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Theatre: The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera has perhaps the most well-known adaptation in Andrew Lloyd Webber's wildly successful musical. The musical premiered in London in 1986 and Broadway in 1988 and has been running in both locations ever since. The musical was itself made into a movie in 2004 after years in Development Hell, starring Emmy Rossum as Christine and Gerard Butler as Erik, the Phantom. In 2011, London's Royal Albert Hall hosted a 25th anniversary staging that was released on video the following year.

Phantom is an absolute juggernaut of a musical; if it's not the most iconic musical in the world, it is superseded in that regard only by Les Misérables, another Cameron Mackintosh production (and coincidentally also based on a French novel), which began its run a year earlier. Les Mis remains the longest-running musical theatre production in the world, having been going in the West End continuously since 1985, but with the close of Les Mis on Broadway in 2003, The Phantom of the Opera — which is still running on Broadway and in London — holds the crown as the longest-running Broadway musical in history. It has been called the single most financially successful entertainment venture of all time, and it may well be.

Has a sequel in Love Never Dies. See also the famous 1925 silent film by Universal starring Lon Chaney, which gave Webber strong inspiration.

Contains examples of:

  • Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: There seems to be no consensus as to whether the female lead's name is pronounced "ChrisTINE" or "CHRIStine". Sources outside the musical agree on the former, but the musical itself uses the latter because the music was originally written to accommodate the name "Kristen.". Specific productions will vary.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • In the 2004 film it's explained how Madame Giry came to know and unofficially 'work' for the Phantom; when she was a teenager and he was presumably around ten, she helped him to escape from a travelling fair where he was abused and exhibited as a human oddity, and showed him a place to hide in the opera house.
    • The 25th anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall also expands upon the Phantom's backstory, incorporating elements of it from the novel— Madame Giry claims to have seen him in a freakshow in a traveling fair several years before, where it was said that he was formerly a torturer for the Shah, and that she later heard he had escaped. She recognized him as the Phantom by his eyes.
  • Age Cut: Raoul, Mdme. Giry, and both The Phantom and Christine in the 2004 movie.
  • Alternate Universe: The film version has to be taking place in one of these. In Real Life, Paris in late 1870 was under heavy siege by the Germans, whereas in the film there's nary a hint of the Franco-Prussian War.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Musically speaking - the electric guitar that duels with the organ during the tag of the titular song. The synth snare in the same song is hard to miss, as well.
    • If we're going to be picky, the Phantom's iconic fedora is technically one of these; while the musical is set in 1881, homburg hats - from which fedoras would develop - wouldn't rocket to popularity until later on in the 1880s.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Track Down This Murderer", a reprise of the title song that's part of the lengthy climax.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • A lot of understudies and alternates for the three major roles often ended up playing the role in this or other adaptations. (Ex. Rebecca Caine was an alternate Christine in the debut London production before being the main Christine in the Toronto production. Additionally, a lot of Raouls have ended up as Phantoms.
    • In the original novel Meg Giry only shows up briefly in the first three chapters of the book and never interacts with any of the main characters; she's even rather dismissive of Christine's singing ability. In the show, although she's definitely a secondary character, she's aged up and promoted to being Christine's best friend.
    • And, within the story of the show itself, Christine herself is an ascended extra, since after Carlotta storms out she goes from being a lowly chorus girl to the star of the gala. The Phantom is delighted at this and continues to coach Christine.
  • Auction: The prologue of the musical is set at a 1911 auction of the opera house's odds and ends.
  • Big Damn Kiss: In the movie adaptation of the musical, Christine and The Phantom's kiss seems to go on for about five minutes. Good thing it's beautiful.
  • Big "NO!":
    • The Phantom will often let out a huge one of these in the first half when Christine sneaks up to his side and removes his mask, often accompanied by theatrics such as scampering on the ground and muttering things such as "Curse you!" Both Christine and the audience are left horrified.
