Maury Yeston On Phantom
Maury Yeston's version of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera never made it to Broadway, and the legendary composer and musicologist couldn't be happier. For over a decade, the show, which he co-wrote with Arthur Kopit (the duo won two Tony Awards for Nine- Yeston has another two for his work on the Titanic musical), has become an international smash, playing regional theatres across the country and abroad, earning raves everywhere it goes. "They nickname it 'the biggest show never to play Broadway,'" Yeston said proudly, "It's succeeded both critically and commercially all over the world. The public has taken this show to its heart and that's a far greater experience than being on Broadway."
Phantom was originally poised to hit the Broadway stage in the late 1980s, but when Andrew Lloyd Webber went public with his intentions for a show of his own (we know how that turned out), financing fell through for Kopit and Yeston's version. While ALW's show became a hit on Broadway, the duo explored other avenues (Yeston went on to make Grand Hotel for Broadway) - that was until 1991 when the show played to raves at Theatre Under the Stars in Houston. That success led to additional productions, notably at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Musical Theatre and the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Chicago.
Westchester Broadway Theatre brought Phantom to its stage for the first time in July 1992. The show broke records and became WBT's longest-running show in its 33-year history. The show returned in 1996 and 2007 and found similar results. With that said, it's no wonder why the production is back at WBT now through Jan 27, 2019.
Maury Yeston on PHANTOM
Phantom opens at WBT on September 13th. What do you think about The venue?
"It is one of the great jewels in the crown of American Theatre. They draw upon world-class talent from New York and locally. They draw brilliant directors and have a tradition of starting brilliant young people who can say they got their start at Westchester Broadway Theatre. They’re one of the first ones and one of the best in the world. And, I’ve traveled all over the world. They’re right up there with the top: Chicago, Boston, Houston, Silicon Valley…The Westchester community should be extremely honored to have them. I saw all three productions of Phantom [at WBT]. With the combination of their design, use of hydraulics, and use of space, there’s a fluidity and theatricality to it that’s really unparalleled. The cast is just extraordinary."
Your show is labeled the "other" Phantom, but many critics seem to point out how much better it is than Andrew Lloyd Webber's version. What do you make of the success Phantom has had despite not being on Broadway?
"It's earned its right with audiences all over America. It used to be you'd do a show on Broadway, it gets the attention of the whole world, and maybe you win a Tony Award. [If you couldn't get the show on Broadway], you'd rent it out to regional theatre. Broadway was where you'd see cutting-edge new shows, and regional theatre was where you'd see yet another Guys and Dolls or Oklahoma. There's been a massive shift. Now, very much what you see on Broadway is - 50-to-75 percent revival and regional theatre is where you see an exciting new show. My show Phantom travels around the country from [large to small venues.] The production of our Phantom had a way of uniting all theatres around the world for what was a massive hit. This is a unique show. Arthur and I worked very hard. We did it out of the love of the subject matter long before Andrew Lloyd Webber."
Have you seen Andrew Lloyd Webber's version on Broadway?
" I've never seen the show, and I'm sure he's never seen mine, but I have tremendous respect for him. The only thing I did the same way Cameron Mackintosh did was, I invested in logo design for the show and made it available. We're also very fortunate to have done an album. Anywhere the show is, people can buy the cast album. It has an all-world marketing effect without having to be on Broadway."
If the opportunity came along for your Phantom to be on Broadway would you consider it?
"Never say never, but I have no interest in doing it at all. There's already a Phantom on Broadway, why would you want to see two? There's one Phantom on Broadway, but my Phantom's been everywhere - twice in Japan. It wouldn't make sense."