" When I strolled into that old junk - shop and browsed through the tatty books my mind was on other matters ...
Dracula had been a howling success at the Lancaster Repertory Theatre, and they were screaming for another idea. One with the same "thrills and laughter" they insisted. But what? I'd had a lot of success translating classic tales of romance
and drama into theatrical entertainment with songs, plenty of action, and a good layer of laughter on top, but I didn't want to do another Dumas or Hugo or Stoker. Then the old book fell on the floor: The Phantom of the Opera by
Gaston Leroux. Had there been such a book? Some tired old story about a composer having acid thrown in his face and his manuscript stolen, wasn't it? Hammer Horror remakes Universal Pictures. Still ... an interesting title.
By the time I arrived In Lancaster for the next Production Meeting I knew I had found their next popular piece. Universal and Hammer had ruined the story; there was a lot more to it. It was a great tale of romance and chills, a myth. Moreover, I saw how to keep it human for Lancaster, how to keep the fun they wanted flowing. After all, if YOU were a pompous little Theatre Manager with the vexing task of running a respectable Opera Company with some lunatic hiding out in the building ...
Nor need this detract from the true pathos of the Phantom and his blind love: for this was always in another place, hidden. We could have comedy AND drama.
Then in 1984 with the same scenery and musical arrangements you are now seeing - with tunes from Opera lovingly fitted to banal words in true operatic tradition - it exploded onto the Theatre Workshop stage in London to almost universal love and acclaim. In the audience sat Andrew Lloyd Webber and
Cameron Mackintosh. They'd like to talk to me about it ... but that's another story.
Enjoy it. It's all fun. Though it has its serious bits. As in life ... "