It began with a television commercial for a compilation album. I was young – thirteen maybe? I feel like I was younger, but who knows. I heard Michael Crawford sing one line from Music of the Night, and that was that. I had to hear more. I somehow got my hands on a copy of that record (well, cassette tape). Music of the Night, All I Ask of You, and The Phantom of the Opera were the first songs I would hear from Phantom.
The sad part of the story is that I wouldn’t get to experience the whole thing until the movie version was released! That’s what happens when you live in a small, rural town. Theater West Virginia rarely deviates from doing Honey in the Rock and The Hatfields and McCoys (and people wonder why they went bankrupt). They were pretty much the only game in town. I missed it at the Kennedy Center by a very small margin; I believe it was here in DC the year before I started seeing Alex….
We knew the show was touring the US and Alex was on the lookout for an announcement of a close show. When Philadelphia was announced, he got front row seats. I was re-watching Live from the Royal Albert Hall that day. I was so excited I thought I was going to burst. It’s one thing to see a movie version, another to see the current London cast celebrate twenty five years on PBS. Experiencing it live onstage was a dream come true.
It was staged at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. It is the most lovely theater I’ve ever been in! It’s really too bad I was too excited to get photographs. If you click on my Instagram (to the right) you can see the photos I did take – one of the stage set up for the first scene (The Auction) and the chandelier in it’s covering. We were directly underneath it!
When the covering was whipped off and the Overture hit, that was it – it was truly, really happening!
And then when the Phantom appeared in the mirror for the first time….
I had some trepidation, to be honest. Michael Crawford is and will always be The Phantom in my heart. No one else has ever come close to it as far as I’m concerned. They lack the feeling necessary to sing the role. But Cooper Grodin exceeded my expectations. Not only did he have a fantastic voice (which reminded us both of Crawford, actually), he had the emotion. He felt The Phantom, and he put that feeling into every word he sang. That was what made it glorious.
I may have mentioned that we were directly below the chandelier. When it shattered, peices rained down…and one got Alex right in the arm! Not real glass, of course…but it quickly disappeared into my purse.
The sets and costumes were impressive. When The Phantom takes Christine down into the labyrinth below the opera house, steps appear as they walk. The boat was absolutely flawless. And the Masquerade scene! It was so opulent! The set for this scene was lined with mirrors, giving the illusion of a packed ballroom.
And then it was over, and the singers took their bows. Cooper Grodin got a standing ovation.
I can’t recall if it was Andre or Firman who stepped forward to speak about Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. They would be taking donations at the doors. But also…they had something special for us. Christine stepped forward, holding a pointe shoe from the performance – signed by herself and the ballet corps. “Do you want it?” Alex asked. “Yes,” I squeaked. But that’ wasn’t all – The Phantom stepped forward, next, with the one thing I might possibly covet more than a pointe shoe*. He was holding an Opera Ghost noted used in the performance…that he had signed.
It was a pricey (and very early) birthday present. But the proceeds went to charity!
The entire production was amazing: the venue, our awesome seats, the costumes, the sets, the souvenirs, and of course the performance itself. I could not have asked for a better Phantom experience. All provided to me by my husband, simply because he knew it would make me happy beyond measure.
Some of my readers may be wondering why I chose the fragile note over the elegant pointe shoe. That’s easy: there was no other choice. We all have at least one Unattainable Dream; a fantasy that we play out in our heads, but that has absolutely no chance in hell of actually coming true. For me, that dream has always been to sing the role of The Phantom. It isn’t going to happen, for a lot of reasons. But I can dream!
*I could never do ballet, but I wanted to. I adore Pointe shoes and I look at the worn/signed ones every time we visit the Kennedy Center.