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Theatre / The Phantom of the Opera

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"In sleep he sang to me, in dreams he came
That voice which calls to me and speaks my name
And do I dream again? For now I find
The Phantom of the Opera is here, inside my mind"
Christine, "The Phantom of the Opera"

Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera has perhaps its most well-known adaptation in this, Andrew Lloyd Webber's wildly successful musical. First produced in the West End in 1986, where it runs to this day, before debuting on Broadway in 1988, where it became the longest-running show on the Great White Way with an impressive 35-year run before finally closing in April 2023.

Like the novel it is based on, the musical is set in late 19th-century Paris and follows Christine Daaé, a promising young soprano whose life is turning around — not only has she just gotten the lead role in the opera house's new production, she has also reunited with her handsome childhood sweetheart, Raoul de Chagny. But Christine is also the obsession of the titular Phantom, a mysterious musical genius who resides in the subterranean depths of the Opera Populaire. The Phantom is dangerous and brilliant, and he is willing to go to great lengths to ensure Christine becomes his.

Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman originated the roles of the Phantom and Christine in Webber's play. 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 starring Sierra Boggess as Christine and Ramin Karimloo as The Phantomnote .

Love Never Dies, a stage sequel by Webber, premiered in 2010. See also the famous 1925 silent film by Universal starring Lon Chaney, which gave Webber additional inspiration for the 1986 musical.

Contains examples of:

