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‘Phantom of the Opera,’ Broadway’s longest-running show, to end after 35 years

Sept. 28, 2022 Updated Thu., Sept. 29, 2022 at 2:22 p.m.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” Broadway’s longest-running show which opened in New York City on Jan. 26, 1988, is closing in early 2023.  (Getty Images)
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” Broadway’s longest-running show which opened in New York City on Jan. 26, 1988, is closing in early 2023. (Getty Images)
By Adela Suliman Washington Post

Broadway’s longest-running show is set to take its final bow. “The Phantom of the Opera” musical theater spectacle will be finishing next year, the production said.

“We are sad to confirm that after 35 years on Broadway, Phantom will play its final performance at the Majestic Theatre on Saturday February 18th, 2023,” a short statement on its official website said.

According to reports, the show was struggling to bounce back from the ticket slump facing much of Broadway amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The memorable musical, composed by British theater legend Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics from Charles Hart, includes songs “Music of the Night,” “Think of Me” and “All I Ask of You.” It debuted in New York in 1988, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Hal Prince, scooping up seven Tony Awards, among them Best Musical.

The romantic thriller is based on a novel by French author Gaston Leroux and tells the tale of a disfigured masked man, the Phantom, who haunts the Paris Opera and becomes obsessed with dancer Christine Daaé. He teaches her to sing, making her an unwilling muse for his genius, and later kidnaps her to his lair.

The production is known for its dramatic set design – and an iconic moment where a grand chandelier drops from the ceiling.

“As a producer you dream that a show will run forever,” producer Mackintosh told the Associated Press. “Indeed, my production of Andrew’s ‘Cats’ proudly declared for decades ‘Now and Forever.’ Yet ‘Phantom’ has surpassed that show’s extraordinary Broadway run. But all shows do finally close.”

Like other creative industries, Broadway was hit hard by the pandemic, with theaters closing to audiences in 2020. Shows returned in the fall of 2021, with theater critics predicting a rebound of New York’s cultural life. But the final closure of Phantom highlights the difficulties still facing the costly entertainment industry. Since July, vaccine requirements for audience members were lifted and mask-wearing became optional.

In all, the show will conclude after a hefty 13,925 performances. It has won more than 70 major theater awards and been viewed by more than 140 million people worldwide.

In its 35 years, acting stars have included Michael Crawford, George Lee Andrews, Howard McGillin, Judy Kaye and Sarah Brightman, among many others. In 2021, Emilie Kouatchou made history as the first Black actress to be cast as Christine on Broadway. The show was also adapted into a movie in 2004, with Gerard Butler in the title role.

Webber has reigned over the musical theater world for more than 50 years and written smash hit shows including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “The Woman in White” and “Cats,” which ran on Broadway for 18 years, ending in 2000. He is also one of the few artists to achieve “EGOT status” having received Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards.

With Phantom retiring its Broadway crown, the next longest-running show is “Chicago,” which began in 1996, followed by the “Lion King,” which started a year later.

However, in theater, as in life, endings can lead to new beginnings, and Phantom is set to be performed for the first time in Mandarin in 2023 as it arrives in China. It also made its debut at the Sydney Opera House last month.

Fans in New York can still buy tickets for performances up to Jan. 22, and tickets for the final shows should be going on sale “shortly,” according to the theater company.

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