The Phantom of the Opera has been forced to close in the West End for good due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber show was London’s second-longest-running musical, but due to the financial impacts of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on theatres it has been forced to give up the ghost after 34 years.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh wrote in the Evening Standard: “Andrew and I have had to sadly permanently shut down our London and UK touring productions of The Phantom of the Opera.”
The show – which tells the story of a hideously disfigured, masked musician living beneath the Paris Opera House – has been running at Her Majesty's Theatre on London’s Haymarket since its debut in 1986.
Mackintosh said he is “determined to bring it back to London in the future”.
The longest-running musical in London’s West End is Les Misérables, another of Mackintosh’s productions, which opened in 1980.
The successful theatre producer – whose shows include recent hit Hamilton – has condemned the government’s plans to allow indoor theatres to reopen only with social distancing measures in place.
Mackintosh said it was a “disaster” for the industry and that the promise of a £1.57bn rescue fund for the arts “still hasn’t materialised”.
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He went on: “But even without [social distancing], we will need at least four months to remount our productions, rebuild our advance bookings and public confidence and bring our artists back to performance pitch.”
Last week Baron Lloyd-Webber staged a socially distanced performance by Beverley Knight at the London Palladium, overseen by Public Health England.
Guests were seated apart, with whole rows left empty and the audience were asked to wear face masks.
Lloyd Webber called it a “sad sight” and admitted that social distancing at indoor performances is unlikely to work.
The national advisory body for theatres has warned that box office revenue is down by more than £300m since the start of lockdown, threatening dozens of theatres with closure.
Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group said it is losing up to £6m a week in box office sales, while Shakespeare's Globe and the Old Vic warned their financial losses could mean they would be forced to close down permanently.
This week will see Sherlock and Fleabag star Andrew Scott leading new play Three Kings at London’s Old Vic theatre – performing to an empty audience. Tickets are available for viewers to watch the live stream of the show from home.