9,382 Performances Later, George Lee Andrews Departs Phantom
While today may be a sad day for those involved with Broadway’s The Phantom of The Opera, it is a historic one as well. Now in its 24th year on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera is not only Broadway’s longest running show but holds some history inside of it as well. One of its cast members holds the Guinness World Record for “The Most Performances in the Same Broadway Show”. However, today that all will change as George Lee Andrews will depart The Phantom of the Opera today after 23 years in the production.
George Lee Andrews, who is now 68 years old, began in Phantom in 1988 where he was in the ensemble. He has worked his way up over time to play both Firmin and Andre. Today, his final performance will end with him in the role of Andre. He was shocked to find out last May that Phantom had now renewed his contract for 6 more months like they previously had 40 times in his career with the show. And despite the fact that George Lee Andrew found out this news in May, the Broadway production did not announce this change until just this week.
While the change has shocked many, many people had many different emotions about the whole situation. Some were sad to hear of the news, some were excited for a new change and some sat back and just went “Why is this happening?” We’ve discovered some of the feelings behind the scenes related directly to the people involved with this current situation.
When producers were asked about decision to let Andrews go, many mentioned the idea of a new generation in the story. Producers mentioned the idea to keep a new generation and new appeal to Phantom by switching things up. It was also mentioned in The New York Times that Mr. Mackintosh, the producer, wrote a letter to Andrews on the decision which was made for “new blood in Phantom for indefinite commerical run”. And while that might sound harsh, the letter was apparently very “heartfelt”.
Andrews, in a recent interview, mentioned thinking heavily on the decision but then decided that didn’t make much sense. He said in a recent interview “I’m a live theatre animal. What other show in history could ever give me so much opportunity?” He also said ” I’ve had a career that has been different than any other Broadway actor, but one thing is true for all of us: jobs end.”
I have to say the last quote Andrews is mentioned for saying is so true. While many people are very talented and have had the opportunity to have gifted pasts on Broadway, the theatre world does have endings. And each persons own time in a show, will come and go. However, I do have to say I think it is interesting that the producers directly decided to tell Andrews why he was released.
While it makes sense for any Broadway producer to have the best commercial interest in mind for their show, Phantom of the Opera is not exactly fighting people to get back their investment. The production has earned $825 million dollars in New York alone in its 24 years and is gearing up for an epic 25th anniversary. Over 14.5 million people have seen Andrews in the production. He has seen 12 different people play the title role while in the production.
I have to say I think George Lee Andrews should be applauded for his work in The Phantom of the Opera for the past 23 years. Not only for becoming such a part of the history of a show but also the history of Broadway. Can you imagine performing the same roles night after night for close to 23 years? Or can you imagine not really getting to see too many other shows on Broadway for the past 23 years? Incredible. Outstanding. And while I may not be a fan of The Phantom of the Opera, Andrews work has been remarkable and deserves applause.
I’m not going to end this article by asking you if you think it was right or not for producers to let George Lee Andrews go after 23 years, because thats the business. And while it may upset many of us to see some of our favorite people go in certain productions, every person will have their time come and go on Broadway whether they or you believe that or not. Phantom of the Opera still to this day is playing at The Majestic Theatre in New York City. You can check out The Phantom of the Opera’s Official Website for more information. And of course like always, feel free to leave any comments or thoughts you might have on this or any other subject. Stay tuned to Luner on Theatre for all your need to know Broadway news and so much more!