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25th year on Broadway for 'Phantom'!

LINDA ARMSTRONG Special to the AmNews | 1/31/2013, 4:22 p.m.

Last Saturday night will go down in Broadway history as the evening that "The Phantom of the Opera" marked its 25th anniversary performance on Broadway. The Majestic Theatre on West 44th Street was nothing less than magnificent. There was an excited buzz in the air as audience members got to be part of history.

The audience was dressed to the nines, with men in tuxedos and women in elegant gowns. The evening started off with a film presentation that discussed the history of the show and included interviews with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, director Harold Prince and many others. The audience got to see the journey that the show has taken over the years.

When the production actually began, applause and cheers resounded throughout the theater--even when a stagehand simply brought out a prop. When the lights went down for the show to commence, the audience again burst into applause. Everyone was set to be dazzled, amazed and delighted, and none was disappointed. Every moment of the show was fantastic--every song, every note, every dance done to perfection. You could tell that the cast of actors truly knew the importance of this performance as they walked through the doors of Broadway history, but you could also tell that they had studied their performances thoroughly and their roles had become almost second nature to them.

As I sat there with my daughter, also named Linda, whose favorite Broadway show is "The Phantom of the Opera," I felt honored and privileged to be in the magical Majestic and to experience this moving and dramatic musical. Watching the production, I couldn't help but appreciate that the performances were stellar, the costumes were dazzling and the songs were passionately moving.

Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and the Really Useful Theatre Company, the production stars Hugh Panaro as Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine and Kyle Barisich as Raoul. It is based on the novel "Le Fantome de l'Opera" by Gaston Leroux and features a book by Richard Stilgoe and Webber.

"The Phantom of the Opera" tells the story of a mysterious, spectral man who lives under a Paris opera house and takes a young singer under his wing. A musical genius, he is able to develop her singing skills and seeks to promote her success by whatever means necessary. While spending time with this young girl, he also falls in love with her. And while Christine appreciates all that the Phantom--her "angel of music," as she calls him--has done for her, she is also afraid of him. Their complicated relationship is somewhat hard to understand, but very engaging.

"Phantom" became the longest-running show in Broadway history on Jan. 9, 2006, with its 7,486th performance. In the six years that followed, there were another 2,800 performances, bringing the total to over 10,000. It has grossed over $880 million, has been seen by over 15 million people and has been successfully produced all over the world. Total worldwide grosses are estimated at over $5.6 billion. Worldwide, over 65,000 performances have been seen by 130 million people in 28 countries and 148 cities in 13 languages.

Following the performance, Cameron Macintosh and Harold Prince joined the cast onstage, as did three other Phantoms from productions around the world. They sang the title song with the Christine character, and it was magnificent. I could feel chills throughout the evening. While Webber could not be there due to back surgery, Sarah Brightman, the original Christine, was there. Webber sent a video message to congratulate the cast. Then Macintosh and Prince brought everyone connected with the New York production onstage, from the technical people to makeup, to ushers and box office staff. It was wonderful. On the far right and far left of the front orchestra, the seats were filled with former cast members who joined in singing of the some of the songs with the cast onstage. Magnificent!

Go and see why Phantom should go on making the "music of the night" for at least 25 more years.