Today Phantom of the Opera makes musical theater history with its 10,000th performance. That's 10,000 soprano near-murders, 10,000 disfigured face reveals, and 10,000 performances of a love song with seriously nonconsensual undertones.
The New York Times is fairly gushy in its appraisal of Phantom, which — to be fair — is one of Broadway's most influential musicals. And in its defense, the article is not so much about the quality of the show as it is an account of its undeniable financial success. Phantom is "an $8 million production that became an $845 million hit."
It is the musical that has come to define modern Broadway by proving the purchasing power of women and tourists, the durability of repeat business and the lure of spectacle: ingredients for success embraced by producers of "The Lion King," "Wicked," "Mamma Mia!" and other smashes.
Besides, Phantom isn't bad: it's just very much a product of its time. You know, loud, synth-laden, based on a French novel instead of on a Hollywood blockbuster. (I'm very much OK with that, actually.) And the musical's staying power is to be lauded, especially in the wake of other dinosaurs like Les Misérables being forced to close up shop. And then, of course, coming back with a Jonas Brother.
What's even more impressive is what Phantom has managed to survive — a truly terrible film adaptation and a critically reviled sequel called Love Never Dies. No, but that movie. Here's video of Gerard Butler singing "Music of the Night," if you've managed to repress it. This is the kind of cinematic shitfest that could have turned people off Phantom of the Opera for good. And yet, here it is, 10,000 performances strong.
What will be the next musical to reach the staggering 10,000? I'm going to go ahead and bet on Ghost the Musical. Something about that "love never dies" theme gives me hope.
[Image via AP]