THEATRICAL THROWBACK THURSDAY: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Marks 11,000 Masks
Today we salute the longest-running musical in Broadway history in the week of its record-breaking 11,000th performance, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
Few would have assumed that the strange, operatic and intentionally campy musical project being created by world renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber in the mid-1980s would turn out to be the most successful entertainment of all time - heck, it would be hard to find anybody who would have seen its hit potential at all. While the swirling melodies and insinuating romantic and dramatic thematic allure evident in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as it now exists in its final finished form were quite evident way back in the very first iteration of the show, those who were first exposed to the property through the promo radio single of the title song performed by well-coiffed British rocker Steve Harley and Lloyd Webber's muse and wife Sarah Brightman may not have assumed the score would possess the magic, majesty and grandiosity that it amply displays just judging from that first foray. To the contrary.
While still working alongside STARLIGHT EXPRESS lyricist Richard Stilgoe, Lloyd Webber fashioned a disco-tinged pop confection to hopefully bring early interest and attention to his new musical via "The Phantom Of The Opera", complete with electric guitars, overall shiny production polish and some flourishes all too familiar to fans of 1980s cheese. Nevertheless, the unmistakable allure was clear to hear in the hit song and it became a notable entry on the charts soon after its release.
Given that this was the 1980s, Lloyd Webber then pursued producing a music video to further promote the song. Aiming for the top, Lloyd Webber therefore sought one of the most daring and opulent directors in theatre or film, Ken Russell, to lens a clip to give a visual accompaniment to the pop hit and introduce the world to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. What resulted was something else altogether.
A solid gold mask, slithering snakes, a smoky underground lair and more hairspray than HAIRSPRAY contributed to create a camp classic of a music video, complete with Harley bringing an anomalous rock snarl and swagger to his Phantom while Brightman showed the world she was more than just a Hot Gossip pop tart and CATS chorus girl - and how! Thus, PHANTOM was introduced to the world at large.
So, now, let's go all the way back to the beginning of the legacy of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and revisit that outrageous and unforgettable music video that started it all.
So, what is your favorite take on the title song from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA to date? Is there an arresting element to the original single you can't shake, or do you find the Michael Crawford/Sarah Brightman version the ultimate edition of the tune? Furthermore, what about the juiced up orchestrations for the movie version and PHANTOM 25? Whatever your preference, PHANTOM boasts not only a hit single, but also a Grammy Award winner for Best Song in its song stack, as well - Michael Crawford's incomparable "The Music Of The Night". Here's to 11,000 more - on Broadway and beyond.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride