On April 16, when the curtain falls on The Phantom of the Opera for the final time, the show will have been performed in New York a total of 13,925 times, making it far and away the longest-running Broadway musical of all time. Through a combination of a bombastic (and, frankly, oftentimes extremely cheesy) score, high-stakes melodramatic narrative and all the pomp and circumstance befitting of a musical released at the height of 1980s excess, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of the early-19th century novel has achieved icon status, and leaves behind decades of diehard devotees.
But fans of the Phantom – or Phans, as they are known – are in a musical-theatre league of their own. (Take it from me. Phantom came out in 1986, the year I was born; I was four years old when I saw it for the first time, when the original Canadian cast performed the show in Toronto, and have seen it five times since. I am, indeed, a Phan.)
To mark the occasion of its final curtain call, The Globe called on two camps to share their fondest memories of the Music of the Night: Canadian theatrical talents who have been involved in the Broadway show over the years and, of course, the Phans themselves. -Rebecca Tucker
“My partner and I took the Show Tour to London in February, 1987. Phantom was our first production. Every aspect of the show was totally new and completely breathtaking. The staging by Hal Prince created a euphoric, dream-like quality, and Sarah Brightman’s singing had a truly angelic, otherworldly quality. The gangly, squeaky-voiced Michael Crawford I knew from films completely transformed himself into a powerful, tragic and ultimately unforgettable ‘Phantom’. As we exited, he was outside signing autographs. I thought … he’s here, I’m here … why not? So of the 1000+ programs I have collected from all the shows I have seen … both the Phantom program and the show itself hold a special place.” – Keith Perrott, Toronto
“I chaperoned my grade 12 drama class to Toronto in 1991 and 1993, which from Winnipeg is a pretty good field trip distance. Phantom was the encore to the other productions seen each trip (Second City, dinner theatre at the Royal York). My class was seated in Row 12, centre stage, at $91 per. Each class was in production for a show for high school credit, and I like to think the success of those two productions months later was in no small part to seeing and remembering the power, the pageantry and the professionalism of Phantom.” – Dave Normandale, Winnipeg
“My husband and I attended Phantom of the Opera in Toronto the opening week. I am sure it was to celebrate an anniversary. I made a special dress for the occasion and we stayed overnight downtown. Details are fuzzy all these years later, but the show was phenomenal!” – Susan Cunningham, Paris, Ont.
“Phantom of the Opera ignited my love of musical theatre at a young age when I first saw the swinging chandelier at a show in Toronto on a field trip. My favourite memories included travelling with friends to catch a show on Broadway or here at home when the Phantom was in town, and even playing a musical tribute in concert band. I will be a Phantom fan for life!” – Jackie Sloat-Spencer, Toronto
“My wife and I first met when we were both working on the Phantom production in Toronto. We were married two years after the Toronto production opened and outlasted the show, as we’ve now been married for 31 years.” – Allan Ross, Toronto
“I just got back from New York City, where I saw the show 3 times in two days. I’ve seen the show six times in total now, including once in Winnipeg. This show has been something that my mother and I have been able to enjoy together, and those memories are something that I will have with me for the rest of my life. – Luca Burroughs, Winnipeg
“It was 2007, and the first time Phantom was back in Toronto since its run at the Pantages (where may parents saw it three times!). Mum took me to Toronto for my 10th birthday, where we sat in the dress circle at the Princess of Wales, watching the magic unfold, and hearing that iconic music ring out. Sixteen years later, I’m a professional producer, and while I now know how much of that stage magic is done, the magic of the memory – and the music of the night – is everlasting.” – Zachary Mansfield, Oshawa, Ont.
“In February, 1988, I helped chaperone 20 teenagers from The Collegiate at The University of Winnipeg to London. We saw five shows, but Phantom was the most memorable. We sat in an incredibly ornate concert hall and were swept away by the singing, the costumes, the staging and special effects. We floated back and I remember groups of students singing little snippets of their favourite songs.” – Phyllis Webster, Victoria, B.C.
“I didn’t appreciate it the first time I saw it as a teen, and never took chance to see it again until over 30 years later when I flew to NYC after a work conference in Vegas in October, 2022, just to see it before it left Broadway. What a magical experience. I came home, listened to the soundtrack over and over again. My wife was a huge fan in high school and never saw it. After hearing what an amazing experience it was, we flew to NYC in January, 2023, so she could see it.” – Jacob Kojfman, Vancouver
“I hated Phantom the first time I saw it in the 90s. I thought it was boring, except for when the chandelier crashed (that was awesome). I was too young for the love story. But my mom loved the show and she played Angel of Music and The Music of the Night on the piano throughout my childhood, so the core memories are strong. I did see the show again when I was older and loved it.” – Melissa Tait, Toronto
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