A Brief History of The Phantom of the Opera

by Anna Gross

The “Phantom” will fall silent at last.

The Phantom of the Opera, Broadway’s longest running show, is set to close in April of 2023, making it one of many musicals that have announced closing dates since June of 2022. The show first opened in 1986 on the West End in London before its debut on Broadway in 1988. Neither production could escape the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic—which has led to the downfall of many other shows and changed the theater industry forever—first with the London show ending in 2020 and the Broadway show set to end later this year. 

For the last 35 years, The Phantom of the Opera has told the story of a man with a facial deformity who haunts the Palais Garnier, an opera house in France, and eventually falls for the new star soprano, Christine Daae. The Phantom becomes her “Angel of Music,” coaching Christine’s voice and threatening the opera house if they do not cast her as the lead in all their productions. Christine does not love the Phantom back, however, as she has fallen in love with her childhood friend Raoul. The story evolves into a heated love triangle punctuated with some of the most powerful opera music of all time. 

A wildly popular drama, The Phantom of the Opera musical is based on the book with the same title by Gaston Leroux—a fictional story of the ghostly tales that took place at Palais Garnier. The musical was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote the role of Christine for his second wife, Sarah Brightman. She played the lead role in the West End and on Broadway, and also made an appearance at the 25th anniversary of the show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. There have been many movies based on Leroux’s book, but only one adaptation has been made into a musical using Webber’s songs. The 2004 film, The Phantom of the Opera, follows the same plotline, yet it never reached the same level of success or praise as the stage production. Love Never Dies, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, opened in London in 2010, although it failed to start a run on Broadway after severely negative reviews of the show.

Like every show in the history of Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera has received criticism—primarily for flat characters and a stagnant plotline—yet it has managed to remain one of the most popular musicals in history. Audiences are drawn to its colorful costumes, striking props and scenery, heart stopping songs, and underestimated characters. Throughout the 35 years that The Phantom of the Opera has been on Broadway, 21 men have played the role of the Phantom, and 35 women have portrayed Christine. In October of 2021, Emilie Kouatchou became the first African American woman to play the role of Christin on Broadway.  The 25-year-old actress will continue in the role until the curtains close in April. The closing of The Phantom of the Opera marks the end of an era. Although the show is ending professionally, remember that The Phantom of the Opera will always be there, inside your mind. 

About Anna Gross

Anna Gross is a Sophomore in the Pre-IB program at Richwoods High School. She is involved in Student Council, Student Leadership Team, speech, tennis, and Spanish Club. Outside of school she loves to travel, bake, and perform as a singer, dancer, and actress!

About Sophie Liu 

Sophie Liu is a business student at the Gies College of Business, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is currently studying business information systems and supply chain management. Sophie loves to draw, play music, and exercise in her free time. She has been illustrating for Big Picture Peoria for the past 3 years, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon!