Despite reports earlier this week that The Phantom of the Opera, after running for 33 years at London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre has closed “permanently,” the musical does plan to resume performances, but only after social distancing-based restrictions ease up for West End venues—and following repairs to the theatre and set.
The announcements of its ultimate shuttering ran on the heels of a column by Cameron Mackintosh published in The Evening Standard. In the piece, the mega-producer referred to the prospect of social distancing in indoor venues (as piloted by Andrew Lloyd Webber at the London Palladium July 23 with a concert from Beverley Knight) as “Alice in Wonderland in its ridiculousness,” and stated, “Andrew and I have had to sadly permanently shut down our London and U.K. touring productions of The Phantom of the Opera,” albeit immediately following this with his intention to reopen the show.
A spokesperson for the London production clarified that Mackintosh’s statement was not a news announcement, but rather a reference to a statement he had previously made June 23, saying “a period of extended closure is urgently needed” not just because of the spread COVID-19, but due to repair and maintenance work required at the theatre and the long-running production. This led to speculation as to whether the Harold Prince production would be retired and replaced with the new, reduced staging by Laurence Connor that has toured the U.K. and U.S. (The West End production of Les Misérables recently made a similar move.)
Lloyd Webber’s production company, Really Useful Group, has now clarified that the Connor staging will not replace the original upon reopening. Instead, it would use the work from the original creative team, including the late Prince and designer Maria Björnson, though it would be rebuilt to incorporate technological and efficiency considerations not possible in the 1980s. On top of this, the venue itself will undergo restorations, which requires a load-out of the current set pieces.
“It is not a new version of the show—it will be the original Phantom,” RUG President Jessica Koravos told The Stage. She noted however, that this would be the first time the production would open since Prince’s passing. “But people who were his associates and were very involved will step up into the lead positions,” she says. “We will bring it back, we just can’t tell you when at this point in time.”