Phantom of the Opera has been running on Broadway for more than 25 years—an impossibly long time—and it shows its age. But in 1988, it was the hottest shit going, and it had the splashy premiere to prove it.
Today the New York Daily News throws it back to its January 1988 coverage of the Phantom premiere festivities. The tab’s coverage emphasized the sheer number of stars wearing fur coats: “The several hundred civilian onlookers who braved the 44th St. wind tunnel hoping for a glimpse of Warren Beatty or Molly Ringwald probably saw more endangered species in 15 minutes than they would have seen on a two-year safari in Kenya.” Headline: “Crowd is ready, willing & sable.”
But the reporter did take some time to speak to the show itself:
If any expense has been spared in the production, it doesn’t show — the sets, lighting and other trappings are every bit as spectacular as promised.
The trouble is that there, as with “Cats,” it’s all wrapped around Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, which, for those who have never opened that old “Jesus Christ Superstar” record, may be one of the few things less interesting than a Super Bowl. Unlike the Super Bowl, you can’t even bet on it, unless you count that $17 million in advance ticket sales.
But no matter. This show is what MTV would be if it had the national defense budget to work with—a whirlwind of lights, smoke and mysterious moments choreographed and scored to suggest profundity.
Yes, Phantom is the Broadway equivalent of Mötley Crüe. Will I apologize to my family for my preteen Phantom phase? Never.
At any rate, the show was clearly quite popular with famous faces. Corroborating the Daily News report are the archives of the Associated Press, which are jam-packed with shots of celebs meeting the cast. Here’s Ted Kennedy and Lauren Bacall at a post-preview party at Sardi’s:
Fergie (Sarah Ferguson, then Duchess of York) also got to meet the cast.
Ditto Nancy Reagan.
And, of course, Michael Jackson and Liza Minelli:
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Photos via AP Images.