    • As well, some Raouls have let one out when Christine kisses the Phantom; that may also be combined with a cry of "Christine!"
  • Brought Down to Normal: The Phantom of the show (possibly) has at least some supernatural abilities, while the film is careful to show its audience how he carries out all his tricks and stunts.
  • Canon Discontinuity: It would be impossible to make a film adaptation of Love Never Dies without breaking continuity with the 2004 movie, since it had established that Christine dies in 1918, with the implication that it was because of the flu pandemic.
  • Compelling Voice:
    • "The Music of the Night" is an attempted seduction via this.
    • "The Point of No Return" is also a double seduction scene: Don Juan (sung by the Phantom) is seducing Aminta (sung by Christine).
  • Composite Character: The Persian is completely absent, but his task of leading Raoul to the Phantom's lair has been given to Madame Giry.
  • Costume Porn:
    • Pretty much the whole show, but especially "Masquerade".
    • Hell, the first fifteen minutes of the musical is a great example, what with the fancy details put in the Show Within a Show depicting Ancient Rome.
  • Creepy Doll: In the musical Erik has one of these in a broken mirror (just go with it) that suddenly lunges out and scares Christine senseless, causing her to faint.
  • Crosscast Role:
  • Cut Song: "Magical Lasso" in the Las Vegas Re Cut, though, since its melody reappears elsewhere in many other songs, it's not surprising that the advertising claimed that all the songs appeared.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • Several turn up in Act Two as part of longer pieces (particularly the appearances of the "Angel of Music" melody), but the Act One closing, the Phantom's reprise of "All I Ask Of You," is the best known.
    • The final words of the musical are the Phantom's despairing reprise of "The Music of the Night."
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Madame Giry tells Raoul what she knows of the Phantom's past, including that he ended up imprisoned in a cage in a travelling fair. The film goes one step further, showing how she rescued him from said sideshow when they were both very young.
    • Christine is somewhat of a parallel example given how she's had to deal with the tragic death of her father.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "And if he has to kill a thousand men / The Phantom of the Opera will kill and kill again!"
  • Did You Actually Believe?: As the Phantom says when he crashes the party in 'Masquerade': "Why so silent, good messieurs?/Did you think that I had left you for good?"
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: "Your chains are still mine..."
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "The Point of No Return".
  • Evil Sounds Deep:
    • Averted as the role of the Phantom was written for, and is almost always played by, a tenor.
    • Going even further, a key aspect of the Phantom's relationship to Christine at the beginning is that he communicates to her through murmurings and whispers.
  • Foregone Conclusion: To an extent; right from the get go, we know that Raoul will survive the events of the musical and that the chandelier, having gone up in such a dramatic fashion, is going to come down again just as dramatically...
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Il Muto scene and its song "Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh". When the Phantom interrupts it, the Countess is with her lover, cheerfully singing about how she's cuckolding her husband, not knowing that he's hiding nearby. After Buquet's murder, Christine — about to take over the role of the Countess — and Raoul head to the roof to hide from the Phantom, share their first kiss together and declare their love...and the Phantom is privy to this all along. Is it any surprise that it's when Christine's taking her bow that night that the Phantom chooses to crash the chandelier?
    • Not to mention "Think of Me". The entire song. ''"...Though it was always clear, that this was never meant to be..."'
  • Gambit Pileup: At the beginning of the stage musical — the change of the opera house's ownership means that everyone who wants things to change is trying to get a word in first. The Phantom's own machinations go unnoticed for some time because the new owners assume it's Raoul or one of the lesser players trying to stir up trouble.
  • Grief Song: Both Christine ("Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again") and The Phantom ("All I Ask of You" Reprise).
  • Hall of Mirrors: A straight version of the trope appears in the film, when Raoul follows the Phantom down a trapdoor after "Why so Silent" and finds himself trapped in a mirror maze.
