How is it that Phantom of the Opera is the most financially successful entertainment event ever?

I wanted to start a thread about the Phantom of the Opera after I read this bit from wikipedia:

That’s pretty hugely impressive.

I’ve never seen a live performance but I love the original cast recording and listen to it a lot, and I even liked the 2004 film adaptation that many hated. It wasn’t perfect but I liked it.

But does Phantom “deserve” to be so high and above all the others as far as financial success for an entertainment “event” (I have trouble calling recurring productions across the globe a single event).

The Phantom of the Opera is an awesome musical, I’m not knocking it at all. It may be one of my all time favorites (I think Little Shop of Horrors edges it out slightly though I will admit that it is no where nearly technically as brilliant). But I think there are a lot of brilliant musicals and it seems interesting to me that as far as financially and historically it is concerned, Phantom is in a league of its own.

For me, I think it’s because Phantom scratches all the right itches for a popular audience. It has brilliant, moving music. The singing talent is always top notch (or it needs to be for it to be successful). There’s really not a single dud of a song in the whole play. The story is interesting and the characters are interesting. It really is the whole package.

But is there more to it for why it’s so enormously successful?

And, if you personally hate the Phantom, feel free to rant here. I won’t mind. If you love it, that’s great, but I’d love to hear your opinion on why it is so darned successful and long-running as compared to nearly any other musical.

I think part of its success is because it has been so successful, you know? Once something has lasted so many performances, it becomes sort of iconic and because of its location Phantom has an always new consumer base of tourists who want to see a West End Show but don’t want to risk going to see something new and risky that no one will have seen back home. You know Phantom is a good show, it’s going to star talented people (so you don’t have to try to discern for yourself if they’re actually good) and everyone back in Dubuque or wherever will be able to chat with you about the show after you return.

edit: Also musicals are generally more fun and accessible to a general audience than something like Beckett’s Happy Days or something by Shakespeare.

I’m saying this as a huge fan of the show. I’ve seen it 6 times in 3 countries, with my seventh coming up in a few months. I own almost every iteration of the soundtrack.

I think part of the reason for the show’s popularity is the same reason that the Twilight books/movies are popular. It’s that “supernatural romance” aspect that teenage girls and young women like. It’s what first caught my interest as a 14-year-old seeing the show for the first time, and even as a 35-year-old it still has some appeal. But the music is great too - if the music was crappy, I never would have taken much of an interest in the show.

I’ve heard that Twilight got popular because the reader imagined herself as Bella, being pursued by a handsome supernatural guy - which is why it was successful in spite of supposedly bad writing (I’ve never read them). In the same way, maybe women want to be Christine and be romanced by a mysterious/powerful/dangerous man, even if he is supposed to be the “bad guy.”

In the 90s I came across some Phantom “Phan sites” and they definitely showed an obsessive streak in some of the creators. There was a whole legion of people who felt that Christine had picked the wrong guy and should have ended up with the Phantom. There was lots of fan fiction about it, I guess in the same way that girls write pro-Loki (from Thor and the Avengers) content today. I was never quite that obsessive, and as an adult I see some areas where I think the script could have been improved. But I love the whole package: the music, the romance, the danger, the costumes, etc.

So I guess what I’m saying is that the supernatural romance aspect brings in a vast female audience, which can make up for any flaws in the story or plot holes. And plus the great music. I don’t think that, melody-wise, Webber’s stuff from the last 15-20 years has been anywhere near as good.

Edited to add: Not that I’m saying that’s the only reason for the show’s popularity. Certainly a lot of straight men have seen the show and enjoyed it. And as Inner Stickler said, once it reached a certain level of popularity, it appealed to a large section of the general audience. But I think that the reasons I’ve outlined above are what has made Phantom more popular than, for example, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, or Evita, or Sunset Boulevard.

On a slightly related note, I just saw the DVD of Love Never Dies over the weekend. While I’m not a big fan of the knee-jerk “it’s not as good as the fiiiirrrrrst onnnnne” sequel complaint, holy smokes, it’s not as good as the first one.

Haha, I had considered seeing the show when I was planning a vacation in the UK a couple of years ago, then I read a synopsis online and decided not to bother. Sounds like I made the right choice. :slight_smile:

I know they are related, but having such a long run is certainly what is behind the big numbers. It doesn’t need to be massively popular, it just needs to be popular enough to keep running year after year. Eventually those years add up.

I am not up on my broadway history, but wasn’t Phantom the first mega hit musical of the modern era?

In fairness, it might have been more enjoyable in person. The DVD was one of those hybrid film/stage shows, like Cats, where they film on stage with multiple cameras and no audience. But my biggest problems were:

  1. There shouldn’t even be a sequel. The original novel had a nice tidy definite ending.

  2. It seemed to be forced. By which I mean it seemed like nearly every song was trying to match the feel of songs from Phantom-like everything was a non-funny style parody. The title song seemed to imitate Music of the Night, the Bathing Beauty number seemed to imitate Masquerade, etc.

Depends on how you define it, but Cats and Les Miserables predated it.

Yeah it should fairly be compared to either Cats or Les Miserables, which in some alternate universes are probably the longest running and most financially successful entertainment events of all time over there.

What sets Phantom apart from Cats and Les Mis? How much longer will Phantom be performed on Broadway and West End? Cats went on seemingly forever, but eventually ended. And Les Miserables is a resounding success as well. But neither of them seem to hold a candle to Phantom (not quality-wise, but historically and financially it seems). There was a time when Cats was the longest running broadway play, but Phantom has far surpassed it now.

