The West End's second longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, came of age last night (9 October 2007), celebrating its 21st birthday at Her Majesty’s Theatre, where it’s currently booking through September 2008 (See Also Today’s WOS TV).

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, with book and lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, is based on Gaston Leroux's gothic novel about a masked man who falls in love with an ingénue singer at the Paris Opera House. It premiered on 9 October 1986 at Her Majesty’s, directed by Harold Prince and starring Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, who became international stars as the Phantom and Christine, the object of his affections.

The West End production of The Phantom of the Opera now stars Ramin Karimloo, who last month became the youngest ever actor cast in the title role in the West End, Robyn North and Leila Benn Harris, who alternate in the role of ingénue singer Christine, Alex Rathgeber as Raoul, Benjamin Lake as Piangi, Wendy Ferguson as Carlotta, James Barron as Monsieur Firmin, Sam Hiller as Monsieur André, Heather Jackson as Madame Giry and Lyndsey Wise as Meg Giry.

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For Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for The Phantom of the Opera curtain call and cake cutting at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

In 1999, The Phantom of the Opera was named the 20th century's most successful money-making show, dwarfing even blockbuster Hollywood films like Titanic at the box office. In December 2004, Lloyd Webber released the £55 million big screen version, directed by Joel Schumacher.

Worldwide, the stage version has been seen in 124 cities in 25 countries, played to over 100 million people, grossed over £1.7 billion and won 50 major awards, including three Oliviers in London. The Phantom of the Opera became the longest-running show in Broadway history on 9 January 2006 when it celebrated its 7,486th performance, surpassing the previous record holder, Lloyd Webber’s Cats. This coincided with the Broadway and the American touring company celebrating an unprecedented 20,000 performances in the US. The musical is currently playing in London, New York, Budapest, Las Vegas, Singapore and Osaka, and touring the US and Australia.

- by Terri Paddock