The longest running Broadway show in Broadway history is The Phantom of the Opera. The Broadway Show celebrated its 10,000th Broadway performance on 11 February 2012 and became the first-ever Broadway production to achieve this goal.
The longest running show, The Phantom of the Opera, is a musical based on the 1910 eponymous French novel written by Gaston Leroux. Andrew Lloyd Webber (who co-wrote the Libretto along with Richard Stilgoe) gave the music. Charles Hart was the one to write the lyrics. It is on the top of the list of the longest running Broadway shows.
1. The Phantom Of The Opera: Longest Running Broadway Show
The longest running Broadway show The Phantom of the Opera began as Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on 26 January 1988. However, Lloyd Webber wanted to open the musical in Toronto prior to Broadway, but due to political pressure, he was forced to change this plan. The production continues to play at the Majestic, where it became the first Broadway musical in history to surpass over 10,000 performances on 11 February 2012.
You will be surprised to know that the production celebrated its 25th anniversary on 26 January 2013 with its 10,400th performance. With more than 3500 performances, The Phantom of The Opera is the longest running Broadway show in the history of Broadway shows.
The 30th anniversary of the show, The Phantom of The Opera, was on 26 January 2018. They celebrated their 30th anniversary with special activities and an extra performance during the week. The Phantom of The Opera had been staged over 13,000 times by April 201.
If we talk about the critical reviews of the show, then let us tell you that the reviews were also mostly positive on the opening. For example, in The New York Times, its writer Frank Rich writes: “It may be possible to have a terrible time at The Phantom of The Opera for you, but you will have to work at it. Only a terminal prig would let the avalanche of the pre-opening publicity poison his enjoyment of the show, which usually wants nothing more than just to shower the audience with the fantasy and fun, and which often succeeds, at any price.”
The writer of New York Daily News, Howard Kissel, commended the production by calling it “a spectacular entertainment, visually the most impressive British musicals.” He also praised Lloyd Webber’s score despite it having a “synthetic, borrowed quality” as well as Michael Crawford’s “powerful” performance.
Particularly the factor that attracted the eyes of the audience and garnered critical acclaim then it is Maria Björnson’s set and costume design. The reviewers call the design of her costume to be “a breathtaking, witty, sensual tribute to 19th-century theater” as well as “marvels of period atmospheric detail and technical savvy.”
However, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the show suspended its production on 12 March 2020. But, on 5 May 2021, it was announced by the production team of the show that the show’s production would resume on 22 October of that year. Lloyd Webber has confirmed that the reopened Broadway show will be the original Harold Prince-directed production, unlike the West End production. After the death of Harold Prince in 2019, now his daughter Daisy, who is also a theater director, is serving as an informal advisor for the production.
2. West End And Broadway History
First Preview Of The Act At Sydmontom
The first preview of the first act was staged at Sydmontom (Lloyd Webber’s home) in the year 1985. This first preview starred Colm Wilkinson (later the star of the Toronto production) as The Phantom, Sarah Brightman starred as Kristin (later Christine), and Clive Carter (later a member of the London cast) as Raoul.
This primary production used Richard Stilgoe’s original unaltered lyrics and many songs sported names that were later changed to other ones. To name a few, “What Has Time Done to Me” (“Think of Me”) and “Papers” (“Notes”) were first taken and then changed to other names.
The Phantom’s original mask covered the entire face and remained in place throughout the performance, which obscured the actor’s vision and muffled his voice. Later the original mask by replaced by the now-iconic half-mask designed by Maria Bjornson, and that’s how the unmasking sequence was added. The clips of this preview performance were also included on the DVDs of the 2004 film production.
Original Broadway Production
The Phantom began previews at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End from 27 September 1986. It began under the direction of Hal Prince, which was later opened on 9 October. The show was choreographed by Gillian Lynne, and the sets were designed by Maria Bjornson. The lights were added by Andrew Bridge. The show that was played at Her Majesty’s Theatre celebrated its 10,000th performance on 23 October 2010, with Lloyd Webber and the original Phantom, Crawford.
In 2020 during the closure of the show, it was the second longest-running musical in West End (and world) history after Les Misérables and the third after The Mousetrap. The production ran for 13,629 performances, and its final performance took place on 14 March 2020, prior to the shutdown of theatres because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 25th-anniversary stage performance was held in London on 1 and 2 October 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall. This performance was screened live in cinemas worldwide. It was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and was directed by Laurence Connor. Musical staging & choreography were done by Gallian Lynne. The sets were designed by Matt Kinley, and the costumes were designed by Maria Björnson. Patrick Woodroffe did the lighting design and the sound design by Mick Potter.
