Two decades after The Beatles ushered in the first British Invasion, the Brits were back. This time, they had their sights set on Broadway, traditionally home to one of America’s great indigenous art forms, the musical. The British Invasion of the 1980s saw the work of American musical theatre legends like Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Cy Coleman and John Kander and Fred Ebb take a seeming back seat to lavish spectaculars imported from London, often with iconic logos and some kind of special effect sure to keep the tourists talking: Cats (a flying tire!), Les Miserables (a turntable!), Miss Saigon (a helicopter!) and of course, The Phantom of the Opera (a crashing chandelier!). Well, of course, those musicals haven’t endured solely on the strength of special effects or eye-popping ad campaigns alone. But despite record-breaking runs, only one still lights The Great White Way today.
The Phantom of the Opera opened in the West End of London on October 9, 1986 and on Broadway on January 26, 1988. Earlier this year, it became the longest-running production in Broadway history. (The top three spots on that list all belong to British imports of that era, with Cats and Les Miserables still No. 2 and No. 3. The still-running 1998 revival of Chicago holds No. 4, with A Chorus Line rounding out the Top 5.) So while Phantom has the lead over Chicago on that list, it’s following in the footsteps of that musical as only the second musical to have a comprehensive box set (shall we call it a Super Deluxe Edition, in recent parlance?) dedicated to it. The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Celebration, due on October 3 in the United Kingdom from Really Useful Records, Polydor and Universal U.K., is a 4-CD/1-DVD set chronicling the musical from its conception to its 2010 sequel, Love Never Dies.
Hit the jump to enter the Phantom's lair and find out what’s included on the 25th Anniversary Celebration box, with a full track listing!
Cameron Mackintosh had already produced Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals Cats and Song and Dance when the composer approached him about a musical version of Gaston Leroux’s novel, originally serialized in 1909 and 1910. The theatrical atmosphere of the Paris Opera House inspired Lloyd Webber to indulge his most sweeping operatic penchants, and he wrote most of his score in a style far removed from his early “rock operas” like Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, or even the pop/theatre stew of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Cats. Having taken a break from his most frequent collaborator Tim Rice prior to Cats (in which Lloyd Webber largely set poems by the deceased T.S. Eliot to music), Lloyd Webber is said to have considered Jim Steinman (of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell fame) as his lyricist. When that didn’t pan out, the legendary Alan Jay Lerner (My Fair Lady, Camelot) was considered, but Lerner was in ill health and died soon after being approached by the composer. (A Lerner lyric of “Masquerade” may exist.) Richard Stilgoe, Lloyd Webber’s partner on Starlight Express, got the job, and Charles Hart was later brought on to supplement his work.
Perhaps the most crucial decision was selecting the director. Harold Prince, then and now, had one of the most unprecedented careers in theatre. The former stage manager began his career as a producer with musicals like Damn Yankees and West Side Story before making his mark as a director with the revelatory original production of Cabaret. Starting in 1970, he collaborated on a string of musicals with Stephen Sondheim that rewrote the book on musical theatre: Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along. In between the highly conceptual Sondheim shows, Prince directed Lloyd Webber and Rice’s Evita in 1978 in London and the following year on Broadway. That production laid the groundwork for him to join Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh for Phantom. With the aid of choreographer Gillian Lynne (Cats), Prince devised some of the most stunning staging ever seen onstage for the new musical. He took his past breakthroughs in developing a fluid, cinematic style of staging to dizzying new heights.
Starring Michael Crawford, stage actor (Billy, Barnum) and sometimes movie star (Condorman) as the Phantom, and Lloyd Webber’s then-wife Sarah Brightman as Christine Daae, Phantom took London by storm upon its opening at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End on September 27, 1986. It remains there today. The inevitable Broadway run opened at the Majestic Theatre on January 26, 1988 with Crawford and Brightman reprising their roles. Again, it remains at the same theatre today. The Phantom juggernaut has continued over the years, with countless productions worldwide, a number of cast recordings in many languages, and a truncated Las Vegas “reimagining” simply entitled Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, overseen by Lloyd Webber, Mackintosh and Prince.
Yet the most controversial Phantom project may be the 2010 sequel, Love Never Dies (pointedly not called Phantom of the Opera 2). Not heeding the warning signs of past attempts to craft sequels to musicals (Bring Back Birdie, Annie Warbucks), Lloyd Webber teamed with lyricists Glenn Slater (Sister Act) and Charles Hart and librettist Ben Elton (who collaborated on the book with Hart and Lloyd Webber) for this entirely new musical. Prince and Mackintosh had no participation in the sequel, which opened in London in early 2010 to tepid reviews. Since that opening, directed and choreographed by Jack O’Brien and Jerry Mitchell, respectively, Lloyd Webber retooled the show with the assistance of producer/director Bill Kenwright but remained unsatisfied with the West End production. It quietly folded on August 27, 2011, though an Australian production has been more successful and will likely be filmed. Still, Lloyd Webber says there are no plans for an American production. Meanwhile, the original goes strong, celebrating its 25th anniversary with a concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall to be held on October 1 and 2. The stars? Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess, both of whom opened Love Never Dies!
