The Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera will celebrate its 10th anniversary Jan. 26, 1998. But exactly what form that celebration will take is still very much up in the air.
A production spokesman at The Publicity Office told Playbill On-Line said he expects plans will be finalized and announced by Dec. 31.
During 1997, two Broadway productions marked milestones in lavish fashion. Les Miserables celebrated its 10th anniversary by reopening a slightly revised version of the show with a largely new cast for an audience that mixed celebrities with devoted fans. Cats marked the day it surpassed A Chorus Line to become Brodway's longest-running show with a special performance at which former cast members joined in singing the finale, followed by on a closed-down Broadway and fireworks.
In other Phantom of the Opera news, Webber is hard at work on a sequel, which (acccording to a Dec. 15 Variety profile of the composer) he hopes to finish for 1999. He's penned several songs possibly aimed for the show, including "The Heart Is Slow To Learn" and an as-yet-unnamed rock and roll number.
Also, although Warner Brothers would like to begin shooting on the Phantom Of The Opera film in 1998, still no director or star has been chosen. Asked by Variety about the persistent rumor that John Travolta is mulling taking the lead, Webber confirmed that ongoing meetings have been taking place. Webber said the goal was to make sure "Travolta is entirely confident that he can deliver it, because there can be no question of fiddling with this one" (a reference to changes made to the Madonna Evita). Back in the summer, websites were abuzz -- and aflame -- over the idea of Travolta starring in the Warner Brothers film. Several sites have sprung up vociferously objecting to the potential casting, since Michael Crawford originated the role. The "No Film Of Phantom" campaign is targeting Warner Brothers and the Really Useful Company with a letter writing and e-mail onslaught in the hopes of changing the studio's mind about their casting choice for the deformed maestro.
Webber spokesperson Peter Brown wouldn't comment on Travolta or Crawford but told Playbill On-Line (June 19) "Warner Brothers is still searching for a director and leading man, as soon as we have those, we'll be a go, very quickly."
According to one website, the Travolta rumor started when the actor, on a May 19 UK television interview from the Cannes Film Festival, revealed that he was seriously considering the part and was scheduled to meet with composer Webber. When the commentator -- who said Crawford had been passed over for the role -- asked Travolta if he could handle such an operatic role, Travolta replied that Erik the Phantom would be "easier to sing" than the light pop songs in Grease because you could "give your whole heart and soul and annunciation and pronouciation to the words" of operatic songs."
In other Webber, news, the composer's "reworked" Whistle Down the Wind has picked its London reopening date: June 30, 1998 at the Aldwych Theatre. According to the New York Times, Australian director Gale Edwards will stage Whistle, as opposed to Harold Prince, who helmed the first version in Washington DC.
In February 1997, Lloyd Webber cancelled plans for a planned Broadway opening in June after a two-month run at the National Theatre in Washington DC. The show had gotten mixed reviews, but had been doing strong business -- even breaking house records at the National.
Reviews were not kind, however, and Webber had decided to rethink and rework the piece. Director Prince then left the project to work on the Candide revival. Edwards came to Lloyd Webber's attention when she mounted Aspects Of Love in Australia and Jesus Christ Superstar in London.