Broadway's Longest-Running Show Sets Closing Date
September 20, 2022 10:54 AM   Subscribe

 
All of those musicians in the orchestra are finally free.
posted by gc at 10:56 AM on September 20 [38 favorites]


Speaking of the music of the Phantom... was it stolen from Pink Floyd? Yeah, they did that riff better on "Echoes" but 10CC also used it in Lazy Days and they never get mentioned in this discussion.
posted by Rash at 11:04 AM on September 20


All of those musicians in the orchestra are finally free

I can't remember where I read it (Tumblr?) but the level of passive-aggressiveness and resentment in that orchestra was *chef's kiss*
posted by Kitteh at 11:09 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


Can't wait for the revival...And I want it to have smell-o- vision.
posted by Czjewel at 11:10 AM on September 20


Phantom is probably ALW's best musical. It's entirely of a piece, and it all moves singularly toward its end. On stage, it's a constant magic trick of illusion and deception that weaves a wonderful spell for the audience. It has ridiculous performance requirements, but if you can get the illusions and the atmosphere down right, it will work.

This does feel to me like the end of an era somehow. I'm not sure exactly what, but we've been moving toward smaller musicals for decades now, and maybe that's the era this is ushering out.

Right as a full-scale Sweeney Todd is coming onto Broadway with the entire orchestra included and a cast of thousands. So, also maybe not.
posted by hippybear at 11:11 AM on September 20 [8 favorites]


This does feel to me like the end of an era somehow. I'm not sure exactly what, but we've been moving toward smaller musicals for decades now, and maybe that's the era this is ushering out.

I had honestly thought it closed years ago. Though it's probably still packing audiences in right now, I wonder what changed for the procedures to no longer see the show as profitable enough to continue.
posted by jmauro at 11:12 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Think of me, don’t think of me fondly
When we've said goodbye
Remember me, not once in a while
Please promise me you'll never, ever call me again

posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:19 AM on September 20 [4 favorites]


My hot take when I heard this a couple days ago was: "Good riddance".

Which is not because of the cast and crew. Yes, it's unfortunate that those people are now going to be out of work. But...many of them had a much longer run of having a paycheck than most in their profession; it's the nature of the beast. Daniel Breaker, who was the lead in the remarkable show Passing Strange and then went on to play the Donkey in the Shrek musical, hit a dry spell for a couple years and ended up having to do some bit part on a Quiznos TV ad. (Fortunately, a couple years later he ended up replacing Leslie Odom Jr. in Hamilton.)

But it's been a sign of the overall health of Broadway itself - it's about spectacle and flash, and that's what the audiences have been coming to see. And over the past 35 years everyone's been slowly trying to copy it and turning Broadway into a monoculture. That's what producers do - one thing opens and becomes a smash hit, and then suddenly you see a whole host of other shows pop up with a similar model. Phantom begat Les Miserables, Grand Hotel, and a host of other big budget showcases. The Lion King begat Alladin, Beauty And The Beast, and a host of other Disney adaptations. Mamma Mia begat a host of jukebox musicals. Avenue Q begat a score of "ironic satirical" musicals. I am pretty sure the only reason we're not seeing a whole slew of hip-hop history musicals in the wake of Hamilton is because Covid put a halt to just about everything.

And that's all driven the price of Broadway tickets up, and made producers less inclined to take risks - it's kind of like Phantom was the first guy on the block to rent out a room on AirBnB, and everyone else saw what he did and copied him and now the rents are ridiculous and regular people can't get in on the game.

Though it's probably still packing audiences in right now, I wonder what changed for the procedures to no longer see the show as profitable enough to continue.

That's just it - it's not packing audiences in. That's the whole problem - it's an expensive show to run, but recently they've been making only a few hundred grand in ticket sales per month. It's nowhere near enough. And a lot of theater folk are wringing their hands and wondering why? Where are all the people seeing show? Why haven't they come back? Well - I'll tell you why: the only people who go to see the current incarnation of "Broadway plays" are tourists, and they're not back yet. Locals aren't going to Broadway because the price is so catastrophically high we can't afford it. And lots of us also don't want to see yet another slickly-corporate thing anyway.

Get Phantom out of there, and get a lot more of the long in the tooth shows as well - and let's make room for innovation. Smaller musicals. Straight plays, even. Let's go simple and cheap and unusual; it'll bring the production costs down, and it may even bring jaded locals back to the shows again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:24 AM on September 20 [25 favorites]


I wonder what changed for the procedures to no longer see the show as profitable enough to continue.

