Anyone who has spoken to me long enough for me to bore them knows that I have the weirdest dreams, from the classic falling off a building into nothingness to ninja terminators and a bevy of dramatic eclipses. Last night’s REM episode was no exception, albeit it was the welcome sort of weird. Apparently the Phantom of the Opera is so deep inside my mind that it has invaded my active subconscious.
Suffice it to say that it was a version of the classic love-triangle scene, but the drama has extended from the stage to the real lives of actors Claire Lyon, Jonathan Roxmouth and Anthony Downing. Life has imitated art. I offer no deeper interpretation than the fact that I loved the show and I miss the actors, and yes, like a teenage girl I am completely shipping Team RoxLyon. Thank you Twitter.
I woke up with a wistful smile on my face and a tugging in my brain that I have not given this awesome show its much earned review. The Phantom in Manila run has ended and the actors are back in their hometowns, the mask retired. I am still clinging to the haunting story, but as they say, no better time to write than the present.
Now I claim not to be a die hard theater Phan (as the Phantom of the Opera or POTO-lovers have dubbed themselves) or even a regular theater fan. But a trip to those hallowed halls have always been magical to me, and I never say nay to an opportunity to attend, from the Romeo and Juliet play we had to see back in high school to several shows staged in UP back in college. Recently, like most of my hobbies, I found out that I appreciate the art form far more than my peers, further incriminating proof that I not only a nerd, but I am also an old soul.
But I digress. My first encounter with Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Broadway and West End hit was its film version at a showing we sponsored as a Valentine’s-cum-PR event at work. The one sure thing about being the girl manning an event is that said girl will not be able to enjoy it, so the most I got were snippets of the creepy lair and the scary mask, and approving comments of viewers afterwards that it was indeed, the best love story ever told. Fast forward two years and I see a giant ad in the local newspaper of the show coming in Manila, and in a few weeks I was surrendering plastic for two tickets.
I came to the CCP an excited and ignorant Phan. I knew nothing of the songs, except for the haunting boom that warned of the Phantom’s presence, and excerpts of All I Ask of You that I always thought was sweet. I did not ask Google or Wikipedia, and I refused to watch the movie. I wanted an untainted, virgin experience, and that was exactly what I got.
It was a hushed thrill as I watched the auction for the first time, my brow furrowed in concentration as I took in the prologue to the tale. Then the chandelier ascended in lights and grand music and the spell has begun. It was magic from the first second. Many have written about the costumes, the lights and the stage. I too have been mesmerized by the fast and precise stage changes, and I still clap at how they made us all believe that a gondola was traversing a lake lit with candles, making us forget we are inside an aged theater. I would like to say now that I would not feel the same way about this musical if I had watched it with anyone other than Mr Roxmouth, Ms Lyon and Mr Downing performing. They moved me to tears and implanted the story forever in my brain. I thank them for an experience like no other. I leave the work of picking on their pitch, acting, dancing and chemistry to the seasoned critics. But I, an ignorant outsider, had the unique pleasure of simply enjoying their performance and devouring the story.
I too, like the Phantom and Raoul, fell madly in love with Christine. She was lovely and she didn’t know it. She was unassuming and innocent, yet bright and eager–all the qualities in a heroine that is sugary trap to viewers. And then she opens her delicate mouth and sings, and nothing can ever break that spell. Raoul was dashing and debonair. There was admittedly an internal swoon at that moment he picked Christine up for a lingering hug in her dressing room after her debut. His charm was infectious. But then the Phantom’s voice invaded the halls and I can think of no one else.
He frightened the wits out of me. In his mild anger towards Raoul the “insolent fool”, I caught a very clear glimpse of his danger and his genius. Christine belongs to him long before Raoul has stepped into the threshold, and there is nothing to be done. When the Phantom appeared in his cloaked eerie glory through her mirror, I knew like Christine, I would have been enchanted. I would have taken his hand too.
Some has stripped it down to the classic bad-boy-good-boy formula, the story of a girl lured by the darkness of a man and her hopes to tame him. In the end she chooses stability, in the handsome prince who will be her safe haven. I am poised to believe through that Christine runs deeper than that. The Phantom was her companion. He was the Angel promised by her father, who was with her in the dark of her loneliness. Alone just like her, only the Phantom understood how an orphan feels, and seeing another common thread between them, he strikes it and nurtures her through music. It is music that inevitably plants the indelible bond between them, and even when Christine chose Raoul, I do not think it can ever be broken.
Why though did she choose Raoul? When I think about it (and I have many times since that fateful September 1), it does not even look like a black-and-white decision. She loved Raoul, yes. He is a link to a happy childhood, to memories of family. But isn’t it the people who share our pain the ones who stay with us the most? She looked at the Phantom’s mutilated face and saw not the monster, the murderer, the brat, but a damaged soul reaching out to her for salvation. She was frightened of him as much as she wanted to save him. In the end, at the point of no return, it was the Phantom who chose for her, in probably his first move of love over tyranny.
Christine looked at him then, not saying what he wanted to hear, not kissing him in the way he now deserved. Raoul was free and waiting to lead her to their freedom. She was coming with him but she knew, as the Phantom prophecized, fear can indeed turn to love.
Cue wiping of tears here. The curtains are drawn. One collective clattering for a standing ovation. The Phantom remains inside my mind and will continue to invade my dreams.
Photo credits goes to their owners.