The Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera celebrates its 10th anniversary Jan. 26, a mark reached by the barest handful of shows, ever.
Moreover, Phantom has been selling 100 percent of its tickets until very recently, a genuinely unprecedented honor.
Playbill On-Line asked users: "How do you account for this popularity? Why does the musical about a disfigured genius who mesmerizes a pretty young soprano from catacombs beneath of Paris Opera continue to attract new audiences even as older fans return again and again?"
Here is the second part of the responses. More will be posted later this week. Playbill On-Line thanks all who took the time to write.
From Miss Amy E. Chmielewski:
There are lots of reasons for Phantom's success. The music is undoubtedly Lloyd Webber's best, the sets are lavish and ornate, the special effects are still powerful and magical even after a decade, and the actors hired, time and time again, are "la creme de la creme." The musical is so utterly different from many of the silly, mindless, plotless musicals Broadway has been home to for so many years. Phantom is romantic, it is passionate, and it has a great ability to evoke emotions from the audience.
Another reason for Phantom's great success is it's devoted fans - people who repeatedly see the show, bringing in repeat audiences constantly. To these devoted fans, Phantom is more than just a musical. Many of the show's fans were introduced to the concept of Phantom through the show, but they've found other valuable resources about Phantom such as Gaston Leroux's novel, (amongst many other Phantom-inspired stories) and the numerous "Phantom" films that have been made. These mediums have heightened fans interest in Phantom, therefore prompting them to see the show more often.
Phantom's main theme is powerful and relates to our society even today: beauty comes from inside, and when we fail to acknowledge that fact, lives are wasted, genius is undiscovered, and love cannot prevail. The Phantom's character is so tragic, and we as people can all relate to his feelings of loneliness and the frustration and pain of being misunderstood. When an audience can relate to a character, and/or a theme, then the play (musical) has reached the true heights of artistic success - evoking emotion and bringing beauty to society.
From Sean Lowery (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Its simple, really. Imagine a play that can make your very heart strings play. A musical that not only is romantic, but is dark, bold, surprising, and suspenseful. Its a musical that is both mesmerizing to watch, and to hear. Throughout the 10 years its been around, word of mouth from all the MANY Phantom fans has gotten around, and more fans were made from this, and so on.
Its also a play you can't see just once. Like a really good movie that both makes you cheer and cry, you can't stop thinking about it and when you see an opportunity to see the show, you take it up. It deserves what it has taken in and done.
Things change, though, that's the only thing that remains the same. And Phantom's era will pass, it will enter the history books, and then new spectacles will follow. Maybe one day, we'll be talking here about Phantom 2 or current musicals like Jekyll and Hyde and Titanic.
From Christie Toole:
Personally, I do not like this particular show. I'm so brash and cynical that this is an easy thing for me to say. I think this show is so crowd pleasing due to Andrew Lloyd Webber's flowing and beautiful pop score, the huge Hal Prince staging, and the set decoration. I'm into the fundamentals, so if the lyrics and the storytelling aren't good. . . I'm not liking it. What can I say, I'm a Sondheim fan.
Why do I love the Phantom of the Opera?
There are several ways to answer that.
The first time I ever heard of the story-- I was in the 5th grade. The Yeston/Kopit miniseries was showing on television. At 10 years old, I watched mostly sitcoms and cartoons. But this was the first show I've ever seen that brought tears to my eyes. What a sad...sad story, I couldn't help thinking! And I could never shake off the feeling it gave me after watching it.
Two or three years later, I saw the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical for the first time. I had already memorized the libretto and the music (to the point where I knew to cover my ears when the police fired) but nothing prepared me for actually being there... sitting there and listening to Mark Jacoby sing.
And now, I am 17 years old and a senior in high school. I had put away my love for Phantom-- I still had it, yes, but with schoolwork and college looming in the distance, the constant playing of the POTO CD soon turned to the occasional song every now and then. The copy of the book that sat loyally by my bedside returned to the bookcase next to my math and science textbooks. But suddenly... I just had this need... this need to go see the musical again. I think it was because of the stress of this year--- I was about to make the most important decision of my life so far. College. And I needed a break. I needed something *fun* to do. So, I bought tickets for the Phantom of the Opera... some 5-6 years later.
I can say that this was the ideal time for me to watch... Thomas James O'Leary was nothing less than inspiring in his performance of Erik. I came from that show in tears. He moved me. The music moves me. I came from that night with a renewed sense of energy to tackle my college applications-- for now, I had something to write. Something that truly touched me, truly inspired me to write. I pretended that the words were the music for me, and I was learning about writing for the first time. I actually *enjoyed* writing some of those essays.
So why do I find the story so magical? I don't quite understand it myself. Perhaps it's sentimentality-- after all, I've loved it since the 5th grade. Maybe it's the beautiful music or the heartwrenching portrayal of the deformed composer that tugs at your soul. Maybe it's the wonderful performances of gifted actors such as Tom and Adrienne McEwan. For me, I have a feeling it's all of the above... and beneath all the spectacular stunts, special effects, and thunderous music, (not to mention a strange, unbelievable tale of a man living beneath the opera) there lies an even more important lesson that is universal and very much familiar to us all-- that of acceptance.
