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The Phantom of the Opera

All Questions Answered: The Phantom of the Opera

Will Longman
Will Longman

The Phantom of the Opera of one of the West End's longest-running musicals, and has welcomed millions of audience members since it opened in London in 1986.

With its huge orchestral numbers, bombastic lead character and production values of the highest calibre, The Phantom of the Opera is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of theatre; the textbook definition of a 'musical'.

But what is it about? Who wrote the show? Is it actually an opera? And who is currently playing the mysterious masked man? We answer some questions you may have about the musical here.

What is The Phantom of the Opera about?

The Phantom of the Opera is about a musical genius who lives deep below the Paris Opera at the turn of the 20th century. The latest production being readied at the theatre is under threat due to the indisposition of a lead actor - who storms out following a spate of weird occurrences in the building - and the producers are lucky to find a suitable replacement in the form of a young chorus girl named Christine.

The Phantom hears Christine sing, and speaks to her, telling her he is her 'Angel of Music' and persuades her to join him underground. What follows is a gothic tale of love, music and spectacle.

Who is in The Phantom of the Opera cast?

As of December 2019, Josh Piterman currently plays the lead role of the Phantom, which was originated in the 1980s by actor Michael Crawford. Phantom is Piterman's West End debut, but he is well-established in the Australian theatre scene.

Kelly Mathieson is also making her West End debut in the musical as Christine, but has performed in a number of opera productions across the world.

The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera

What songs are in The Phantom of the Opera?

The musical features some of musical theatre's most iconic songs ever written for the genre. They include the titular song, "The Phantom of the Opera", which has an unforgettable descending-ascending riff at its heart, as well as an impossibly high note sung by Christine at the tune's conclusion.

"The Music of the Night" also features and is a power ballad performed by the Phantom after he lures Christine into his lair, while the song "All I Ask Of You" concludes the first half of the show.

Is The Phantom of the Opera actually an opera?

The show isn't technically an opera itself. Operas very rarely feature spoken words between the songs, and so the entire performance is usually 'sung-through', whereas a musical will feature passages of dialogue interspersed throughout the piece.

POTO does feature dialogue between the characters, and is considered a musical. However, the piece gets its name from its setting, as the Phantom lives below an opera house. There are snippets of opera singing during the musical as part of the plot, but not enough to make the show a musical.

Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera

Who wrote The Phantom of the Opera?

Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the songs of the musical, including the famous title number, but he worked collaboratively with writer Richard Stilgoe to write the book. Stilgoe also contributed to the lyrics of the songs, which were written by Charles Hart.

However, many don't realise that The Phantom of the Opera is based on a French gothic novel by author Gaston Leroux titled Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, which was first published in 1909, and then in English two years later.

The Phantom of the Opera is partially based on a true story, as the original novel takes inspiration from events that took place at the Paris Opera in the 19th century, when the skeleton of a former pupil was used as a prop in an opera production.

How long is The Phantom of the Opera?

The running time of The Phantom of the Opera is 2 hours and 30 minutes, which includes a 20-minute interval.

What age is The Phantom of the Opera suitable for?

Children under five years old won't be permitted into the theatre, and the show is recommended for children aged 10 and up. 

How do I get to The Phantom of the Opera in London?

The Phantom of the Opera runs at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, located on Haymarket. The nearest London Underground station is Piccadilly Circus, which is on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines. Charing Cross is the closest National Rail train station to most West End theatres, including Her Majesty's Theatre which is a ten-minute walk away.

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