The history of Phantom of the Opera

One of the longest running Broadway musicals, the Phantom of the Opera is a must-watch for any entertainment connoisseur. We take a look at the history of the iconic novel and play.

The story of the Phantom of the Opera originates as a book by Gaston Leroux. Initially wanting to be a lawyer, Gaston loses all his money gambling and out of need starts writing for a French paper. He first started writing detective mysteries, coming out with ‘The phantom of the opera’ a few years after his initial start at the paper and first publishing it there.

The story takes place in Paris’ Opera House Palais Garnier. Leroux had heard rumours that first when the opera house was being finished, a fire had from the roof, melting the wiring of the chandelier, which fell and injured several people. This story, paired with the rumours that the Palais Garnier was a home to a particular ghost, served as main inspiration for Leroux’s plot.

The musical development

In 1984, Lloyd Weber contacted Cameron Mackintosh with the suggestion to co-produce a new musical. The two watched 2 film adaptations of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ but did not see how the plot could be taken to the stage. Later in NYC, Weber found a copy Leroux’s novel, which served as timely inspiration for the play’s plot.

The lyrics had several contributors. Weber first invited Jim Steinman because of his ‘dark obsessive side’ but he declined due to other commitments. Alan Jay Lerner followed, but fell ill and soon after let go of the task. Richard Stilgoe wrote most of the lyrics with Charles Hart rewriting some.

The sets and the 200+ musical costumes were designed by Maria Bjornson. The sets are award winning including a gondola, chandelier and sweeping staircase.

The first preview of the act was staged in Lloyd Weber’s home with Colm Wilkinson starring as the phantom and Sarah Brightman starring as Christine. The later previews started at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London with Broadway following shortly after.

Up to date, the musical is one of the most successful plays on Broadway and also a top-grossing one.

Get your Broadway tickets of The Phantom of the Opera here.

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