memory lane: the Phantom

When I turned 18 we organised something special to do as a family. So my parents, my sisters, one of my brothers and I were booked to go and see The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End.

I had never been to see any kind of show so this was very exciting. My siblings have all lived in the London area at some point in their lives, but at this time I had not often been to the busy centre of London with all the tourist sights, the atmosphere and the glamour of the West End.

There was a change to our plans however – circumstances taking the dramatic turn they did, it ended up that the evening we had booked to go was the day of Princess Diana’s funeral. It was unprecedented, and for the first time, the theatres closed and all performances were cancelled. We had to reschedule.

Sadly only one of my sisters and her then boyfriend could attend the performance with my parents and me – none the less it was a lovely evening. This was the first time of two that I have seen Phantom in London, the second being in 2000 when my Brazilian penpal came over to England to meet me. (The original production of The Phantom of the Opera opened on October 9th 1986 – so 2009 is its 23rd year!) I had never been to anything like it and the excitement was palpable. I am a country girl, so it was an unusual occurrence to be in the hub of the capital city.

From the opening of the first act, I was utterly transfixed. It is difficult to explain the impact to those who have merely seen the film version, because so much of it, it seems to me, is designed for the stage. The great chandelier rising up above our heads and the thrilling crashing down at the end of Act 1 – this is for the theatre (I should add here that I say ‘cinema’ where Americans would say ‘movie theatre’, so when I talk of ‘going to the theatre’ I’m talking about stage plays, not films!)

The atmosphere was wonderful. The little shrieks that suddenly bubbled up from the audience as we realised the Phantom was sneaking about on top of the chandelier trembling above us, and later on in the show where the Phantom is taking Christine by boat to his lair – the stage was covered in low lying mist, and candles rose up out of it as the boat moved past, utterly convincing. Because the show is such a long running fixture, the effects show all the signs of a theatre made for the performance. I like that fact I have only ever seen it in its ‘home’ theatre. It adds a certain specialness to it.

The dramatic songs and energetic performances were equally as gripping. I loved the entire thing. Although, I have to say, nothing can quite beat that chandelier falling from the ceiling…

My sister had been given complimentary tickets to the restaurant at the top of the OXO tower so after leaving the theatre we went to eat there (a bit of a shock to my stomach at having a main meal after 11pm!) . I had a rack of lamb, if I remember rightly, which was delicious but so rich I was full after four mouthfuls!! I can still visualise the gleaming dome of St Paul’s rising up in the skyscape that was all around us. Actually, looking it up now I realise how recently the restaurant had been opened when we went there.

We didn’t stay overly long in the restaurant, and it worked out perfectly. As we drove back through Westminster Square, Big Ben struck twelve. (Big Ben is actually the name of the bell, not the clock face or tower, although often people refer to it as such.) As I looked up from the car window at the glowing dial and listened to the great, deep ring of midnight, I felt a huge ripple of contentment. It could not have ended better.

12 thoughts on “memory lane: the Phantom

  1. Qwin says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.Elaina


  2. Lisa says:

    Thanks for stirring up my own memories. I had opportunity to see Phantom on stage here, and yes, it is stunning. My only London experience was a few hours on a Saturday morning between flights. I heard Big Ben strike 8a. Wonderful! It is a sound I won’t soon forget!


  3. Kelly @ The Beauty of Sufficient Grace says:

    I love the theater…although I rarely get to go. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing phantom of the opera…but it sounds like I should. We used to sing a medley of Phantom songs in High School Choir. (That is the extent of my “vast” knowlege of the play!) Thank you for sharing your lovely memory with us.


  4. Linda says:

    Wow!…What a memory. I enjoyed seeing the theatre through your eyes as you wrote the description and shared your excitement.I have been to London but we didn’t see any shows. If I ever do return I will try to see your show,…and I shall think of you!


  5. Mindy says:

    WOW this sounds awesome! I LOVE the movie Phantom of the Opera, so I can only imagine that I would also LOVE the play. It sounds just wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing!


  6. Julie says:

    How lovely! I was fortunate to visit London almost 16 years ago & fell in love with it. We weren't able to see Phantom there (although I have seen it & love it), but saw Les Mesirable. There is nothing better to me than to see a musical in London…too bad it wasn't an Andrew Lloyd Webber one though!


  7. Lynnette Kraft says:

    Lucy,You do know how much this post made me want to experience that too don’t you? 🙂 What an amazing night! I love The Phantom of the Opera but have never seen it live. It’s a great story.Thanks for sharing – you’re a great writer and always suck me into your memories. Lynnette


  8. Abigail Kraft says:

    *sigh* That sounds absolutely AMAZING! The story of the Phantom of the Opera is really cool, and I love Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music for it. It sounds completely thrilling to see it live! I do agree that the movie takes a bit away from the experience that it could be. If I ever get to go to London, hopefully I’ll be able to go and watch that. It would definitely be incredible. :)Thanks for sharing your beautiful and descriptive post! I’m enchanted. :)–Abigail


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