My introduction to musical theatre came in 1991, in the sixth grade. Our music class had to a project on composers, and while most of us were assigned to more classical ones, a classmate did her presentation on a name I’d heard but had no association with: Andrew Lloyd Webber. She played the (cassette tape) cast recording of the title song of his The Phantom of the Opera, then still a fairly new phenomenon.
I was hooked. Phantom was my gateway musical. It took me a few years before I could actually see it, but when I did on Broadway, after years of listening to the soundtrack, I knew it well. I think I’ve seen it four times between The Great White Way and tours, and I never tire of the show.
And now that gateway has closed.
Adapted from Gaston Leroux’s horror novel, it is both that rare Broadway being, a thriller, and that common musical chestnut, a romance – a triangle really, between Christine, Raoul, and a suspiciously supernaturally inclined being who helps provide the opera singer with her success in nineteenth century Paris. (It’s also a metaphor for the dangers that lurk with the disenfranchised, on those on whom we turn our backs.)
The show swept the 1988 Tonys and ultimately claimed the title of longest-running Broadway musical, a title it will hold onto for at least a while longer. And its legend will last forever.
It certainly hasn’t passed the point of no return.