The cast of the show included Ramin Karimloo as the original Phantom, and Sierra Boggess played the role of Christine. Among others, Hadley Fraser played the role of Raoul, Wynne Evans played the role of Piangi, Wendy Ferguson played the role of Carlotta, Barry James played the role of Monsieur Firmin, and Gareth Snook played the role of Monsieur Andre.
Liz Roberston appeared as Madame Giry and Daisy Maywood as Meg Giry. Lloyd Webber and several original cast members, including Crawford and Brightman, were also there. A DVD and Blu-ray of the performance were released in the year 2012, and it aired in March 2012 on PBS’s “Great Performances” television series.
A new production directed by Laurence Connor in March 2012 began a UK and Ireland tour to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the show, beginning at the Theatre Royal Plymouth and then traveling to Manchester, Bristol, Dublin, Leeds, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, and Southampton. The Phantom was altered by John Owen-Jones and Earl Carpenter, with Katie Hall as Christine and Simon Bailey as Raoul. The 30th anniversary of the show was on 10 October 2016, with a special appearance of the original cast during the curtain call.
The co-producers of Phantom, Cameron Mackintosh, and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group(RUG), in November 2019, announced that the show would again tour the UK and Ireland. Still, this time it will return to the original production rather than the previous 2012 production. According to this announcement, the tour would be a “replica” of the musical on Broadway and in the West End. Therefore, the alterations were made to the set design in order to make the tour “lighter.” These alterations included a scaling down of the production’s false proscenium, with the centerpiece Angel statue designed by Maria Bjornson being removed.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the performances of this latest 2020 tour, together with the original London production at Her Majesty’s Theatre, were both suspended from 16 March 2020. And in May 2020, Mackintosh and RUG announced the premature closure of the tour as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Next month, it was announced that an extended closure of the original London production would be required to refurbish the set and the theatre. And in July 2020, social media outlets posted photographs of the sets, props, and costumes being loaded out from Her Majesty’s Theatre. As Cameron Mackintosh had closed the original Broadway production in 1985 of Les Misérables to replace it with a newer production that had previously toured the UK, the speculations were there that the original production of Phantom was to be overhauled or replaced entirely.
The confirmation of this speculation was given on 28 July 2020, when Cameron Mackintosh himself publicly announced in the Evening Standard that he and Lloyd Webber had together decided to “permanently close” the original production after a 33-year run. Along with this, he also said that the two were “determined” for the musical to return to the West End.
In response to this announcement, the Really Useful Group denied the permanent closure of the original production, stating that the extended closure was simply to enable a refurbishment of the theatre. And they claimed that the show would return “unchanged,” but without confirming upon request by The Stage as to whether the production’s 27-piece orchestra would return.
In October 2020, Mackintosh made a clarification about the show by stating that the “new version” based on the 2020 UK tour would, in fact, be the production that would be staged at Her Majesty’s Theatre post-pandemic.
Mackintosh further confirmed in an interview on 4 December 2020 that the original London production had officially ended now, with investors having been given their closing notices. Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh announced a planned opening of the production on 27 July 2021. The planning documentation that was submitted by LW Theatres confirmed considerable redesigns of Maria Björnson’s set, with the removal of the Angel statue and fewer gargoyles on the proscenium as had featured in the original production.
It was confirmed on 12 April 2021 that, contrary to claims made by Lloyd Webber that the original production would return “in its entirety.” The orchestra of the original production that was once the largest for any West End musical will be halved for the show’s return to the West End using the reduced tour orchestrations.
On 15 April 2021, Cameron Mackintosh confirmed that the original production would not be reinstated at Her Majesty’s Theatre anyhow. The designs of Maria Björnson, the direction of Hal Prince, and the choreography of Gillian Lynne would now be “reimagined by a new team.” The producer reconfirmed in an interview in April 2021 that the 2020 touring production would replace the original at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Full casting for the production was announced on 27 April 2021. All previous longtime cast members have left the show, with Cameron Mackintosh again restating that the production would, contrary to the Really Useful Group’s previous claims, be a “new version” of the show.
