It was a night of reminiscence and celebration on April 16 as The Phantom of the Opera played its final performance on Broadway. For most Broadway shows, this would be a bittersweet occasion, for Phantom, it was a party to celebrate its historic 35-year run and 13,981 performances. It was an invitation-only black tie affair, with a red carpet to welcome attendees.
Producers Cameron Mackintosh and the show’s composer Andrew Lloyd Webber were in attendance, as well as the cast members of the show from over the years. The red carpet was a swirl of emotions for the various attendees, who all had their own personal relationship with the show.
Former Phantom star, who led the production when it reopened on Broadway in 2021, Meghan Picerno summed up the feelings of the night as such, “I'm very proud of everyone that's in the company that's about to perform. I’m proud of the alums that are here and to be a part of this incredible legacy. And I’m heartbroken and in disbelief. But also, so full of gratitude. We'll never see anything like this ever again."
That last phrase was a sentiment echoed by other red carpet attendees, and by Lloyd Webber himself in a New York Times essay. “It's the end of an era!” exclaimed Linedy Genao, who is currently the lead of Lloyd Webber’s newest show Bad Cinderella just one block north. “And it's just an honor to be a part of Andrew’s legacy and to witness this historical night.”
Though similar to most opening nights, this closing performance of Phantom was not without its hiccups in the lead-up. In the hours prior, it was revealed that the show’s usual Phantom, Ben Crawford, had a bacterial infection and would not be singing that night. So Laird Mackintosh, who has played the role off and on since 1993, stepped in.
And Mackintosh was aware of the enormity of the task at hand that night. “This is the highlight of a career at Phantom that I have felt incredibly blessed to have,” he told Playbill on the red carpet, right before going in and getting ready to do the show. “I never could have seen this coming. But this is a day in the life of a Broadway show, doing eight shows a week, and we, the covers, go on.” He then added, “Ben Crawford is an absolute stalwart and just a vocal powerhouse. And so my heart is completely with him tonight. This is his show, but I'm gonna cover for him tonight. And it's just a great honor.”
Watch the cast members of Phantom tell Playbill what prop they would steal from the show if they could, and scroll down for more Phantom memories.
A number of original Phantom cast members were at Sunday night’s performance. Though noticeably absent was OG Phantom Michael Crawford, who couldn’t attend due to some emergency dental surgery. But those who were there shared their memories from the early days of the show.
“The whole of the set fell on top of me,” said Sarah Brightman, who was the production’s original Christine. “And I just carried on, because I was so into my part.” She then added, with a giggle, “Things like that, little funny things, it shows that even if we're in the parts and in the character, there's a very human element to it all, as well.” Brightman was the muse for Phantom, Lloyd Webber wrote the role of the opera ingénue Christine for her, and she created the role on the West End and on Broadway.
Leila Martin, who originated the role of Madame Giry on Broadway, had a memory from her original audition for the show. “I remember sitting on a chair and somebody came over and said, ‘Are you all right?’ I didn't remember doing the audition! They had asked me to sing a high C, which I did. And then I just didn't remember anything after that.” Martin played the role of Madame Giry, the opera choreographer (and Phantom accomplice) around 4,500 times until 2001.
For other former cast members of the show, they reminisced about being part of Phantom during its historic moments. For Sierra Boggess—who played Christine in Las Vegas, at the 25th-anniversary celebration in London, and on Broadway—her most treasured memory was starring opposite Norm Lewis as the Phantom. Lewis was the first Black man to play the role full-time on Broadway. “Getting to do the show with Norm Lewis, who's one of my best friends. He was my father in The Little Mermaid [on Broadway]—so it was a little weird for us, all of a sudden, to be a crazy mask-ed lover,” she says. Boggess also starred in the show when it hit its 25th anniversary on Broadway.
Sandra Joseph, who has played Christine the longest on Broadway (from 1998 to 2006), said that her favorite memory from the show was, “The night that we broke the record and became the longest-running show of all time. I was Christine during that performance. I've never been more terrified. But it was so remarkable just to be a part of Phantom’s history and making history that night.”
For Joseph’s husband, Ron Bohmer, his most treasured memory from Phantom was his wife standing next to him. “My first day, I had rehearsal with Sandra Joseph, and I fell in love with her, and now to be married to her 20 years later. Phantom has given a lot of people gifts like that, where it's just brought people closer together. They've met people they've fallen in love with. It's been an enormous gift,” he said. Bohmer starred as the Phantom during its U.S. National Tour, and also played the show opposite Joseph.