Two things specifically -- the general expense of running the show daily (it's the most expensive production on Broadway), and the pandemic-related drop in international tourism. With a show that's been running for 35 years, you're not looking for a local, or even a domestic audience for the show -- you want people who have come from a long way away.

I guess they're close to selling out the end of their run, so that's good news. It's quite a show. I have nothing but warm regards for it (even if I prefer Les Miz).
posted by hippybear at 11:29 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


get a lot more of the long in the tooth shows as well - and let's make room for innovation

A Strange Loop is sitting right there....
posted by hippybear at 11:31 AM on September 20 [4 favorites]


I recently saw Come From Away (not in New York) a second time, and I kind of see it as the exact opposite of Phantom. It has a tiny ensemble cast who all play multiple parts throughout. No big break out stars needed in the cast, which is gender balanced. Although there are a few bits of set dressing for the touring production, you could easily stage the show with about 4 folding tables and a dozen chairs, because little else about the set actually matters.

I am kinda looking forward to seeing 97 million regional theatre and high school productions of Come From Away in future years in a way that Phantom never really translates to those settings because so much of what makes it work is big flashy sets and costumes.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:33 AM on September 20 [10 favorites]


A Strange Loop is sitting right there....

Well, that's my point - I want there to be more than just A Strange Loop. I want the big budget shows like Phantom to be the exception and A Strange Loop to be the rule.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on September 20 [4 favorites]


Get Phantom out of there, and get a lot more of the long in the tooth shows as well - and let's make room for innovation.

Except that "Broadway" (that is, the dozen or so major theaters off the named throughfare) has never been where the New York theater scene innovates - hence the existence of the "off-Broadway" circles.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:38 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


Locals aren't going to Broadway because the price is so catastrophically high we can't afford it.

I sold my daughter on a trip to London with the promise of a West End musical, and it's crazy how much more expensive Broadway is (especially given the exchange rate). Best seats in the house at SIX in London (which my daughter is desperate to see) are under $80. On Broadway, the worst seats are double that.

I do like the glitz and spectacle of shows like Phantom (which, to be fair, I don't remember a thing about), but it's so big and over-the-top that it does seem like a relic from a bygone era.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:38 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Best seats in the house at SIX in London (which my daughter is desperate to see) are under $80. On Broadway, the worst seats are double that.

It opened on the West End in 2019 and been touring the UK since 2019. While it's barely been on Broadway for a year and just started touring. My guess the demand curves are vastly different in the two markets right now, even with the 16-month COVID shutdown.
posted by jmauro at 11:43 AM on September 20


Except that "Broadway" (that is, the dozen or so major theaters off the named throughfare) has never been where the New York theater scene innovates - hence the existence of the "off-Broadway" circles.

Oh, I'm a veteran of off-off Broadway. I know. But the dream of those shows off-Broadway is to get moved to Broadway - and they can't because most Broadway producers are too scared to gamble. That's what I mean.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:43 AM on September 20 [6 favorites]


I sold my daughter on a trip to London

Jesus Christ that is expensive
posted by Gorgik at 11:45 AM on September 20 [45 favorites]


Meanwhile, Starlight Express is still going strong...
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 11:53 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


I just realized I'd seen a performance of this in Edmonton in the early 90s, and forgot all about it

I will continue to forget about Phantom, but it's a weird feeling let me tell you
posted by elkevelvet at 11:53 AM on September 20


I sold my daughter on a trip to London
Jesus Christ that is expensive


West End has been cheaper for decades even considering the costs of the flights. My grandparents used to go to London to see musicals instead of Broadway in the 1990s once they have left Brooklyn. Grandpa claimed it was half as expensive once fights and hotels were added.
posted by jmauro at 11:54 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


Starlight Express closed on Broadway in 1989. It's the production in Bochum, Germany which has been running since 1988 that is truly remarkable.

Germans and their trains....
posted by hippybear at 11:57 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


I saw this post title and instantly, INSTANTLY, heard the crack of the auctioneer's gavel and the line: "Lot 666, then: a chandelier in pieces. Some of
you may recall the strange affair of the
Phantom of the Opera: a mystery never fully
explained."


