I’m not just a geek about comics and scifi.
I’ve been an avid fan of theater since I was very little and I can argue that, really, Broadway nerds are every bit as obsessive, wacky, and devoted as the folks at your local comic con. There are fans who have memorized every line their favorite lyricist ever put down or know every minor, insignificant role their favorite actor every played. Of course, some shows have larger followings than others. Rent, Wicked, Les Miserables; all have devotees to rival that of any film or television series. Among these is The Phantom of the Opera. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical adaptation of the Victorian novel has its own legion of “Phanatics” who discuss character traits, debate favorite incarnations, write fanfiction, make fanart, and wear costumes as enthusiastically as any other geek. It’s their (sometimes wacky) dedication has contributed to the show reaching a landmark anniversary of 25 years on Broadway this past Saturday.
I’ve been in love with the story of Paris’s Opera Ghost since I was a teenager.
I’ve seen it three times on Broadway, sat through the (disappointing) movie dozens of times, and have heard cast recordings in Japanese and German. Heck, I even own the monkey music box! Every time I go to New York City, even if a trip to the theater isn’t in my plans, I make a point of stopping outside the Majestic Theater, where the show has played for a quarter of a century, to take a picture in front of the enormous poster on the wall. I have so many snapshots of me there, it’s almost like a growth chart!
A very young version of the blogger, pictured center, circa 2007, in front of the Majestic.
Even with all my love for this show, I never dreamed I’d be there to celebrate it’s 25th birthday.
This past weekend I journeyed to New York with two of my roommates with the intent of celebrating my 21st birthday by visiting a sci-fi themed bar in Brooklyn. Somehow…I wound up drinking champagne surrounded by actors in tuxedos, instead.
The blogger, last weekend, in front of the Majestic.
By some incredible stroke of luck, something that honestly rarely happens to me, a friend of one of my roommates won tickets to the 25th Anniversary Performance, but was unable to attend…and offered them to us. The roommate in question was generous and wonderful enough to let me and our other roommate, who had never been to a Broadway show before, use the tickets. Of course, this meant a mad dash to find clothes formal enough for the occasions…but it was more than worth it, in the end.
To call the evening “once in a lifetime” doesn’t quite cover it.
But, I think that’s as close as you can get to describing it in conventional language, so I’ll go with that. It was once in a lifetime, it was beautiful, and I still can’t believe I was there! On one hand, it was full of nostalgia. I’ve been in that theater many times over the years, whether to see the show or, once, to collect donations with Broadway Cares. On the other hand, it was a dazzling night. The cast included Hugh Panaro as the title character, a beloved Phantom actor who I’ve tried to see more than once and always gotten understudies, and Sierra Bogess as Christine Daae, a stunning soprano known by “phans” for playing the role in London’s 25th Anniversary Performance last year. The show itself was as spectacular and tear-jerking as I ever remember it being, more so, even, as I sat there thinking about the fact that I was actually at the anniversary show, that the original cast was sitting below me in the orchestra section.
Of course, it was the special features after the show that made the night unbelievably awesome.
The show’s creator, Andrew Lloyd Webber, was unfortunately not able to be there due to a surgery, but he sent a video of thanks an well-wishes. Cameron Macintosh and Hal Prince, the show’s producer and lyricist, made speeches, applauded the show’s dedicated crew, and enumerated the production’s record-breaking statistics. Then, of course, there was a final encore. To sing the show’s two most iconic songs (“The Phantom of the Opera” and “Music of the Night”) along with Panaro and Boggess, they brought out John Owen Jones (London’s longest-running Phantom), Peter Joback (a recent London Phantom), and Ramin Karimloo (London’s Phantom for their 25th Anniversary…and a personal favorite of mine!). I might have screamed like a 1960s Beatles fangirl. Just a bit.
From left to right: John Owen Jones, Hugh Panaro, Sierra Boggess, Ramin Karimloo, and Peter Joback
The whole event, including lingering outside the stage door in frigid cold to meet the actors, was over in about five hours…but I’m sure I’ll have the sights and sound stuck in my head forever, just like the show’s score.
Have you ever seen a Broadway show? Do you think Broadway geekery is on the same level as other kinds of nerddom? Think Phantom is lame or overrated? Did you know they made a SEQUEL?