As The Phantom Of The Opera celebrates its 30th anniversary, theatre-goers in London got a special surprise when its original star, the superb Michael Crawford, stepped on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre last Monday night.
The actor received a standing ovation lasting several minutes and sang "Happy Birthday" during the shows' special finale.
"It's quite thrilling to be back," Crawford said to the BBC after the performance. "It's a very, very special show in a very, very special theatre. It's wonderful to see the amazing company tonight. It's the most superb show. This was one of the last great musicals where a lot of money was spent."
Crawford had been on stage in another West End show, the musical The Go-Between, when he finished his performance and rushed to make his appearance. The Go-Between ends its run later this week, and, having already been on stage earlier in the evening and joining The Phantom of The Opera cast on stage, Crawford quipped, "I have to pray I've got a voice tomorrow; we've still got five days to go."
The Phantom of the Opera opened in the West End on October 9, 1986 (the same year I was born ... daunting thought!), and Crawford starred alongside Sarah Brightman, who played Christine. Today, it is the West End's third longest running show, with only The Mouse Trap and Les Miserables having had more performances.