The Phantom of the Opera to ‘close permanently’ on the West End amid coronavirus crisis

29 July 2020, 12:03 | Updated: 29 July 2020, 12:42

Phantom of the Opera to ‘close permanently’ on the West End
Phantom of the Opera to ‘close permanently’ on the West End. Picture: Getty

By Helena Asprou

After entertaining audiences for 34 years, the curtain has fallen on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical in a devastating blow for British theatre.

The Phantom of the Opera will close permanently on London’s West End, following an unprecedented blow to its finances dealt by COVID-19.

Producer Cameron Mackintosh says he and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber will also be closing touring productions of the musical, due to the government’s ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

In an article for The Evening Standard, Mackintosh said:With no endgame to this crisis in sight, last week I had to follow through with the awful, distressing downsizing of my organisation to ensure my company’s survival. In early May I warned Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and the Government that this would be necessary unless we received financial help.

“Despite the recent announcement of a £1.57 billion rescue fund for the arts, this help still hasn’t materialised... I’ve taken a huge financial hit.”

The show, which is London’s second-longest-running musical, landed its UK debut at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1986.

Mackintosh added: “We are determined to bring it back to London in the future.”

Read more: The Phantom of the Opera UK and Ireland tour cancelled >

The Phantom of the Opera will no longer run at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London
The Phantom of the Opera will no longer run at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London. Picture: Getty

Describing the “absurd” challenges the new restrictions have had on the industry, the producer expanded on Lloyd Webber’s recent interview, in which he said opening theatres with social distancing is “not economically possible”.

“Andrew Lloyd Webber brilliantly exposed the artistic and commercial bankruptcy of trying to apply social distancing to indoor mainstream theatre. Even the most optimistic theatre practitioners among us came to the conclusion that it is a disaster.”

The announcement comes as devastating news to the hundreds of actors, musicians, stage staff and freelancers now let go from the hit production – putting many livelihoods, homes and families at risk in what has become a volatile jobs market.

Read more: Phantom orchestra records virtual ‘All I Ask of You’ response >

The closure follows the recent cancellation of the 14-month Phantom of the Opera UK and Ireland tour, starring Killian Donnelly and Holly-Anne Hull, in a bid to keep audiences and cast members safe during the pandemic.

In a statement, producers of the tour said: “The great uncertainty around the duration of social distancing requirements and the perilous financial situation in which many regional theatres find themselves have conspired to make rerouting an entire major tour such as Phantom impossible for some time as so many existing tours are needing to reschedule.”

The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of Christine Daaé, a soprano who becomes the object of a masked figure’s affections in an underground lair at Paris Opera House.

It has won multiple awards – including the Tony for Best Musical in 1988 – and originally featured Sarah Brightman (then Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wife) as Christine and Michael Crawford as the Phantom.

With lyrics penned by Charles Hart, popular songs from the musical include ‘All I Ask of You’ (listen above), ‘The Music of the Night’ and ‘Masquerade’.