The Phantom of the Opera to Shut Down on Broadway


Heeseo Yoon, Staff Writer

If you have been wanting to watch the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, you should purchase your tickets quickly. On September 16th, the show’s producer, Cameron Mackintosh, announced that the Phantom of the Opera will play its last performance on February 18th, 2023. Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show on Broadway, playing for over 35 years. Due to its legendary spot it holds in the history of Broadway, its fans have not been able to hide their devastation.

The Phantom (Derrick Davis) luring Christine (Emma Grimsley) into his lair

The musical is based on the French author Gaston Leroux’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of the terrifying and murderous Phantom, who falls in love with an opera singer, Catherine. After hearing Catherine sing, the Phantom soon becomes obsessed with her and goes to extreme lengths to try to make her love him. While the plot itself may seem simplistic, the themes that resonate throughout the story, especially in the end, are able to make the story special and memorable for its readers. The book was a hit, and since then, the story has been retold through numerous movie and show adaptations. The most famous adaptation, of course, is Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera

Phantom’s official premiere as a musical was in London in 1986, with its Broadway debut two years later in New York in 1988. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical was a massive success. The show received countless positive reviews from critics. New York Times critic, Jason Zinoman praised Phantom for its “emotional punch” and called it a “venerable blockbuster. Clive Barnes, a famous theatrical critic, commented that Phantom was “one of Broadway’s finest scores.” And NY-1  remarked that the musical’s scores had “a visceral tug” unlike any other score that has been released.

However, as the popularity of Phantom continued to rise, controversies also arose regarding the show. In 2015, James Barbour, an actor who had been sentenced to jail for sexual crimes, was chosen to perform as the Phantom in the musical. This decision brought about massive outrage among fans and led to boycotts against the show. Barbour performed as the Phantom until December 2017.

Regardless of the controversies, Phantom has always stayed as a Broadway sensation. Since its release, the show has constantly broken records. According to The Broadway League, Phantom won seven Tony Awards in 1988, including one for Best Musical. Along with being the longest-running show in Broadway history, Phantom also holds the record of being the “highest-grossing show” on Broadway, grossing over $1.3 billion through its more than 8,000 performances. With its never-ending success, it seemed as though the show would last forever.

Empty streets of Broadway during the COVID-19 pandemic

Unfortunately, everything changed after the COVID-19 pandemic. With no one coming to the shows, the box office was weakened tremendously. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Broadway shut down all shows in March of 2020, leading to the longest closure in Broadway history. Even though the show opened again in six months, Broadway failed to recover from its lack of audiences. The situation worsened when massive inflation hit the business. With constant misfortunes impacting the Broadway market, the income it made was not enough to support the production of its shows, especially ones as expensive as Phantom. In an interview with the New York Times, Mackintosh stated that closing Phantom was the only “sensible decision to make” in the current situation in which its “losing weeks” were surpassing the amount of “good weeks” it had. 

Despite Phantom’s closure on Broadway, the legacy of the show will keep going. London’s Phantom–which has been running for even longer than Broadway’s–will continue performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre. New productions of the show are being created worldwide. Nonetheless, it is inevitable that Broadway’s Phantom will be missed.