Prologue--1911. An auction is being held on the stage of the Paris Opera House. One of the items for sale is a musical box with the figure of a mechanical monkey. An old man bids for it, and it seems to hold some special memory for him. This man is Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny.
The next item is the remains of a great chandelier. The auctioneer calls for a demonstration of the new wiring, and suddenly the chandelier rises to the ceiling of the theatre, transporting the stage back to the time of Raoul's youth.
1881--The Opera company is rehearsing a new opera, Hannibal. The manager of the Opera arrives and announces his retirement. The new managers, André and Firmin are introduced. André asks Carlotta, the company's prima donna, to perform a piece from the opera for them. As she is singing, a backdrop falls suddenly, almost killing her. Buquet, the chief flyman, is called, but he can offer no explanation. The ballet girls whisper that it must be the work of the "opera ghost".
Carlotta is furious and storms out, vowing not to return until these strange occurrences stop happening. The new managers, who are now left without a leading lady, have their problems added to when Madame Giry, the ballet mistress, hands them a note from the opera ghost, in which he demands a salary and the use of Box Five for the opera.
Meg Giry, Madame Giry's daughter, suggests to the managers that her friend Christine Daaé could take Carlotta's place. Christine has been taking singing lessons, but claims she does not know from whom. At Madame Giry's insistence the managers grant her an audition.
Christine's performance meets their approval and she performs the role in the opera. Raoul, a new patron of the Opera House, watches from the managers' box and applauds her performance. These sentiments are echoed by an unseen voice.
Meg asks Christine about her teacher, but all Christine can tell her that it is the "Angel of Music" which her late father had promised he would send to her. She has only heard him in her dressing room; she has never seen him.
Raoul goes backstage to her dressing room to congratulate Christine. They realize that they were playmates as children. Raoul insists on taking her out to dinner and leaves to get his coat.
As soon as he is gone, the strange voice is heard again, and gradually a figure appears behind the mirror. It is the Phantom, her Angel of Music. The mirror glides open and the Phantom draws Christine inside with him. Raoul returns and hears the voice, but the door is locked. Suddenly it opens, but when Raoul enters the room, the mirror has slid shut and it is empty.
Christine and the Phantom journey through the labyrinth beneath the Opera House, crossing a lake to arrive at the Phantom's lair. It is here that he explains to her why he has been teaching her--so that she may sing his music.
Christine falls into a trance and wakes the next morning to the sound of a musical box, the same one from the opening scene. The Phantom is seated at his organ, absorbed in his composition. Christine quietly approaches him and unmasks his from behind. Furious, he turns on her, and Christine recoils from the horror of his face and his anger. Once his anger is spent, he breaks down, and Christine, moved by pity, returns his mask. He takes her back to the surface.
Buquet catches sight of the pair as they return. Madame Giry also witnesses the scene, and cautions Buquet not to speak of what he has seen.
There is confusion everywhere surrounding Christine's sudden disappearance. Raoul, Carlotta, Piangi, Madame Giry and Meg all meet in the managers' offices, brandishing notes from the Phantom. The demand that catches the attention of the managers is that Carlotta be replaced by Christine in the lead role of the upcoming opera Il Muto.
The group learns of Christine's return, and the managers reassure Carlotta that she will remain the star. The Phantom's voice is heard warning them against that course of action.
For the performance, Raoul sits in Box Five and Christine is cast in a silent role. The Phantom interrupts the show, repeating his demands, and when these are still ignored, he magically causes Carlotta to croak like a toad instead of singing.
The managers give in to the Phantom and offer a ballet sequence while Christine changes for the performance. During the ballet, however, Buquet's body, hung with the Punjab lasso, falls from the flies. In the ensuing panic, Christine and Raoul flee to the roof.
There she tells him of her experiences with the Phantom. Raoul is incredulous, but offers her protection. They profess their love for each other, and agree to leave together that night.
Once they leave, the Phantom emerges from where he has been listening and vows revenge. As the cast of Il Muto are taking their bows, he brings down the chandelier, which lands at Christine's feet on the stage.
Six months later--The Opera is having a masked ball to celebrate the New Year. Raoul and Christine have become engages, but Christine wished to keep the fact a secret, wearing the engagement ring on a chain around her neck. However, in the middle of the ball, a figure dressed as Red Death appears on the staircase. It is the Phantom. He gives the score of his opera to André, demanding that is be performed. He tears the engagement ring from Christine's neck and disappears.
Raoul questions Madame Giry about the Phantom, and she tells him what she knows...that he is a deformed genius who escaped from a freak show, and was presumed dead, but that he still lives somewhere in the Opera House.
André and Firmin have no wish to perform the Phantom's work. However, Raoul proposes a plan, in which they go along with his plans, and then, when he attends the performance, they will be prepared. Christine does not want to become involved, but eventually agrees.
Christine goes to visit her father's grave. While there, the Phantom appears and attempts to regain his influence over her. However, Raoul arrives and takes Christine away. The Phantom is furious and declares war on them both.
The performance of Don Juan Triumphant, the Phantom's opera, begins. Police officers have secured all the doors. As the opera progresses, it becomes obvious that Piangi has been replaced by another singer. Christine realizes this, and unmasks him in front of the audience. Police rush onto the stage, but the Phantom is able to take Christine and escape. Piangi, who has also met with the Punjab lasso, is discovered behind the scenes.
Raoul attempts to follow the Phantom, and he is aided by Madame Giry. She shows him the way to the lake. They are followed by an angry mob.
Down in the Phantom's lair, Christine confronts the Phantom with the fact that his true disfigurement is that of his soul, not his face. Raoul arrives, and the Phantom lets him in, only to trap him in a noose and offer Christine an ultimatum: either she stays with him, or Raoul dies. Christine's answer is to kiss him.
Stunned by this act, the Phantom lets them both go. Christine comes back to return his ring, and he tells her he loves her. She leaves with Raoul in the boat. As the mob draws in to the lair, the Phantom sits in his throne, drawing his cloak around him. Meg is the first to arrive, and she approaches the throne and tears the cloak away. All that is left is the Phantom's mask.
London: Premiere--Her Majesty's Theatre, October 9, 1986
Christine Daaé--Sarah Brightman
Ticket information: in England at 0171 494 5400, and internationally at 44 171 344 4444
Broadway: Premiere--Majestic Theatre, January 26, 1988
Christine Daaé--Sarah Brightman
Ticket information: 212-239-6200
Toronto: Premiere--Pantages Theatre, September 20, 1989
Christine Daaé--Rebecca Caine
Closed - October 31, 1999
The show has also played in Japan, Hong Kong, Hamburg, Switzerland, Australia, and Holland. There have been three touring companies in the States, one in Canada, and one in the U.K.
A very good book on the Phantom is George Perry's The Complete Phantom of the Opera, which includes information on the original story, movie versions, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical.