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‘Phantom’ success? Lloyd Webber is puzzled

As show sets a Broadway record, composer finds himself ‘overwhelmed’
/ Source: Reuters

“Phantom of the Opera” became the longest-running show in Broadway history on Monday night with a gala 7,486th performance of the hit musical, which included appearances by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and the original phantom, Michael Crawford.

The British composer, who saw his creation break the previous Broadway record set by another of his shows, “Cats,” said he was “totally overwhelmed” after the curtain call and an extended standing ovation from the cheering black-tie-clad crowd.

“It was just like it was every night for me,” Lloyd Webber said, adding that the lavish show, which opened nearly 18 years ago, never failed to delight him.

The show’s director, Harold Prince, and producer, Cameron Mackintosh, took to the stage along with dozens of actors from the show’s nearly two decades on Broadway. The performance was followed by a ball at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

Despite the phenomenal success of both Phantom and “Cats,” Lloyd Webber insists he has no formula for success.

“If I knew, I would go out and write another,” he said earlier.

In the midst of all the hoopla surrounding “Phantom,” Lloyd Webber wonders why one of his favorite shows failed to spark interest.

“The musical I’d love to see come here in some guise is ‘The Beautiful Game,’” he said about his critically acclaimed show about Northern Ireland and religious war and terrorism.

A love story inspired by the game of soccer and set against the troubles in Northern Ireland, it ran for less than a year in London before closing days before the Sept. 11 attacks.

“It was very different from any of the others. Of course, it was a very tough subject. A lot of people found taking on terrorism full frontal was actually too much for them,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“I think it contains some of the best music I’ve written in a long time. It would be great to see it here.”

The show, which he wrote with British novelist, comedian and sitcom writer Ben Elton, was his first to win a London Critics’ Circle Award as best musical.

“We were writing about how religious conflicts suck in young people. It’s even more relevant today than when we wrote it,” he said. “In the end, it’s about a bunch of kids that just want to play football. It breaks your heart.”

The supermodel's theoryLloyd Webber, whose other major musicals have included “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita,” and “Sunset Boulevard,” said one theory about the allure of “Phantom” came from a bevy of supermodels he met at a London charity dinner thrown by singer Elton John.

“When Phantom was really new and had just opened on Broadway, at its chic peak, I found myself at a dinner table on my own with half a dozen of the most famous supermodels in the world,” he said of the musical whose title character wears a mask to hide his disfigured face.

“They all were asking me about the Phantom and the question about why it worked came up. One said, ‘You may think you are sitting among the six most beautiful women in the world, but each one of us has something we would want to change.’

“That launched a discussion of what they didn’t like about each other,” he said with a chuckle. “I left them to it and carried on to another table. But it struck me there is something in that. Why we do relate to the Phantom, women particularly.”

The 57-year-old Lloyd Webber said he has no regrets about not applying his creative gifts to more serious classical music rather than musicals. But one thing on his wish list would be to write music for movies.

Lloyd Webber says enveloping audiences in his music, as he did with “Cats” and “Phantom,” has been a winning approach.

“My most successful musicals have been through-composed,” he said about the absence of dialogue. “People feel they are in the hands of the composer and hopefully it’s a safe ride.”