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Were You at Phantom for Its Reopening? Our Resident Phan Gives Us All the Pheels

The Phantom of the Opera officially returned to Broadway on Friday, October 22.

The Broadway Phantom of the Opera cast takes its first curtain call on reopening night
(© Jeremy Daniel)

I've told my The Phantom of the Opera story since 2003. When people find out I've seen the show more than 30 times, they're curious about how and when the obsession began. Strangely enough, my love of the longest-running musical in Broadway history began with my not wanting to go in the first place.

My mother, hoping that her daughters would love musical theater as much as she did, bought tickets to the tour of Phantom for our birthday. The day of the show came, we bundled up and (begrudgingly) headed to the theater on the day that would became my Phanniversary. She was right. I loved it.

I didn't see the show in New York until 2009, but my obsession grew as I consumed any iteration of Phantom that I could, eventually seeing the show around the country and world. In probably the most serendipitous instance, I was able to catch the world tour when it stopped in Daegu, South Korea (I was working as an English teacher in Seoul). The Phantom at the time was played by Brad Little — it had been 11 years since I'd seen him play the role that fateful matinee that started it all.

Eventually, my twin sister, also a huge phan, convinced me to take a job in New York in large part because the office was down the street from the Majestic Theatre, where Phantom has played since it opened in 1988. My proximity to the show allowed me to see it whenever I wanted. More than once, we stopped by the show because of an understudy announcement, allowing me to double my show count in less than three years. I had seen it 36 times in January 2020, expecting to hit at least 40 before the year was out.

The author (left) and her sister Francesca at the reopening of Phantom of the Opera on October 22.
(image provided by Christina DiCillo)

The pandemic hit fever pitch just before my 17th Phanniversary. I passed the day in isolation, as the city became overwhelmed by the pandemic. I thought that my sister and I would make up for it with a bigger celebration on the 18th , but COVID raged on and my Phantom-less days stretched into the following year. When the reopening date was finally announced, I knew I had to be there. It wasn't until I could step foot back in the Majestic and see the chandelier rise that I felt like a piece of my heart had finally healed. Broadway has been coming back to life since August, and I've been in the audience for a handful of shows since the lights have been back on. I attended the invited dress for Phantom (No. 37) and was overjoyed, but watching the chandelier rise for its official reopening on Friday night made me feel like Broadway was whole again now that ''Phantom'' was haunting the stage once more.

Nothing could compare to the energy in the theater that night. The moment the chandelier sparked and the overture began, the audience applauded and cheered wildly as it finally rose triumphantly after 586 days. The cast matched the enthusiasm of the audience, their happiness reflected by adoring masses ecstatic to see them back.

Eagle-eyed phans will notice some slight adjustments to lyrics and blocking in the show's current version, but at its heart, the show that has captured the hearts of millions worldwide is still lush and rich, and its 28-piece orchestra still intact.

At least half a dozen times during the night, I cried tears of joy after more than 18 months of separation from my favorite show.

I left the theater with that unique buoyancy that one gets after being part of something larger than oneself (and not just because Andrew Lloyd Webber did a surprise DJ set on 44th Street right after the show). The piece of my heart that the pandemic had stolen was returned to me that night. After nearly two decades as a phan, my numbers stand thus: 38 live performances, 19 Christines, 16 Phantoms, 16 Raouls, one full heart. This is Phantom. This is Broadway, alive once again.

Andrew Lloyd Webber in a DJ booth set up on 44th Street after the performance
(© Jenny Anderson)
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