  • Abominable Auditorium: The musical is set in the formerly glamorous Opera Populaire, which in its heyday was terrorized by the titular Phantom, who was just all-around bad for the health and safety of the audience and the opera staff.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Christine is blonde in the original novel but brunette in the musical, and vice versa for Meg Giry. The former is averted in the Hungarian, Swedish and Finnish productions.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Carlotta is Spanish in the book, but the musical makes her Italian.
  • 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 also pretty conspicuous.
    • The Phantom's iconic fedora counts as well; while the musical is explicitly set in 1881, homburg hats — from which fedoras would develop — didn't rocket to popularity until the late 1880s.
    • The Eiffel Tower can often be seen in the backdrop of the Paris skyline during "All I Ask Of You." Construction on the Eiffel Tower didn't begin until 1887.
    • "The Point of No Return" has one right in its title. The phrase point of no return dates to 1941, referring to the point at which an airplane has used too much fuel to return to the location from which it departed.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Track Down This Murderer," in which hired constables and members of the opera band together to hunt the Phantom down in his lair.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: The Phantom to Christine in the final scene. He's already heartbroken after releasing Raoul and telling them to flee together, and even when she reappears onstage to give him back his ring, he knows she will never stay with him. He clasps her hand with the ring inside it and sings softly, "Christine, I love you ..."
    • Different productions have Christine respond to this in different ways. Sometimes she gives him a Long Last Look before running away. Sometimes she briefly clasps his fingers in return. In the 25th anniversary production at the Royal Albert Hall, Christine, weeping, bends over the Phantom's hand and kisses it in a farewell gesture of profound respect. In the very last Broadway performance, she actually whispered, "I love you too."
  • Ascended Extra:
    • In the original novel, Meg Giry only shows up briefly in the first three chapters and never interacts with any of the main characters. In the show, although she's definitely a secondary character, she's promoted to being Christine's best friend.
    • Likewise, Madame Giry in the novel was a superstitious, somewhat silly concierge whom the Phantom flattered into becoming his accomplice with chocolates and generous tips. In the musical, she's a severe ballet mistress and much more aware of the Phantom's true nature. Near the climax, she shows Raoul the way to the underground lair beneath the opera.
    • Christine is an in-story example of this, since she becomes a last-minute understudy for the opera's prima donna in Hannibal, the musical's first Show Within a Show.
  • As You Know: The fragment of Don Juan Triumphant that we are given to see features Don Juan and his servant, Passarino, rehearsing their plan for his latest con/seduction for the audience's benefit (both in and out of universe).
  • Big Damn Kiss: The one shared by Christine and the Phantom is probably the most famous example in all musical theatre. Instead of answering his ultimatum — her hand in marriage, or Raoul's life — she calmly walks up to him, turns him around and kisses him full on the mouth, accompanied by swelling, impassioned music. The Phantom is so stunned that he can barely raise his hands to return her embrace.
  • Big "NO!": The Phantom usually lets one out when Christine sneaks up to him and pulls off his mask in the first lair scene. He rounds on her and gives chase, snarling and cursing her for a "prying Pandora."
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Laird Mackintosh, the last actor to play the Phantom on Broadway, turned and looked directly at the audience just before the Phantom's disappearance at the conclusion of the final performance.
  • Business Trip Adultery: The only revealed plot point of the Show Within a Show Il Muto, in which a countess disguises her lover, the mute Seraphimo, as a maid within her household, just before her husband departs for England on affairs of state.
  • Casting Couch: Carlotta accuses Raoul of forging the notes signed "O.G.," which demand that Christine get the lead in the next production, because he and Christine are lovers. She's not totally off base; Raoul didn't write the notes, but the Phantom, who did, is very much obsessed with Christine.
  • Colorful Song: "Masquerade" has all the cast (save Madame Giry) decked out in gloriously elaborate costumes, and the stage awash in jewel-tones of red, pink and blue.
  • Composite Character: Madame Giry is given the name of the silly concierge from the novel and the role of the Persian, who was originally the one to lead Raoul to the Phantom's lair.
  • Counterpoint Duet: Actually a Counterpoint Trio in the finale — Christine's "Angel of Music" vs. Raoul's "All I Ask of You" vs. the Phantom's "Point of No Return."
  • Creepy Doll: The Phantom has one of these done up as a bride in a broken mirror (just go with it). When he shows it to Christine at the end of "Music of the Night," it lunges out at her and makes her faint in shock. Excluded in the 25th anniversary performance and the US tour.
  • Crosscast Role: Christine is given the travesti role of Seraphimo, the countess's lover, in Il Muto.
  • Curse Cut Short: In the 25th anniversary performance, when confronted with the score of Don Juan Triumphant, Piangi says: "If you can call this sh— gibberish art!"
  • Dark Reprise: The Phantom has several.
    • He reprises "All I Ask Of You" at the end of Act I, swearing revenge upon Christine and Raoul after overhearing them declare their love to one another.
    • He also tearfully reprises "Masquerade" in the last scene, when Christine and Raoul leave him to his fate.
    • The musical's final line is his despairing reprise of "The Music of the Night."
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The Phantom's life before he took refuge in the Opera Populaire is implied to have been a lonely and miserable one, as his fellow human beings would have at best reviled him and at worst hunted him down like a monster. According to Madame Giry, he was once the prisoner of a travelling freak show, which would make anyone afraid of exposure and mockery.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "And if he has to kill a thousand men / The Phantom of the Opera will kill and kill again!"
