On the evening of January 19, 1988, I was lucky enough to obtain a ticket to the tenth preview performance of Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theater in New York.
The Majestic is a venerable setting that opened in 1927 — it has more than 1,600 seats, one of Broadway’s largest venues. Through the years, the Majestic has had some really big hits including South Pacific and The Music Man. But, in all that time, the theater has never housed a phenomenon quite like Phantom.
There is no way to overstate the commercial appeal of this Andrew Lloyd Webber creation. It has been performed at the Majestic Theater almost 12,000 times, and in worldwide theaters more than 140 million tickets have been sold. Total current revenue estimate is upwards of 6 billion dollars. It may not be the best musical ever written, but it is by far the most successful one. There are a host of musicals I prefer to Phantom, including My Fair Lady and The Music Man, but the mysterious story line, thrilling staging and spectacular effects of Phantom create an incredibly memorable experience.
There is one very sad story connected to Phantom that is not widely known. Early on in the project Lloyd Webber enlisted Alan Jay Lerner to write the lyrics for the show. This was a particularly bad time in Lerner’s life: although he had reaped great financial success with shows like My Fair Lady, eight marriages had drained him of his wealth. Having this opportunity to work on Phantom was a very positive potential windfall. Unfortunately, Lerner was only able to complete one song, “Masquerade,” before illness forced him to exit the show and retire. That illness developed into lung cancer which killed him in short order, leaving his wife, Liz Robertson, virtually penniless. She famously stated that Lerner left her nothing except “a taste for champagne.” It would have been interesting to see how much more sophisticated the lyrics to Phantom would have been had Lerner lived.
There are thousands of anecdotes connected to Phantom, but my favorite concerns George Lee Andrews, who played several roles in the production, mostly Monsieur Andre. He was in the show for a total of 23 years, 9,382 performances, a world record.
The punch line to this story is that Andrews was replaced in the role by his son-in-law, Aaron Galligan-Stierle. A real Phantom-like twist of fate!
Here at Martin Oaks. we appreciate fine musicals, but our primary line of business is cremations, funerals, and burials. Please give us a call should you acquire our services at (469)605-7215. We are open 24/7.
All photos taken by Martin Oaks Office Manager, Emily Williams.