Phantom Farewell

Tonight, hours after this post goes public, my wife and I will attend a local stage production called Lovesong.  It’s our first foray into the offerings of our community theater so we’re really looking forward to it.  Lovesong has a run of five evening performances and one Sunday matinee while it’s in town.  A check of the theater website indicates about 20% of Thursday’s seats have been sold.  By my calculation, that’s about 80% less than any Broadway performance of Phantom of the Opera.

Maybe you heard.  After 35 years and 14,000 performances, last Sunday the curtain dropped for good on Phantom of the Opera.  Its creator, Andrew Lloyd Weber, was on hand at New York City’s Majestic Theater to offer the cast and crew a personal farewell.  He claimed their final performance as the best he’d ever seen.  You’ll forgive Andrew for being a little sentimental after all these years.

Theater District, Midtown Manhattan, NYC

Whether the stage production, the 2004 movie, the glorious soundtrack, or even the books on which it was based, you’re familiar with Phantom.  It’s a captivating story; part haunting and part romantic, with a lead character who has you wondering, “Is he real or imagined?”.  Reading Phantom’s synopsis (which you can do here), I realize I overlooked some details of the story the one and only time I saw the show. No matter.  The sets and the songs will stay with me for life.

Phantom took my admiration of stage performances to an entirely new level.  The one time my wife and I saw the show, in San Francisco in 1997, it literally took our breaths away.  The only shows we’d seen prior were the “off-off-off Broadway” offerings; the kind where they recruit locals just to fill out the cast.  Phantom left us yearning for more of the best, including seeing something on Broadway (which we did years later with Les Miserables, deserving of its own blog post).

Phantom was also a technical marvel.  What other show boasted a giant chandelier swinging out over the audience and threatening to fall?  Or a staircase giving the optical illusion of descending several levels as the Phantom dragged Christine downward?  Or the subterranean lake the Phantom rowed across, where you swore you were looking at a giant body of water right there on the stage?

Every Broadway production seems to have three or four unforgettable songs.  Phantom was no exception.  The show kicks off with an orchestral version of “Phantom of the Opera”, turns sweet with Christine’s solo “Think of Me”, and overwhelms with the duet All I Ask of You and especially The Music of the Night.  The latter includes one of the most powerful notes I’ve ever heard, when the Phantom sings, “Close your eyes… and let music set you… FREE-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E…!”

Deservedly, Phantom won the “Laurence Olivier Award” for Best New Musical in 1986, the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1988, and pretty much everything else it was nominated for.  Besides the London and Broadway productions, Phantom enjoyed nine worldwide tours and one revival.  Over its 35 years, Phantom employed 6,500 people and played to over twenty million theater-goers.  Phantom even had a short-lived sequel, Love Never Dies, debuting in London but never making it to Broadway.

Sadly, Phantom’s closing can be considered a casualty of the pandemic.  The show was suspended from March 2020 to October 2021 (when all Broadway productions ceased).  After reopening, attendance was sporadic because patrons were still hesitant.  Meanwhile, Phantom’s production costs continued at a staggering $1M/week, which eventually became unsustainable.

Phantom was originally slated to close in February but once theatergoers found out, the show experienced a brief resurgence and lasted another two months.  I don’t expect Lovesong to extend its little run at our community theater.  Thanks to Phantom of the Opera however, I’m simply excited for the potential of a wondrous stage performance.

Some content sourced from the article, “Final curtain comes down on ‘Phantom of the Opera'”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

18 thoughts on “Phantom Farewell”

  1. I saw Phantom years ago before everyone knew about the chandelier. It startled me more than I’d ever been startled by a live performance of anything. I enjoyed the music and the story and the costumes, but only saw it that one time even though it’s been around forever.

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    1. I never saw the Phantom movie (which came out after I saw the stage production) but I heard it was very good. With Les Miserables we saw the movie first, which really helped to understand the detailed story before we experienced the Broadway show (which is almost all singing). At least from my limited experience, these two productions are in a class by themselves.

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  2. I must confess Dave I’ve never seen Phantom, although from your description of the special effects I now wish I had, although I saw Le Mis back in the 90’s in Toronto. With ticket sales of 20% how does your local theatre stay in business? We have a semi-professional summer theatre season here (in that they are paid), and a local theatre group (local actors – not paid – shorter runs of a week or less) – they usually end of just breaking even even with mostly sold out shows – lot of bus tours book in.

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    1. It’s a good question about the economic viability of our local theater, Joni. I think the venue is heavily supported by local donors, as well as from our city coffers. The theater has an interesting connection with The Julliard School, whose student performers travel down here once or twice a year. I’m sure their shows are much more expensive than “Lovesong”, and sell out.

      For the record, “Lovesong” was disappointing, and played to a half-full theater. We will use more discretion with our next choice.

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  3. I hope you and your wife enjoyed the play and perhaps more tickets were purchased as it got closer to show time. I am sorry that I never saw “Phantom” Dave, but I did have the CD which I loved – it was always stirring at each listen. I had a coworker who kept returning to Toronto when “Phantom” was there. I lost track how many times she went to see it, proclaiming it was the best production she’d ever seen. I saw only one Broadway play which was”Same Time Next Year” with Ted Bessell and Loretta Swit in the roles that Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn had in the movie.

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    1. I’d push you to watch the movie, Linda, but in fact it’s the stage production I’m really promoting here, and now that’s gone. As my son told me (and he knows a thing or two about theater) large-scale stage productions are a dying art, because younger generations prefer shorter, more multi-faceted entertainment. Like certain sports (ex. thoroughbred racing, baseball, golf), Broadway may be forced to reinvent itself, and become a shadow of its former self in the process. I’m sad for the casualties of our “evolving” society. The local stage performance was – dare I say it – terrible. Lacked flow, included vulgar language and scenes, and left me with a mixed message about the story. Not what I expected for a community theater production playing to a mostly senior audience. We will use more caution with our next selection.

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      1. That’s a shame about this production Dave. I have heard that about the younger generation as well. That is why learning the news via social media (because it beats sitting and reading a news magazine or newspaper cover to cover or listening to a news broadcast) and consuming info in bite-sized pieces is the new normal, just as sentence structure is becoming a lost art – why write complete sentences when you can just abbreviate or use emoticons? I wonder if Broadway will re-invent itself … it is a fixture for the tourist industry I would think.


  4. I will be the skunk at this garden party and confess that Andrew Lloyd Weber’s shows and I have a difficult relationship. But then again, nobody has ever accused me of having normal tastes.

    Where I grew up there was a community theater in a nearby town that was active every summer. It was unusual for having a round stage surrounded by seats on all sides. It was always an enjoyable experience.

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    1. We’re hoping to embrace the offerings of our community theater. We didn’t just move to this small town to live quietly on its outskirts. Unfortunately, as I told previous commenters, we’re not off to a great start. The local stage show last week was not good at all. If I thought every production would be as bad, I’d spend all of my my time and dollars elsewhere.

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      1. I wonder if there has been a shift in focus for local theater over the past 40 years. I remember local theater existing to perform plays as entertainment for an audience. I suspect that there is a lot of modern theater that exists as an artistic outlet and results in performances that are more for the performers themselves than for we rubes who buy the tickets.

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      2. I think you’re right, J.P. This particular show had seven performances at $20/ticket and on our night the theater was only half full. I don’t think profit – or even selling a lot of seats – was their primary motive.


  5. An amazing run… I saw Phantom in London years ago and, although we’d been to other plays in NYC, this one was so stunning that my son still talks about it.


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