It’s hard to get global numbers for Cats or Les Miserables, and even that Phantom number I quoted from Wikipedia was an estimate. Maybe financially they are pretty close. They probably made at least a billion each over the years of their various productions.

One word: Accessibility. Inner Stickler touched on it, and all of what was said in that post is true, PLUS it has an “opera” feel without being an opera. A lay-person doesn’t need to know a foreign language to enjoy the pageantry and melodrama - plus friends “back home” have heard of it and know what you’re talking about if you say you saw it. Same reason applies for Cirque shows. Your friends might not know “Ka” or “Zumanity,” but you can say you saw a Cirque du Soliel show, and they know what you’re talking about!

Phantom is the perfect stage show. All the elements came together exactly right. As much as I love Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. the credit for the success of the show goes to Hal Prince. It was his vision, his baby, and his realization.

This seems to me pretty much on the nose. Why is “The Mousetrap” still playing in London? It’s a fine work but not the best, cleverest thing Agatha Christie wrote; somehow, though, it hung on and after a point it just becomes a thing you do when you’re in London. “Phantom” is getting to be the same way. You’re in London or New York and want to see a show? Well, people have been talking about that Phantom show for years - must be pretty good, let’s go see that!

well, i’ve done my part. at last count, i’ve seen phantom on stage 17 times. i cried real tears when i found out the national tour ended in 2010. there’s actually a new tour going on now, apparently it’s a slightly revamped version, but it’s not coming anywhere near florida anytime soon. boo

i can say “me too” to pretty much all of Lauren’s post. i think the comparison to twilight is spot on. i was about 13 when i was first introduced to the show, and i loved it immediately, and i love it still. many fans of it probably have the same story.

i have been morbidly curious about love never dies- i kind of want to see it just to see how bad it is.

I know very little about musical theater, but Phantom seems like it would be a lot easier and cheaper to produce then Cats or Les Mis. So perhaps Phantom just runs in more locations?

But reading LaurenIpsum and expectopatronums posts, it sounds kinda like Titanic, with woman who enjoy the romance angle of the story basically willing to pay to see the show multiple times.

I finally saw it years ago when it came to my home city. The century old theater had just been through a multi million dollar renovation.

It was a Big Broadway Show! So let’s make an event of it. It was a perfect reason for my Lady and I at the time to dress up, have a wonderful dinner in a resturant we would have otherwise never been to, see a big budget show and have a romantic walk in the park afterwords.

There may or may not have been a diamond ring brandished about at the apex of the walk.

As far as the show itself? I enjoyed it as much as a good movie, very much appreciated the techinical skill of the production and the skill of the proformers. Personally I enjoyed Wicked as a story so much better.

Come see it in Chicago. It is really, really, really good. Better, I think, than the original. I’m dead serious. They’ve cast a much younger man in the role of the Phantom, but he really pulls it off. I’m so sentimentally attached to Crawford that I can’t bear to hear another voice sing “his” songs, but…this guy nailed it. Nailed. It. The Christine is a lovely little waify powerhouse, and Raoul…oh, Raoul. Ok, I admit I’ve had a crush on Ben Jacoby for about the last year at the Mariott Linclonshire Theater…but he really is really good. This is the first production to really make clear that Raoul is funny and charming and dashing, not just a friendzoned rich brat with a hero complex. It’s the first production I’ve seen (I haven’t seen as many as you, but I’ve seen half a dozen) where it’s clear WHY Christine loves Raoul. Usually he’s just annoying. It’s also clear that she doesn’t, and never did and never will, love Erik/Phantom, she was just trying to learn how to sing and he’s a good teacher! They really play up the creepy stalker side of Erik, which I think makes for such a more interesting story than a poor ingenue trying to decide between her career and her inexplicable beau.

The owners, Carlotta and Piangi* are played much more straight - still funny, but not clowns. The whole show feels more realistic, in a good way. It’s still big, it’s still operatic, but it loves opera. It has fun with the shows in the show, but it *respects *opera, unlike the intentionally overblown buffoonery of the original stagings.

I had to lean back to get this picture before the show started. I was directly under that sucker! And here it is after it “fell”. :smiley:

*We saw the understudy, who was just wonderful, and clearly having a lot of fun with it. I love understudies. It’s like watching Cinderella’s dream come true up there.

I think that’s exactly it. It’s very much like a movie, and so it has a crossover appeal. It’s drawn in more than one generation of people who might never have considered going to live theater.

damn you, WhyNot, you’re killing me. i would absolutely love to see this production, but i can’t afford to travel right now. i keep checking the tour dates in the hopes that they’ve planned a trip down here, but no go so far. :confused:

That’s good - I saw the traveling company when they hit Chicago somewhere around 2004-2005 (I’d already seen it twice before in the early 90s) and it was DIRE. The electronic/synth parts of the score sounded like they were being run on an old cassette player, the performances were bad, and a lot of the effects just plain didn’t work. My friend and I agreed that we never needed to see it again after that train wreck.

Years and years ago, I had a subscription to New York Magazine (not New Yorker) and the cover story was how they were refitting a theater there just
for The Phantom of the Opera, for a cost of I think $12 million. Mr. Salinqmind said, that’s a lot of money, do they plan on this show making a lot of money for years to come? :slight_smile: We went to see it on a sleeting icy frozen night, when the touring company came to our city. Just try to keep us away!

Not wishing to rain on anyone’s parade, but it always sticks in my craw when someone says Gone With The Wind has made $390 kajillion when adjusted for today’s money. In our hype-driven society, could there be something similar going on here? Has GWTW made $50 billion 2014? Since Phantom has been running such a long time, did they inflate 1980’s money to today’s? Not really sure I made my point, or if there’s really a point to be made. Thoughts?