For the show’s closing cast members, it was the friendships that they’ll take with them after Phantom is done. Says Evan Harrington, who plays the opera singer Piangi in the show, “The after parties when we would meet after the show, and have pizza and a few non-alcoholic beverages and enjoy ourselves and just really be in the theatre—those were the memories that I'll treasure.”
Judging from the number of Broadway veterans on the red carpet last night, it's clear that in its 35-year run, Phantom has helped launch the careers of many Broadway stars, and even inspired others to do theatre. Says John Riddle, who played Raoul for the closing run of the show, being in the show was a dream come true. “It was the first musical that I ever saw. And I always wanted to play this part and it's the reason I fell in love with theatre. I'm a fan, a nerd just like everybody else who's out here right now. So it's extremely special to me.”
Aside from the romantic storyline, the bombastic and epic score, and the chandelier—it’s arguable that it is the show’s “phans” that have kept Phantom running for so long. Among the attendees on the red carpet were fans, one wore custom Chuck Taylor's inscribed with the show's logo, another wore a full-on Red Death costume.
As Nehal Joshi, who played the opera house owner Monsieur Gilles André last night, put it: “It's so beautiful, their love for it, their ability to lift us up when we're tired and doing eight shows a week for 52 weeks a year. The thing that surprised me the most is just how much the fans love this show and how they keep it going year after year after year. They're really the fuel of the show.”
The clock was ticking and the show’s cast members had to rush in and get ready. But before she left the red carpet, Sarah Esty (who played Christine’s best friend Meg at the closing performance) was already looking ahead to the final moments of the show. Meg holding the Phantom mask is the final image that audiences see as the curtain comes down. In short, no pressure for Esty. “That, somehow cosmically, has been bestowed onto me to hold that mask as the curtain comes in,” she says, with awe in her voice. “I cried in my first rehearsal when I didn't even have the mask. I was just miming it. And then, every day, it makes me emotional. Because it's the last moment. And today, it'll be the last moment. It's crazy.”
See the full video of curtain speeches below, from Cameron Mackintosh with introductions of the backstage crew and the original cast in attendance (including Sarah Brightman) to finally Andrew Lloyd Webber and a video montage of all the Phantoms and the Christines to have played Broadway.
See photos of Phantom's closing night red carpet and closing night curtain call. The attendees included cast members and friends of the show, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Glenn Close, Gayle King, and Senator Chuck Schumer.
The Phantom of the Opera has music by Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe), and a book by Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber. The production also features musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne, scenic and costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Andrew Bridge, and sound design by Martin Levan with Caddick as music director. Cameron Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber's The Really Useful Group serve as producers. The late Harold Prince directed.
The complete Phantom orchestra—Broadway’s largest—also returned following the pandemic under the continued musical supervision of David Caddick with the musical’s original orchestrations. Caddick also conducted the final performance.
The Broadway staging of the London-originated show won seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Previews on Broadway began January 9, 1988, with an official opening January 26. The original Broadway cast featured Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Judy Kaye, and the late Steve Barton.
The Phantom of the Opera became the longest-running show in Broadway history January 9, 2006, when it surpassed the nearly 18-year run of Cats. The production’s nearly 14,000 performances have been seen by 19.5 million people and grossed $1.3 billion. Phantom has been the largest single generator of income and jobs in Broadway and U.S. theatrical history. In the New York production alone, an estimated 6,500 people (including 450 actors) were employed during its more than three-decade run.
The final Broadway company features Laird Mackintosh as the Phantom (filling in for principal Ben Crawford), Emilie Kouatchou as Christine, John Riddle as Raoul, Nehal Joshi as Monsieur André, Craig Bennett as Monsieur Firmin, Raquel Suarez Groen as Carlotta Giudicelli, Maree Johnson as Madame Giry, Carlton Moe as Ubaldo Piangi, and Sara Esty as Meg Giry. Julia Udine is the Christine alternate.
The final ensemble features Giselle O. Alvarez, Polly Baird, Janinah Burnett, Xiaoxiao Cao, Kanisha Marie Feliciano, David Michael Garry, Chris Georgetti, Kelly Jeanne Grant, Satomi Hofmann, Ayaka Kamei, Ted Keegan, Kfir, Kelly Loughran, Scott Mikita, Greg Mills, Trista Moldovan, Justin Peck, Richard Poole, Lindsay Roberts, Janet Saia, Paul Adam Schaefer, Carly Blake Sebouhian, Jeremy Stolle, Carrington Vilmont, Jim Weitzer, Elizabeth Welch, and Erica Wong.