The Phantom of the Opera season is over and I am suffering from post-show tristesse. All this free time to fill! *studiously ignores accumulated housework* Here is a random assortment of musings and highlights from my experience with this amazing show and the terrific bunch of people who went on the journey with me.
Legs together, legs together!
It seems that I have trouble keeping my legs together. Ahem. During non-dress rehearsals of the Masquerade Ball sequence, ‘Legs together Christine!’ was uttered on numerous occasions by the Director. One performance night in the middle of Masquerade, it suddenly dawned on me that nobody actually sees my legs (not counting my Ladder of Doom assistants – see further down for LoD explanation). I was always totally covered in outrageously hooped and bustled floor-length dresses. Still, as the MD explained, it does give you the right deportment.
Who is the real Christine?
The main female protagonist in Phantom is Christine. Our ‘Christine’ joined the cast late-ish in the rehearsal schedule. At our first meeting I cheerily said ‘Hi I’m Christine” which was met with a look of surprise and consternation from the poor girl until a second later it dawned on her that it was my actual name and not me trying to take over her role. It also initially led to confusion in rehearsals until the Director took to calling me Ensemble Christine.
The Ladder of Doom
I was given the minor role of Mme Firmin which required me to trail around after the Managers – one of whom was M. Firmin – and therefore ascend and descend several times from a fake theatre box that sat at the side of the stage. In order to get into the box, we were required to ascend a squeaky aluminium ladder who’s top step hooked over the floor of the box to hold it firm. The feet of the ladder were attached to a box with wheels underneath and DO NOT STEP written on it. Very important instruction that one. If you ignored it, you were likely to find yourself hurtling backwards at a rate of knots as the bottom of the ladder suddenly hurtled forwards on its wheels resulting in the top step unhoooking from the box. We had 2 near misses before we became accustomed to starting our ascent on the second step. The other aspect of this ladder was specifically my issue as a female. Ornate hooped and bustled floor-length dresses were never designed for ladder-ascending. Therefore, the two crew members who held each side of the ladder firm for us every night were treated to the sight of me hoicking my voluminous skirts up around my armpits so that I could safely move from step to step. Full credit to them, they never once laughed at my backside and in fact did all they could to help my ascent (probably from a sense of self-preservation).
A Bruise called Stephen
One night during dress-rehearsal week, we were back in our ordinary clothes, waiting backstage while some of the principals worked on a scene. All of a sudden I hear the Director saying “Ensemble Christine! Mme Firmin! Why aren’t you in the box?” I ran to the box, uttering several unprintable words, and threw myself up the ladder so fast that I nearly knee-capped myself on the top rung. I limped over to my usual chair trying not to whimper and pretending I’d always been there while my box-mates whispered “You’ve never been here during this scene!” All was eventually sorted out and the bruise that developed on my knee the following day was so spectacular that I felt it needed a name, and what name more appropriate than the Director’s?
There is a scene known as ‘Don Juan Triumphant’, which involves a table and benches, numerous pieces of fake food and the cast members carousing around and about, wine goblets in hand. At the end of the scene I was tasked with putting my goblet down at one end of the table so that the Phantom could pick it up in the next scene and to move a particular platter of fake fruit close to the same end so that Christine could pluck the one unattached apple out of it. One night, as I moved the platter to its usual place I felt it tip sideways. Someone had unexpectedly placed another piece of fake food in that same spot. As I righted it, the unattached apple rolled off the platter, onto the table and then dropped onto the floor and proceeded to roll downstage. Cue me madly scrambling after the apple. Apples are not round. They don’t roll predictably in one direction. So I performed a sort of half bent over, drunken zigzag as I desperately tried to retrieve it. Did I mention I was wearing a dress with a rather low-cut bodice? Hopefully the audience thought it was just part of the entertainment.
Right that’s enough for one sitting. Part Deux to come.*
*When? When I feel like it, that’s when.