Every night an alphabet’s worth of straight shows and musicals play out on the stages of Broadway. But not all are made equal. The Phantom of the Opera has a particular reason for standing out from the crowd of other productions. The cast of this show has been stepping into the spotlights at The Majestic Theatre for almost 30 years. As such, Phantom is the longest running show in Broadway’s history, and arguably the greatest NYC musical of all time.
Of course, if the stats don’t convince you, here are a few more reasons why Phantom deserves the title of greatest Broadway show, and why you should book tickets during your next trip to New York.
The greatest love story of all time?
The Phantom of the Opera follows a series of events that unfold within the walls of the Opera Populaire opera house in Paris during the late 19th century. There is a myth at the theatre that the building is ‘haunted’ by a phantom. One day, when new owners take over the theatre and the opera house’s prima donna is performing for them, a piece of scenery dangerously falls down next to her. She walks out and chorus girl Christine Daae is given a chance to replace her. Christine takes to the stage to cover for the prima donna and, out in the audience, is a long-lost childhood friend and the opera’s new patron Raoul.
After the show, Christine is discussing her talent with her friend backstage and she reveals that she has been taught by The Angel of Music. She explains that her beloved late father promised her that an angel would teach her to sing, so she didn’t question it when a mysterious ghost-like music tutor, masked by the shadows, started to instruct her in the musical arts.
Later that evening The Angel, who is one and the same as the Phantom of the Opera, shows himself to Christine and she follows him beneath the opera house into the cellars, where there is a network of waterways, a subterranean lake and his candle-lit lair.
Underground The Phantom reveals that Christine is his chosen one and that he wants to marry her. She tries to remove his mask to look at his face and he becomes furious. He returns her to the opera house.
Back above ground, it is revealed that the Phantom has sent Raoul an anonymous letter telling him to stay away from Christine. Raoul ignores the threat and declares his love for the singer.
A plot is woven to capture the Phantom, who continues to terrorise and act as puppet master over the theatre and all those in it. Christine still sees the Phantom as her Angel of Music even though she has become engaged and is in love with Raoul.
The Phantom can’t accept the new relationship. He kidnaps Christine and takes her back to the cellars and tells her he loves her. He then captures Raoul and tells Christine he will free him if she agrees to stay in the underground lair forever.
The Phantom adores Christine. Christine loves the memory of her father and the idea of her Angel of Music, yet she has promised her life to Raoul. Take some Kleenex to the theatre with you. You have to have a heart of lead not to feel something when watching this love story play out.
The greatest soundtrack of all time?
Andrew Lloyd Webber is the man behind the music of Phantom. The musical’s score combines opera with anthemic power ballads and emotional solos. There are full throttle numbers like Phantom of the Opera and heart wrenching songs like Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. An orchestra of 27 makes sure that each musical number hits the audience like a sonic boom.
The greatest leading man of all time?
The Phantom is tall, dark and mysterious. He’s tortured, vulnerable and powerful. One of the great things about the Phantom is that the audience never truly gets the measure of him. Is his soul truly as dark as his cape or is he misunderstood? Barely anyone leaves the theatre feeling like they know The Phantom. He divides opinion and it’s this that makes him unforgettable.
The Phantom of the Opera is playing at The Majestic Theatre, 245 West 44th Street.
For tips on how to get into the shows for less, check out our guide on getting cheap Broadway tickets