  • Diegetic Music: The show takes place in an opera house, and several abbreviated theatrical productions are staged over the course of its run-time, so about a quarter of its music is diegetic.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: The Phantom — having crashed the opera house's masquerade ball dressed as the Red Death — rips the engagement ring from Christine's neck, neatly demonstrating what he thinks of her espousal.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Christine rips the mask off the Phantom's face during their performance of Don Juan Triumphant, interrupting his ardent reprise of "All I Ask Of You" and revealing his horrific death's-head to the audience.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "The Point of No Return," both in- and out-of-universe, serves as a turning point for the characters. Within the story of Don Juan Triumphant, it is the moment Don Juan's seduction plot must either fail or succeed, and the moment his prospective lover, Aminta, declares that she won't go back on her decision no matter what the consequences may be. It is also the moment that Christine and the Phantom try to out-gambit each other: Christine by luring him into a trap, the Phantom with his own attempt at seduction (and then, when that fails, abduction).
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Averted, as the role of the Phantom was written for, and is almost always portrayed by, a tenor.
  • Evolving Music: In "Angel of Music," Meg notes, "Your face, Christine, it's white," suggesting that Christine's enraptured state isn't good for her health. In productions where dark-skinned actresses play Christine, however (i.e., when Lucy St Louis and Emilie Kouatchou took over the role in London and New York respectively), the lyrics are modified appropriately.
    London: "Your face, Christine, so strange."
    New York: "Christine, are you alright?"
  • Faint in Shock: At the conclusion of "The Music Of The Night," Christine, overwhelmed by everything the Phantom has put her through, finally loses consciousness. He covers her with his cloak and lets her sleep.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: The curtain comes down at the end of "Prima Donna," which can sometimes trick first-time theatre-goers into believing that it's time for intermission, were it not for the house lights not turning back on and the dialogue continuing.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: The main gimmick of the show. The chandelier is laboriously hauled to the ceiling during the overture, signifying a journey back in time to the Opera Populaire's days of splendour, and at the end of Act I, the Phantom sends it crashing back down to the stage.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We know right from the beginning that Raoul, at least, will survive the events of the musical, and that the chandelier will eventually wind up in pieces.
  • Forgotten Framing Device: The show opens with an elderly Raoul attending an auction of the opera house's old memorabilia. Raoul's lines imply that Christine has died in the interim, but the play ends with her still alive and we never return to elderly Raoul with his newly-recovered monkey music box.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: it's not clear how much time elapses over the course of the first actnote , but Christine and Raoul pledge their love to one another in their second scene together. True, they may have been hanging out during rehearsals; true, they were childhood friends; but it's still only the second interaction of theirs made privy to the audience. By their third scene together, they are in fact engaged, although the six-month Time Skip lends a bit more credibility to this development.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: Seeking solace from all the turmoil she's been experiencing, Christine visits her father's grave. Unfortunately, the Phantom, who's either followed her there or knew that she would come, seizes the opportunity to try and kidnap her again.
  • Grew a Spine: Christine over the course of the show. At the beginning she is almost too shy to sing in front of an audience, later on she stands up for herself to the likes of Carlotta and the Phantom himself.
  • Grief Song: Christine's "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," sung at the grave of her father.
  • The Gentleman or the Scoundrel: Raoul and the Phantom. The first is a lively, upright young nobleman who was once Christine's childhood playmate; the other is the enigmatic genius in a mask who lives under the opera house and clearly has more than a few screws loose. Choices, choices...
  • Hero vs. Villain Duet:
    • The title song is a duet shared between Christine and the Phantom when he abducts her to his underground lair. Christine sings about her experiences with her mysterious music teacher and the hold he has on her mind, while the Phantom encourages her fascination and, once they arrive, commands her to sing for him. This piece serves to illustrate what their relationship was like until the night of the gala.
    • The line between in-universe fiction and reality is blurred in "The Point of No Return," where Christine and the Phantom, each playing a role in the climactic scene of Don Juan Triumphant, sing a sensuous duet that both plays off their romantic tension and builds anticipation for their inevitable final confrontation.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Where "The Music of the Night" is full of careful metaphors and sensuality, "The Point of No Return" abandons all pretense regarding Don Juan's desires — and, consequently, those of the Phantom. The lyrics are dark, intense and impassioned; the music goes from low and restive to full of surging anticipation. However, it's the body language of the actors that speaks the loudest, as over the course of the song, Christine and the Phantom exchange numerous coy caresses far bolder than anything the musical has thus far permitted them.
    One final question: how long should we two wait before we're one?
    When will the blood begin to race,
    The sleeping bud burst into bloom?
    When will the flames at last consume us?
  • The Ingenue: Christine, complete with an Innocent Soprano voice. Even Carlotta snidely refers to her as such when the managers beg her to return to the stage.
    "Would you not rather have your precious little ingénue?"
  • Ironic Echo: The Phantom's "Order your fine horses now!" during the final lair is a mocking echo of what Christine says to Raoul after accepting his proposal.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: "Masquerade" has nothing much to do with the plot or the characters, though it is given a meaningful reprise at the end of the musical, courtesy of the monkey music box.
