Principal cast changes have been announced for the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show in Broadway history. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Group, Inc. and directed by Harold Prince, the musical is in its phenomenal 19th year in New York, playing at The Majestic Theatre (247 West 44th Street).
Current Phantom cast member Jennifer Hope Wills will take over the leading role of Christine starting Tuesday evening, 12th December. Ms. Wills made her Phantom debut earlier this year as the Christine Alternate (playing the role twice a week) on 20th April, 2006. She’s played the role since then, excluding a 9-week engagement as Christine on the national tour this past summer.
She is the 12th actress to be cast as Christine in the Broadway production.
Ms. Wills earned rave reviews playing Eileen opposite Brooke Shields in the Broadway revival of Wonderful Town and can be heard on the new Broadway cast recording with Ms. Shields. She appeared in the original Broadway cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White (covering the role of Laura) and was also featured in Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast (covering the role of Belle) and the Encores! production of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Ms. Wills succeeds Rebecca Pitcher, a veteran of both the Broadway and national touring companies.
Phantom alumna Julie Hanson will return to the production as the Christine Alternate with her first performance Monday evening, 11th December. Ms. Hanson previously was the Christine Alternate from 22nd September, 2003 through 9th July, 2005, and returned this summer from 26th June–24th August. She also previously played the role of Christine on the national tour. She recently returned to New York after playing Esther Smith in Stages St. Louis’ production of Meet Me in St. Louis.
Ms. Hanson succeeds Ms. Wills as the Alternate.
The ladies join Broadway favorite Anne Runolfsson, who recently returned to the production (on 17th November) as the outrageous opera diva Carlotta. Ms. Runolfsson originally played the role from 16th November, 2004 through 13th May, 2006, including the record-breaking performance in January. Her extensive list of Broadway credits includes Victor/Victoria (title role, also national tour), Cyrano-The Musical (Roxanne, 1993 Drama-League honoree), James Joyce’s The Dead (Greta), Les Misérables (Fantine, also national tour) and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love (original cast).
For Ms. Runolfsson, the return to Broadway is a family affair, as she joins her daughter, Tess Adams, on the boards. Ms. Adams is currently a cast member of the new Broadway revival of Les Misérables, where she rotates in the roles of Young Cosette and Young Eponine with two other child performers.
Continuing in their roles are Howard McGillin (the Phantom), Michael Shawn Lewis (Raoul), George Lee Andrews (Monsieur Firmin), David Cryer (Monsieur André), Marilyn Caskey (Madame Giry), Roland Rusinek (Piangi) and Heather McFadden (Meg Giry).
The Phantom of the Opera became the longest-running show in Broadway history on 9th January, 2006, when it played performance #7486, surpassing the record run of Cats (also created by Phantom composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, producer Cameron Mackintosh and choreographer Gillian Lynne). It has since become the first production in Broadway history to surpass 7,500 performances (which it did on 21st January, 2006) and reach 18 years (which it did on 26th January, 2006).
Still a continuing box-office phenomenon even in its 19th year, The Phantom of the Opera is consistently among Broadway’s highest-grossing shows. In early 2007 it will celebrate it’s 19th Anniversary, enter its 20th Year and become the first production in Broadway history to reach 8,000 performances. Since its debut on 26th January, 1988, the Broadway production has grossed over $635 million, making it the highest-grossing show in Broadway history. Total attendance is at 11 million.
Its international success – equally staggering – is represented by a total worldwide box office gross of $3.2 billion, making Phantom the most successful entertainment venture of all time, surpassing not only any other stage production, but also far surpassing the world’s highest-grossing film Titanic (at $1.2 billion) and such other blockbusters as The Lord of the Rings, Jurrasic Park and Star Wars. Worldwide attendance is over 80 million people.
The Phantom of the Opera had its world premiere on 9th October, 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, winning every major British theatre award including the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards. The New York production opened on January 26, 1988 with a then record advance of $18 million. The musical went on to sweep the 1988 Tony Awards, winning seven, including Best Musical.
Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Operatells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.
The Phantom of the Opera has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is directed by Harold Prince. Lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Phantom of the Opera has production design by the late Maria Björnson, lighting by Andrew Bridge and sound by Martin Levan. Musical staging and choreography is by Gillian Lynne. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The performance schedule for The Phantom of the Opera is Monday and Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8pm and Tuesday evenings at 7pm, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm. For tickets, call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200, visitor visit The Majestic Theatre box office (247 West 44th Street)
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