In honor of the official anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera opening 30 years ago on Broadway, here are 30 little known facts about the historic show:
The New York production cost a record $8 million in 1988. The same production today would cost $20 million.
The creative team originally wanted the conductor of Phantom in the pit to wear a white wig during the gala performance of Hannibal while Christine sang "Think of Me," so that he or she matched the conductor that appears onstage in the moment after the gala when Christine takes her bow facing upstage through the reverse tab curtains.
Over 400 actors have appeared in the New York production.
But, 15 actors have been cast as The Phantom on Broadway: Michael Crawford, Timothy Nolen, Cris Groenendaal, Steve Barton, Kevin Gray, Mark Jacoby, Marcus Lovett, Davis Gaines, Thomas James O’Leary, Hugh Panaro, Howard McGillin, John Cudia, Peter Jöback, Norm Lewis and James Barbour. (There have also been five additional temporary replacements: Jeff Keller, Ted Keegan, Brad Little, Gary Mauer and Laird Mackintosh.)
With over 2,500 performances, McGillin holds the record for playing the title role on Broadway more than any other performer.
Each actor playing The Phantom has a mask custom-made from a mold of his face.
Over 300 Phantom masks have been custom-made and used during the 30-year Broadway run.
The company’s current leading lady, Ali Ewoldt, became the first Asian-American to be cast in the role of Christine on Broadway.
The character that runs across the bridge when Raoul and Madame Giry appear during the second journey to the Lair is still called the Rat Catcher even though the mechanical rats were cut from the production very early on. He carries a net that he hits on the ground trying to catch the vermin. Plus, he has a number of dead rats hanging from a rack he wears!
Most audience members watching Phantom aren't aware that during the Final Lair scene at the end of the show, there are nine people up on the travelator bridge watching from above. The bridge is in a high position upstage of the portcullis — the metal grid that acts as the entry point for the Phantom's Lair. There is nothing masking the actors except for the fact that there isn't light on them up there. Five actors up there will be the climbers who appear on the portcullis. Then there are three ensemble singers and a stage manager up there. It's the best seat in the house for the final scene as you watch the action onstage and you have a clear view of the whole theatre.
There are 150 trap doors in the production at the Majestic Theatre.
The brown curtains within the side wall arches of the Majestic Theatre were added at the request of Phantom's late Tony Award-winning production designer Maria Björnson. They help to bring the element of curtains used throughout the production onstage into the auditorium itself. It's also another way to unify the style and details of the Majestic Theatre so it relates to the production within the proscenium.
During each performance, 125 cast, crew, orchestra members and house personnel are directly involved.
The Majestic's actual proscenium is completely masked by the production's sculptural proscenium as well as black masking walls at the top of the structure. Only stage managers, the Phantom, and the crew can see the actual proscenium from the area where the Phantom gets into the Angel that descends during the "All I Ask of You" reprise.
There are 24 surround speakers placed throughout the Majestic Theatre, to give Phantom its ghostly atmosphere.
There have been 2 custom-made monkey music boxes. Made of fiberglass and fur, the music box runs on a remote-controlled motor.
When the first drawings were made in anticipation of the Phantom coming into the Majestic Theatre, the plan was to open up the back wall of the stage area, upstage left, and to takeover the loading dock of the Broadhurst Theatre as extra prop storage space. That adjustment was not made, and the stage space remained in tact. The Broadhurst still has their loading dock.
There are 230 costumes in the production.
There are 111 wigs (made of human, yak and synthetic hair) used in Phantom.
Tony-winning Phantom director Harold Prince built sudden moments of surprise in every scene, and that's one of his key directions to establishing the unsettling energy and edge throughout the story. The gavel in the blackout to start the show, the sudden shift from full orchestral overture to a single soprano voice without accompaniment, flames shooting out of the floor, etc. Contrasts and interruptions keep the action advancing all throughout Phantom.
If the noose in the Final Lair scene doesn't function properly, Raoul knows to back up and throw himself against the Portcullis as if it's electrically charged and has a magnetic pull holding him back against the grid. (We always want the noose to work!)
The boat has made 24,968 journeys to the Phantom's lair.
The boat is remote-controlled wirelessly by an off-stage stage hand with a device that looks like a large Atari joystick. When the show first opened, the frequency would often receive interference by taxi cabs driving by the Majestic! (The frequency was soon changed and it's been smoother sailing ever since.) But sometimes the boat has a mind of its own. The most common problem is the boat stopping center stage before The Phantom and Christine have finished their journey across the underground lake. If that happens, the actor playing The Phantom is instructed to escort Christine out of the boat and lead her for the rest of the journey on foot. It's a striking picture, walking through the fog. (Hugh Panaro has described this as "walking on water!") Stage hands then take care of the boat manually.
A favorite boat malfunction story among the Phantom team comes courtesy of Colm Wilkinson from the original Toronto production. One night, the boat stalled upstage center. Staying in character, Wilkinson got out of the boat and positioned himself in front of it. With one massive heave he lifted the boat up and dragged it downstage to its final mark in the Lair.
The show uses 400 lbs of dry ice to create the underground lake grotto per performance. That totals 4,993,600 lbs of dry ice (2,497 tons) in 30 years!
There are 10 fog and smoke machines employed at each performance.
The replica of the Paris Opera House chandelier features 6,000 beads It weighs one ton and has traveled 4,314,035 feet (817 miles). The original version (in London) was built by 5 people in 4 weeks. For such an intricate piece of the production, it rarely malfunctions. If it does, the cast is instructed to dramatically exit as they normally do!
There are 19 official cast recordings.
Phantom has been performed in 15 languages: English, French, German, Japanese, Danish, Polish, Swedish, Castilian, Hungarian, Dutch, Korean, Portuguese, Mexican Spanish, Estonian, and Russian.
In the 30-year run, 2,173,452 lights cues have been called, 93,005 electric matches have been used to light The Phantom’s skull staff.
Phantom has been the largest single generator of income and jobs in Broadway and U.S. theatrical history.