3. Achievements Of Longest Running Broadway Show
- This longest running Broadway show opened in London’s West End in 1986 and on Broadway in New York in the year 1988. The English classical soprano Sarah Brightman, wife of Lloyd Webber, was cast as Christine Daae’.
- The plot of the longest running Broadway show revolves around a beautiful soprano. This young woman becomes the obsession of a mysterious, masked musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House.
- The longest running Broadway show, The Phantom of the Opera, won the Olivier Award in 1986 the Tony Award for best musical won in the year 1988.
- After Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera is the second longest running West End Musical, and after The Mousetrap, it is the third longest running West End show. By the year 2011 itself, the had been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities across 27 countries.
- Talking about the financial stance of the Phantom of the opera, you will be amazed to know that it is the highest-grossing Broadway show. With total estimated worldwide gross receipts of more than $6 billion and a total Broadway gross of over $1 billion, the show was the most financially successful entertainment. But after the release of The Lion King in the year 2014, the show was left behind with the success of The Lion King.
4. Other Productions Of The Show
The Phantom of The Opera has been translated into several languages and is produced in over 28 countries on 6 continents. Notable international productions are listed below:
The Broadway show ran from March to November 2009 in Buenos Aires.
In the year 1990–1998: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth; in years 2007–2009: Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Auckland, Perth, and Adelaide. Marina Prior starred as Christine in the original Broadway production. The final leg of the recent tour was staged in Adelaide that was in an arena format that featured giant screens on either side of the stage that presented footage shot simultaneously with the performance. In 2013, Canberra starring Michael Cormick as The Phantom and Julie Lea Goodwin starring as Christine.
The German-language production premiered in December 1988 at the Theater an der Wien.
The first Brazilian production premiered in São Paulo in April 2005 that was closed in April 2007. The revival of the show began on 1 August 2018 in São Paulo at the Teatro Renault.
The Canadian production of Phantom ran from 20 September 1989 to 31 October 1999 in Toronto, with Colm Wilkinson originating the role of Phantom. The Canadian International Touring Company toured it in Canada, Hawaii, Alaska, Hong Kong, and Singapore from 11 March 1991 to October 1995. The Music Box Tour played dates across Canada in 2006–2007 that included Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, and many more.
The Shanghai production played 97 performances. The world tour had its sixth season at the Culture Plaza Theatre at Shanghai Culture Square from 3 December 2013 to 26 January 2014. The world tour returned to China in Guangzhou from 26 September to 10 October 2015 and performed its final season at the Tianqiao Performing Arts Center in Beijing.
The GoJA Music Hall Theater in Prague had a non-replica production that began in September 2014. The revival of the show began in September 2018 and is a planned finish in June 2019.
The first production of the show was in Copenhagen in 2000, and the second ran from January to May 2009. The third began in September of 2018.
And this list goes on and on and is a never-ending one.
5. Longest Running Broadway Shows
Broadway lovers worldwide often wonder about the longest running Broadway shows. With such a rich history, Broadway stages have showcased many long running shows over the years. Several longest running shows are still playing today.
The Chicago musical appeared for the first time on longest running Broadway shows in the year 1975 and ran continuously for 2 years before ending up in 1977. This show has earned 6 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical. In the year 1998, Chicago won the Grammy award for Best Musical Show Album. Chicago is a satire of the corruption found in the criminal justice system and the concept of “celebrity” criminals.
The Lion King
The Lion King started in the year 1997, and since its release, more than 60 million people around the world have come to discover the thrill, the majesty, the truly one-of-a-kind musical. The Lion King musical won 6 1998 Tony Awards, including The Best Musical.
Cats musical has been performed worldwide in over 20 languages. It has earned 7 1983 Tony Awards, including The Best Musical. The Cats is based on T.S. Eliot Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. However, due to unsaid reasons, the Cats was closed on Broadway in September 2000.
Les Misérables is a musical based on Victor Hugo’s novel. It tells the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant who served 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. Les Misérables has earned 8 1987 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and received a Grammy Award for Best Musical Cast Show Album in 1988.
Other Longest Running Broadway Shows
Among the top longest running Broadway shows, there are A Chorus Line (1975-1990), Oh, Calcutta! (1976-1989), Mamma Mia! (2001-2015), Beauty and the Beast (1994-2007), Wicked, Rent (1996-2008), and Jersey Boys (2005-2017).
After reading it whole now, you would have realized why The Phantom of The Opera is Broadway’s longest running show.