Everything you need to know about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 'The Phantom of the Opera' in London
The Phantom of the Opera is one of the West End’s greatest musicals of all time. Millions of theatregoers have travelled from around the world to visit Her Majesty’s Theatre and hear the angel of music for themselves.
As the Phantom hides his face, he tries to impress Christine, a beautiful soprano. But when a childhood sweetheart appears on the scenes, the Phantom whisks Christine away to his underground lair and chances of a happily ever after are shattered. Can the Phantom prove himself to Christine? You’ll have to watch The Phantom of the Opera.
Here’s our complete guide to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, with The Phantom of the Opera tickets available on LondonTheatre.co.uk.
What is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera about?
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is inspired by Gaston Leroux’s 1909 novel of the same name. Whisking audiences away to the lavish and luxurious lifestyle of Parisian opera, we meet a half-masked Phantom who grows obsessed with young soprano, Christine Daae. As he teaches her, so too does Christine’s infatuation with the Phantom grow. But, just as the angel of music is in the palm of his hands, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, enters the scene.
Challenging the Phantom for her affections, Christine is eventually kept hostage in an underground lair. Forced to live below the Paris Opera House, she eventually goes on to star as the lead role in an opera. But, as she takes her curtain call, an epic disaster brings down the house, quite literally.
She’s forever haunted by the Phantom, but can Christine escape a potentially fatal situation? You'll have to watch The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre to find out.
When did Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera premiere?
Early conversations about The Phantom of the Opera happened in 1984, when Andrew Lloyd Webber proposed a romantic musical to producer Cameron Mackintosh. Webber knew he wanted to bring the Phantom, Christine, and Raoul to life, but was unsure of how the story could translate to the stage. After watching earlier film adaptations, Webber and Mackintosh decided where their inspiration would come from — the Gaston Leroux novel.
Working with Richard Stilgoe on the book and Charles Hart for the lyrics, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera was coming to life. Just a year after those first conversations, the world premiere took place at Webber’s home in Sydmonton in 1985. The show starred Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Kristin (now Christine) and Clive Carter as Raoul. Evidently, first previews went down a storm, as the musical would head to the West End soon after.
The Phantom of the Opera began previews at Her Majesty’s Theatre on 27 Sept. 1986, with an official opening night on 9 Oct. 1986. It’s rumoured that Webber was so nervous about audience reception that he didn’t watch the opening night! The West End production has been staged with the same set ever since, but in 2020, it was announced the show would return with a brand new production of the original design in a refurbished Her Majesty’s.
Characters in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera
Some of musical theatre’s beloved characters feature in The Phantom of the Opera. Find out more about the main characters in the musical, as well as supporting roles in the show below.
- Erik, commonly known as The Phantom, is a mysterious character. Born with a facial deformity, he’s often hiding himself from others, hence his mask wearing. In the original novel, the Phantom wears a full-face mask, but in order to make his facial expressions easier to see on stage, artistic licence means the mask only covers half his face. His bitter jealousy is apparent when he suddenly appears on stage, duetting alongside his protegee Christine Daae. Even if his way of expressing love isn’t conventional, the Phantom does care for others a great deal.
- At just 20 years old, Christine Daae has started an impressive career for herself. Chosen to replace Carlotta as the Paris Opera House’s primadonna, her heavenly voice and poise means she’s an object of affection. Although Christine is a fictional character, it’s suggested that she’s based on Swedish soprano Christina Nilsson.
- Viscount Raoul de Chagny was childhood friends with Christine, later reunited with her when they’re both at Paris Opera House. He’ll go to all ends of the earth to ensure her happiness, even if he’s taunted by the Phantom.
- Other characters in The Phantom of the Opera include Carlotta Giudicelli, Monsieur Gilles Andre, Monsieur Richard Firmin, Richard Giry, Meg Giry, Ubaldo Piangi.
Songs in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera
Major songs in The Phantom of the Opera include “The Music of the Night” sung by The Phantom as he lures Christine into his underground lair, complete with a wedding dress for her. Raoul and Christine sing “All I Ask of You” to each other lovingly, but the musical’s main song is “The Phantom of the Opera” which reached number seven in the UK charts. Here’s all the songs in The Phantom of the Opera:
"Hannibal Rehearsal" – Carlotta, Piangi, Reyer, Lefevre, André, Firmin, Madame Giry, Meg, Buquet, Ensemble
"Think of Me" – Christine, Raoul
"Angel of Music" – The Phantom, Meg, Christine
"Little Lotte" – Raoul, Christine
"The Mirror/Angel of Music (Reprise)" – The Phantom, Christine, Raoul
"The Phantom of the Opera"– Christine, The Phantom
"The Music of the Night" – The Phantom
"I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It – Christine, The Phantom
"Magical Lasso" – Buquet, Madame Giry, Meg
"Notes/Prima Donna" – André, Firmin, Raoul, Carlotta, Madame Giry, Meg, Piangi, The Phantom
"Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh" – Carlotta, Piangi, The Phantom, Ensemble
"Why Have You Brought Me Here/Raoul, I've Been There" – Raoul, Christine
"All I Ask of You" – Raoul, Christine
"All I Ask of You (reprise)" – The Phantom
"Masquerade" – Andre, Firmin, Company
"Why So Silent" – The Phantom
"Notes/Twisted Every Way" – André, Firmin, Carlotta, Piangi, Raoul, Christine, Madame Giry, The Phantom
"Don Juan Triumphant Rehearsal/Phantom of the Opera (Reprise)/Little Lotte (Reprise)" – Christine, Piangi, Reyer, Carlotta, Madame Giry, Ensemble
"Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" – Christine
"Wandering Child/Bravo, Monsieur..." – The Phantom, Christine, Raoul
"Don Juan Triumphant " – Carlotta, Piangi, Christine, Ensemble
"The Point of No Return" – The Phantom, Christine
"Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer" – The Phantom, Madame Giry, Raoul, Ensemble
"Finale" – Christine, The Phantom, Raoul, Ensemble
What awards has Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera won?
