Fans will know it as one of the more well-known musical plays of Broadway, with music by Andrew Lloyd Weber and lyrics by Charles Hart.
Part love story, part ghost story, and part catchy tune, it is the longest running show in Broadway's history.
Is the Phantom fact or fiction? The inspiration came from the novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by French author Gaston Leroux. It began as a serial in the daily newspaper Le Gaulois and was first published as a book in 1910. Leroux had heard many rumours about the Paris Opera including an infamous ghost and maintained until his deathbed that all legends mentioned in his book were true.
It is true there is a lake underneath the opera house, which is used by firefighters to practise swimming in the dark today. This would make a great hideout for a ghoul wanting to hide away from the prying eyes of the public.
One of the counterweights from the chandelier did fall from the ceiling during a performance in 1896, killing one concierge and causing many injuries. It could well sound like an act of vengeance for an angry ghost.
The young ingénue Christine Daaé shares a similar story to singer Christine Nilsson. They were both the daughter of a poor Swedish man, made to leave home at a young age to Gothenburg where they were looked after by a man named Valerius, and both were famous for their beautiful singing. Although Nilsson never sang at the Paris Opera House, she was scheduled but pulled out at the last minute without reason.
The Phantom himself, named Eric in the play, shares a name with one of the architects of the Opera House who asked to live underneath it once completed. He moved in and was never seen again. And there are many other characters and incidents alluded to that were based on real people and events in history.
Fact or fiction, the book proved very popular and the story has been made into more than 30 films in the last century.
In the early 1980s Andrew Lloyd Weber wanted to write a romantic musical and suggested The Phantom of the Opera, but after he and co-producer Cameron McIntosh watched the early films they couldn't think of a way to represent the story well on stage. It wasn't until Lloyd Weber found a second hand copy of Leroux's original book that the full story was told and he found a way to stage it.
Several lyricists were approached for the work but had to pull out, until newcomer Charles Hart took on the job. Lloyd Weber wrote the music, partly inspired by Ken Hill who had tried to adapt it previously, but he chose to keep it as a musical with operatic features.
The show was previewed in 1985, then after a few tweaks was officially opened at Her Majesty's Theatre on London's West End on October 9, 1986. It opened on Broadway on January 26, 1988 and is still running today.
For more information on AmDram's The Phantom of the Opera, set to be performed in September 2021 at the Wanganui Opera House, make sure to check out pages: facebook.com/Amdram'sPhantomoftheOpera2021 and facebook.com/AmdramWanganui