Producer Cameron Mackintosh has announced that the London Production Of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s acclaimed musical The Phantom Of The Opera has now closed in London.
The brilliant original production of The Phantom Of The Opera which bought together some of musical theatres greatest creative talents to create the second longest-running musical West End Musical is no more.
Phantom saw Andrew Lloyd Webber, a then-unknown Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe conjur an epic love story from the pages of Gaston Leroux’s novel and forever rescue the Phantom from the realms of black and white horror films.
Bringing together theatre legend (and Evita director) Hal Prince, designer Maria Bjornson, lighting designer Andrew Bridge, sound designer Martin Levan and Gillian Lynne’s choreography, they transformed the interior of Her Majesty’s Theatre in London into the Opera Populaire, filling it with a legendary cast. Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Cullen provided lush orchestrations for the Phantom’s orchestra (for a long time the West End’s largest).
Previewing in London on the 27th September 1986 and opening on 9 October at Her Majesty’s Theatre London, Michael Crawford took the West End by storm in the title role with Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton playing Christine and Raoul. Other cast included Rosemary Ashe (Carlotta), David Firth (Monsieur Andre), John Savident (Monsieur Firmin), Mary Millar (Madame Giry), John Aaron (Piangi), Janet Devendish (Meg Giry) and Janos Kurucz (Buquet).
The show would win the Olivier and Tony Award for Best Musical alongside a truckload of other awards and go on to gross billions of pounds worldwide holding the title of the Most Financially Successful entertainment event EVER until The Lion King toppled it in 2014.
It, therefore, came as a shock to learn that what had been declared as urgent theatre maintenance being undertaken during the pandemic was now turning into permanent closure.
In yesterday’s Evening Standard and on the production’s website, Cameron Mackintosh made the following statement:-
“This decision is heartbreaking for me, as I am sure it is for my employees, as everyone who has worked with me over the last 50 years, on or off the stage, knows how much I care about what I do and how I do it.
Despite the government engaging with the desperate pleas from everyone in the theatre industry, so far there has been no tangible practical support beyond offers to go into debt which I don’t want to do. Their inability to say when the impossible constraints of social distancing will be lifted makes it equally impossible for us to properly plan for whatever the new future is. This has forced me to take drastic steps to ensure that I have the resources for my business to survive and enable my shows and theatres to reopen next year when we are permitted to. I have no investors or venture capital backing, everything is funded by me personally and already my companies’ considerable reserves have been massively reduced by the complete closure of our industry everywhere.
Everything I have made has come from the theatre and everything I have has gone back into these magnificent historic buildings that I have lovingly restored and the spectacular productions I have painstakingly insisted remain in tip-top shape wherever they play in the world – resulting in my being one of the biggest employers in the theatre. The commercial theatre provides billions of pounds of revenue to the Economy. It is time this is recognised and the government takes action to ensure this priceless resource at which the British people excel is helped to survive. Without our theatres being ablaze with life, London cannot properly reopen as one of the World’s greatest cities.”
Whether this is designed to scare the government into action as has been suggested on social media or as a way of re-installing a cheaper version of the record-breaking musical the Coronavirus it seems has done the impossible driven the Phantom from the West End.