‘Phantom of the Opera’ super fans bid farewell to Broadway’s longest-running show

(CNN) “Phantom of the Opera” isn’t just a Broadway icon — it’s a cultural behemoth.

There’s an organ-heavy score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lavish sets and elaborate costumes. There is a melodramatic love triangle between the beautiful soprano, her hunky beau and the misunderstood sewer dweller, composer and voice teacher. And then there’s the chandelier, of course. Few moments in a concert hall are more thrilling than before the massive light fixture comes back to life.

People wait in line to see “Phantom of the Opera” in midtown Manhattan as temperatures enter the 90s on July 21, 2022 in New York City.

After 35 years and nearly 14,000 performances, “Phantom of the Opera” The final bow Sunday on Broadway. Soon, posters advertising the show with nothing but the iconic Phantom mask and a single rose will be swept from Times Square, and the Majestic Theater will sit empty for the first time since “Phantom” opened in 1988.

Closing message The musical dazzled fans — the longest-running show on Broadway and always a constant presence on West 44th Street. But it’s a costly endeavor — after the show returns from its pandemic-induced shutdown, its Weekly operating expenses Closer to $1 million, often Doesn’t charge enough To cover those costs. It is impossible for such a lavish production to maintain its place on Broadway without losing money.

No one took the news harder than the most dedicated fans of “Phantom” — or “pans,” on the contrary. Many of them have seen the show dozens or hundreds of times. They’ve followed the show around the country and the world, and some even got tickets to Sunday night’s “Phantom” finale. They’ve taken comfort in its fantasy, identified with the antihero at its center, and its run. All formed lasting bonds with their fellow theatergoers.

So many Pans fall under the spell of the title character, Christine, that they can’t pinpoint for a long time what makes it so enticing — a constant in their lives.

Stagehands find the chandelier during preparations for the reopening of “Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic Theater on September 28, 2021 in New York.

“I love the fact that I’m sacrificing my own happiness for the music, the scenery and ultimately Christine,” said Katie Yelinek, a librarian in Pennsylvania who first fell in love with “Phantom” in 1993. “They create a sense of magic and awe. But listing those things separately doesn’t explain the inexplicable sum of their parts, which makes ‘Phantom’ like no other music.”

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Charlie Peterson, a Fason since eighth grade, said they spent months after their mother’s death listening to the tapes with their childhood best friend. Although they now live across the country from that friend, the two still get together to catch the concerts that inspired them in their youth.

“It was the place to go when I felt I needed it,” Peterson told CNN. Losing “Phantom” on Broadway now “feels like another friend walking away.”

‘Phantom’ pans are dedicated to musical instruments

Actor Ben Crawford, who plays the Phantom, takes a selfie with a fan during the reopening night of “Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic Theater on October 22, 2021 in New York City.

Sierra Bogus, one of the most beloved portrayals of heroine Christine among the “fan”-base, told CNN that the show’s fans are “incredibly special” even among the most ardent musical fans.

Take Dick Moore: The Denver native has seen the show more than 200 times and his house is decorated in “Phantom” memorabilia, his “35 years of chasing the Phantom,” he told CNN.

“Every time I watch the show, it’s like watching it for the first time said Denver Center for the Performing Arts Center, in 2019, for his 198th performance. “I never get tired.”

Imitating the “Phantom” is a lifestyle for some pans — many of whom have made regular trips to the Majestic throughout their lives to catch new interpretations of Christine and the masked maestro. When news of the show’s closure broke, fans clamored to buy tickets for the rest of its run — pushing the closing date several weeks ahead. Fan demand. A week after the declaration of its result, its Weekly Gross Raise $964,000 to $1.2 million. Last week, it grossed $3.6 million — and tickets to see the show’s finale aren’t cheap.

Pance told CNN in the days leading up to final production on “Phantom” that they were preparing to say their final goodbyes with a heavy heart. Wallace Phillips, a filmmaker and animator in New York, has seen the show 140 times over the past 13 years. Speaking to CNN before wrapping up the show, he said he hopes to do a few more shows before Sunday.

Ian Petriello Eisenberg says that even if “Phantom of the Opera” returns to Broadway, it won’t be the same.

