THERE SEEMS TO BE NO END IN SIGHT FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY POPULARITY OF THE BIGGEST BLOCKBUSTER THAT MUSICAL THEATER HAS EVER SEEN
“The Phantom of the Opera” runs Feb. 22-March 2 at the Fox Theatre. Details, tickets HERE or at 855.285.8499
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA opened in London in the fall of 1986 and has never looked back.
There are many theories about the popularity of the show that has chalked up more than 12,000 performances since its 1988 Broadway debut and seen more than 20 singing actors in the Phantom’s mask. It’s easily Broadway’s longest-running musical, still regularly grossing $1.5 million a week.
[READ TO THE BOTTOM FOR A FEW PHANTOM PHACTS]
Phantom producers say worldwide revenues have even surpassed by some distance such blockbuster movies as Titanic and The Lord of the Rings. It’s made a ton more money than Avatar, the world’s highest-grossing film at $2.8 billion.
There are plenty of theories, but Seth Sklar-Heyn, the associate director who oversees Phantom’s North American productions for producer Cameron Mackintosh, thinks it all boils down to love.
“Whether you go into it as a romantic or not, you encounter a man who only wants one thing — to be loved by one person. If that’s not universal, I don’t know what is,” he says.
It’s Sklar-Heyn’s job to keep an eye on the New York and touring productions so they remain tight, fresh and balanced.
“I want to be moved,” he says. “I want to experience something that is alive and will move me in a way that film can’t. Phantom has been sort of the example. It’s a production where the music moves you, the visuals move you, the story moves you.”
The story, based on the 1911 French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, is about a lonely, mysterious and misunderstood masked man who dwells in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House. He falls in love with the novice soprano Christine Daaé and wields his powers to help advance her career.
Sklar-Heyn wants the story unfold clearly: “For that to happen, all the parts must be unified, from the sound and the music to the performance levels.”
Broadway audiences continue to watch the original production, but the national touring edition was freshened several years ago. This is the second time Atlanta will see the updated version, which, of course, features the pop-operatic music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The story, script and original costumes, created by the late Maria Björnson, remain the same, although the newer version includes some Björnson designs that weren’t in the original production.
In the reworked touring show, the Phantom gets more face — er, mask —time; in the original, he’s often heard instead of seen. And that famous chandelier? No worries. It still plummets to frighten you. A redesign was intended to increase your chills and thrills.
There’s also new scenery by Paul Brown, anchored by a massive rotating wall unit that the stage crew calls “the Beast.” Those familiar with the original Phantom might notice that more real-life detail has been added.
“You could call it a more naturalistic, contemporary approach to both characters and story,” says Sklar-Heyn.
Laurence Connor, who directed the updated Phantom, was given the OK to “fill in more blanks, to clarify details, to redefine perspectives,” Sklar-Heyn says. Also, the actors have more freedom to put individual stamps on their characters.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh calls the freshened Phantom “reborn for the 21st century.” If Phantom is your favorite musical, you can experience it all over again through new eyes.
EEK, THAT CHANDELIER!
- The chandelier weighs 1,500 pounds and was designed by Howard Eaton for the updated national tour. Eaton also created the rings for London’s 2012 Olympic Games.
Though not an exact replica, Eaton’s design is based on the Paris Opera House chandelier.
- It has more than 6,000 beads. Each strand contains 632 beads.
- It’s built around a steel frame that contains the mechanical elements that make it light up, shoot pyrotechnics, shake, rattle and explode.
- It’s been rigged to “move in new and terrifying ways.”
- At its maximum velocity, the chandelier drops at 10 feet per second.
- The Phantom of the Opera has been performed more than 65,000 times, for 140 million people in 35 countries and 160 cities, and in 15 languages.
- The original cast recording has sold 40 million copies worldwide, making it the top-selling cast recording of all time. The New York production has grossed more than $1 billion.
- It takes 21 tractor-trailers to carry the sets, costumes, props, lights, etc., from one city to the next. One truck is needed just for the two scenic elements that are “opera boxes.”
- A cast of 37 plus 20 crew members travel with the show. About 75 more people are hired to help out in each city.
- The production uses more than 200 speakers and more than 85 moving lights in a design that uses four kinds of haze and smoke effects.
- The touring show requires more than 1,200 costume pieces and about 120 wigs. All but a few of the wigs are made out of human hair.
Source: The Phantom of the Opera