  • Jealous Romantic Witness: The Phantom spies on Christine and Raoul's romantic duet on the roof of the Opera Populaire. He doesn't react well.
  • Kill and Replace: The Phantom does this to Piangi during the premiere of Don Juan Triumphant, silently garroting him behind a curtain and taking his place onstage with Christine for "The Point of No Return." Don Juan's costume in this scene, a long black cloak with a cowl, conceals his identity until Christine unmasks him.
  • 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: The Phantom has his moments.
    "My angel of music! SING! SING FOR ME!"
  • Laughing Mad: The Phantom does this in the Il Muto scene when he screws with Carlotta's voice, and then again when he hangs Buquet above the ballet dancers for the horrified audience to see. In many productions, he engages in this after his reprise of "All I Ask of You" before dropping the chandelier.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Naturally, as the story takes place in an opera house.
    • When the Phantom cuts loose the chandelier and sends it hurtling into the audience, it makes a wide swing toward the stage, narrowly missing the front rows.
    • In addition, whenever he publicly terrorizes one of the in-story performances, his voice can be heard echoing from anywhere in the theatre.
    • When the opera house is being secured for the performance of Don Juan Triumphant, the sound of doors slamming and firemen shouting "Secure!" can be heard throughout the theatre. The officer whom Raoul instructs to wait in the orchestra pit stands up in front of the real orchestra pit.
    • When the Phantom shouts, "DID I NOT INSTRUCT THAT BOX FIVE WAS TO BE LEFT EMPTY?!", the audience members actually sitting in Box Five will get a nice little surprise. There's a speaker set up in there.
  • Long-Runners: Since 1986 in London and 1988 in New York City; to the point of being the longest-running show on Broadway until it closed in April 2023. (Les MisÚrables 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.)
  • Love at First Note: Implied to be the case for the Phantom, who tells Christine:
    Since the moment I first heard you sing / I have needed you with me, to serve me, to sing for my music ...
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Phantom follows Christine to her father's grave and, while she's at her most emotionally vulnerable, tries to compel her to return to him by playing hard and fast on her daddy issues. Charming.
  • Manly Tears: The Phantom gets weepy after eavesdropping on "All I Ask Of You," lamenting Christine's pledging her love to another, and then again at the end of the story when she leaves him for good.
  • Masking the Deformity: Taking a cue from the earlier film adaptations, the musical Erik is Two-Faced, again due to birth deformity rather than injury; this allows his disfigurement to be covered by a half-mask, which is easier to for the actor playing him on stage to sing and see through.note  This half-mask in turn became very iconic and is often since referenced in other instances of this trope. The exact nature of the masked half of his face varies from production to production. One version notably even had the half mask be part of a larger mask that hid the entire head.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's left ambiguous as to whether this version of the Phantom truly has supernatural abilities. Some of his tricks, like the mirror passage, are understandable in-universe, but the rest (e.g., making the piano play by itself during rehearsals, shooting fireballs at Raoul in the graveyard, apparently vanishing and teleporting at will) are given no practical explanation.
  • Mood Whiplash: Whatever happy feelings the audience may be left with after watching Christine and Raoul sing their love duet evaporate almost immediately into a Mass "Oh, Crap!" when the Phantom emerges from behind the angel statue, clearly furious. Audiences have been known to gasp in horror at this moment.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: The Phantom's reprise of "All I Ask of You" when Christine unmasks him in front of the entire opera house.
  • Neverending Terror: After the Phantom hangs Buquet and the opera house plunges into pandemonium, Christine takes Raoul to the roof, where she sings: "My God, who is this man / Who hunts to kill? / I can't escape from him / I never will." Later, when Raoul and the managers hatch the plan to trap the Phantom with Christine as bait, she is reluctant to perform for the same psychological reasons.
    Raoul, I'm frightened. Don't make me do this. It scares me.
    Don't put me through this ordeal by fire. He'll take me, I know.
    We'll be parted forever. He won't let me go.
    What I once used to dream, I now dread. If he finds me, it won't ever end ...
  • No Name Given: The Phantom. Funnily enough, there was another musical called Phantom released around the same time as this one, which does refer to him by name: Erik, the name he chose for himself in the original novel.
  • Nostalgic Musicbox: The monkey in Persian robes sitting atop a barrel organ, which plays the melody of "Masquerade."
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: While in the West End (of course), Broadway and World Tour productions everyone speaks and sings with an English accent, the restaged US tour has everyone speaking and singing with an American accent.
  • 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.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Christine is deep in character in the middle of "The Point of No Return," she's running her hands over "Don Juan's" covered face — and clearly feels the edge of a very familiar mask. She immediately breaks character and tries to run to safety in the wings, only for the Phantom to grab her and haul her back.
  • Ominous Opera Cape: The Phantom sports one of these, of course, to very dramatic effect.
  • Original Cast Precedent:
    • In every replica production of the theatrical Phantom (and most non-replica ones) Christine has brown or nearly black hair (despite the fact that in the book, Christine is a classic Swedish blonde); 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.
    • Averted with Emmi Christensson, current alternate in the West End production, who is actually Swedish and has been given a blonde wig.
    • Averted again with Celinde Schoenmaker, who has been given a much lighter wig for Christine, just not pure blonde like Emmi.
