Recently, there have been some developments in The Phantom of the Opera world that have caused a stir. Of course, the sequel caused a stir, but let's not go there right now. I'm talking about other developments some fans are bemoaning. It makes me wonder about the future of this timeless story and where do we go from here? Are the changes good or bad? Time will tell.
A lot has happened since Webber released The Phantom of the Opera back in 1986. Here's a great link regarding the various productions on Wikipedia. Well over 100 million have seen the stage play over the past 24 years. It seems as if The Really Useful Group is about to phase things down a bit after all these years. Is it time?
As most of you know, the U.S. Tour is ending. It just recently celebrated its 7,000th performance across the United States over the past 17 years! Wow, that's amazing. I finally had the privilege of seeing the stage play in August of 2008. Of course, I was clueless for 58 years of my life regarding the story anyway. Thanks to the movie in 2004, I was finally introduced to the masked man in the lair.
It's sad with the closing of the tour that most will not be able to see it unless they go to Vegas or Broadway. For those across the pond, of course, there's London. Phantom has lived on from generation to generation, I believe, because of the continued availability of the play. What will be left for future generations? Well, perhaps this next move is what The Really Useful Group had in mind.
Recently, it was reported that high school and college drama programs will be able to present their own low-budget versions starting this Fall. I'm assuming high schools and colleges will be joyful over the prospects of a masked madman and gondolas on stage. Hundreds of anxious students will audition to play Phantom and Christine. Perhaps this move is being made to fill in the void that shutting down the U.S. tour will create. At least it will continue to let the story live on in another level and be available for those who will never get to Vegas or Broadway. Of course, it will never compare to the spectacular original in set design, costumes, music, and outstanding performances, which is the wonder of the entire play.
Where does that leave future generations as far as The Phantom of the Opera is concerned? What remains will be the original novel by Gaston Leroux, the previous multiple movies, the hundreds of book adaptations and sequels, and of course continuation of the story through Love Never Dies. Will these moves increase the popularity of the story or serve to take away the focus on the original and place it on the sequel? There could be some diabolical plan in all these changes, but that's mere speculation. It could all be cost-related, as well, driven by tickets sales and the economy. On the realistic side, it could just be that all good things eventually come to an end - RATS!
The fact that the story of The Phantom of the Opera has survived over 100 years since Leroux first released it says a lot about the story itself. Personally, I think it's a shame that the tour is ending, because it's awesome to see it on stage. I doubt the high school and college productions will be able to give it much justice, but will probably be a bunch of fun for the students. There's always Vegas and Broadway, which I pray they will never close down. If they do, I think there will be rioting in the streets.
As far as the sequel is concerned, I just read an article today it may go on hiatus in order to incorporate more changes. The focus of Webber is obviously on insuring the success of Love Never Dies. (I'll just have to go see it again!) Will it run for 24 years? I doubt it. However, it will be a sad, sad day indeed when some day in the future we will no longer be able to see The Phantom of the Opera on stage anywhere! We'll all be singing the Phantom's song in anguish:
"Down once more to the dungeon of my black despair. Down we plunge to the prison of my mind. Down that path into darkness, deep as hell!
Shudders at the thought,
The Phantom's Student