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UNDATED (CBS) -- The word "phantom" can mean "illusion," but the record-breaking success of "The Phantom Of The Opera" is quite real. Over the weekend it marked an unprecedented milestone.

It's not every day a show celebrates 25 years on the great white way. In fact, it has never happened before.

For a quarter of a century, Phantom Of The Opera has been delivering the music of the night at the majestic theater. With more than 10,000 performances, it is by far the longest running Broadway musical of all time.

The Phantom was created in 1909 by French writer Gaston Laroux, and the character was first brought to life in a 1925 silent film. But it was the musical that really put the phantom on the map the show has played in 145 cities across 27 countries, and in New York alone has grossed nearly $900 million.

When the show debuted in January 1988 starring Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, its visual effects were considered stunning. Director Hal Prince gave us a tour even taking us beneath the stage.

Today, those effects, including the scene where a chandelier crashes to the stage, can seem almost quaint.

At its heart, it's a love story; something that came as a surprise even to the show's composer and writer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who, along with Sarah Brightman, recorded his recollections for the anniversary celebration. Webber says, "I remember finding the book in New York and reading it one afternoon and thinking it's not the same as I remember it. It's not a sort of funny thing with somebody coming out and saying boo from behind a chandelier. It's actually about a romance."

Sierra Boggess is the latest to play the female lead, Christine Daae. She says, "It is able to withstand the test of time because it is still current, and it's the ultimate underdog story."

Hugh Panaro, one of twelve men to play the phantom, has donned the mask for more than 1,900 performances. He says, "I think that whether it's conscious or subconscious, I think this show touches all of us on a very deep level that transcends the beautiful score or the scenery or the costumes or the love triangle. I think it hits us on a pretty primal level."

When the show first opened in New York, it had already been a hit for two years in London. Still, not all the critics took to it kindly. One reviewer in the New York Times called it, "psychologically lightweight." Yet the show not only survived it has thrived. Prince says, "I just think everybody wants a little idealistic romance in his life. I don't think that will ever change. As long as there are people, they yearn for some connection to other people."

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