Ian Petriello Eisenberg learned of the closing while working in Hawaii. “Phantom” was the show that inspired him to study drama at the University of Texas at Austin, and years later, he got a chance to join a Broadway troupe one night and shadow Broadway veteran James Barber, who played the Phantom in 2015.

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Eager to relive what he called one of the best nights of his life, he quickly booked a flight to New York to catch a show earlier this month.

“I am devastated that this icon of Broadway is gone forever,” Eisenberg said. “Even if it comes back, it will never be the same.”

Many Pans share Eisenberg’s woes: “Phantom” returned to London’s West End with half the band in 2021 after the pandemic halted all performances. Many feared that the score would lose its impact with fewer musicians. Many now fear that if the show eventually returns to Broadway, it will lose the magic of the original staging.

It has become an icon beyond the theatre

A scene during a performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic Theater in New York on February 7, 2012.

The pandemic, for some, made them appreciate the “Phantom” even more. Andrew Defrin, a Fordham University student studying theater direction, has been “absolutely enthralled” with Phantom since he first saw the show when he was 6 years old. He would sing along to the soundtrack on sets made of cardboard, proudly wearing his costume. Own Phantom Mask. But he won’t revisit the show until it returns from a Covid-induced shutdown in 2021.

He said he will attend his 20th performance of “Phantom” on Saturday. He planned to bring tissues.

“It’s the end of an era, really,” Defrin told CNN. “I’ve never seen any other marquees at the Majestic Theatre. Not seeing that mask would be devastating.”

“Phantom” is the most enduring monument to the era of ’80s musicals: “Les Miserables” had a bigger cast and an even bigger blockbuster. “Miss Saigon” had its jaw-dropping helicopter and “Cats” its junkyard. (All four mega-musicals, not coincidentally, share producer Cameron Mackintosh.) But all those shows have been closed, revived and closed again since “Phantom” premiered.

The musical reintroduced Phantom to fans who couldn’t get enough of Gaston Leroux’s novel of the same name. Although there were adaptations of the source material prior to Webber’s musical, adaptations and parodies specifically referencing the show’s interpretation of “Phantom” can be found throughout pop culture — including movies And also Children’s television.

Andrew Defrin said he was “enthralled” by “Phantom of the Opera” at age 6.

Defrin acknowledges that Webber’s production has had its fair share of detractors unimpressed by its melodramatic script and score. But he said it’s hard to deny the cultural “phenom” it has become — its iconography so recognizable that its marquee doesn’t even list the title of the musical.

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“There will definitely be a hole in my heart,” Defrin said of its closure.

Pans bid farewell to ‘Phantom’ on Sunday

Some fans, like Phillips, see the show’s ending as progress, even if it hurts them.

“Part of me sees it as a fresh start,” he said. “I want to keep the legacy of the show alive as long as I can.”

Phillips says he dreams of one day adapting the musical into an animated film — so that “Phantom” can live on after Broadway.

Boggess, meanwhile, understood the attraction of the “Phantom” role in his life. And not just on Broadway — she’s played Christine across the pond.

Hugh Panaro and Sierra Bogus during the curtain call celebration for “Phantom of the Opera – 25 Years on Broadway” at the Majestic Theater on January 26, 2013 in New York City.

Late, from rehearsals for the Las Vegas production with the original director Hal PrinceShe told CNN that she considers the memories of her performance in “Phantom” to be her favorite of her career, the high note Christine sang in the musical’s title song.

“Singing (Weber’s) music has been one of the greatest gifts of my life,” he said.

Although Defrin read “Phantom” avidly as an aspiring director, he will miss sharing the show with friends. He brought more than 20 people with him to the show, and it was a unique thrill to see someone else’s jaw drop when the chandelier went up and the iconic organ started playing.

“There was no such reaction,” he said, sharing the “Phantom” gift with loved ones.

“Phantom” won’t disappear from the theater landscape entirely — it will continue to tour, and licensing rights will be available to amateur theater companies. But when the Majestic’s marquee fades Sunday night and the Phantom abandons the theater it’s haunted for 35 years, Broadway will feel a little less wonderful without it.

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