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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 10:59 GMT
Phantom's box office record

Phantom is still a hit in London and Broadway (pictured here)


Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera has been hailed as the most successful show of the century.

The British stage musical's worldwide box office sales have topped 1.8bn ($3bn) - more than any film or stage production in history, including Hollywood blockbusters Star Wars, Titanic and Gone with the Wind.

Worldwide appeal

Since its London launch in 1986, the show - based on the tale of a disfigured man living under the Paris Opera House in the 19th century - has been staged in 91 cities and 15 countries, while 25m copies of its soundtrack have been sold.

It is set to open in Antwerp and Mexico City and a film version is also in the offing.


Lord Lloyd-Webber's musical has been a wordwide hit
Lloyd Webber said he was overjoyed at the theatrical milestone of his production. "I am amazed, delighted and surprised and we haven't even started on the film yet," he pronounced.

A spokesman for the Society of London Theatres said: "It is wonderful to see a British musical achieve worldwide acclaim."

Phil Smith, president of New York's biggest theatre owner, the Schubert Organisation, added: "It is a truly amazing and historical achievement."

The Phantom of the Opera first opened in London's West End at Her Majesty's Theatre, where it is still running.

British star Michael Crawford first played the title role to great acclaim in London, before transferring to New York's Broadway.

Winning formula

The musical's continued success has been put down to not only the quality of the music but also the spectacular stage effects and make-up - which in the case of the main part takes up to two hours to perfect.


Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman drew in the first audiences
The show has proved so popular that more than 1,000 websites have been set up in its honour by so-called 'Phantom Phans' worldwide.

Another reason for the show's appeal is its romantic and imaginative storyline. Shekhar Kapur, director of the historical hit film Elizabeth, is currently developing the big screen adaptation of the musical.

Other non-musical versions of the classic tale, include Lon Chaney Snr's memorable silent portrayal in 1925 - remade in 1943 with Claude Raines.

Meanwhile Lloyd Webber has another comforting statistic to contemplate. His other blockbuster musical Cats now ranks as the second biggest theatre show of all time with a box office take of 1.2bn ($2bn).
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See also:
16 Sep 99 |  Entertainment
Crawford comes clean
24 Mar 99 |  Entertainment
Phantom campaign for Crawford

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