  • Heyitsthat Guy: Fans of the other long-running musical Les Misérables that are without much knowledge of Phantom often will immediately recognize Broadway actor Norm Lewis, currently playing the Phantom, as Inpsector Javert. Similarly, many will also recognize the 25th anniversary special's Phantom as Ramin Karlooo, who famously has played both Enjorlas and Jean Valjean.
  • Hotter and Sexier:
    • "The Point of No Return," anyone?
    • Even more so in the movie version, largely due to the choice to hire younger, prettier actors than are usually cast in the stage show (Gerard Butler especially). Emmy Rossum being only sixteen to Butler's thirty-five makes Point of No Return kind of ...uncomfortable. Also, most of the stage actresses are only in their twenties, and are very sexy indeed.
    • The 25th anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall touches on this trope, with well-respected character actor Ramin Karimloo portraying the Phantom as particularly charismatic in both voice and general appearance (with the mask on) yet also showing the bleakness and despair of the Phantom's internal conflicts... and, well, with the mask off...
  • I Am Becoming Song: "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again", Christine recognizes how hard she's been trying to hold on the past and tries to move on.
  • Idiot Ball: The Phantom grabs hold of this hard late in the first act; he doesn't seem to consider that, even if Christine enjoyed seeing Carlotta being completely humiliated - which she clearly doesn't - the fact that he murdered a guy and hanged him over the stage is going to have her running for the hills. Or the roof, as the case might be. But then again, the Phantom is hardly a rational man in any case...
  • Insistent Terminology: In the movie version of the musical, Gilles André would like to point out that he is in the business of scrap metal, not junk. And let's not forget that the Phantom calls racketeering his "salary".
  • Ironic Echo: The final lyrics of "Music Of The Night" are the Phantom's passionate declaration of love for Christine. But when they are sung again at the end of the show, he is now expressing despair at having lost her forever.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener:
    • "Masquerade". (Though, they do manage to tie the song itself back into an emotional moment with the Phantom near the end of the show.)
    • Although even at the beginning of Act 2 it could be seen as a metaphor for the Phantom's situation.
  • Lampshade Hanging: From "Prima Donna":
    You'd never get away with all this in a play!
    But if it's loudly sung and in a foreign tongue,
    it's just the sort of story audiences adore,
    in fact, a perfect opera!
  • Large Ham: Minnie Driver's Carlotta steals a lot of her scenes.
  • Laughing Mad:
    • The Phantom does this a lot in the Il Muto scene, whether he's making Carlotta croak or disrupting the ballet scene and offing Buquet. Depending on the actor playing him, he can also devolve to this in the final lair sequence.
    • The trope is pretty much averted, however, back when the Phantom whispers to Christine as the "angel of music" and for a good chunk of the story afterwards when she meets him in person, when he acts either cool and calm or passionately charismatic in his singing despite his obsessive insanity.
  • Long Runners: Since 1986 in London and 1988 in New York City; it's the longest-running Broadway show in the latter. (Les Misérables has got it licked by a year in London, and would have it similarly licked on Broadway had the Broadway version, which opened in 1987, a year before Phantom did, not closed in 2003.)
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Phantom follows Christine to her father's grave and, while she's at her most emotionally distraught and vulnerable, attempts to convince her to return to him by using his Compelling Voice as well as playing hard and fast on her daddy issues. Charming.
  • Manly Tears: Gerard Butler skillfully looks manly whilst simultaneously crying and wearing a frilly shirt.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • It's deliberately left ambiguous as to whether this version of the Phantom actually does have supernatural abilities. Some of the things he does, like the mirror, are understandable, but a lot more - causing the piano to play itself during the rehearsal of Don Juan Triumphant, creating fire in the graveyard, making the gates in his lair rise with merely a gesture, disappearing from under his cloak at the end of the show - while obviously stage effects in real life, have no practical explanation in the context of the story.
