A strong childhood memory for me is watching The Phantom of the Opera with my parents on a Sunday afternoon. We would sing along with the 2004 film adaptation of the musical starring Gerald Butler and Emmy Rossum. To me, it is a beautiful film, with sparkling costumes and sweet moments of intimacy between the Phantom and Christine.
This Tuesday I was invited to watch a friend Eleanor Sanderson-Nash perform in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. Ellie and I shared the stage in Mansfield Park, whilst working for the Waterperry Opera Festival and we were also students at the Royal College of Music.
Ellie is one of the company’s ‘Swings’. A Swing is a member of the company who understudies several chorus roles, this involves memorising multiple parts (or as they call it in the biz “tracks”), which can involve different vocal harmonies, entrance and exits and actions. It is a very demanding role and needs an artist who is not only talented but one who is organised, able to remember multiple tracks and able to accommodate flexibility within their scheduling, (as they may the called upon with short notice). It was great seeing her rock her stuff on Tuesday!
Ellie also took me on a backstage tour before the show began. I was able to stand on the stage, see iconic props and moveable set such as Christine’s dressing room, Phantom’s organ, and boat, the life-size masquerade props – which click into the stairs to give the impression of raucous party-goers and of course the iconic, and very large, Elephant from the Hannibal rehearsal scene.
I was interested to find out that this show has a team of 130 people involved (cast, crew, and orchestra). The Show has been at Her Majesties Theatre for over 30 years and because the theatre is historically listed it still uses many old-fashioned techniques to manually change the sets. In modern theatres, these changes are normally done by a computer but at this theatre, stagehands are positioned at particular pullies with specifically timed queues to ensure the show runs smoothly. There are truly many phantoms who create this magnificent show, who the audience never gets to see!
I had a fantastic time seeing a different side to this show that holds a special place for me in my heart. Go to see it if you’re in London you won’t be sorry.