

Its international success is represented by a total worldwide box office gross of $3.2 billion, making Phantom, according the producers, "the most successful entertainment venture of all time, surpassing not only any other stage production, but also far surpassing the world's highest-grossing film 'Titanic' (at $1.2 billion) and such other blockbusters as 'The Lord of the Rings,' 'Jurassic Park' and 'Star Wars.'"

Worldwide attendance is over 80 million people.

Since becoming the longest-running show in Broadway history on Jan. 9, 2006, every performance has set a new longevity record.

On Jan. 26 of this year, it became the first show in Broadway history to reach 19 years.

The Phantom of the Opera had its world premiere on Oct. 9, 1986 at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, winning every major British theatre award including the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards.

The New York production won seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Based on the classic novel "Le Fantôme de L’Opéra" by Gaston Leroux, the musical "tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command."

The current Broadway cast features Howard McGillin in the tile role with Jennifer Hope Wills as Christine and Michael Shawn Lewis as Raoul. At over 1,800 times, Mr. McGillin has performed the title role more than any other actor in the Broadway production.

The musical also co-stars George Lee Andrews (Monsieur Andre), David Cryer (Monsieur Firmin), Anne Runolfsson (Carlotta), Marilyn Caskey (Madame Giry), Roland Rusinek (Piangi) and Heather McFadden (Meg Giry). At certain performances, Julie Hanson plays Christine.

The Phantom of the Opera has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is directed by Harold Prince. Lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The regular performance schedule for The Phantom of the Opera is Monday and Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM and Tuesday evenings at 7 PM with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM.

For tickets, call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200, visit www.telecharge.com or visit The Majestic Theatre box office, 247 West 44th Street.

For more information, visit www.thephantomoftheopera.com.

Howard McGillin and Jennifer Hope Wills will perform the 8,000th performance of <i>The Phantom of the Opera</i>.
Howard McGillin and Jennifer Hope Wills will perform the 8,000th performance of The Phantom of the Opera. Photo by Joan Marcus