(boy..that actually did sound like my college essay!)
But whatever the magic is...may Phantom live forever! It's given me the way to find my own voice-- though it may not be that of spoken song, it was the inspiration to write again.
From Andrea St. Clair:
I think Phantom's popularity is because it was one of the first "pop" musicals based entirely on its spectacle. It is this element that captivates the audience, and therefore, keeps their attention over the years.
From Steven Doggett:
I cannot account for Phantom's longevity. How can a show with so little plot and so few good songs last that long??? The only thing that must attract people back time and time again is the fantastic scenery or the arrival of a new star in the cast.
Of course the same applies to Cats, but that doesn't even have the spectacular sets & effects that Phantom contains.
I personally wish some of these long running shows would close give new shows more of a chance.
From Christine Frazier:
Hello.The phantom of the Opera's appeal is hard to describe from the view of the phan,(hybrid of fan)but can be traced to 4 main qualities.(and not one of them is an unusually slow moving chandelier!)One:A mysterious romantic main character,Two:A tragic and romantic storyline and Three:the music to carry such a melodramatic plotline,along with four:Enough comedy to make the story real.The legend of The Phantom of the Opera itself is popular and allowed for easy access for people who have a hard time following plotlines.The setting,the exotic Paris Opera,makes for a wonderful visual feast for the patron,and the opera personnel-from Manager to Ballet girl to Prima Donna-help keep the story moving,for the best tragedies are always the most realistic.These thing,coupled with lyrical music filled with romantic string parts and passionate twelve tone marches,make for a wonderful theatrical event which sparks the imagination.
From Travis Beasley:
Phantom would have to be the least taxing musical ever written - the story is simple, but romantically attractive; the music is melodic, repetitive and sweepingly cinematic; the staging is dramatically ornate. The producers have cleverly worked on the Disney principal of the audience not being able to experience the whole show in one sitting, therefore having to return (and pay for another ticket). We can only congratulate them for being so clever.
Personally, I think everyone is waiting and hoping that one day Michael Crawford will return to the play the lead.
I heard someone say, Michael doesn't play the role, he IS the phantom. That is definitely true.
From David Barzilai, University of Arizona:
I remember when Phantom of the Opera first came out ages ago. I remember singing a medley from it in a junior high musical review and then actually getting to go see the show in LA. Since then I've been able to see Phantom a few other times. Why do I think the show has survived so long? That can be contained in one word: "Spectacle." From the top of the show till then end the show is filled with spectacle. Unfortunately, many people (with the exception of those in NY) are not going to the theatre to see a good show with a wonderful plot, they are going to see something "cool."
That fact was just drilled into my mind last night when I went to a non-union tour of "Grease" which came through my university. I couldn't believe it, but for the first time in ages the 2000+ seat house was sold out . . . for "Grease!" I was in shock.
In previous seasons when Equity productions of "Les Miserables" came through there were always seats available. Suddenly the entire city was showing up to "Grease" and it certainly was not for the deep moving story. Don't get me wrong, I would rather have them come to "Grease" instead of going out to a bar or catching an over-priced movie. After all, I am a Musical Theatre actor myself and I'm thrilled to know that there are really audiences out there: even if they are not looking for a deep story. The debate has been going on for years regarding Les Miserables and Phantom and every time I have encountered this debate it always ends the same way: If you are going for a story go see Les Miz, if you are going for spectacle catch Phantom. They are both good shows and people will always be willing to go see Phantom as long as it has its spectacle.
From: Jake Witlen (email@example.com):
I believe that Phantom has been able to play for so long for several different reasons. The first is that the music is so lovable, and quite "catchy" if we may call it that. It is the sort of musical that you can walk out of the theatre humming along to, and find yourself days later still singing one of the numerous songs that have become so famous. I also think that its longevity is due to its good solid story, and the way that the actors have been able to keep it alive...although I hear that the actors are starting to become a little stagnant! Anyway, it is a show that is perfect for all ages, unlike so many shows that hit broadway for several years that are aimed at a particular age group...ie. RENT (although I hope it should run as long as Phantom), Sunset, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Jekyll and Hyde etc. These are all plays that are aimed at only one major group of people, and slowly we're going to watch them close one by one. Phantom and Les Miz are special because although aimed at the upper-middle class, kids can also go see them, just for the spectacle of them. They are just good, clean fun, that isn't bloody (although Les Miz is), but they are good family shows.
I first saw Phantom in Dec. 1996 and have returned to see it on two additional occasions. I had to purchase my tickets 3-4 months in advance for my ideal seats. The play is simply wonderful-the music, the mystery, the sets and of course, the actors. Thomas O'Leary, Tracy Shayne, Gary Mauer and all the other fine actors transport the audience to another world. I last saw Phantom on Jan. 7 and Mr. O'Leary was the best I've seen and heard him yet. He has become Erik-his performance moved my entire party and some of us to tears. I think POTO's success is due to the moving story and score, the beautiful costumes and sets, and of course the ability of the cast to make the audience a part of this romantic tragedy. The atmosphere in the Majestic Theater is beyond compare and I hope the Phantom will continue its run for many years to come. I plan on returning again and again.