By Alex P. Vidal
“We are living in the excesses of freedom. Just take a look at 42nd Street and Broadway.”—Will Durant
SOMEBODY had tipped this writer Philippine First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos would be in the Broadway to watch either “The Lion King” or “The Phantom of the Opera” on September 19, the night after she and Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. arrived in New York City on September 18 for the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA77).
“The Lion King” was at the Minskoff Theater on 200 W 45th Street, while “The Phantom of the Opera” was at the Majestic Theater on 245 W 44th Street.
Since September 18 was my birthday, I opted to be in the $281 per ticket “Phantom of the Opera” show, seen by 80 million people around the world and the longest running Broadway musical since its premiere 1986, on September 19.
The informant later said First Lady Araneta-Marcos “couldn’t make it” as she was book on September 21 for the “Into the Woods” show at the St. James Theater on 246 W 44th Street.
I watched the “The Phantom of the Opera” show at 8 o’clock in the evening.
Liza Marcos watched the “Into the Woods” at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, according to the informant, who covered the UNGA77 for a Philippine network.
And never the twain shall meet.
Anyway, I had a very good reason to be in the “The Phantom of the Opera” show.
I could have been part of history now and I may not anymore watch it in the future. The show will soon big goodbye for good.
The longest-running show in Broadway history and, for many, a symbol of musical theater, will drop its famous chandelier for the last time in February, becoming the latest show to fall victim to the drop-off in audiences since the pandemic hit, according to the New York Times.
The closing is at once long-expected—no show runs forever, and this one’s grosses have been softening—but also startling, because “Phantom” had come to seem like a permanent part of the Broadway landscape, a period piece and a tourist magnet that stood apart from the vicissitudes of the commercial theater marketplace, explained the New York Times.
But in the year since Broadway returned from its damaging pandemic lockdown, the theatergoing audience has not fully rebounded, and “Phantom,” which came back strong last fall, has not been selling well enough to defray its high weekly running costs.
The show will commemorate its 35th anniversary in January, and then will play its final performance on Broadway on Feb. 18, according to a spokesman.
The cast, crew and orchestra were informed of the decision on September 16.
The show will reportedly continue to run elsewhere: The London production, which is even older than the one in New York, closed in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, but then returned, with a smaller orchestra and other cost-lowering reconfigurations, a year later.
According to Michael Paulson, a new production opened last month in Australia, and the first Mandarin-language production is scheduled to open in China next year. Also: Antonio Banderas is working on a new Spanish-language production.
Over the years “Phantom” has become a fixture that has drawn enormous audiences around the world.
Since the first production opened in London in 1986, the show has been seen by more than 145 million people in 183 cities around the world; it has been performed in 17 languages, and next year that number is expected to rise to 18, when the Mandarin production opens.
On Broadway, Paulson said, the show has been seen by 19.8 million people, and has grossed $1.3 billion, since opening, according to figures compiled by the Broadway League.
It grossed $867,997 during the week ending Sept. 11, which is decent but not good enough to sustain a run of a musical of this scale (with a large cast and large orchestra and elaborate set, all of which drive up running costs).
Writer Isabel Catalan said since its premiere in 1986, Phantom of the Opera Broadway tickets have always sold out for several seasons in a row.
“The Phantom of the Opera” is one of the most successful Broadway musicals that has won 7 Tony Awards (including Best Musical of the Year) for its wonderful adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s popular novel.
Set in the 19th century at the Paris Opera House, it tells the story of a deformed man who hides in the cellars of the opera house and terrorizes the theater workers with his crimes.
The ghost falls in love with a young dancer named Christine, adopts her as his muse and teaches her to sing in order to become the star of the opera.
However, when he discovers that his love is impossible, he swears revenge.
Catalan said her favorite scene is the one in the boat, when the ghost leads Christine to his lair.
“It is full of intrigue and chemistry—simply sensational!”she stressed.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.-Ed)