|Introduction Latest News The Show Productions Ken Hill The Archives Website|
1. Who is Ken Hill?
Ken Hill (28 January 1937 - 23 January 1995) was a critically acclaimed British playwright and theatre director. He was a protege of Joan Littlewood at Theatre Workshop and was perhaps happiest directing chaotic musicals on the tiny stage of the Theatre Royal Stratford East, Theatre Workshop's home in Stratford, East London. He also had hits in the West End and abroad, among them The Invisible Man and the original stage version of The Phantom of the Opera, which inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber to create his famed musical blockbuster of the same title. You can read Ken's full biography by clicking here.
Ken Hill's Phantom was adapted from the original 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. It's also the show's primary source of inspiration, but identifies some of the more amusing aspects of the story. Another source could be the 1925 silent Phantom movie, starring Lon Chaney as The Phantom. A reason for this could be put down to Hill's own enjoyment of creating "monster" musicals from stories such as The Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy's Tomb and Curse of the Werewolf, which had all been "horror" movies.
Ken Hill's Phantom was first presented in a production by the Duke’s Playhouse, Lancaster on 26 July 1976. It was directed by John Blackmore, designed by Clare Lyth, with musical direction by Gary Yershon. This makes it the first Phantom musical in existence, pre-dating the Lloyd-Webber version by ten years!
In the revised version of Phantom [see below for information on the revisions], Hill wanted his audience to hear the kind of music that would have been heard at the Paris Opera House in the late nineteenth century, the time period in which the story of The Phantom of the Opera is set. He took music from beautiful opera arias by Gounod, Offenbach, Verdi, Weber and Donizetti and wrote witty, original English lyrics that told Gaston Leroux’s tale, to accompany them. The music was out-of-copyright, which meant that Hill had a free reign to use what he needed. This way of putting new lyrics to old music created a musical that reflected the era in which the original novel was written.
Yes there are, although the first has long-since been discarded. Only the revised version remains today. The first version was created in 1976 - it had a modern score written by Ian Armit in addition to excerpts from Faust by Charles Gounod. This version was only ever intended as a one-off production. The later revised version was created in 1984 and this is the version which has toured the world to great critical acclaim and exists today. The score from the 1976 version was discarded and music from opera arias [as described above] made up the score in it's place. The script was also reworked.
Wrong! The show has enjoyed a lot of success around the world, particuarly in Japan and the UK where there have been several national tours. The first US productions in St. Louis and San Francisco were very well received: Sal Mistretta, who played The Phantom in the 1987 St. Louis American premiere, even won the St. Louis Theatre Critics Award for his performance. The US tour, which began in 1989, ran for five years visiting approximately 110 cities and grossing $72 million! When the show played the West End, it was nominated for two of the most prestigious Olivier Awards (equivalent of the Broadway Tony Awards): Best New Musical (it was one of only two shows nominated!) and Best Director of a Musical (Hill was up against Simon Callow and Judi Dench in the same category!).
That's a matter of opinion. The mistake people often make when seeing Hill's Phantom, is in comparing it to the Lloyd-Webber counterpart. I urge you to see the show for yourself and then make your own opinion. Just listening to the cast recording, or reading the script, does not give you the full experience of seeing a live performance. Particularly as the cast recording only contains the songs and music in Hill's Phantom, and none of the dialogue.
Sarah Brightman has never been involved with Ken Hill's Phantom of the Opera. She was offered the part of Christine in the 1984 production, when Hill's Phantom came into London at Stratford East, but Brightman turned the offer down. Two years later, she became the original Christine in Lloyd Webber's own Phantom musical. Christina Collier, who was an opera singer, continued in the role of Christine in the Hill version instead.
Piecing together the details has been hard, due to conflicting reports and Lloyd Webber's reluctance to acknowledge the part Hill's Phantom had in creating his. But the general concensus is that the Hill version of Phantom at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East did indeed inspire the Andrew Lloyd Webber smash-hit musical of the same title. In recent years, this has been admitted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh on the documentary about their Phantom, entitled "Behind The Mask". Andrew Lloyd Webber, who at the time was married to Sarah Brightman [see information about her above], and Cameron Mackintosh attended a performance of Hill’s Phantom at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and, prompted by the good reviews, approached Hill about the possibility of their collaborating on developing a grand scale version of his Phantom for the West End. Webber and his producer, Cameron Mackintosh had been highly enthusiastic when they broached Hill about his Phantom of the Opera - Hill even said later, "Andrew was over the moon about it. I was bought lots of bottles of wine to be persuaded not to direct it, so we could get somebody else." However, Webber stopped calling a few months later, without a further word to Hill, and announced plans for his own Phantom musical. Hill said, "I'm not the slightest bit bitter about it. It happens in show biz all the time. After all, Phantom was public domain; he had a perfect right to do it ... though he could have sent me a postcard about it, or something!"
The libretto, containing the lyrics and script, was published by Samuel French in London, in 1994. It can be purchased direct from them and from a number of other bookstores - please click here for information.
The amateur performance rights for Ken Hill's Phantom of the Opera are handled by Samuel French in London. To license an amateur production, contact them at: Samuel French Ltd, 52 Fitzroy Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 5JR, UK. Samuel French have agents in Australia, East Africa, India, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa (including Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho), Zimbabwe, United States (offices in New York and California), and Canada. So theoretically, Phantom can be produced in any one of those countries. Please click here for more information.
From time to time, yes. Keep checking the Productions section of the website for updates. Aside from professional productions, there may be many amateur productions taking place that we don't know about - check your local press and theatre groups for details. The most recent professional production took place in Tokyo, Japan in November 2004.