Why do you think Phantom of the Opera is such a worldwide success? Why do you think it has been running for such a longtime in both Broadway and West-Wend? What makes it so loved by all the fans? It seems dumb that I ask this, but I think you have such a wide/full/constructed opinion of how everything works inside almost every production, so yeah. In your opinion, What makes the Phantom such a great piece of art?
Well… I think “popular worldwide success” and “great piece of art” are not necessarily the same, first of all. (Sorry, I love Phantom, but I’m not sure I’d go as far as calling it a great piece of art, ha ha ha.)
But as for its success, oh man… I think a combination of initial popularity, longevity, and catchy music, spectacle, and high emotion, which made a musical that has something for everyone. (I always love of the quotes, I think by Gillian Lynne about how all the show’s factors just came together so successfully at the right point and the right time, “like catching lightning in a bottle” or something like that.)
I think Andrew Lloyd Webber’s string of successful musicals, and the media attention behind his marriage with Sarah Brightman and her starring in the musical, definitely helped make the musical popular when it first opened. Like, this wasn’t a show that gradually became more well-known, it was a pretty big hit almost when it began, to the point where I’ll read about “Phantom Fever” on descriptions of bootlegs, where audiences will be clapping after every song or, occasionally, in the middle of ‘Music of the Night’.
This means that not only did lots of people watch it, and get other people to watch it (which would increase its spread), but that there could be more productions, so now people around the world were seeing it, and that means that the show would continue running and running and running, and this made Phantom like a tourist spot - “Oh, you’re going to New York City? Be sure to see Phantom!” And people who saw it would have kids and bring them to see it, and the cycle would continue with oodles of money for Phantom. The fact that the 2004 movie came out was probably really helpful too. From discussions on forums, it sounded like Phantom’s popularity was beginning to die in the 2000s, but the movie basically injected a giant stream of new fans, and until the 2011 RAH concert came out (which probably also brought in a bunch of fans), many new fans came to love Phantom from that. Not many musicals are lucky enough to get that, if we’re to be honest.
But why do people remember it? The music is very gorgeous, and will get stuck in your head. (This probably contributed to the cast album rocketing to the top of sales charts.) The grandeur of the show is another: everyone remembers the chandelier and gondola, placing it in pop consciousness. Of course, the costumes and sets designed by Maria Bjornson, which contributed to Hal Prince’s “black box” effect, and Prince’s direction, and Gillian Lynne’s choreography, all of that probably contributed. And for dedicated fans, and even casual ones, the drama and emotion of the show catches them: unrequited love, redemption, love triangles, that’s stuff that has almost universal appeal.
There’s probably more, but that’s basically my thoughts! Just a lot of different things coming together to make a musical that’s far more than the sum of its parts.