Perhaps one of the most famous stage musicals of all time, The Phantom of The Opera was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1986 from the French novel by Gaston Leroux. With lyrics and additional material by Richard Stilgoe, Charles Hart and Alan Jay Lerner, Phantom was an instant success on opening, with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the leading roles, and has been a constant sell-out at Her Majesty's Theatre, London, where it has run for over 25 years. It celebrated its 10,000th performance in October 2010.
Set in late 19th century at the Paris Opera, the story concerns a beautiful soprano, Christine Daae, understudy to the prima donna, Carlotta. When Carlotta is scared away by hauntings at the opera house, Christine takes over the starring role and is a huge success. Her 'secret' is that she has been taught how to sing by the mysterious 'Phantom', Erik, a secretive, musical genius who is obsessed with Christine, and is determined to make her a star. Christine is the only person to whom the Phantom has shown his true face, and she is aware of his love for her. But Christine's suitor, Raoul, becomes jealous of the Phantom's infatuation, and plots to have him imprisoned back to the travelling freak show from which he previously escaped. Discovering Raoul's plan, the Phantom mistakenly believes that Christine is part of it, and he declares war on them both...
The Phantom Of The Opera has enjoyed phenomenal success all around the world, with the Broadway production opening in 1988 at the Majestic Theater, where it still runs, and is the longest-running show in the history of Broadway. Other famous names who have played the Phantom include Dave Willets, Peter Polycarpou and Mark Jacoby, while notable Christines include Jennifer Hope Willis and Claire Moore.
Eight film versions have been made of the story, the first in 1925, starring Lon Chaney, and the latest in 2004, with Gerard Butler as the Phantom and Emmy Munson as Christine, but it's Lloyd Webber's stage musical which continues to play to packed houses in both London and New York, and shows no sign of stopping.
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