Every schoolchild in southern Ontario in the late 80s at some time made a pilgrimage to see the Phantom. I heard most of the soundtrack recently and realized how impossible cheesy it is - but there are still some fond memories of hearing that crashing first chord as the chandelier lights up.
posted by fortitude25 at 12:01 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


I'd fly to NYC to see a Stardew Valley musical. I would have the song about finding your first diamond in Minecraft in my playlist. Portal already has songs!

Someone needs to drag a broadway producer to a comic-con to meet some cosplayers. They are leaving money on the table.
posted by adept256 at 12:05 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


I still know pretty much all the songs, not because I saw the show but because my college freshman roommate only owned three tapes: Phantom soundtrack, Neneh Cherry, and Master of Puppets, and she played them constantly.
posted by emjaybee at 12:06 PM on September 20 [8 favorites]


Starlight Express closed on Broadway in 1989. It's the production in Bochum, Germany which has been running since 1988 that is truly remarkable.

I'm assuming national health care has helped this show stay in business, because if it was in the US the medical bills would have made it uninsurable.
posted by jmauro at 12:10 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


Bring back Vaudeville and cheap variety shows.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:24 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


gc: All of those musicians in the orchestra are finally free.

Hopefully they are properly relocated and just not turned feral like the cast of CATS.
posted by dr_dank at 12:26 PM on September 20 [11 favorites]


The last show needs to be where Shaggy, Velma and Scooby come on stage and finally unmask the Phantom as Mr. Grelbman, the sleazy real estate developer once and for all.
posted by delfin at 12:28 PM on September 20 [10 favorites]


Part of me is hoping that at the final performance they just let the chandelier drop all the way, why go through the hassle of lifting it up again?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 12:30 PM on September 20 [11 favorites]


Part of me is hoping that at the final performance they just let the chandelier drop all the way

If this is our closing night, it'll be closing night for the orchestra seats, too!
posted by hippybear at 12:36 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


West End has been cheaper for decades even considering the costs of the flights. My grandparents used to go to London to see musicals instead of Broadway in the 1990s once they have left Brooklyn.

How many shows per visit to break even, I wonder.

Winding back the clock another decade and we find West End exporting the eight and half hour Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby to Broadway in 1981. Top flight tickets to other top flight Broadway shows in general topped out at maybe thirty five, forty dollars.

Nickleby tickets went for a hundred. Scandalous, but people ponied up.

London tickets? You could get in for ten pounds, aka $US fourteen. (Or so I've been told.)
posted by BWA at 1:02 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


I'm an old gay fella, and i enjoy the musical. My first musical was "How to Succeed in Business..." in 1961 or 62. Original cast, including Charles Nelson Reilly in the chorus... He must have just been starting out.
Some high school productions on Youtube are quite enjoyable...
posted by Czjewel at 1:06 PM on September 20 [6 favorites]


Phantom is probably ALW's best musical.

You misspelled Jesus Christ Superstar.
posted by the sobsister at 1:08 PM on September 20 [7 favorites]


You misspelled Jesus Christ Superstar.

Well, okay, since you brought it up.

JCS is very much a more primitive, primary-school level musical. Its use of leitmotif is pretty weak, and it's mostly a series of show numbers strung together with really weak recitative. When it's strong, it is truly great, and I have no beef with JCS. But the developmental growth shown during Evita really reached a pinnacle with Phantom Of The Opera. After that, most of ALW's musicals have involved fewer musical themes striving to carry more emotional weight, and many fewer of those theme are anything the audience carries out of the auditorium.

I really truly like JCS. It's entirely solid, and in rep with Godspell feels like a solid Jesus Musical season. But as far as it being actually well constructed? Yeah, Phantom wins that out.
posted by hippybear at 1:42 PM on September 20 [10 favorites]


On stage, it's a constant magic trick of illusion and deception that weaves a wonderful spell for the audience.

I never saw it on Broadway (there's always been something more interesting off-Broadway for a fraction of the price whenever I've been in town), but I saw the original Toronto production with Colm Wilkinson, and right behind me were two older ladies who came in knowing nothing about the show. It was absolutely delightful to hear them gasping in surprise at every twist and turn of the story or or the latest bit of spectacle.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:56 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Think of me, don’t think of me fondly
When we've said goodbye
Remember me, not once in a while
Please promise me you'll never, ever call me again


Silently the senses abandon their defenses,
Helpless to resist my song unseen;
I swear to God, don't make this weird, Christine.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:57 PM on September 20 [9 favorites]


I wonder if they'll try to do the Phantom version of what they did with A Chorus Line in the 80's when it was the longest running record holder.

