The Truth Behind "The Phantom Of The Opera's" Mask

phantom of the opera

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Given the many tv and film versions of The Phantom of the Opera that have come out over the years, you probably have a decent idea by now about the story line….a love triangle filled with seduction and despair.Although knowing that, and seeing it come to life on Broadway, are two completely different things.

Experiencing Phantom in all of its glory at the Majestic theatre in New York far exceeds anything you may have imagined. If you’re one of the uninitiated, as I was until recently, then here are some teasers to whet your appetite. Don’t worry, no spoilers!

1. The Phantom of the Opera is Broadway’s longest running show: It surpassed Cats for those bragging rights back in January, 2006, 18 years, almost to the day, after opening at the Majestic Theatre. Now 23 years, and nearly 10,000 shows later, it retains the honour and has become a New York City destination in its own right.

2. Last minute cast prep is a jam session: Don’t be surprised if you hear strains of music wafting from backstage just before the curtain goes up. After the show I spoke with Jeremy Stolle, who plays Passarino, and he gave me the inside scoop on how the cast gets pumped for each performance. Five minutes before curtain they blast the stereo and rock out.

3. You’ll laugh at times: This haunting drama, which can even be macabre at times, also sprinkles in humour, most notably provided by the new owners of the Opera House. Who could ask for more from an evening’s entertainment: powerful love story, awesome musical, hi-tech production and humour?

4. Cast pranks keep it fun: After so many productions, to keep things fun and morale up, the cast is known to play pranks on each other. On a Saturday night performance, if you’re at the theatre at the right time, you may hear “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” over the PA. Occasional mixers keep the group close and help integrate newcomers into the circle. It must be working, you can tell they’re having fun when they’re on stage.

5. Leads don’t rehearse: These long time Phantom veterans have their roles down cold, which is blissfully evident from your seat in the audience. So much is packed into each production, although you almost forget that fact thanks to the quick pace, smooth transitions and expertise of the actors. Only the understudies have rehearsals, two days a week on Tuesday and Thursday. Good days to be a Majestic theatre groupie.

6. Phantom has risen from rags to riches: When Gaston Leroux first published Le Fantome de l’Opera in 1911 it was not a resounding success. It didn’t take off until 1925 when it was made into a film. Now, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of The Phantom of the Opera is the single most successful piece of entertainment of all time, in any medium.

7. Nearly 40 cast members bring Phantom to life each night: Easily the most dazzling scene is the Masquerade celebration when the stage overflows with vibrant costumes.

8. There are more costume changes than a Rockettes’ show: Some 200 costumes parade across the stage throughout the production, which 14 dressers seamlessly turn out during the 22 scene changes.

9. The Phantom is the first to arrive at the theatre: The Phantom’s dramatic unmasked look takes two hours in the make up chair to achieve. In addition to the process of fitting the prosthetics to his face, also added are wig, radio mics and contact lenses, one white and the other clouded.

10. Not only the Phantom wears a mask: Ok, I promised no spoilers, so will only say that Christine (“triangle girl”) and the Phantom end up helping each other.

What’s old is new every night on the stage of the Majestic, thanks to the entire Phantom cast, crew, orchestra and producers.

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