Unlike Masterworks Broadway's 2006 10th Anniversary Chicago box set, Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Celebration offers little in the way of unreleased material. Its natural centerpiece is the 2-CD Original London Cast Recording of the musical, starring Crawford and Brightman. (An original Broadway Cast Recording was never made.) This best-selling recording is joined by the 2-CD “concept album” of Love Never Dies starring Karimloo and Boggess, to date the only recording of the musical. The DVD component is entitled The Phantom Phenomenon, and it promises rare and unseen footage relating to the show’s history including the videos of “The Phantom of the Opera” and “All I Ask of You,” interviews with Lloyd Webber and Brightman, news reports and footage from a 1998 Lloyd Webber tribute as well as the 2010 celebration of the West End production’s 10,000th performance. This differs from the documentary included on the DVD release of Joel Schumacher’s 2004 Phantom film. Behind the Mask: The Story of The Phantom of the Opera was also an hour-long documentary tracing the genesis of the stage show, with interviews of Lloyd Webber, director Prince, producer Mackintosh, lyricists Stilgoe and Hart, choreographer Lynne, and others. Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford both were absent.
This being a package in the “Super Deluxe” tradition, there is plenty of swag. A 160-page hardback book written by Michael Heatley is exclusive to this set for a period of six months. A Phantom “medallion” is also included, as is replica of the original opening night programme book from Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1986. It’s all housed in a large box, naturally.
No American release has been announced for this box set, but it arrives in stores in the U.K. on October 3. The full track listing for Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Celebration follows!
Various Artists, The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Celebration (Really Useful Records/Polydor/Universal, 2011)
CD 1: Phantom of the Opera: Original London Cast Recording (Disc 1)
- Prologue (The Stage Of Paris Opera House, 1905)
- Think Of Me
- Angel Of Music
- Little Lotte.../ The Mirror... (Angel Music)
- The Phantom Of The Opera
- The Music Of The Night
- I Remember.../Stranger Than You Dream It...
- Magical Lasso...
- Notes/Prima Donna
- Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh
- Why Have You Brought Me Here
- All I Ask Of You
- All I Ask Of You (Reprise)
CD 2: Phantom of the Opera: Original London Cast Recording (Disc 2)
- Entr'acte (Act Two - Six Months Later)
- Masquerade / Why So Silent
- Notes.../Twisted Every Way
- Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again
- Wandering Child../Bravo, Monsieur
- The Point Of No Return
- Down Once More.../Track Down This Murderer...
CD 3: Love Never Dies (Disc 1)
- Prologue (Love Never Dies)
- The Coney Island Waltz
- That's The Place That You Ruined, You Fool!
- Heaven By The Sea
- Only For Him / Only For You
- The Aerie
- ‘Til I Hear You Sing
- Giry Confronts The Phantom / 'Til I Hear You Sing (Reprise)
- Christine Disembarks
- Arrival Of The Trio / Are You Ready To Begin?
- What A Dreadful Town!...
- Look With Your Heart
- Beneath A Moonless Sky
- Once Upon Another Time
- "Mother Please, I'm Scared!"
- Dear Old Friend
- The Beauty Underneath
- The Phantom Confronts Christine
CD 4: Love Never Dies (Disc 2)
- Why Does She Love Me?
- Devil Take The Hindmost
- Heaven By The Sea (Reprise)
- Ladies...Gents! / The Coney Island Waltz (Reprise)
- Bathing Beauty
- "Mother, Did You Watch?"
- Before The Performance
- Devil Take The Hindmost
- Love Never Dies
- "Ah, Christine!..."
- "Gustave! Gustave!..."
- "Please Miss Giry, I Want To Go Back..."
DVD: The Phantom Phenomenon
- Sarah Brightman and Steve Harley - The Phantom Of The Opera
- Sarah Brightman and Cliff Richard - All I Ask Of You
- Michael Crawford - The Music Of The Night
- Sarah Brightman - Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again
- Andrew Lloyd Webber Interview With Terry Wogan ‘Wogan', 27th December 1985
- Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman Interview BBC ‘Breakfast Time' With Glyn Worsnip, 8th October 1986
- News ReportL The Phantom Wins Tony Awards BBC News with Sue Lawley, 6th June 1988
- Sarah Brightman and Antonio Banderas - The Phantom Of The Opera
- Sarah Brightman and Michael Ball - All I Ask Of You
- Sarah Brightman - The Music Of The Night
- Andrew Lloyd Webber & Michael Crawford At The 10,000th Performance Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, 23rd October 2010 Handheld Camera Footage From The RUG Private Collection
CD 1 & CD 2 previously released as Polydor 831 273-1 Y-2, 1987
CD 3 & CD 4 previously released as Polydor/Really Useful 001403502 (2 CD)/2724801 (2 CD/DVD), 2010
DVD Tracks 8, 9 & 10 from The Andrew Lloyd Webber 50th Birthday Celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, 7th April 1998
I really love Phantom and feel the show and its creators have not been given the credit they deserve. This box set, however, is clearly going to be a BIG disappointment. All 4 cd's consist of previously released material, and Love Never Dies was crap after a long, long wait. I'm sure there are rarities in the vaults somewhere, but maybe they'll be on the "next" box set--maybe the 50th anniversary? The record company and Sir Andrew can keep this set--thanks, but no thanks...
Anton Williams says
There will be a blu-ray of the actual play/musical plus an accompanying cd set of "The Phantom" celebrating the 25th anniversary. Should come out early February 2012.