The current Broadway cast of 20 dancers does the top-hats and high-kicks big finale number. Then the touring cast comes in from backstage. They do it again.
Then the London cast. And the Berlin(?) cast. They do the big kick-line again.

THEN the house lights come on, people start coming down the aisles, and you realize that they've invited everyone who was ever in the cast (and can still fit in their costumes) during the entire run of the show, everyone doing the finale all together one more time, to take a last 200 person bow.
posted by bartleby at 2:00 PM on September 20 [19 favorites]


I think you're right that JCS is technically weaker, but I also think that it has a ton of emotional weight and impact that Phantom never had. Of course, that's largely because of the story, which is pre-loaded. Still, it has humor and freshness compared to Phantom, and if for some reason you needed to subject a person who doesn't like musicals to a musical, JCS would be a good choice.

Maybe I'm biased because Phantom represents everything I no longer like about musicals and in fact everything that people don't like about people who like musicals, specifically the big swoony ones. A bit of internalized misogyny and post-theater-kid shame? Perhaps, perhaps.

It seems likely to me that something running today, maybe Hamilton, will also become trapped in amber by economic forces in the same way that Phantom was.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:04 PM on September 20 [4 favorites]


JCS is very much a more primitive, primary-school level musical. Its use of leitmotif is pretty weak, and it's mostly a series of show numbers strung together with really weak recitative.

I've seen both JCS and JatATC staged well, but that doesn't change my feeling that they both work better as oratorios.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:13 PM on September 20


Bring back Senator Joe.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:16 PM on September 20


Phantom was the Broadway musical gateway drug for a lot of people, including me. I'll miss it. I love the smaller, better musicals, but a grandiose spectacle like Phatom can be a great time at the theater.
posted by Mavri at 2:35 PM on September 20 [3 favorites]


Ooh, a Broadway thread! *cracks knuckles joyfully*

I am pretty sure the only reason we're not seeing a whole slew of hip-hop history musicals in the wake of Hamilton is because Covid put a halt to just about everything.

We're finally seeing the Hamilton-influenced wave hit here, though in a bunch of unexpected ways: SIX is the most obvious, but there's also the in-previews all-female-and-nonbinary production of 1776, and Suffs, which had a run at the Public this spring and is expected to come to Broadway at some point (I believe it sold out the entire run).

A Strange Loop is sitting right there....

I love A Strange Loop with my entire fat queer heart, but it's famously NOT profitable. I think its big list of wealthy, famous producers are keeping it afloat, and I'm so glad they are. I agree we need more shows like it, but the Broadway model needs an overhaul for that to happen. Apparently West End theaters are government-subsidized, which is probably why tickets are so much more affordable.

While it's [SIX] barely been on Broadway for a year and just started touring.

Weirdly, it toured the US pre-COVID, BEFORE opening on Broadway, AND had a cruise production too. It's definitely had a different trajectory than most Broadway shows, and I think this has helped it build buzz during COVID.
posted by lunasol at 3:02 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


As for Phantom, I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did, but not surprised it's closing now. Eventually, all the people who have wanted to see it, have, and there are newer and buzzier shows for tourists to see. Apparently there are members of the crew who have worked on it for its entire run, which is wild. That's an entire career. I hope they're able to retire or have a decent time finding something new.

I saw this show once, when I was 13. I was completely lost as to the plot but loved the spectacle. I definitely wore out the CD/tape for a year or so afterwards, before I saw the other Phantom on a school trip, and decided that was the cooler, alt version. I can't really stand behind that opinion now.
posted by lunasol at 3:07 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


I saw it three times at the Pantages in Toronto, once with Paul Stanley from Kiss as the Phantom. I thought it was amazing, but I was much younger then.
posted by goatdog at 3:09 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Seconding Countess Elena, I think that JCS doesn't need a lot of externally imposed structure given how familiar the arc of the story being told is. If anything, I can't imagine how adding narrative or musical structures to the work wouldn't have weighed it down.

I saw Phantom not long after it opened in London, and I thought it was fun. Striking staging, a few splashy numbers, memorable leads in Crawford and Brightman. But I wasn't left with the desire to see it again. Which does not speak to your precise point, but, instead, to which of the two I think is a more-enjoyable musical theater experience, if we can take "ALW's best musical" that way. On a purely song-for-song basis, I could imagine JCS being staged on a bare basketball court and being excellent. POTO relying solely on ALW's score with no subterranean lake, opera house, or masquerade ball? Not so much.
posted by the sobsister at 3:23 PM on September 20 [3 favorites]


Speaking of the music of the Phantom... was it stolen from Pink Floyd?

