Anyone who reads this blog is well aware of my affection for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. Well, what’s not to love; it’s got good music, and it’s based on one of my favorite books. It is one of the world’s longest-running and most popular musicals (alongside Les Miserables), but did you know there are two other musical adaptations as well? I was surprised to learn this; there’s hardly any information on them…unless you do a little bit of digging first.
The first musical Phantom adaptation came to the stage in 1976 courtesy of Ken Hill. In fact, Webber considered collaborating with Hill when he got the idea to adapt Gaston Leroux’s novel into a musical, but he ultimately decided to pursue his project separately. Ken Hill’s version is more of an actual opera in nature; he wrote original lyrics to music composed by the likes of Verdi and Mozart. Some of the song titles are on the long side (“To Pain My Heart Selfishly Dooms Me”, “Somewhere above the Sun Shines Bright”), but on the plus side, it includes that oft-neglected character, the Persian!
1991 saw the debut of Phantom by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit. They had originally planned to make it back in the 80’s but scrapped their plans when they learned that Webber had already done so with phenomenal success. Later, however, Kopit saw the Webber version, realized how different it was from the storyline he and Yeston had in mind, and suggested to Yeston that they try again. Their version of Phantom began life as a non-musical miniseries produced for NBC before it finally made it to the stage in all its song-filled glory. It differs from the novel in that the Phantom is somewhat gentler and has a solid friendship with the opera’s manager Gerard Carriere.