Following Cameron Mackintosh’s comment earlier this week that the long-running West End production of The Phantom of the Opera had been forced to “sadly permanently shut down”, the show’s composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has tweeted: “As far as I’m concerned Phantom will reopen as soon as is possible” and co-producers the Really Useful Group have confirmed to The Stage that the original production will be back.
Mackintosh explained in an Evening Standard article that both he and Lloyd Webber were keen to bring Phantom back to London, but that it was extremely unlikely while social distancing was still part of the scenario. While praising Lloyd Webber for the pilot performance at the London Palladium last week, he believed the experiment had “exposed the artistic and commercial bankruptcy of trying to apply social distancing to indoor mainstream theatre”.
These comments followed rumours that if the show did return to London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre it wouldn’t be the original version directed by Hal Prince, but a downsized staging.
However, RUG president Jessica Koravos told The Stage that not only would the original staging would be back at Her Majesty’s but Phantom would remain “the longest-running musical in the West End”.
In the meantime Koravos explained that a huge amount of renovation work was required to the production, in particular to designer Maria Björnson’s set, as well as vital repairs to the theatre’s foundations. The plan had been for this work to take place in the future, but as a result of the show being forced to close due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the renovation process had already begun.
“So we have two layers of work that need to happen – to build a whole new set, essentially, and to do repairs on the building, which we can’t get the full measure of until all the set is out,” Koravos said to The Stage.
“We are in the process of designing and costing it now, but all the modern technology that exists now and didn’t 35 years ago will be incorporated. It will be Maria Björnson’s design, it will be the original version. It is not a new version of the show – it will be the original Phantom.”