In 1984, Andrew Lloyd Webber saw a performance of a musical called The Phantom of the Opera by Kenneth Hill and was inspired to work with the story. Although a collaboration between Webber and Hill was briefly considered, Webber went ahead to create his own version, which premiered in 1986. Sarah Brightman, who had turned down the role of Christine in Hill's operatic version, opted for the role with Lloyd Webber, her soon-to-be-husband, and Cameron Mackintosh joined the project as producer. Check out this video to hear Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh talk about the inspiration for their version.
So how does Lloyd Webber's version compare to the previous adaptations? It's more romantic, for one thing, thanks to both Lloyd Webber's music and Charles Hart's lyrics. It is also, as Mel Gussow wrote in the New York Times following the Broadway premiere, an "opulent show."
The Phantom of the Opera opened at Her Majesty's Theatre in London on October 9, 1986, starring Michael Crawford as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Christine, and Steve Barton as Raoul. The same leading cast opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre in New York on January 26, 1988. It is the longest running Broadway show and has won more than 70 theater awards, including 3 Laurence Olivier Awards and 7 Tony Awards.
Check out the video below to see Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, the original Phantom and Christine, performing a medley at the 1988 Tony Awards.
Here are some ways you can watch the movie or listen to the soundtrack!
Check out your local library for copies of the DVD or CD. Here are some links to what the Boston Public Library has in their collection:
Listen to the soundtracks on YouTube (or find them on Spotify):
Andrew Lloyd Webber, born in 1948 in London, was involved in music from a very young age as his father was director of the London College of Music and his mother taught piano. He began studying history at Oxford, but left after only one term to work on a musical. Since then he has worked on myriad of musicals and is most famously known for composing shows like Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera. Despite the popularity of his music, he is also considered controversial, with critics questioning both the source and quality of his work.
Check out a timeline of his works, list of awards, and information about the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation on The World of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Interested in playing the music yourself? You can search for sheet music and tutorials. Here are some examples from the Boston Public Library's collection.