Broadway's "Phantom Of The Opera," which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is beloved the world over for its haunting music and bittersweet love story. But there is something else that separates it from other musicals -- the fans. NY1's Arts reporter Stephanie Simon filed the following report.
After 25 years, "Phantom Of The Opera" is by far the most successful Broadway show of all time. It is a phenomenon and that is thanks in part to its fans, or rather, "phans" who have come to the Majestic Theater dozens and dozens of times.
Sitting front row in full costume, or collecting "Phantom memorabilia," phans show dedication in many different ways.
"In my house I do recordings of myself singing as Christine," says Casey Simyak, a phan.
About 15 million people have seen "Phantom Of The Opera" on Broadway and 135 million have seen it around the world. The the show's devotees, the magic, music and love story never get old.
Plus, many phans say they relate to the Phantom as the outsider. One might say these fans are like the obsessive followers of Star Trek, known as "trekkies."
"I think trekkies are a little bit more creepy than we are," says a phan sporting the Phantom's half-mask, suit and cape.
Like many phans, Kenny Silver always comes prepared, and brings a sheet of music paper.
"It’s an actual prop from the show," Silver says. "I have just been having cast members and other production members sign it each time I go."
Inside the theater, before starting make-up, leading man Hugh Panaro tells NY1 he is almost always willing to sign an autograph
"We do draw the line. We've gotten the occasional request to 'sign my skin so that I can get a tattoo,'" Panaro says.
He gets stacks of fan mail and handmade gifts.
Holding a doll in a little half-mask and suit, Panaro says, "It's a little baby phantom, completely hand-crocheted."
Panaro says he was bullied as a child and like so many of the fans, he also identifies with the Phantom as a misfit.
"I really think that's a big reason that this show is so successful, that we all can identify with our inner nerd," Panaro says.
It keeps on bringing the "phans" back for more.