'Phantom of the Opera’ to close on Broadway as pandemic fallout continues

Jessica Gelt
Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Theater staged a pandemic comeback, but audiences didn’t get the memo.

Nearly a year after Broadway raised its curtains — marking an end to more than 18 months of COVID closures — one of its most storied shows announced it will go dark for good.

“Phantom of the Opera,” the longest-running show in Broadway history, plans to stage its final performance in February. The not entirely unexpected move marks an end to 35 years at the Majestic Theatre, and an era in which many adult theatergoers could not imagine Broadway without the iconic marquee’s white mask and red rose.

Like many shows across the country, “Phantom” could not summon back the audiences that sustained it before brutal pandemic closures drained the lifeblood out of the industry. Contradictory messaging around masking in theaters, continuing COVID-related cancellations and a stubborn pattern of audiences sticking close to home combined to create a perilous landscape for the performing arts.

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Many arts leaders reported that, try as they might, very few shows — short of pop-cultural phenomenons like “Hamilton” — were drawing the kinds of crowds that could fill coffers in the long term. “Phantom” couldn’t keep up in this harsh new environment, with the New York Post reporting that the show was losing about $1 million per month since its reopening last October.

The show’s website features a pop-up page announcing the news and confirming that the last performance will be on Saturday, Feb. 18. “Phantom” will celebrate its 35th anniversary in January.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera," Broadway's longest-running show, is closing in early 2023. Signage of the Broadway play "The Phantom of the Opera" is seen in March 2020 at Time Square.

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“The Phantom of the Opera” opened in 1988 and has played more than 13,700 performances. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, with lyrics by Charles Hart and a book by Webber and Richard Stilgoe, is based on the 1910 eponymous French novel by Gaston Leroux. The Gothic melodrama follows a soprano who is pursued by a masked musician who lives in the candle-lighted underworld of chambers beneath the Paris Opera House.

The show, while not always lauded by critics, became a beloved staple of Broadway, winning seven Tony Awards the year it opened, including best musical. Since then, according to numbers compiled by the Broadway League and reported by the New York Times, the show has been seen on Broadway by 19.8 million people, and grossed $1.3 billion.