"The phantom of the opera is here – inside your mind." Or at least in the minds of many people, as the musical, The Phantom of the Opera is the most lucrative piece of entertainment ever conceived. It's made more money than both Titanic and E.T..
This is an impressive factoid. If it's that popular and you haven't seen it yet, then you might need to ask yourself why. It's not as if you haven't had time yet: it's the longest running musical in Broadway history and it's been running in London's West End, in the same theatre: Her Majesty's, since October 1986.
Phantom says: you know you want to
So what have you missed out on then? Obviously the spectacle and colour that it's famous for. It's sumptuous, beautiful and romantic: love on a grand scale. But also the quality of the composition. One of the great things about this musical, and probably one of the reasons why it's such and enduring classic, is that in the score Andrew Lloyd Webber references many other great composers in a clever way. If you have excellent ears you'll hear refrains of Mozart in the mini operas being performed within the show – well, it is set in the Paris Opera House – to refrains of Gilbert and Sullivan in some of the lighter numbers. But it's not that operatic: some of the big numbers in the musical have gone on to appear in the charts, most notably The Music of the Night". So even if you haven't seen it you might still have heard some of it.
This love story is a triangle, staring Christine, a talented soprano, Raoul, a young nobleman and 'the Phantom', who Christine originally thinks is an angel, and the rest of the cast think is a ghost. He's actually a very gifted composer and magician, but with a facial disfigurement that's made him keep to the subterranean vaults under their opera house.
It's heavy stuff, but the production is so glorious and heavy with detail that it works.
It used to be that the crashing chandelier at the end of the first act was a huge shock to the audience, but these days everyone knows about it. Doesn't mean that it's not still exciting when it happens though – which is a good analogy for the whole show.