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"Phantom' to appear here

The Phantom of the Opera is coming to Tampa Bay. The phenomenally successful musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber will be staged at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, according to a notice released Friday by the show's producers.

Details of the Phantom production won't be disclosed until a news conference Thursday at the arts center. However, the Times has learned that the show probably will be installed in the 2,200-seat Festival Hall for about an eight-week run during the 1993-94 season.

Ticket information isn't available yet.

Phantom is produced by Cameron Mackintosh Productions and Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theater Co. The London-based Mackintosh _ also responsible for the smash musicals Cats by Lloyd Webber and Les Miserables and Miss Saigon _ will put on Phantom in Tampa Bay in association with the arts center and the Florida unit of Pace Theatrical Group, which promotes Broadway shows and concerts around the country.

Lloyd Webber's musical is based on Gaston Leroux's 1911 novel about the deformed musical genius of the Paris Opera who falls in love with a beautiful soprano. With technological wizardry, a romantic story and a dramatic musical score, Phantom has become a worldwide theatrical phenomenon in the past six years.

It first opened in London in 1986, and then on Broadway in 1988. The show still plays in both cities. Another Phantom opened in Los Angeles in 1989 and continues there.

Starting in 1990, a U.S. touring company of the show has played in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Washington, Atlanta, Denver and Philadelphia, where it is now. Phantom productions also are playing in Toronto, Hamburg, Vienna, Tokyo and Melbourne.

In Fort Lauderdale, Phantom was the first event ever at the new Broward Center for the Performing Arts, from February to May 1991. Each of the 96 performances was virtually sold out _ attendance was about 255,000 _ and the show grossed $11.7-million.

"It's the Super Bowl of musicals," said Celeste Bennett, a spokeswoman for the center. "It drew people from outside our market area and created good business for hotels and restaurants."

More than 8 percent of the Fort Lauderdale Phantom ticket sales were from outside Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties.

In Atlanta, Phantom was seen by more than 200,000 people and grossed $8.4-million during a 6-week run last fall at the Fox Theater. "Phantom is like a license to print money," said Ed Neiss, general manager of the Fox.

The top ticket price was $47.50 at Atlanta's Fox, a big theater with more than 4,500 seats. The most expensive ticket was $55 in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets run as high as $60 for the shows in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

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