It only seems like a couple of years ago, but when I work it out it was around 1987. I would have been 9 years old at the time. My parents had booked a coach trip with the Evening Chronicle to travel down to London and see The Phantom of the Opera. What seemed like a full day of traveling and my cassette Album of the show on my Sony Walkman, I settled down for the journey.
The Phantom and Me
My Dad was a big fan of musicals seemed to like Andrew Lloyd Webber productions. We’d been to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle to see multiple touring versions of his shows including Evita, Joseph, and Jesus Christ Superstar. I seemed to enjoy the musical production and story more of Phantom, even though it was possibly a slightly bit creepy for a child the same age as Imogen.
The cassette version of the soundtrack had a brief set of notes about the story. However, if you sent off or brought it down to the production you were given the full show notes/script. This must have been included in the 12″ album version (as it was that size). The best bit about this was that I knew nothing about the real story, just what I’d imagined it to be. It would only be after seeing it then I could obsess over the storyline.
I think the best way I can describe the obsession is by paralleling it to Disney’s Frozen a few years back. The difference in this was that Frozen got out of hand and was everywhere. It took over everything and eventually started to burn out by getting on people’s nerves a little.
Going Back to See Phantom of the Opera
During my recent trip down to London for the UK Blog Awards, I spotted a poster in a Café in Highgate. It was literally just the standard Phantom poster. Which lead me to talk musicals with my travel buddy for the weekend Stephen. He’d seen phantom many years ago too. Which I learned that he had had a similar upbringing with a subliminal backing track of musical theatre too.
We started to look for stuff to do in London that night and I started scanning the Ticketing websites. Phantom was on sale at £60 per ticket (in the 3rd level up). I know when we went to see School of Rock in London, that with the Family the Ticket price is 4 times the ticket price). So the potential to see Phantom at face value was appealing. We were also in agreement (Chicken Tikka Syndrome) that we’d rather go to see something that we knew we enjoyed when you were paying a decent ticket price. Instead of gambling that the theatre show would be good. With so many shows closing in May we agreed to stick to the path we knew.
The Phantom of the Opera on Stage
When I started to think about it I think I’ve been to this theatre to see Phantom of the Opera probably 5 times. Think of it as listening or watching your favourite band playing and it won’t sound as weird. All previous trips I’d sat in the stalls, but this time we were Grand Circle. The first time I went Michale Crawford was playing the role of The Phantom, Michael Ball the role of Raoul. I can’t remember if Sarah Brightman was playing Christine or not.
Seeing the same show so many times opens up different things to look for. Lyrically it is mainly the same. The show visually is exactly the same. The only thing that changes is where I end up watching.
The Staging of the show, to me, is perfect. The use of a black background for most of the stage adds depth. Where I feel that a painted backdrop reminds me too much of pantomime. You don’t need a wall to be behind an office desk to realise that it is in a room. With all that staged darkness the production can hide a lot of illusion and stage trickery. Although I now see what is about to happen before it happens.
The only thing that both Stephen and I noticed this time was squeaking stage props. One scene there is a curtain covering half the stage and some scenery is wheeled in. We heard the wheels squeaking and stagehand moving it. Initially, I thought that it needs refurbing and oiling. Then later on in the pub, we came to the conclusion that maybe it is supposed to be squeaky. After all, the audience (us) in the show is both watching Stage performance and seeing the action behind the scenery. So creeks and squeaks could have been part of the backstage.
I really enjoyed the show but did come out thinking next time I go to the theatre I need to be seating in the Stalls or Front of the First level. Going to the Theatre isn’t a cheap experience, but maybe paying the extra few quid to have a much better view and experience is worth it in the long run.
Phantom of the Opera has been running for 32 years, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. When we booked out tickets on the day, there was only a small handle of seats left.