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Phantom 25!!!

Who woulda thunk it? A Broadway musical running for a quarter of a century! There have been over 10,000 performances. And how the heck did I get into it two weeks after it opened for around 40 bucks! True story that was accomplished on a whim—thanks Mom! It was really all her. In January 1988, I was a 22 year-old actor with barely a penny to my name. Sure, I wanted to see “The Phantom of the Opera”—I mean everyone wanted to see “The Phantom of the Opera”! But like “The Book of Mormon” for many folks today, I didn’t want to shell out a load of cash to wait a year to see a show. Anyway, in January of 1988, my mother told me that she was going to call and try to get some tickets for a performance within its opening weeks, and she asked me if I wanted one if she was successful. “Sure”, I said—but “don’t bother” I told her. There is no way she would get us in…it’s the hottest ticket on the planet! Remember now—this was pre-internet. People bought tickets by mail, over the phone or at the box office. Point-and-click didn’t exist. I mean, I still used a typewriter and hadn’t even bought my first CD player yet! Anyway, undaunted, Mom gave it a go. And lo and behold! She managed to score 4 tickets for about 37.50 each! They were wayyyy in the back of the Majestic Theatre’s mezzanine section, with a partially obstructed view behind a column, and for a Wednesday matinée—but so what! We would be there! Skip work for the day—no problem! This was “Phantom”! And unbelievably the tickets were for February 10th, 1988! That was about two weeks after the official opening(a 1/26/88 opening night, to be exact)! And we would later confirm that all of the primary cast members would perform the Wednesday matinée performances(some musicals, including “Phantom”, occasionally have a secondary, or understudy cast pick up two shows a week for certain actors. This was the case with Patti LuPone in her original run with “Evita”, and it was also the case for Sarah Brightman for “Phantom”). Michael Crawford. Steve Barton. Judy Kaye. Ms. Brightman. In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest smash. Just two weeks into its run. Heaven for theatre junkies. And because Mom got four tickets, she said I should ask my girlfriend at that time, and her Mom too. So, a lucky quartet got to experience the biggest thing ever to hit Broadway in its opening weeks because of a single phone call—that I told someone not to even attempt. Big fat lesson for me! Always give it a shot. Anway, we all loved it, we got to brag to all of our family and friends—and it’s a great theatre memory that I will never forget. Flash forward to the fall of 2000, almost 13 years into “Phantom”‘s Broadway run. I scored two free tickets from one of the radio stations I was working for, and this time they were for an evening performance in excellent orchestra seats. I wondered if over a decade on, the power of “Phantom” had waned, and I would be left wanting at 34/35 years of age after being so enthralled in my early 20’s. Not a chance! Howard McGillin was a fantastic Phantom, and a more-than-worthy successor to the long-since-moved-on Michael Crawford. “The Phantom of the Opera” was still hot in 2000, and apparently remains so until this day. So, Happy 25th Anniversary to Broadway’s all-time champion! It’s far from being my favorite musical ever, but it’s one of my top Broadway experiences. And thanks again, Mom!

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2 comments on “Phantom 25!!!

  1. Great story! Thanks for sharing!

    • Absolutely, Brian. I could probably do an entire entry on the theatre I got to attend in 1988…it may have been the most fruitful in my life! Both “Les Miz” and “Phantom”, the 1987 & 1988 Tony musical champs, respectively. Then there was that year’s musical revival winner “Anything Goes” with Patti LuPone at Lincoln Center. And also the renowned original production of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason. I also attended the notorious bomb “Carrie” during its brief run. Plays? How about the 1987 Tony and Pulitzer winner “Fences” starring James Earl Jones? Followed by the 1988 Tony Best Play winner “M. Butterfly” with John Lithgow and B. D. Wong. More? There was Madonna’s Broadway debut in David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow”. And also, to this day, my all-time favorite stage performance from John Malkovich in “Burn This”. Plus, I got to see the incomparable Charles Busch perform for the first time, in his off-Broadway hit “Psycho Beach Party”. Like I said, an incredible 12 months of theatre for me! ML

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