Broadway got a new long-running champ this week and a lot of fuss was made—which was kind of funny, given that not much had changed. The top show was still English, still produced by Cameron Mackintosh, still choreographed by Gillian Lynne and still written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It did have a different name, though: not Cats, but The Phantom of the Opera.
Sandra Joseph in the current cast of The Phantom of the Opera.
Sandra Joseph in the current cast of The Phantom of the Opera. Photo by Joan Marcus

A feline and the opera ghoul got together at the end of the Jan. 9, record-breaking performance, which was one of the hottest tickets of the season and attended by every Gotham theatre professional of note. Following the show's regular bows, the company vanished and the ballerinas gathered in a circle around a solo female dancer in white spandex, who struck a few Cats moves, then tripped over to reigning Phantom Howard McGillin and took his hand, thus passing the torch—a romantic, hyper melodramatic moment to make any British megamusical proud.

Lord Lloyd Webber was on hand to tell the crowd that it was good to be king, as were Harold Prince and original Phantom Michael Crawford. The last Yankee-born show to rule Broadway was A Chorus Line. America's only hope of regaining the title appears to lie with Disney. Beauty and the Beast holds sixth place and The Lion King is eleventh. Given an earthquake at the Majestic and seven more Beauty-ful years and we're back in the catbird seat, countrymen!


Other shows, meanwhile, weren't worried about record, but struggling just to open. Nilo Cruz's Beauty of the Father—his latest since winning the Pulitzer for Anna in the Tropics—opened Jan. 10 at Manhattan Theatre Club to mixed notices, while Douglas Carter Beane claimed his biggest success since As Bees in Honey Drown with his new Hollywood satire The Little Dog Laughed at Second Stage. The show, which opened the same day as the Cruz, quickly extended a month.

John Patrick Shanley's Doubt opened long ago, of course, and was lucky to hold onto its original cast for more than a year. Replacing that cast wasn't as smooth a job. Eileen Atkins, Ron Eldard and Jena Malone were all due to bow at the Walter Kerr on Jan. 10, but flu season got in the way, laying all three low for a day. Eldard and Malone went on by the Wednesday matinee. Atkins' arrival is still awaited as of press time. ***

Finally, Fred Ebb and Peter Stone are gone but not forgotten. Curtains — the long-developing John Kander & Ebb & Stone backstage murder-mystery musical comedy — will have its world premiere this summer at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. It is being billed as a pre-Broadway engagement. Center Theatre Group presents the production, which will star David Hyde Pierce as a show-tune loving detective, and has a book by Rupert Holmes based on an earlier libretto by Stone. Scott Ellis will direct the musical, set in 1959 and populated by fictive members of the Broadway theatre community. Curtains was one of the last collaborations by Kander and Ebb.

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