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The era of modern spectacle culminates with The Phantom of the Opera

Photo caption: The intricacies of set construction often require skills such as welding.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera attracted such attention and interest that it virtually dominated the theatrical season - and brought revived interest in the legitimate stage.

This fully-automated show used every effect available to re-create the misty waterways of the Paris sewers or the city’s nighttime skyline.  IA carpenters constructed the interior of the Paris Opera house complete with box seats and grand staircase.  They built a tilting bridge and a massive grid that flew up or down but that had to be strong enough to support the weight of actors climbing on it.  Special effects included pyrotechnics of every sort, and everything was fully automated.  Computers, operated by stagehands, controlled props and equipment ranging from the phantom’s boat to the candelabra that swept in and out and up and down the stage.

It was theatrical spectacle at its finest.  Critics complained about the lavishness and audiences kept the show sold out for many months.  In fact, Phantom had advance sales of more than $16 million.