So, whadja do on the fourth? Cookout? Fireworks? Sweltering heat? More of the same?
What did I do? Well, nothing much, really. I only sat in an air-conditioned theatre and watched a live performance of the longest running Broadway show in history.
The Phantom of the Opera.
(Cue driving organ theme.)
In the eighth grade I had the soundtrack memorized, never even knowing what the show was or was about. Two years ago when the movie came out, I bought the DVD out of sheer curiosity. It was then that I finally put the music with the story and could fully come to appreciate the hype about Phantom.
On Mother's Day of this year, I received the Mother's Day gift to end all Mother's Day gifts. Tickets to see the show on July 4th, with a dear friend, no less, to spare my husband the, ahem, experience. Independence Day? Celebrate our country's freedom? Screw that. Momma's goin' to see the Phantom.
Walking into the already crowded Performing Arts Center my excitement was bubbling over in the form of schoolgirl giggles. Had I not been surrounded by theatre patrons I would have jumped up and down clapping my hands in child-like glee. It was better than Christmas. Better than blowing out birthday candles. Better than...well, I should be careful. Suffice it to say, I was excited. Silly, sappy, crazy excited.
We found our seats on row N, dead center. That is thirteen small rows from the very front of the stage. And we waited breathlessly. "You know," I said to my friend. "My favorite part in the movie is the beginning, when the chandelier lights up and the organ starts booming out the theme. You think they'll have that in the play?"
"Uh, maybe," she replied, pointing to a large tarp covered mass on the stage. "That might be what's under that sheet that says 'CHANDELIER'."
Hey, how could I possibly be expected to read or spell under such thrilling circumstances?
Soon, the lights dimmed and the MC came out to introduce the show. "...and now I am pleased to present to you, The," Pause. "Phantom," Pause. "of the Opera." Riding high on waves of electric applause and elated expectancy, I found myself getting teary-eyed, a reaction I did not expect. And then we were in the opening scene at the auction. The auctioneer auctioned off the poster, the skulls and the grinding organ monkey music box. Then he came to "lot 666"...the chandelier. He told of the phantom folklore surrounding it and informed the crowd that it had been reworked with electric lights. "Perhaps," he leered, holding up two light switches. "We can scare away the ghost with a little...illumination." He hit the switches and sparks showered the stage with a thundering explosion, ushered in by the simultaneous drive of the eerily familiar pipe organ theme. The chandelier came to life in a blaze of glory. I jumped in my seat, deliciously scared, and for the next two hours and fifteen minutes lost myself. I pouted at the interruption of intermission, wondering how these people could so quickly get up from their seats and walk out for a Coke as if reality had not escaped them. I mean, the masquerade ball was next! Who needs a bathroom break with a masked gala at hand and a killer on the loose?
But it was only fifteen minutes and before long I was at the ball singing "Masquerade" under my breath and crying with Christine in the cemetery. Spellbound.
The end came all too soon and I had to tear myself from my seat to offer a standing ovation to the cast, especially The Phantom. He was brilliant. I clapped so hard my hands stung and my shoulders ached. Could I hide under a seat unnoticed until the next show? Probably not. With leaden feet and an even heavier heart I turned to go, trying to memorize all the beautiful details I knew I could never recall the next day and the last note still ringing in my head. I would have to come back. I resigned myself then and there to be one of those Phantom geeks who have the airbrushed mask and rose on a black license plate on the front bumper of their car. I will have to buy the T-shirt. I will have to drive people insane discussing the wrenching dichotomies and subtle messages within the story, singing the songs throughout my day in ear-splitting operatic falsetto.
As it is written, so shall it be.
I have been obligingly sing-songy ever since. My family LOVES it. Loves, loves, loves it. Really. Yeah, they do.
Wait till I buy the soundtrack.