In the late 1980s, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals Cats was one of Broadway's biggest hits. The Phantom of the Opera, his highly anticipated follow-up, opened at the Majestic Theatre on Jan. 26, 1988. Top tickets cost an uprecendented $50.
"It may be possible to have a terrible time at The Phantom of the Opera,'' Frank Rich wrote in his New York Times review, "but you'll have to work at it. Only a terminal prig would let the avalanche of pre-opening publicity poison his enjoyment of this show, which usually wants nothing more than to shower the audience with fantasy and fun, and which often succeeds, at any price."
The musical starred Michael Crawford in a Tony-winning performance as the title character opposite Sarah Brightman as the beautiful Christine Daaé. Judy Kaye earned her first Tony for her supporting role as Carlotta. The opening-night cast also featured Broadway debut performances from Rebecca Luker as the understudy for Christine and Nicole Fosse (daughter of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon) in the ballet chorus.
In addition to acting awards, Harold Prince earned a Tony for his direction, Maria Bjornson won for her costume and scenic design, and the show was named the Best Musical of 1988.