    • However, the film version makes it very clear that all the stunts he pulls are merely clever tricks, leaving the more supernatural stuff out altogether and explaining other things away by showing the Phantom pulling a lever to raise the gates, or messing with Carlotta's throat spray in order to make her croak.
  • No Name Given: Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn't call the Phantom "Erik".
  • Nostalgic Musicbox: It has the image of a monkey sitting atop a barrel organ, and plays what is later revealed to be the "Masquerade" melody.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Everyone in the 2004 movie - save for Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry, who is apparently the only person in France with a French accent. Albeit not a very good one.
  • Number of the Beast: One has to wonder what jackass decided to tempt fate by putting the cursed chandelier with the bloody past into the musical's auction as Lot 666.
  • Obsession Song: The reprise of "All I Ask of You" at the end of Act One.
  • Oedipus Complex:
    • Electra Complex. Part of Christine's attraction to the Phantom is that he reminds her of her father. (Note how most of the lyrics in "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" could just as easily apply to the Phantom.) Word of God said that in the movie, M. Daaé was deliberately cast to look like Gerard Butler.
    • Made better by the Retroactive Recognition of M. Daaé being played in the film by Ramin Karimloo, who played the Phantom in Love Never Dies and the 25th Anniversary Concert (and is quite well-known in the Phantom fandom for being the apex of sexy stage Phantoms). Karimloo is the only actor to play all three of the men Christine has loved.
    • The first Toronto version had the Phantom and Christine being played by Colm Wilkinson and Rebecca Caine, who only a few years earlier played a surrogate father and daughter pair in Les Misérables, essentially adding this edge to their scenes.
    • At least in the musical she was an adult when she first encountered the Phantom! In the film she came to live in the opera house when she was about seven and believed the Phantom was her dead father for ten years - which no doubt left her very confused when her 'father' started running his hands all over her in Music of the Night.
    • And the current Broadway Phantom and Christine—Norm Lewis and Sierra Bogess, played father and daughter Triton and Ariel in the Broadway version of The Little Mermaid, which will probably give their scenes this edge as well.
  • Original Cast Precedent: In every replica production of the theatrical Phantom (and most nonreplica ones) Christine has brown or nearly black hair; the original West End Christine, Sarah Brightman, has very dark hair. Other inspiration may have come from the 1925 film, in which Mary Philbin has dark hair. Really Useful Group has also been known to keep a tight leash on character designs and appearances, so Executive Meddling may come into play here.
  • Patter Song: ALW's version has "Notes" in the first act, which is a patter song with an increasing number of people all singing angrily at each other until the Phantom shuts them up.
  • Playing Gertrude: While the Phantom of the book is at least about fifty, the Phantom on stage is being played by successively younger actors. Gerard Butler was famously about 35 when he played the part in the 2004 film, while Ramin Karimloo was 30 when he portrayed the Phantom in Love Never Dies.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Played with when it comes to Andre and Firmin. They're not incompetent, per say - they do know how to run the opera house and what's most likely to get customers in seats, as well as winging it when the Phantom ruins Carlotta's singing - but they're really in way over their heads and defer to Raoul during the climax in order to get things done. You do have to feel sorry for them, though; they got into the opera business to make a profit, not to deal with a mad man who extorts absurdly large amounts of cash and drops chandeliers when he gets annoyed.
  • Product Placement: In the movie version, the "hero" version of the chandelier was sponsored by Swarovski Crystals. There's a scene with a Swarovski store window, which depicts the Swarovski swan logo. However, the logo at the time would have been a flower.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Christine really lets the Phantom have it when he pulls the Scarpia Ultimatum on her.
  • Road Trip Across The Street: In the film version of the musical, the Phantom places Christine on the back of a horse and uses it to carry her the length of a short corridor before abandoning it again.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the movie, when Carlotta is on the verge of walking out (for the first time) and the new managers appeal to Lefevre on how to convince her to remain, his response, right down to tone and inflection, is very familiar from another ALW production: "Grovel--grovel, grovel!"
