Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was browsing a used bookstore in 1984 when he discovered a worn copy of The Phantom of the Opera, an out-of-print book by Gaston Leroux. He was inspired to write a Broadway musical about the haunting love story…and the rest is history! On January 26, The Phantom of the Opera is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Broadway, and the longest-running musical in history continues to be one of the most sought-after tickets in town. In honor of Phantom's Broadway birthday, here are 25 fascinating facts about the Tony-winning musical.
1. Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera was originally published as a poorly received serialized novel in 1909.
2. In early drafts of Phantom, the character of Christine was called “Kristin.”
3. Although the Phantom has no name in the musical, he’s called Erik in Gaston Leroux’s original novel.
4. Early Phantom rehearsals in London included animatronic rats, a white horse and real doves flying through the theater—these ideas were scrapped before previews began.
5. Director Hal Prince was briefly fired from the original London production, but was rehired again before rehearsals began. He went on to win a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.
6. It took four weeks and five people to build the original chandelier.
7. Steve Harley was originally asked to play the Phantom in London (they even recorded a music video!), but the creative team ultimately decided to eliminate the Phantom’s rock edge and cast Michael Crawford instead.
8. When Lloyd Webber approached him to audition for Phantom, Michael Crawford assumed he was auditioning for the part of Raoul. He spent a year studying Nelson Eddy’s performance in the 1943 film adaptation before he discovered that Steve Barton had already been cast in the role.
9. The Broadway premiere of Phantom cost a then-record-setting $8 million to produce.
10. Lloyd Webber was so nervous about Phantom’s premiere that he couldn’t attend the performance. Producer Cameron Mackintosh had to bring him back to the theater for the curtain call.
11. Phantom won seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Crawford) and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Judy Kaye, now starring in Nice Work If You Can Get It).
12. Phantom became the longest-running show in Broadway history on January 6, 2006, overtaking the record set by Cats—it’s even in The Guinness Book of World Records!
13. Twelve actors have played the Phantom on Broadway: Michael Crawford, Timothy Nolen, Chris Groenendaal, Steve Barton, Kevin Gray, Mark Jacoby, Marcus Lovett, Davis Gaines, Thomas James O’Leary, Howard McGillin, John Cudia, Jeff Keller, Ted Keegan, Brad Little, Gary Mauer and Hugh Panaro.
14. Howard McGillin, who starred in Phantom on Broadway for more than 10 years, holds the title of the world’s longest-running Phantom.
15. Current Phantom Hugh Panaro got his start playing Raoul on Broadway in 1991.
16. The Phantom wears contact lenses—one blue and one clouded.
17. The Phantom’s latex facial prosthetics used in the Broadway production are shipped from London.
18. Both Crawford and Panaro have accidentally gotten their lip prosthetics stuck to Christine while kissing her.
19. Applying the Phantom’s makeup initially took four hours—now, it’s down to less than 30 minutes.
20. Makeup artist Thelma Pollard has been with Phantom since the show opened on Broadway in 1988.
21. Each performance of The Phantom of the Opera has 230 costumes, 14 dressers, 120 automated cues, 22 scene changes and 281 candles.
22. The “Masquerade” scene uses life-sized mannequins to make the party crowd seem larger.
23. Holy smokes! Phantom uses more than 500 pounds of dry ice and 10 fog and smoke machines in each performance.
24. Original Phantom cast member George Lee Andrews holds the Guinness World Record for the most performances in the same Broadway show—after 9,382 performances, he retired from Phantom in August 2011.
25. The Phantom of the Opera has been parodied on dozens of TV shows, including The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park and SpongeBob SquarePants.