I used to think that Roger Waters was making a big deal out of nothing. A descending-ascending chromatic scale is not exactly the most original idea in the world.

Then I saw Alexander Nevsky and noticed two themes that Andrew Lloyd Webber had clearly, er, borrowed. Now I'm not so sure.
posted by nosewings at 3:59 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Phantom is probably ALW's best musical.
You misspelled Jesus Christ Superstar


Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh
Don't you know
Everything's alright, yes, everything's fine
And we want you to sleep well tonight
Let the world turn without you tonight
If we try, we'll get by, so forget all about us tonight
posted by carmicha at 4:38 PM on September 20 [3 favorites]


All of those musicians in the orchestra are finally free.

I totally thought of all those articles about that too.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:42 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


And a lot of theater folk are wringing their hands and wondering why? Where are all the people seeing show? Why haven't they come back? Well - I'll tell you why: the only people who go to see the current incarnation of "Broadway plays" are tourists, and they're not back yet. Locals aren't going to Broadway because the price is so catastrophically high we can't afford it. And lots of us also don't want to see yet another slickly-corporate thing anyway.

NYT article on this.

I can say from my opposite-coast POV on theater: the traveling Broadway shows have been pretty full but not 100% full--I note that I snagged a ticket for Come From Away for tomorrow oh, last night--but probably everything else, not so much. Bigger theaters that have big ol' Broadway shows come in for a week and have the demand are the fullest I see. I went to around 2/3 of a full theater on opening night for a really great show in the nearest city--and I note that I went to that one because the preview night I was going to go to got canceled, so they probably had to move people into that one. At the theater I'm currently performing at, we're about 50% full Fridays/Saturdays and maybe 75% full Sundays for the older/season ticketholder crowd, that hasn't really come back to prepandemic levels (thankfully they get a lot of grants). I think the kids' theater does better because tons of kids + tons of relatives coming to see each show. I've seen ONE sold out show since shows started coming back, and that was my old theater doing a one-nighter, their first time back, in a smaller venue (they have more or less lost their regular old one and haven't done much IRL).

Mask mandates/vax mandates have made no difference in the number of attendees that I've seen. No change there since they relaxed everything. I have friends who were diehard theater people pre-pandemic who either won't go at all any more or maaaaaaaaaaaybe might go ONCE for something, especially if it's outside. I don't even bother to invite my friends to go to shows any more and some of them used to be diehard about it. I think a good chunk of people may just....be utterly lost to in person theater for the rest of our lives now. Me, I just slap on an K/N95 and go myself and I've been fine so far, but there's really no way to reassure anyone anyway, so....
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:00 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


The NY Times is also reporting today that “Beetlejuice” will bow out on January 8 to go on a national tour.

I would link to it but I’m using my phone right now.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:23 PM on September 20


Beetlejuice is much better than it has any right to be. The first act is a real delight. See it if you have the opportunity.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:27 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


It truly is. They managed to keep Beetlejuice delightfully unpleasant while excising the child-sexual-assault angle, which was threading a needle. On the day I saw it, Geena Davis stepped out of the audience afterwards and waved to everyone!

One of the cultural touchstones I missed due to COVID was Dave Malloy's Moby Dick musical. Or rather, I thought it was gonna be a cultural touchstone and that I could see it, but neither of these things seem to have happened. Not so much as a cast recording, I don't think.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:49 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Touring shows I have seen in California been about as full as pre pandemic. I got both Hadestown and Come From Away. Both great examples of a more modern musical than phantom. The best thing I have seen recently was Lempickadirected by Rachel Chavkin. I think I could do good on Broadway, but I will be very curious to see if it goes the way of ..The great comet or Hadestown in terms of long term success.
posted by CostcoCultist at 7:25 PM on September 20


my college freshman roommate only owned three tapes: Phantom soundtrack, Neneh Cherry, and Master of Puppets

At least she's got a range of taste in music.

