THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe
Libretto: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe, based on the 1911 novel “The Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux
West End: 9 October 1986
Broadway: 26 January 1988
ROMA Musical Theatre: 15 March 2008
The second most popular musical in the history of the West End (after LES MISÉRABLES), it is also the longest-running musical in the history of Broadway – with its unbroken run dating back to 1988. Similarly, in London, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has been performed continuously in the same theatre (Her Majesty’s Theatre) since its premiere in 1986.
This Polish version was the latest in a line of ‘non-replica’ productions staged by ROMA Musical Theatre, which means it also incorporated the original artistic vision of the director Wojciech Kępczyński. This is a rare privilege – most versions of a classic musical put on around the world are ‘replicas’, meaning shows transferred from the West End with the same staging as the original. The ROMA Musical Theatre’s productions of “Miss Saigon” and “Cats” were also non-replicas, differing from the (often old) originals in a positive way. And this was the case with the Polish “Phantom” too, but this time the producers went even further as the show was not only updated and given a film-like fluidity, but all the props placed it firmly in the historic centre of the action – the legendary Paris Opera House.
The famous chandelier, the scene on the opera house roof in the shadow of the sculpture crowning the vault of the building, the stairs of the theatre foyer where the “Masquerade Ball” takes place – this is the reality of the Opera Garnier in Paris which had never been recreated with such care before. The Phantom’s underground labyrinth – with its famous lake – was created by combining stage technology with film animation. Also different was the character of the Phantom himself, whose mask was created by Waldemar Pokromski, the Hollywood make-up artist. The illusions were prepared by Sławomir Piestrzeniewicz, and they proceeded to surprise audiences at ROMA Musical Theatre on a nightly basis. But it wasn’t the special effects that were the key to success for this romantic story. It’s the story itself that captivates and moves us, giving us plenty of food for thought.
Who is the mysterious ‘ghost of the opera’? A musical genius? But how did he end up there, and why does he live underground and hide his face away from other people? For Christine, the main heroine, love is a puzzle too – who will she choose? The young viscount, her childhood friend? Or the powerful but terrifying Angel of Music?
The Polish interpretation of “The Phantom of the Opera” goes far beyond the story of a love triangle in the unusual setting of a Paris theatre. It’s a work with a very current message about – even more importantly in these present times – the problem of confronting “otherness”. It’s about tolerance and our subconscious fears.
A huge stir was created when Andrew Lloyd Webber himself once visited ROMA Musical Theatre. The legendary “King of the Musical” – in Poland for the first time – came specially for a performance of “Phantom”, which his associates had told him was truly spectacular. He visited the Warsaw theatre on 15 November 2008, gave a short speech to the audience and warmly praised the Polish producers and performers.
After ending its run at Roma Musical Theatre (on 6 June 2010, after a record 572 performances), the Polish “Phantom” was given a second lease of life, returning unchanged to the stage of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Białystok, where it has remained part of the repertoire since its premiere on 24 May 2013. And it continues to pull in thousands of fans.
Selected songs: “The Phantom of the Opera”, “The Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You”.
Did You Know?
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is the most-performed musical of all time: on 6 January 2006, its 7,486th performance on Broadway broke the record which had previously belonged to the musical “Cats”.
The musical’s premiere took place in Her Majesty’s Theatre in London on 27 September 1986, and in the Majestic Theatre in New York on 9 January 1988, where it is still being performed.
The musical has won more than 50 important theatre awards, including 3 Olivier Awards and 7 Tony Awards, for Best Musical among others (as well as 7 Drama Desk Awards and 3 Outer Critics Circle Awards). In recent years, it has received the most prestigious of all audience awards – the Olivier Audience Award in 2002.
It is estimated that THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has now been seen by more than 80 million people worldwide (with total ticket sales in excess of 3.2 billion dollars).
To date, the musical has been staged in over 100 countries around the world, including New Zealand, Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Russia.
The renowned director Joel Schumacher made a film version of the musical in 2004 – the cinema version was shown in Poland with a new orchestral arrangement by the composer.
The album of the cast recording from the London premiere became the first album from a musical in British record industry history to enter the charts straight at number one. And its sales of over 40 million copies made “The Phantom Of The Opera” the best-selling album with an original cast in the history of musicals.
Each performance of the original musical required the participation of 130 people – the cast, musicians and technicians. The touring version of the show needed a fleet of 27 trucks, with the show also involving 22 changes of scenery.
The musical THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is based on the novel by Gaston Leroux (1868-1927), whose influence on popular culture can be seen by the number of film versions of his book.
Listed below are the most important direct adaptations of the novel “The Phantom Of The Opera”:
Year, director, lead actor
1925 dir. Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney
1943 dir. Arthur Lubin, Claude Rains
1962 dir. Terence Fisher, Herbert Lom
1983 dir. Robert Markowitz, Maximilian Schell
1989 dir. Dwight H. Little, Robert Englund
1990 dir. Tony Richardson, Charles Dance
2004 dir. Joel Schumacher, Gerard Butler
500 people worked on the production of the show
100 people worked on the set decorations alone
13 trucks were used to transport the set decorations
2 m/s is the speed at which the chandelier falls
250 kg is the weight of the chandelier
300 kg is the weight of the elephant
A total of 8 km of fringes was used
150 kg of haberdashery was used
50 wigs were used, all made in the theatre
100 pairs of shoes were made in the theatre
300 costumes were made in the theatre
20 firms worked on the set decorations
1,300 sq.m. of material was used to make the costumes
700 sq.m. is the total surface area of the Wagner curtain
The elephant used for the staging of “Hannibal” in Act I was transported to ROMA Musical Theatre by air (1 March 2008, 08:35)
The running time of the show is 2 hours and 40 minutes (with an interval)