“The Phantom of the Opera” – An unmasked homage

The longest-running musical in Broadway history will be pulling its curtain down forever next February, leaving behind 35 years dominating the New York scene. In tribute to the success and allure of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most acclaimed piece of entertainment, we go around the flashes of a glimmering life shining through the dark.

No more memories, but everlasting moments. No more silent tears, but outspoken cries of discontent. No wasted years, for none of them were, but much gazing across the incredible run of a show, the one which probably has inspired and captivated most people throughout its 35 years of life. It seemed impossible, now and ever, but the Broadway version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s crowning jewel success, The Phantom of the Opera, has announced what no one (at least from its resilient fandom) even dared imagining – it’s closing for good in the Great White Way.

First performed in New York in January 1988, in a time were the city’s theatre district might as well be renamed as Little Britain, this untimely piece of enthralling stage art has reached the top at many more levels than its unprecedented stay (exclude The Fantastiks for that matter): it catapulted a struggling young lyricist from obscurity to billboard quasi-perpetuity, it turned a fairly known pop group singer into an internationally famed soprano, it reassured the already acknowledged talent of a directing legend… And it consummated through drama, words and music the love the most celebrated contemporary British composer had both for the genre and the woman he wrote it for.

Yes, Phantom is more than just a mere work of entertainment (though that assessment alone would already bring it to the very peak of commercial success), it’s a symbol of feat and inspiration that should appeal both to admirers and even its most fierceful detractors – like it or hate it, it’s surpassed three decades on 44th street for a reason. It’s widely agreed, especially by any creative, that there is no formula that resolves into the triumph of a show (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s career is in fact the best example, as it has never achieved something even closer ever again despite his many, many attempts), but certainly there are several ingredients that contribute to its enduring tastiness.

Passion, obsession, rage and incomprehension. Curiously enough, Phantom is in essence quite unoriginal (frenzied outcasts rejected by society seem to be the core of any popular musical), but still manages to be unique from the muffling gavel sound that starts the performance to its touching ending, whose magic stems from the piercing witnessing of complete unfairness. There’s no that much surprise about that, though – for despite its story being a more mature, profound remake of the classic freak-beauty tale, the elements of its form stand out by all means: the wowing chandelier number (never before -or after- have we probably seen an overture so important for the narration), its impressively classical yet still pop-catchy score, its skillfully polished deep lyrics, its brilliant pace and the ongoing grandeur of the set design.

Happening during a time we’ve never been a part of, we however can’t help but feel incredibly attached to its account and, more precisely, its characters. You don’t need to be a deformed downtrodded genius or a naïve soprano whose sentiments have been tampered with (and for sure, not a wealthy hunky aristocrat) to feel for and relate to their journey. Sadly (or in some way, soothingly), we have all been there – we have all been abandoned, we all have felt unloved and we all have had the unrestrained need to love. Maybe Phantom‘s true appeal emanates from there, for despite its tragic finale, it may only be fair to say that this show, through its griefful soul, has helped and encouraged so many viewers around the world – thanks to a very simple trait, but nonetheless huge, that usually just storytelling exudes: the convincement that you’re not alone.

Almost a month after breaking its long established record, Phantom will dim the spotlight on its white mask for the last time, and as the final chords float in the air to grasp the audience’s final gasps and howls, the melodies that for so long have enchanted the souls of so many will fade away to become a mind’s relic. Is it then over then the music of the night? I don’t think so. There surely will be more talk of darkness, for despite its nature, it will always have a place it’s brightened up in our hearts.

The Phantom of the Opera will play its final Broadway performance on 18 February. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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