In 1984, fresh off the heels of the success of a string of triumphant musicals (including Cats), Andrew Lloyd Webber was seeking a romantic plot for his next project and stumbled across a translation of Gaston Leroux’s novel, Le Fantôme de l'Opéra. Realizing it had serious stage potential, he recruited an all-star team of collaborators, including lyricist Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, to bring the tragic love story to life.
With the lead role of Christine written specifically for Webber’s then-wife, Sarah Brightman, the show opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre on London’s West End in 1986, starring Brightman and Michael Crawford as the Phantom. The same pair led the cast of the New York premiere in 1988, and the production went on to become the longest-running show in Broadway history. Since then, the production has been seen by an estimated 130 million people in over 30 countries, and has been translated into 13 languages.
A film version of Phantom, starring Gerard Butler as the title character and Emmy Rossum as Christine and retaining most of the elements of the stage musical, premiered in 2004 to mixed reviews, but grossed over $150 million worldwide.
Since the rights for the show were released to amateur companies in 2013, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization has licensed Phantom of the Opera to various high school, college, and community theater programs across the United States and abroad.