As Ken Hill ransacked through a used bookstore, he picked up a copy of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera novel and eventually produced it as a stage musical. Ken Hill’s Phantom of the Opera was the first musical version of Leroux’s novel. Hill's musical, then, inspired the award-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of the story.
Andrew Lloyd Webber was looking to create a new musical. He was aiming for a romantic piece, but he had trouble reining in a worthwhile idea, until he was inspired by Leroux’s novel. While in New York, Lloyd Webber tracked down a second hand copy of the long out-of-print original Leroux novel, from which his perspective to the material was transformed;
“I was actually writing something else at the time, and I realized that the reason I was hung up was because I was trying to write a major romantic story, and I had been trying to do that ever since I started my career. Then with the Phantom, it was there!"
From there, Lloyd Webber began work developing Phantom of the Opera to fit into musical form. The music was composed by Lloyd Webber, and Charles Hart wrote most of the lyrics.
The central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé. Daaé was brought up in the Paris Opera house when her famous musician
father suddenly dies, telling her he will send her an angel of music to look after her. She grows up and discovers that she is hearing a voice, telling her and teaching her to sing. She believes he is the angel of music but in fact he is a disfigured genius; the phantom. He falls in love with her whilst although sh e is fascinated and drawn towards the phantom, she falls in love with her childhood sweetheart; the Vicom te de Changy; Raoul. The phantom gets madly jealous, kidnaps Christine, and threaten s to kill Raou l. She, to save Raoul, agrees to marry the phantom and kisses him. He then realizes what he's done and then makes Christine go with Raoul, disappearing forever.
The first act of The Phantom of the Opera was staged at Sydmonton. It starred Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Kristin (the name was eventually changed to Christine) and Clive Carter as Raoul. The preview was very different from the final version of the show. Most of the songs had different names. For example, "Think of Me" was originally "What Has Time Done to Me", and "Notes" was originally "Papers". In addition, the Phantom's mask was changed to a silver mask that covered the eyes and nose instead of the current half-mask, as it prevented the actor playing the Phantom's vision and concealed his face completely from the audience.
Phantom began previews at Her Majesty's Theatre in London's West End on September 27, 1986 and opened on October 9 under the direction of Hal Prince. It was choreographed by Gillian Lynne with lighting by Andrew Bridge. For the costume and set design of the show, Maria Björnson was recruited. She alone designed over 200 costumes, the most spectacular of all shown in the Masquerade sequence. Björnson went into meticulous detail with the sets, visiting the real Paris opera house in which the story is set to gain a feel for what the look of the show should be and grasp the feeling of 1880s theatre.
Michael Crawford starred as the titular character, Sarah Brightman (who was at that time Lloyd Weber’s wife) as Christine, and Steve Barton as Raoul. The show is still playing at Her Majesty's, celebrating its 24th anniversary in October 2010, and celebrated its 10,000th performance at the matinee on 23rd October, 2010. It is the second longest-running West End musical in history after Les Miserables.
Broadway previews at the Majestic Theatre began on January 9, 1988 and opened on January 26. Crawford, Brightman and Barton reprised their respective roles from the London production. In 2009 the Broadway production marked its nine thousandth performance and is currently the longest-running musical in Broadway history celebrating 23 years in January of 2011.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has also created a sequel. It is titled “Love Never Dies” and is loosely adapted from the novel “The Phantom of Manhattan”. It is the first time a musical sequel has been staged in the West End.
The musical is set in 1907, a decade after the end of Phantom. Christine is invited to perform at Phantasma, a new attraction in Coney Island, by an anonymous impresario and, with her husband Raoul and son Gustave in tow, journeys to Brooklyn, unaware that it is the Phantom who has arranged her appearance in the popular beach resort.