Also: JCS for the book, Godspell for the numbers.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:54 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


I never saw Phantom, but when I sang “Music of the Night” in full Phantom costume and mask in my eighth grade spring semester chorus concert, after fourteen years of being “the quiet nerdy kid,” you better goddamn believe I brought down the house.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:21 PM on September 20 [23 favorites]


Having been raised on the Britcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, it came as a shock that its goofy star Michael Crawford ended up as the romantic lead of Phantom of the Opera.
posted by fairmettle at 11:23 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


fairmettle, he also played Hero in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Cornelius Hackle in Hello, Dolly, so Michael Crawford had a lock on doofuses (doofi?) in mid-century theatre. Casting him as the Phantom is probably the greatest example of casting against type.... In my headcanon, the Phantom's son from the abomination that is Love Never Dies changes his name and runs away from his drama-llama parents and is taken in by a miserly Yonkers merchant looking for an orphan he could put to work. The timeline fits!
posted by basalganglia at 6:31 AM on September 21 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the Broadway prices are the main reason I've never made that pilgrimage as a die hard fan of musicals (though I was damn close when Norm Lewis was Phantom). I think the most I've paid in the West End was 70 quid for very decent Hamilton preview seats, and about the same in freaking Tokyo.

The UK tour of Phantom has been doing a sort of soft reimagining of the original production for a while. I wonder if this will be the kick to give the London production the Les Mis treatment because again, everyone and their dog has seen the show in this version...
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:08 AM on September 21


I saw Michael Crawford as the Phantom twice, and loved both him and the show.

Regarding his goofiness, I read a quote from Gene Kelly, who directed Hello, Dolly. He told MC he chose him because the role required an attractive idiot. “My wife thinks you’re attractive, and I think you’re an idiot.”
posted by elphaba at 7:13 AM on September 21 [4 favorites]


It seems likely to me that something running today, maybe Hamilton, will also become trapped in amber by economic forces in the same way that Phantom was.

Hard to say. Phantom's longevity (in my opinion) was due in part to its existing out of time. With the exception of the cheesy synth title number, the music is faux-Puccini, and there's nothing about the show (other than the misogyny, which, let's face it, is a problem in a lot of Broadway shows) that makes it particularly dated.

Hamilton, by contrast, is very much a product of its time, and could very well seem quaint and dated in 10 years. (And I say this as a fan of both shows.)

On the main topic, it's definitely time for Phantom to close. It was my first Broadway show at age 14, and my own child is 14 now. Let someone else do something interesting and fresh with it.

What I'm really tired of is musicals based on movies. I don't care if they're good - they are pushing out all original ideas. (Except Sing Street - I'm excited about that one.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:26 AM on September 21 [2 favorites]


What I'm really tired of is musicals based on movies

Are you saying we don't need musicals based on ... Back to the Future or National Lampoon's Vacation??
posted by uncleozzy at 7:32 AM on September 21 [1 favorite]


I am reading "The Secret Life of the American Musical" right now and they say it's a lot easier to base musicals off of previously existing properties...which is mostly movies these days.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:04 AM on September 21


That's true in every facet of culture right now, I think. Everyone wants properties with a built-in audience, whether that's signing musicians with a TikTok following or making movies out of books or theatre out of TV shows or anything that's a sequel to an existing thing. The cost of production means no one wants to risk an abject failure and a pre-existing fan base helps ward that off.

It doesn't mean no one is making original content, but it does mean it is a lot easier to make not-entirely original content.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:19 AM on September 21 [1 favorite]


While definitely a theater kid growing up (now a theater... adult?!), I love drama and music but separately: I have just never been into musicals, something I usually try to downplay out of respect. That said, I have seen exactly one show on Broadway: Phantom of the Opera back in 1999 on a heavily discounted ticket obtained for the one off-night of our travel trivia team's national competition. I went in with low expectations, having preferred something a bit more edgy.

But then? I saw it and it was absolutely splendid and breathtaking and WOW!! I'm still not into musicals but seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway made me totally understand why so many people are.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:41 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


Empress Callipygos: Phantom begat Les Miserables

Les Miserables
debuted in London in English in 1985; Phantom debuted in London in 1986. Les Miserables came to Broadway in 1987; Phantom came in 1988.

Phantom was always a year behind Les Mis (not to mention that Les Mis debuted in France in the original French in 1980).
posted by tzikeh at 8:21 PM on September 21 [6 favorites]


Yeah it's a little more accurate to say that Phantom begat Miss Saigon. "They crash a chandelier on stage? Well we'll land a helicopter on stage! Top that!"

