Phantom of the Opera is Broadway’s longest running show, having occupied the Majestic Theatre since 1988. The show has been a fixture in New York for decades, usually acting as an introductory rite for newcomers to theater.
From the show’s website:
The longest-running show in Broadway history, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera debuted in 1988, winning seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.
Based on Gaston Leroux’s horror novel, it tells the enticing story of The Phantom, who haunts the stage of the Paris Opera and subsequently falls in love with a beautiful young soprano. Audiences are in for a thrilling night of spectacle and romance, accompanied by an unforgettable musical score.
As Broadway’s oldest running production, Phantom opened long before the proliferation of what are now considered production mainstays in theater. The show debuted without stalwarts from companies like ETC, Meyer Sound or d&b audiotechnik, instead relying on custom solutions.
Phantom of the Opera in its uncovered state.
Phantom covered up. This is what audiences see as they first enter into the theater.
Let’s focus on the new first.
The Majestic Theatre features three zones: an orchestra, a front mezzanine and a rear mezzanine. Phantom‘s mezzanine runs deep, requiring an additional zone of coverage for the front and the rear. To cover these sections, the production relies heavily on a fresh install of Meyer Sound’s LINA line array element, with three distinct arrays.
Covering the orchestra, Phantom uses a groundstacked array of seven LINA line array elements on top of a 750-LFC subwoofer hidden cleverly behind a faux proscenium on either side. d&b audiotechnik E0s provide front fill while Meyer Sound UPJuniors provide side fill.
LINA says peek-a-boo!
To cover the front mezzanine, Phantom uses a five-box LINA array alongside four 750-LFCs. Side fills are provided by a d&b audiotechnik Ci80 mounted underneath a Meyer Sound 600-HP subwoofer.
The rear mezzanine is covered by an eight-box array of Meyer Sound LINA with additional delays provided by eight Meyer Sound ULTRA-X20s.
Finally, d&b audiotechnik E0s and Meyer Sound UMS-1P subwoofers are used throughout the theater for supplemental delays.
As you might have guessed, the LINAs, 750-LFCs and ULTRA-X20s are new. Meanwhile, the d&b audiotechnik E0s, Ci80s and Meyer UMS-1Ps are remnants from Phantom’s prior system, still providing useful service.
For lighting, Phantom is unapologetically old school. You won’t find any moving heads here. You won’t even find much of a presence from ETC. Instead, you’ll find an abundance of ellipsoidals from Altman with a few fresnels from Strand. That’s…about it.
Whew. That was easy.
Fun fact: Altman was once headquartered near the Majestic. Cool, huh?
So what’s the verdict on Broadway’s oldest running show? For one, Phantom has never sounded better. Having seen iterations of Phantom on tour and in Vegas, New York’s production ranks near the top, if not at the top. Considering the inherent advantages that Vegas had with their production, I think that’s mighty hard to accomplish in a historic New York theater.
Remember the quip about custom solutions? Phantom is a classic example of a show that used whatever audio was available at the time. Most of it state of the art, but very few of it standardized across the industry.
Here’s an example. Notice the black disks? Those are, or were, part of Phantom‘s sound system. They may still be used for effects, I’m not certain. But the fact that they remain gives us a nice glimpse into the past of how productions used to stage their audio. Most other visible traces of Phantom’s original sound are long gone.
Now, most Broadway shows use standardized audio solutions from Meyer Sound or d&b audiotechnik with a few entries from L-Acoustics or Alcons Audio scattered about. These systems are of course deployed with precision and care, but the era of custom custom solutions seems to be over.
As for lighting? More so than Wicked, Phantom looks as good as it ever has. Which is to say, fairly the same. In Phantom‘s case, that isn’t a bad thing at all.
- Meyer Sound LINA
- Meyer Sound 750-LFC
- Meyer Sound ULTRA-X20
- Meyer Sound UPJunior
- Meyer Sound 600-HP
- Meyer Sound UMS-1P
- d&b audiotechnik E0
- d&b audiotechnik Ci80
- Altman ellipsoidals
- Strand fresnels