“If you need me,” says Monsieur LeFevre, addressing the new owners of the Opera Populaire in Paris, “I shall be in Bo-ra-cay!”
The audience at CCP’s Main Theatre broke out in laughter as they realized Monsieur LeFevre had really uttered, “Boracay,” replacing “Frankfurt” in the original script of the West End classic, “The Phantom of the Opera.”
It was only at that moment that I came to my senses and got transported back to Manila, right inside the Cultural Center of the Philippines, straight from 19th-century Paris, the setting of this stage musical, where a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius.
“Phantom” is celebrating its 26th year and is now the second longest-running London West End show ever, as well as the longest-running show on Broadway in New York.
But how come none of my teen friends are going gaga over it, or know much about it?
“What’s that?” one reacted when I giddily shared how my parents got my sister and me tickets to a Saturday family matinee last Sept. 1.
“Isn’t that scary?” commented another friend of mine.
Most of those I know are only aware that “Phantom” is in town through their parents.
So why should teens know about “Phantom?” Well, take it from another teen—it is not a ghost story. It is not scary, though it’s a dark story that revolves around the obsessions of a musical genius, who refers to himself as “O.G.” or Opera Ghost in correspondences with the main characters.
“Phantom” is, above all, a love story. The Phantom teaches Christine how to sing and helps her make his song “take flight,” while Christine considers the Phantom the “Angel” that her father had always told her would come to help her. It all gets nasty only when another gentleman, Raoul, comes into the scene and disturbs the Phantom’s time with Christine. Christine then discovers the Phantom isn’t just there to teach her, but to possess her forever.
It is this love triangle that I believe teens would most relate to. Who wouldn’t feel for Raoul, who falls head over heels in love with Christine as soon as he hears her sing an angelic “Think of Me?” And who wouldn’t feel for the moment when Christine is torn between Raoul and the Phantom, and can’t decide between the two?
Plot aside, the production is something teens will appreciate. The magnificent chandelier is, hands down, the centerpiece of all the props. Seated in the third row, center aisle from the stage, I was right there beneath all the action when the chandelier came crashing down at the end of Act 1.
The CCP’s main theater did not inhibit the stage designers from creating an illusion of depth, as when the Phantom led Christine by the hand to where he lived, down below the theater. They walked across what appeared to be a slanted pathway high above and across the stage. That pathway, or platform, slowly tilted from one end to another as it descended and descended, making it appear as if the characters were walking lower and lower.
Raoul later descended on his own in search of the Phantom and Christine, went to the edge of that platform and literally jumped! We did not hear a thud (thank goodness), but those in the audience knew he landed in the imaginary waters of the lake beneath the opera house, which led to the underground labyrinth where the Phantom lived.
And when the Phantom emerged with Christine on a boat, gliding on a mist on stage, the scene simply took my breath away! A few scenes later, the Phantom appeared from behind one of the giant pillars suspended above the stage to deliver his angry lines as he looked down straight at the audience, his omnipresence and power over all on grand display.
Yet all this spectacle would not have worked had it not been for the chemistry the Phantom and Christine shared when they sang “The Phantom of the Opera” together. Christine looked entranced as the Phantom beckoned her to “Sing for me!” with hand gestures so expressive I can’t forget them. I think these were the most expressive hands I’ve ever seen on a musical stage! Because the Phantom had half his face covered for the most part, his bodily expressions became key to his role.
Dark and unconventional
Thanks to my parents, I have been watching musicals here and abroad since I was four years old. I’ve seen “The Lion King,” “Miss Saigon,” “Wicked,” “Mamma Mia,” “The Sound of Music,” “The King and I” and “My Fair Lady.” Each of these musicals portrays the beauty and horror of life. “The Phantom of the Opera” is a notch above them, not only because of its simple but complex story, but also because of the scenery, background and genre. Usually, musicals are happy-go-lucky and colorful, but this one is dark and unconventional.
“The Phantom of the Opera” is on an extended two-week run until the end of this month. Do catch it! Following Monsieur LeFevre, everybody in the show who worked hard to bring this extraordinary musical to life deserves just one thing after the final curtain call: a vacation in beautiful Boracay!
PHOTOS BY ANGELICA Y. YANG