Lloyd Webber and Crawford in surprise Phantom appearance in West End
West End veterans Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Crawford delighted theatregoers with a surprise stage appearance to celebrate the 30th anniversary of global hit musical The Phantom Of The Opera.
The crowd screamed and applauded as cast members pulled back sheets to reveal Lord Lloyd-Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre in London on Monday night.
After the pair reminisced about their favourite memories from the show's history around the world, cast members past and present - including the original West End Phantom, Michael Crawford - joined in a special finale performance that had been kept secret from the audience.
One moment even saw current and past Phantom actors Ben Forster and Michael Ball almost share a romantic kiss as they sang to each other.
Speaking after the show, Mackintosh, who celebrates his 70th birthday this month, said the extra show was only finished hours before the production.
He said: "I couldn't believe how many people are here - and it has been the best September I can remember in the West End."
Adding that the prospect of Brexit has done nothing to deter foreign visitors from buying tickets to classic shows, he said: "There is no doubt that the theatre is benefiting."
Asked how the show, which he first produced in 1986, became one of the most successful productions of all time, he said: "There is an alchemy about this piece, particularly on this stage. You cannot put your finger on it."
Originally an idea Lord Lloyd-Webber floated past Mackintosh over the phone as the latter enjoyed an evening bath, The Phantom Of The Opera, based on Gaston Leroux's 1911 novella, is performed in 35 countries and has been seen by more than 140 million people.
Forster, 35, who came to Lord Lloyd-Webber's attention when he won ITV's Superstar competition in 2012, said the show's success came down to it being both "the most beautiful love story and the most tragic tragedy".
He added: "When Andrew asked me to do it it was my dream come true - but then the terror set in as I realised I had to deliver to 30 years worth of fans.
"But the thing that relates to an audience is being honest in the way you present that character and that's what I do. I've never been happier in my life."
Nadim Naaman, who plays romantic hero Raoul, attributed the show's success to a combination of Lord Lloyd-Webber's original score, which "sends shivers up and down your body", and the authentic period set design and costumes which "don't keep it dated in the 80s".
Revealing how he got starstruck meeting Crawford, 74, he said: "To see him be so humble and gracious about the whole thing and care so much about the character he created is very lovely.
"The Phantom is a psychopath with lovable tendencies and he will give you at least 100 reasons to love him.
"I feel very privileged to happen to be in the show when an anniversary comes along, and to be on stage with the people who have been involved all the way along is something I won't forget in a hurry."
Lord Lloyd-Webber, who added there are moments in the show that still give him "goosebumps", said: "A huge thank you to everyone who made the original production possible, to all those who have nurtured it through the years and the audiences who have come to see the show."