Thom Geier
August 23, 2010 AT 08:43 PM EDT

Image Credit: Joan MarcusAs we waited for the new Broadway season to start in earnest, we decided to check out the five longest running shows on the Great White Way to see how they hold up after all this time. First up: the granddaddy of them all, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, which is now in its 23rd year at the Majestic Theatre (it opened back in 1988, two years before Entertainment Weekly started publishing). The musical has played 9,387 performances on Broadway (and counting) and grossed more than $5 billion worldwide in all of its incarnations here and abroad.

The surprise for me was how just how well Phantom still plays on a Broadway stage. (You can check out my full review here.) True, the once jaw-dropping scenic design (and that famed falling crystal chandelier) now seems rather passé. But as fans of Phantom know, the look of the show is but a small reason for its enduring appeal. More important are the story — the romantic love triangle of the up-and-coming soprano Christine, her childhood friend and opera patron Raoul, and the mysterious, mayhem-causing man behind the mask — as well as the lush musical score of Andrew Lloyd Webber at his most Puccini-by-way-of-heavy metal bombastic. The current production is not without its weak patches, but on the whole it’s still worth the Broadway imprimatur (and the Broadway ticket prices). Has anyone else been drawn to listen to Phantom‘s “music of the night” lately, on Broadway or elsewhere?

Tomorrow: I check out the razzle-dazzle of Chicago.

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