My First Broadway Show: Phantom of the Opera Sparks a Lifetime Habit

By Adam Hetrick
21 Jan 2013

Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman were the first pair to play the Phantom and Christine on Broadway when the show opened Jan. 26, 1988
Photo by Clive Barda

Phantom had opened three years prior and was still a hard to come-by ticket. Our mezzanine seats were $50; my parents bought tickets nearly a year in advance as a birthday present.

My dad still talks about my reaction during those first ominous notes of the overture. As the chandelier sparked to life over the blare of the organ, I squeezed his hands and beamed with the kind of exhilaration and anticipation you feel going down the first hill on a rollercoaster. I never wanted it to end. Thankfully, it hasn't. On Jan. 26, The Phantom of the Opera celebrates its 25th anniversary on Broadway — the longest a show has ever run on The Great White Way. 

A theatregoing tradition was born for me that day in August. From then on I would sit between my parents for every show we saw together. I treasure memories of my mom touching my arm as Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan fell in love during Carousel, and seeing her well-up with emotion as the company of Les Misérables returned to solemnly whisper "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

I've revisited Phantom numerous times since that first time. The theatre opened my eyes to a unique world of storytelling that wasn't literal like the movies. The audience was an active participant in the experience. I learned that theatre requires a company of very special and dedicated people, some of whom we never see, to create hand-made magic for audiences every night.

Harold Prince, the record Tony Award-winning director of both Night Music and Phantom, worked with scenic designer Maria Björnson to conceive a small black jewel box where our imaginations are set free. Glittering and shadow-filled, Phantom's story, like its leading man, emerges from the darkness and sweeps us up in music and menace. As an audience, we are asked to participate in the process by completing the suggestive stage pictures that Prince and his team present.

Buy the 25th-anniversary limited-edition commemorative Phantom Playbill at