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 first part of the responses. More will be posted later this week. Playbill On-Line thanks all who took the time to write.
As a former principal member of one of the companies, and someone who has done the show almost 1,000 times, I think the appeal is multi-faceted:
1. STORY: Incredibly classic and extremely romantic story. It just works. Love, lust, murder -- all set to music, and the music has a reason to be there...it is in an opera house, after all!
2. PRODUCTION: The direction and production are flawless. Say what you will about the book and the music, but Hal Prince created a gorgeous show. I saw the show many times, and logically should have been jaded; however, I always cried at the end! No expense was ever spared when I was part of the show, to maintain the physical production. Especially the costumes. The U.S. tours were just as exquisitely executed as the B'way production. People who saw the show "on the road" would tell all of their friends, who would see it in NYC. When we would return to a city for the second time, former audience members would return, and bring all of their friends. A real pyramid scheme!
3. UNIVERSAL APPEAL: Women would bring their begrudging men, and the men would always be pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoyed the story and the spectacle. And probably those young girls in tutus, too...Kids could understand the story, since it is really pretty simple.
4. MUSIC: The music, although in my opinion occasionally banal, does have an undeniably popular appeal. Their are some very beautiful melodies that bridge the classical/pop music gap.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it all out, although I think that by being the first to get the story to B'way and by choosing Hal Prince to execute it were probably the two smartest things L-W and Mackintosh did.
The Phantom of the Opera is just such a terrific play! I have seen it three times and I hope to see it many more! My friends that have seen it are also fans that wish to see it many more times. The play is just a pure masterpiece! At the end everyone in the audience just feels so sorry for the phantom, after being mistreated because of how he looks. And the play just makes you want to come back again and again!
From Carrie Hernandez:
In January of 1996 I ran a survey in BENEATH THE MASK the publication of the now defunct Phantom Appreciation Society. One of the questions dealt with the show's popularity. As it turned out, it was many different qualities combined that made the show so attractive.
1) 47% of the surveys mentioned the character of the Phantom himself or else his relationship with Christine as being the most appealing aspect of the work.
A) Many people of those being surveyed had known rejection in their lives. They stated that they related to the rejection the Phantom received not just from heroine (Christine) but from society as well. When they cried for the Phantom, they were also crying for themselves. It was a catharsis.
B) Many people completing the survey yearned to be loved with the intensity and single-minded devotion with which the Phantom loved Christine.
It was this combination of people's pitying the Phantom (as they pitied ourselves) plus their wish to be loved with the intensity of his love, that have made this character so irresistible.
Other reasons stated on the surveys included:
2) The moving and emotional themes of Lloyd Webber's music.
3) The "unsatisfying ending." Quite a number of surveys said in one form or another that they hoped one day Christine would "forget her lines" and run off with the Phantom. A great deal of fiction published in Phantom of the Opera Fanzines tries to "fix" the ending of the musical and it's obvious through the discussion in various Phantom forums that a great deal of thought is expended on this subject throughout the phantom fandom.
4) The combination of romance, music, mystery and pathos in one single story.
5) The spectacular sets, costumes and special effects.
6) Good marketing
7) A favorite actor in the show or the congeniality of actors who greet fans at the stage door after a performance.
8) Phantom fans making friends amongst themselves, discussing the show and feeding off that interaction in a way that prolongs interest in the show.
Again, I feel the secret lies in a combination of the above mentioned aspects of the show, not in any single one.
From Jeffrey LaGrange:
I've seen it five times in New York and it's almost like seeing a new show each time. with new leads each time the show is always fresh and spooky in a different way. the only thing you can be sure of - or can you - is that the chandelier won't hit you in the head if you happen to be sitting front orchestra. Congratulations Phantom. Here's to ten more years - at least.
The Broadway musical, The Phantom of the Opera, is one of the most intriguing musical I have ever seen. I was very fortunate to see the musical twice during this past year.
I believe The Phantom of the Opera longevity and popularity among the fans is due to the fact of the character Phantom. The phantom has a mesmerizing voice causing many people to give sympathy toward the character. The phantom voice is very unique. Sometimes it is very hard to imagine that in this whole world there is a person that could sing with delicate, tantalizing, and with emotion as the Phantom of the Opera.
I believe the show is still doing unbelievably well after 10 years because of the story behind the mask, the astonishment of the show, and of course the music. Imagine A show being nearly 100% nearly everyday for 10 years. Cats may be the longest running musical on broadway, and Les Miserables may be "The World's Greatest Musical," but they never have over 95% everyday. The music is also another aspect, besides being by Lord Lloyd Webber, is absolutely beautiful and spectacular. It is definitely the best show on Broadway by far, and I believe that it will not close for a very long time. They should change the phrase, "Cats Now and Forever" to "PHANTOM NOW AND FOREVER!"
We all know down deep that we'll one day be unmasked and seen for what we are. Seeing the Phantom unmasked saves us from our unmasking, at least for now. Masking and unmasking is an archetypal theme in our psyche and will always have a draw in the arts. The show may run forever! It is the perfect scapegoat for our for our guilts and fears and our eternal pretenses.
There are - of course - the classic story, great music, book, and some truly amazing performers who have appeared. But I have long suspected and often suggested to friends (with varying responses) that one of the major reasons the show touches so many is the intense co-dependence (sorry -- that word is overused) nature and resolution of the unfolding drama.
It's the basic elements of it . . . the things that make for timeless melodrama. A doomed love. . .a tragic hero/antihero and the pure theatricality of the show. Like him or hate him Webber can write hummable tunes and the show tugs at the heart strings. And you always have the chandelier to talk about!
From Professor Dash:
I read in some Broadway writing textbook that the typical audience is a non-theatre-going business man from out of town and his wife, who drags him to a production. I think PHANTOM's title alone is more appealing to a non-theatre-going man than say, THE SECRET GARDEN.