20-Day Countdown! The Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime: #14: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, 1988

Fourteen days until the Tony Awards! We are at #14 on my 20-day Countdown of the Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime.

Today's musical pick will probably astonish you if you know me at all.  As a Stephen Sondheim fan, I'm not allowed to be an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan (Right?  Isn't that how it works?  I mean, with the exception of Evita and Sunset Boulevard, right?), and the older I get, I fall into that category as a theater snob.  Sigh.  Some things were just meant to be kept sacred.

So, I know, I know.  I hate this musical and all its Broadway-hogging self-entitlement.  But remember when The Phantom of the Opera was new?  Remember back when I was seven years old, and this was new?  And we hadn't heard it a thousand times, and we didn't know there were pyrotechnics that would shoot up in front of our faces, and we didn't know a chandelier would fall on our heads, and we didn't know the masquerade ball could ever look so fantastic or that a woman could ever hit those notes!?

Well, in 1986, The Phantom of the Opera was new, and when it finally came to Broadway in 1988, this Tony performance was breathtaking.  Yes, yes, we know that the show went on to win the 1986 Olivier Award and 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical (along with six other Tonys!), then went on to be the longest-running show in Broadway history (Just had its 10,000th performance on The Great White Way in February!), the second-longest-running West End (London) musical, with total worldwide box office receipts of $5.1 billion, a record-setting Broadway gross of $845 million, then further went on to become the highest-grossing entertainment event (Period!) of all time, the most financially successful theatrical show in history, seen by 130 million people in 145 cities in 27 countries by 2011, and officially the most successful entertainment project in history.  Whew, take a breath!

All of this led us to say, “Oh, give it a rest already, ALW!" but I can't very well post the Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime and not include the one that revolutionized modern-day theater, much as it stings to admit it.  Sigh.  Alas.  Wish I could because I hate the sucker.  BUT, I want you to listen to it again with fresh ears.  Because in 1988, I -- like the rest of the world -- was as enamored with this show as Christine was enamored with The Phantom, and when I watch it through a 7-year old's eyes, sometimes I still get that feeling that I've lost my breath.

So, without further ado, The Phantom of the Opera when it was new, when it still blew our minds, when we still couldn't believe those incredible notes!

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