Phantom of the Opera ends after 35 years on Broadways

The Phantom of the Opera’s final curtain call: Andrew Lloyd Webber dedicates last performance to his late son Nick, 43, who died just three weeks ago – as sensational Broadway show ends after 35 years

  • Lloyd Webber bid a final farewell to Phantom of the Opera on Broadway
  • It was show No. 13,981 at the Majestic Theatre, the longest run in history 
  • He dedicated the show to son Nick, who died of gastric cancer last month

Andrew Lloyd Webber dedicated the final curtain call of Phantom of the Opera to his beloved late son Nick – after the sensational Broadway show ended after 35 years.

The cast and crew, including Webber, took their final bows on stage on Sunday, ending New York’s longest-running show with thunderous standing ovations, champagne toasts and gold and silver confetti bursting from its famous chandelier.

It was show No. 13,981 at the Majestic Theatre and it ended with a reprise of ‘The Music of the Night’ performed by the current cast, previous actors in the show – including original star Sarah Brightman – and crew members in street clothes.

Andrew Lloyd Webber took to the stage last in a black suit and black tie and dedicated the final show to his son, Nick, who died last month after a protracted battle with gastric cancer and pneumonia. He was 43.

‘When he was a little boy, he heard some of this music,’ Lloyd Webber said. Brightman, holding his hand, agreed: ‘When Andrew was writing it, he was right there. So his son is with us. Nick, we love you very much.’

Andrew Lloyd Webber gave the final bow at the last Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera, dedicating the last performance of the show to his late son, who died last month 

Lloyd Webber posted images of his final behind the scenes moments on Phantom of the Opera 

Producer Cameron Mackintosh gave some in the crowd hope they would see the Phantom again, and perhaps sooner than they think.

‘The one question I keep getting asked again and again – will the Phantom return? Having been a producer for over 55 years, I’ve seen all the great musicals return, and `Phantom´ is one of the greatest,’ he said. ‘So it’s only a matter of time.’

The musical – a fixture on Broadway since opening on January 26, 1988 – has weathered recessions, war, terrorism and cultural shifts. 

But the prolonged pandemic may have been the last straw: It’s a costly musical to sustain, with elaborate sets and costumes as well as a large cast and orchestra. 

The curtain call Sunday showed how out of step ‘Phantom’ is with the rest of Broadway but also how glorious a big, splashy musical can be.

‘If there ever was a bang, we´re going out with a bang. It´s going to be a great night,’ said John Riddle just before dashing inside to play Raoul for the final time.

Based on a novel by Gaston Leroux, ‘Phantom’ tells the story of a deformed composer who haunts the Paris Opera House and falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine. 

Webber’s lavish songs include ‘Masquerade,’ ‘Angel of Music’ and ‘All I Ask of You.’

Lloyd Webber took to the stage last in a black suit and black tie and dedicated the final show to his son, Nick (pictured center right), who died last month after a protracted battle with gastric cancer and pneumonia. He was 43

‘The Phantom of the Opera’ cast appear at the curtain call following the final Broadway performance at the Majestic Theatre on Sunday

Glenn Close attends ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ final Broadway performance at the Majestic Theatre

Lin-Manuel Miranda attends ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ final Broadway performance at the Majestic Theatre on Sunday

Emilie Kouatchou pictured as a member of the final Broadway cast

Raquel Suarez Groen at the closing performance

In addition to Riddle, the New York production said goodbye with Emilie Kouatchou as Christine and Laird Mackintosh stepping in for Ben Crawford as the Phantom. 

Crawford was unable to sing because of a bacterial infection but was cheered at the curtain call, stepping to the side of the stage. The Phantom waved him over to stand beside him, Riddle and Kouatchou.

There was a video presentation of many of the actors who had played key roles in the show over the years, and the orchestra seats were crowded with Christines, Raouls and Phantoms. 

The late director Hal Prince, choreographer Gillian Lynne and set and costume designer Maria Björnson were also honored.

Lin-Manuel Miranda attended, as did Glenn Close, who performed in two separate Broadway productions of Lloyd Webber’s ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ 

Free champagne was offered at intermission and flutes of it were handed out onstage at the curtain call.

The first production opened in London in 1986 and since then the show has been seen by more than 145 million people in 183 cities and performed in 17 languages over 70,000 performances. 

Cheering crowds flocked to the theatre on Broadway to bid farewell to the classic 

Fans hoping to get a ticket wait outside the carpet before the final performance of the Phantom of the Opera

Longtime star Sarah Brightman appeared at the finale to the delight of fans 

Andrew Lloyd Webber and the cast of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ appear at the curtain call following the finale

Many fans came out costumed up for the final showing 

On Broadway alone, it has grossed more than $1.3billion.

When ‘Phantom’ opened in New York, ‘Die Hard’ was in movie theaters, Adele was born, and floppy discs were at the cutting edge of technology. 

A postage stamp cost 25 cents, and the year’s most popular songs were ‘Roll With It’ by Steve Winwood, ‘Faith’ by George Michael and Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’

Critics were positive, with the New York Post calling it ‘a piece of impeccably crafted musical theater,’ the Daily News describing it as ‘spectacular entertainment,’ and The New York Times saying it ‘wants nothing more than to shower the audience with fantasy and fun.’

Lloyd Webber’s other musicals include ‘Cats,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ ‘Evita,’ ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘School of Rock.’ 

The closing of ‘Phantom’ means the composer is left with one show on Broadway, the critically mauled ‘Bad Cinderella.’

The closing of ‘Phantom,’ originally scheduled for February, was pushed to mid-April after a flood of revived interest and ticket sales that pushed weekly grosses past $3 million. The closing means the longest-running show crown now goes to ‘Chicago,’ which started in 1996. ‘The Lion King’ is next, having begun performances in 1997.

Broadway took a pounding during the pandemic, with all theaters closed for more than 18 months. Some of the most popular shows – ‘Hamilton,’ ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Wicked’ – rebounded well, but other shows have struggled.

A fan dressed as the Phantom watches arrivals for the final performance Sunday

Theatergoers attend ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ final Broadway performance at the Majestic Theatre

Breaking even usually requires a steady stream of tourists, especially for ‘Phantom,’ and visitors to the city haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. 

The pandemic also pushed up expenses for all shows, including routine COVID-19 testing and safety officers on staff. 

The Phantom became a poster boy for Broadway’s return – after all, he is partially masked.

Fans can always catch the Phantom elsewhere. The flagship London production celebrated its 36th anniversary in October, and there are productions in Japan, Greece, Australia, Sweden, Italy, South Korea and the Czech Republic. One is about to open in Bucharest, and another will open in Vienna in 2024.

Kouatchou, who walked the red carpet before the final show in a hot pink clinging gown with a sweetheart neckline and a cut out, said the bitterness was undercut by the big send-off. 

Most Broadway shows that close slink into the darkness uncelebrated.

‘It kind of sweetens it, right?’ she said. ‘We get to celebrate at the end of this. We get to all come together and drink and laugh and talk about the show and all the highs and lows. It’s ending on a big note.’

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