On a tangent, the original 1980 Les Mis concept album is available on Apple Music. It's fascinating to see how the musical changed over those five years. For example, "On My Own" was originally sung by Fantine in the first act, which explains why melodic elements of "On My Own" turn up in Fantine's death scene. (In the final version, it's a little strange that those melodic elements appear for the first time when Fantine dies, and then become an entire song by Eponine in Act 2.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 6:20 AM on September 22 [2 favorites]


Re: Phantom vs. Les Mis, I always wondered if there was a theatre people version of Mia's speech from Pulp Fiction:
"Look. There are Elvis People and there are Beatles People. Elvis People can like the Beatles, and Beatles People can like Elvis, but you can't like them both the same. At some point you have to pick a side."
posted by bartleby at 11:36 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]


It is interesting how tangled Les Miz and Phantom are in my mind, they did come quite close on each other heels. Of the two, I'd be more likely to see Les Miz today than Phantom.

Although there was (maybe still is) an hour-long condensation of The Phantom Of The Opera running in Vegas called Phantom, which I hear is a pretty good Cliff's Notes version. I don't know if it's got all the effects from Broadway, which were really what made that production worthwhile. Pure theater magic. "How the fuck am I seeing this happen right in front of my eyes???" That's worth a lot of money, really.
posted by hippybear at 12:51 PM on September 22


Ben Trismegistus What I'm really tired of is musicals based on movies. I don't care if they're good - they are pushing out all original ideas.

Before movies, the bulk of musicals from the Golden Age of Broadway were based on novels and plays (and still are sometimes) that were popular in their day. The idea that musicals need to be totally original or else they're pushing out all original ideas is... well, it doesn't really hold up. If you look at what most people with any interest in musical theater would call the big hits of that era of musicals, they're pretty much all based on some other popular (at the time) material:

Gershwin:
Porgy and Bess is based on the play Porgy which is based on the novel Porgy

Rogers and Hart:
Pal Joey is based on the novel of the same name

Kern and Hammerstein:
Show Boat is based on the novel of the same name

Rogers and Hammerstein:
Oklahoma! is based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs
Carousel is based on the play Liliom
South Pacific is based on Michener's Tales of the South Pacific
The King and I is based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam, which is based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens
The Sound of Music is based on Maria von Trapp's memoirs The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers

Cole Porter:
Kiss Me, Kate is based on (and includes parts of) the play The Taming of the Shrew
Anything Goes is not based on any other property (chalk up one!)

Frank Loesser:
Guys and Dolls is based on several short stories by Damon Runyon
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is based on the novel of the same name

Jule Styne:
G***y is based on the memoirs of G***y Rose Lee
Funny Girl is based on the life and career of Fanny Brice

Lerner and Loewe:
My Fair Lady is based on the play Pygmalion
Camelot is based on the novel The Once and Future King
Gigi is based on the novella of the same name

It goes on and on.

So it seems to me that you're not unhappy about musicals being based on other popular material - you're just unhappy about them being based on popular material that is contemporary to you. If you'd lived in the '50s, you'd likely have been familiar with the material the musicals were based on then, too - but you probably wouldn't complain, because it's so commonplace as to be assumed the default.

(the asterisks are because, without them, this comment went into moderation for three full days with no response from the mods, even though it is literally the name of the show and one of the main characters)
posted by tzikeh at 8:21 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


The only musical with no formal source composed by Stephen Sondheim is Into The Woods, and even that is based heavily on previous stories. In fact, his training under Oscar Hammerstein was largely "adapt a piece" in various ways.
posted by hippybear at 2:42 PM on September 24


My high school crowd was equally into The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables. We had regular singalong parties for both.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:34 PM on September 24


I think the trouble with movie adaptation musicals is that they're explicitly drawing on the movie's visuals, they're based on a similar running length (so usually not adding/removing scenes) and they can get away with not doing much creative things production-wise, unless you're Julie Taymor & co. Coming back to the thread subject, the Warsaw production of Phantom made a big deal of being non-replica and then just copied the movie instead in some slightly cringe ways...
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:09 AM on September 25


I think the musical adaptation of Beetlejuice really only used the movie as a springboard and really explores broader themes than the film. I'd have to reengage with both to know for sure, but it seems to be a bit of an outlier.

And everyone knows the only perfect movie adaptation of a musical is The Music Man.
posted by hippybear at 2:17 PM on September 26


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