In what is expected to be one of the most lavish and star-filled evenings in the 2005-06 Broadway season, the 6:30 PM performance marks the 7,486th time Phantom will play the Majestic, surpassing Lloyd Webber's Cats to become the longest running show in Broadway history.
To celebrate, the producers have created a top-secret post-show event that will be performed on stage before the invitation-only audience travels to the Waldorf Astoria for a lavish masked ball. Masks will be supplied to those who don't bring their own.
(One might guess that since Gillian Lynne choreographed both Cats and Phantom, there will be some reference to both shows at the end of the evening. Could Grizabella wander into the Paris Opera House?)
"When I wrote Cats I never thought anything would come along that was going to top it," Lloyd Webber told Playbill.com in the days leading up to Jan. 9. "It's a fantastic occasion. I think the fact that Cats is the one it's taking over from is obviously, for me, very special because it's something I know I'll never ever achieve again, and even if I did achieve it, I wouldn't live to see it."
How does prolific Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, the most financially successful composer in history, explain Phantom's success? He can't. "The Phantom has defied all gravity, really," he said. "There's no question about it. It's one of those things that I know I will never, ever repeat in my career, whatever one does — it just seemed to catch a chord, catch a nerve that when you start writing you can't predict."
Public tickets to the milestone performance were not sold, but 200 seats were given to winners of a Phantom trivia contest held in late 2005.
After 17 years, The Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Group, Inc. production of The Phantom of the Opera continues to play to near-capacity audiences in New York and is consistently among Broadway's highest-grossing shows. Its London production is still thriving, as well.
The musical turns 18 on Broadway Jan. 26. No doubt, Lloyd Webber will also be in attendance in 2008 when Phantom turns 20.
Among those expected to attend the performance and gala ball: John Lithgow, Maria Friedman, Renee Fleming, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, Harold Prince, Gillian Lynne, Lauren Bacall, Patrick Wilson (of the "Phantom" film) and alumni of the Broadway and touring companies.
Playbill.com will have complete coverage of both the Majestic stage event and the post-show ball.
On Broadway, since its debut on Jan. 26, 1988, The Phantom of the Opera has grossed nearly $600 million, making it the highest-grossing show in Broadway history. Total attendance is at 11 million.
For the record-breaking show, Howard McGillin plays the title character. Joining him are Sandra Joseph, who plays Christine; Tim Martin Gleason, as Raoul; George Lee Andrews, an original cast member who has been with the show for the entire run, as opera manager Monsieur André. Broadway veteran Tim Jerome plays his business partner (and comic sidekick), Monsieur Firmin. Anne Runolfsson plays opera diva Carlotta. Marilyn Caskey, who previously played the role of Carlotta for several years, now plays the mysterious ballet mistress Madame Giry. (She is the only actress in the history of the Broadway production to have been contracted to play both principal roles). Larry Wayne Morbitt plays the vainglorious opera tenor Piangi, a role he's performed for over seven years at The Majestic, since 1998. Heather McFadden, who performed with the national tour, is making her Broadway debut as Madame Giry's daughter, the young ballerina Meg.
The 35-member cast features three performers who have been with the show since the beginning: George Lee Andrews (Monsieur André), Mary Leigh Stahl (Wardrobe Mistress/Confidante) and Richard Warren Pugh (Don Attilio).
As of the record-breaking date, the five longest-running shows in Broadway history will be:
The Phantom of the Opera had its world premiere on Oct. 9, 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, winning every major British theatre award including the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards.
Based the classic novel "Le Fantôme de L’Opéra" by Gaston Leroux, the musical "tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command."
Phantom has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is directed by Harold Prince. Lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The Phantom of the Opera has production design by the late Maria Björnson, lighting by Andrew Bridge and sound by Martin Levan. Musical staging and choreography is by Gillian Lynne. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The regular performance schedule is Monday and Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM and Tuesday evenings at 7 PM with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM. For tickets, call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200, visit www.telecharge.com or visit The Majestic Theatre box office (247 West 44th Street).