PLAYBILL ON A HISTORIC NIGHT: The Phantom of the Opera; The Power of the Music of the Knight

By Harry Haun
28 Jan 2013

Sarah Brightman
Photo by Monica Simoes

Sarah Brightman, the Phantom's first Christine Daae and the second Mrs. Andrew Lloyd Webber, was "the reason we're here tonight," Mackintosh contended. "When Andrew first asked me to do this, he had no intension of writing the score. He changed his mind six months after he started working on it when another version of Phantom of the Opera tried to get Sarah to play Christine. She mentioned it to him, and Andrew — who never lets a good idea pass him by — rang me up and said, 'Cam, shall we do it?' She became his muse, and, as he was working with her voice, he suddenly got the idea of how he could write Phantom. And she, indeed, is the one who suggested Michael Crawford. So who knows if we would be here 25 years later, had all those things not happened?"

He only vaguely recalled Jan. 26, 1988, when Phantom officially bowed on Broadway some 10,400 performances ago. "I think I was drunk — you should ask him," he said, pointing to faithful publicist Marc Thibodeau. "It was a fabulous, alcoholic blur."

But he did remember the opening-night party at the Beacon Theatre, all done up in black-and-white crepe. "That was one of my greatest triumphs, that party. It was phenomenal. We showed the original 'Masque of the Red Death' on the stage."

La Brightman, who was in attendance representing her ailing ex and the original cast, had a starker, darker memory. "I was terrified, to tell you the truth," she confessed, "but in the right way. I was concerned about my ex-husband. It was his show, and I wanted it to work amazingly. I was concerned about my character and getting it right. We'd been through a lot to get it here. You can imagine all the things that were going on. I was quite a young thing then, and I had a lot on my shoulders."

The cast and creators salute Lloyd Webber at curtain call.
photo by Monica Simoes

What's she been up to? "I just finished an album, 'Dream Chaser,' and I'm training to go into space — to the International Space Station in 2015 — so I've been doing that." She said her life after Phantom and its composer has been busy. "I feel very lucky with my career. I go all over the world and do promotions and concerts and arena tours. I don't stop for a minute because it's very global. I've gotten to travel everywhere, see different cultures and understand music in different places."

As for Lord Lloyd Webber's conspicuous absence: "He's got back problems. He had to have an operation — he's had a few, actually. I was with him day before yesterday to do a little interview for this. He's going to be fine. He's just in a lot of pain at the moment and having to take a lot of morphine. That's why he couldn't make tonight."

The filmed interview, screened for the Majestic audience at the Saturday night performance, was the couple's first since their marriage, and they played it very Noel Coward, with the composer in a particularly jovial, jokey mood. Cheekily, he thanked her for returning from space to attend the festivities for him, but it was plain he would have given his eyeteeth to be here. He portrayed his back malady as fashionable and contagious, with everybody coming down with it all of a sudden.