    • Lloyd Webber has admitted to being inspired by the 1925 film version, and there are a couple of clear shout outs. Most obvious is the angry mob going after the Phantom near the end, but the flower hoops held by the Sylphides in the "Il Muto" ballet also match those used in one of the film ballets.
    • This could be unintentional but behind the conductor during "Think of Me", there's a woman dressed almost exactly like Cinderella in her ballgown.
  • Show Within a Show: See Stylistic Suck below.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Joseph Buquet really doesn't do much while he's alive besides loom about the place, tell the corps de ballet scary stories about the Phantom and set up the Chekhov's Gun of the Punjab lasso - but his shocking death is the final nail in the coffin of Christine deciding the Phantom is bad news and choosing Raoul; all (further) hell breaks loose from there.
  • Snow Means Love: The 2004 movie of the musical. As Raoul and Christine romance on the Opera House Roof, it conveniently starts to snow.
  • The Song Before The Storm: "Prima Donna" and "Notes (reprise) - Twisted Every Way".
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Both Ramin Karimloo as the title character and Hadley Fraser as Raoul count for many fans in The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as other times when said actors have been involved.
  • Stylistic Suck: The three fictional operas performed in the course of the story (Hannibal, a parody of the grand late classical operas from the like of Meyerbeer and Gluck, Il Muto, an obvious parody of Mozart — or one of that crowd — and Don Juan Triumphant, Sir Andrew's spoof on serialism in modern opera, overwrought with dissonance, and bathing in clichés.
  • Tenor Boy: Raoul fits this trope, but note that the Phantom is also a tenor. Starting with the original London cast, in which Steve Barton (Raoul) was also Michael Crawford's (The Phantom's) understudy, it's common for Raoul's actor to understudy the Phantom's role, sometimes taking it over later.
  • This Is Reality: You'd never get away with all this in a play/ But if it's loudly sung and in a foreign tongue/ It's just the sort of story audiences adore In fact, a perfect opera!"
  • This Is as Far as I Go.
  • Title Drop: Happens every five seconds...
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: So many songs feature them. "Think of Me" is the first instance, as it begins in D but then goes up a half-step after the first verse and remains there for the rest of the song. The title theme song itself actually changes key with every verse.
  • The Unreveal: Although Madame Giry hints at the Phantom's Mysterious Past, it's never explained how she knows where his house is - or why she's unofficially on his 'payroll,' so to speak. (Aside from sheer terror, of course...)
  • Villain Love Song: It's a Long List...
    • "The Mirror"
    • "The Music of the Night" is one of the most famous songs in musical theater and one of the best examples of this trope.
    • "Wandering Child"
    • "Point of No Return"
    • "Down Once More"
  • Villain Song: The title number.
  • Voice Types: Christine, Carlotta.
  • Whole Costume Reference:
    • In the 2004 film, Emmy Rossum's costume in "Think Of Me" is practically an exact copy of that worn by Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sissi) in the famous portrait by Franz Winterhalter, right down to the hairstyle and the diamond stars in it. It doesn't hurt that Rossum is a dead ringer for the empress to begin with.
    • The Phantom's "Red Death" outfit in the 2004 movie also appears to have been based on one of Napoleon Bonaparte's uniforms (though with a skull mask and a longer cloak added).
  • Wife Husbandry: Unfortunately, this can come across more than a tad in the 2004 film, where the Phantom watches over Christine from when she arrived at the opera house when she was a little girl, and makes his move when she's still only seventeen. Plus, she originally thinks her 'Angel of Music' is her father.

The Phantom of the Opera (1989)Franchise/The Phantom of the OperaPhantom of the Paradise
Peter PanThe MusicalLove Never Dies
The Oprah Winfrey ShowLong RunnersTalk Show
The Perfect ScoreFilms of 2000 - 2004 Pinocchio 3000

alternative title(s): The Phantom Of The Opera 2004
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