Theater: A Monster-Meets-Girl Romance the Phantom of the Opera

As the copyright on Gaston Leroux's 1911 thriller The Phantom of the Opera expired this year, plans were announced for no fewer than three competing musical adaptations. The flurry of interest was perplexing. Leroux's tale, part horror melodrama, part bodice-ripping gothic, seemed too grim and kinky for a musical. The central character is, after all, not only hideously ugly but an extortionist, kidnaper, incendiary and megalomaniac -- and the heroine must at least halfway fall in love with him.

The winners of the race to stage a Phantom in a major commercial setting, Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and Director Harold Prince,...

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