The Phantom of the Opera received critical praise after its opening night. In a review from The Guardian, Michael Billington said, "It is refreshing to find a musical that pins its faith in people, narrative and traditional illusion.” The Phantom of the Opera has won four Olivier Awards and is currently the second longest-running musical in London. Here’s a list of the awards the London and Broadway productions have won:
Best New Musical (1986)
Best Actor in a Musical - Michael Crawford as The Phantom (1986)
Most Popular Show - (2002)
Magic Radio Audience Award - (2016)
Best Musical (1988)
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical - Michael Crawford as The Phantom (1988)
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical - Judy Kaye as Carlotta Giudicelli (1988)
Best Direction of a Musical - Harold Prince (1988)
Best Scenic Design - Maria Björnson (1988)
Best Costume Design - Maria Björnson (1988)
Best Lighting Design - Andrew Bridge (1988)
Evening Standard Theatre Awards
Best musical - (1986)
Major productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera has been produced in over 28 countries around the world.
Here’s some of the notable productions worldwide.
- Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera began previews on 9 January 1988, officially opening on 26 January 1988. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman reprised their performances as The Phantom and Christine respectively, and the show won seven Tony Awards including Best New Musical. To date, The Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running show in Broadway history, and has been performed over 13,000 times.
- Canada: Colm Wilkinson originated the titular role in the Canadian production, which ran for over a decade from 1989.
- Hungary: The 2003 production was the first to modify original scenic and costume design, as well as direction.
- World Tour: The Phantom of the Opera went on a global tour in 2019, with performances in Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.
Celebrities who have performed in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera
Here’s some of our favourite performers that have starred in the show:
- The Phantom: John Owen-Jones has played the role more than anyone else, including a continuous run of nearly 1,400 performances. He also appeared in the 25th anniversary celebrations for the London and New York productions. Ramin Karimloo first played the Phantom in 2006, making such a good impression that he originated "The Phantom" in Love Never Dies.
- Christine: Rebecca Caine joined the original Phantom cast as alternate Christine, but when the show premiered in Canada, she played the lead female character. Sierra Boggess first played the role in Las Vegas in 2006, later reprising the role on Broadway and at London's 25th anniversary at the Royal Albert Hall. Boggess also originated the role of Christine in Love Never Dies. Celinde Schoenmaker made her Christine debut in 2015, later starring in the show’s 30th anniversary production the following year.
- Raoul: Famous faces including Michael Ball and John Barrowman have played Raoul for a small tenure as part of the show’s London run. The character has also been played by West End actors including Simon Bowman, Killian Donnelly, and Michael Xavier.
Adaptations of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera
There are countless adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera, but here’s some of the adaptations that did well at the box office and beyond.
The first ever adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel was Das Gespenst im Opernhaus or Das Phantom der Oper performed in 1916. Although it’s important for the history books, the movie is now lost in the ether; people know of its existence because of other references, rather than seeing it for themselves.
An English adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera was released in 2004, starring Gerard Butler as the Phantom and Emmy Rossum as Christine.
Love Never Dies is a musical sequel to Phantom, which received its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in 2010.
Fun facts about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera
- For a Webber production, it typically takes two hours of prep time for the phantom’s makeup!
- The Opera Populaire was inspired by The Opera Garnier in Paris.
- Hugh Jackman was considered for the role of the 2004 movie version of The Phantom of the Opera.
- The box office revenues are higher than any film or stage play in history, including Titanic, ET, Star Wars, and Avatar.
- The Paris Opera House chandelier is made up of 6,000 beads consisting of 35 beads to each string. It is 3 metres wide and weighs one ton.
- The Phantom’s make-up takes 2 hours to put on and 30 minutes to take off.
- Each performance has 230 costumes, 14 dressers, 120 automated cues, 22 scene changes, 281 candles and uses 250 kg of dry ice and 10 fog and smoke machines.
Photo credit: (Courtesy of The Phantom of the Opera)