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Valentine's Day: One of Broadway's most famous romances, 'The Phantom of the Opera,' celebrates its 25th year

As Valentine's Day arrives, one of the theater's most famous love stories is celebrating its twenty-fifth birthday. 'Phantom' opened on Broadway a few weeks before Valentine's Day in 1988.

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Based on a novel by Gaston Leroux, "Phantom" tells the story of a deformed composer who haunts the Paris Opera House and falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine. Andrew Lloyd Webber's lavish songs include "Masquerade," ''Angel of Music," ''All I Ask of You," ''The Phantom of the Opera" and "The Music of the Night."

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The musical has played to over 130 million people in 27 countries and has grossed over $5.6 billion worldwide — more than any film in history, including "Avatar," ''Titanic," ''Gone With the Wind" and "Star Wars."

In the New York production, Poole plays an unpleasant, drunken opera stagehand who is killed before intermission — "It's rough dying eight times a week," he cracks — but returns to play various other smaller roles the rest of the night. He's a classic team player.

"Even the short time that I've been here — comparatively — I see people come and go, but I see the standard — the benchmark — remain the same," he says. "That is attributed to the people who are really in it every single day, week, month, year, decade."

The show has endured through blackouts, 9/11, economic recessions and Superstorm Sandy, a flood in the theater due to plumbing problems and one Christine popping her Achilles tendon. It also survived Poole losing some teeth.

He explains that a few years back, he cracked five teeth on a piece of equipment but kept going that week with some temporary teeth. Then, one night onstage, he said the word "ghost" and two of his temporaries flew out of his mouth, landing several feet away at the foot of another actor.

"I'm realizing at that point that these teeth are worth a lot more than my dignity of picking them up," he says. "I thought, 'I'm a stagehand.' I reached down, picked them up and put them back in. Everyone was going, 'Ugh!' — which is perfect for the character."

What has fueled Dias, Caddick and Poole every night for all these years has been the sense of obligation they have to inspire another generation and pass along their passion.

"My philosophy about it is that every time that you go on the stage, you have to realize that there are some people who have never seen a theatrical production ever before. There are people who have spent half a year saving up money to come and see something," says Poole.

"The show has become a revival of itself because now the people who saw it when they were kids are bringing their kids. It's iconic. It's part of the fabric of New York."

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