    • Also averted in the Hungarian, Swedish and Finnish productions, where Christine is always blonde.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In "The Point of No Return," the Phantom switches places with Piangi by donning his cloak and cowl costume. Some Phantom actors go the extra mile by imitating Piangi's Italian accent for the duration of the song, which makes it just about plausible that no one notices until too late, but the Phantom's voice timbre is much different from Piangi's, and he's about a hundred pounds lighter besides.
    • This is why in "Notes" the Phantom instructs Piangi to lose some weight, so he can better imitate him. Some productions will remove padding from Piangi's costume to help with this.
  • Patter Song: "Notes" in Act I, which has an increasing number of people all singing angrily at each other until the Phantom shuts them up.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Played with when it comes to Andre and Firmin. They're not entirely incompetent, per se — 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.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: The Phantom is so stupefied when Christine kisses him that when they break apart, he just stares at her in shock and dawning realization.
  • Race Lift: In the early 90's, Robert Gulliame became the first African-American actor to play the Phantom when he replaced Michael Crawford in the Los Angeles production. Norm Lewis became the second—and Broadway's first—after 26 years in 2014, Derrick Davis became the third and Quentin Oliver Lee the fourth (both as part of the US tour). Meanwhile, Margaret Ann Gates was the first Asian Christine in the Toronto production while Ali Edwolt was the first on Broadway, Jordan Donica was the first African-American Raoul, and Patricia Phillips the first African-American Carlotta. Since re-opening after the pandemic-forced shutdown, the London and Broadway productions finally cast black actresses in the role of Christine, for a total of five thus far, with Lucy St. Louis as London's and Beatrice Penny Toure and Paige Blankson as the 2nd and 3rd, respectively, as understudies/alternates—along with Michelle Cornelius as the first black Madame Giry—while Emilie Koautchou debuted as Broadway's 1st (first as the alternate, then as the main one as of January 26, 2022), followed by understudy/alternate Kanisha Marie Feliciano as the 2nd (and first Afro-Latina).
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Christine really lets the Phantom have it when he pulls the Scarpia Ultimatum on her.
  • Red Right Hand: The Phantom, with his deformed face, is perhaps the most well-known example in musical theatre.
  • Reprise Medley: Everything after "Point of No Return."
  • Returning the Wedding Ring: Christine briefly reappears back onstage in the final lair scene to return the Phantom's ring to him, signifying the ultimate end of their relationship. He responds with an Anguished Declaration of Love.
  • Ring on a Necklace: Christine agrees to marry Raoul but insists on keeping their engagement a secret, being concerned about how the Phantom might react. At the beginning of Act II, she's seen wearing her engagement ring on a necklace to make it less conspicuous.
  • Say My Name: Everyone keeps saying Christine's name, all the time.
  • Sensational Staircase Sequence: The masquerade ball takes place on the main staircase of the opera house.
  • Shout-Out: When the Count and Countess sing goodbye to each other in "Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh," the notes sound like the "Vincerò," part of Turandot's "Nessun Dorma."
  • Shouting Free-for-All: "Notes / Prima Donna" and its reprise, "Notes / Twisted Every Way" are a musical version of this, with the opera's V.I.P.s all receiving threatening notes from the Phantom, accusing others of being in league with him, and arguing over what to do about it.
  • Show Stopper: "The Phantom of the Opera" has the power to bring down the house.
  • Show Within a Show: Several.
    • Hannibal, a parody of grand late classical operas like those of Meyerbeer and Gluck.
    • Il Muto, an obvious parody of Mozart.
    • Don Juan Triumphant, Sir Andrew's spoof on serialism in modern opera, overwrought with dissonance and bathing in clichés.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The Phantom himself. Would you believe that a (title!) character who so thoroughly dominates the show is only onstage for about 30-40 minutes of a two-and-a-half hour production?
  • Stalker Shot: The Phantom emerging from behind the angel statue after Christine and Raoul leave the roof, revealing that he heard everything and is not happy about it.
  • Taking a Third Option: One way to interpret how Christine responds to the Phantom's Sadistic Choice. Instead of agreeing to marry him — or refusing outright, which would have forfeited Raoul's life — she kisses him, thereby allowing him to experience compassion and human warmth for the first time ever. The Phantom realizes that he can't force her to marry him and releases them both.
  • Tenor Boy: Raoul fits this trope quite neatly. Starting with the original London cast, in which Steve Barton (Raoul) was also Michael Crawford's (The Phantom's) understudy, it has been fairly common for actors portraying Raoul to later take over the Phantom's role.
  • This Is as Far as I Go: Said nearly word for word by Madame Giry when she leads Raoul part of the way to the Phantom's lair, just to the edge of the underground lake.
  • Title Drop: Take a shot every time someone says "the phantom of the opera," and you'll wind up with liver poisoning.
  • 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 song itself 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 he lives or why she's unofficially on his payroll, so to speak.
  • Villainous Crush: The story is set in motion by the Phantom's love and passion for Christine. If he'd never grown so attached to her, he never would have tried to terrorize the opera house into advancing her career — or made them stage the opera he wrote himself, which was intended to lead Christine back into his arms.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Phantom has one at the end of Act II. After she unmasks him in front of the entire opera house, he abducts Christine and tries to force her to marry him, losing in his desperation all his prior charisma and composure.

It's over now, the music of the night.


Video Example(s):


The Phantom of the Opera

One of the most recognizable tunes in the history of theatre. When you hear this, there can be no doubt: the Phantom of the Opera is there.

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