Sunday, April 16, 2023

It's over now, the music of the night

ajay_suresh, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons 

Today marks the final performance of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Charles Hart/Richard Stilgoe musical The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, at the Majestic Theatre. It ran for nearly 14,000 performances, having begun at the Majestic in January 1988 — more than 35 years ago. I was still in high school when it debuted!

It's been around so long that I've had nine different residences since I saw the show's touring company in Philadelphia in the early 1990s. And I'm no longer sure where that playbill is, so I couldn't rustle it up for today's bit of ephemera.

It's very possible that I first heard about Phantom from my 11th grade history teacher at Strath Haven High School, Robert Larzelere. He was an enthusiastic, smart-as-a-whip and hilarious teacher who always kept our attention as he filled our heads with knowledge. When he died in 2011, his page was filled with messages from former students he had inspired.

During the minutes at the beginning or end of some classes, he would often try to broaden our horizons with elements of popular culture that represented a reprieve from the class struggles or economic theories we were learning about. I distinctly remember one day in the spring of 1988 when Mr. Larzelere put on a record and let us listen to the opening minutes of Phantom's synthesizer-charged score. (It must have been the London cast recording, right?) 

My mom and grandmother were fans of the show, too. They traveled to New York City to see the show on Broadway, and raved about it for months afterward. They played the vinyl cast recording on the mid-century record player cabinet in our Wallingford living room. 

As I mentioned, Mom took my sister and I to see Phantom in Philadelphia in the early 1990s. I saw it one other time, with Joan in Baltimore circa 2005. 

The "Highlights From The Phantom Of The Opera" CD spent many years in the regular rotation of music that I listened to while working.1 And, to this day, I sing songs from the musical in the shower.2 

There's been lots of great journalism in recent weeks about the end of the show on Broadway. Two that I really enjoyed were a New York Times piece about the members of the orchestra who have been with the show for years (or decades), and this Playbill article about the monkey musical box (Lot 665) that makes its final Broadway appearance today, too.
1. The rotation also included albums by Genesis and Counting Crows, plus the Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love scores.
2. Too much information?

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