As the date for the 25th Anniversary performance of Phantom of the Opera quickly approaches, it only seems appropriate that I share the last milestone event for this Broadway production I was able to attend. While every performance is a milestone event, as no other Broadway musical has run as long a Phantom has had a sustained run, reaching 10,000 performances is quite an impressive feat, which happened at the matinee performance on February 11, 2012. Unlike the Gala performance, when it had been touted that it would be “invitation only” event (which in a previous blog I had written was a bald-faced lie, as tickets were available to the public a few days prior – the same happened in these days prior to the 25th Anniversary), tickets for the 10,000th performance were available to the public, and was sold as a benefit event for the Actors Fund. I don’t recall if obtaining tickets through the Actors Fund site was the only way to get tickets, but nevertheless, I think this was the smart way to allow the general public to attend this milestone event, and also concurrently contribute to an organization that provides a myriad of support to the theatre community.
I obtained my ticket via the Actors Fund site, and managed to secure a front orchestra seat, which was the closest I have ever sat to see Phantom – as I rarely ever sit in the front orchestra section [I’ve usually sat in the left side rear orchestra, and occasionally in the mezzanine section]. It was only when I was shown to my seat that I realized that I was sitting in the very first row (albeit on the aisle) center orchestra, which was a thrilling experience in and of itself, but was made equally thrilling knowing that most of my friends also obtained tickets in that same first center row. Of course, the show was thrilling to watch as it always is – Hugh Panaro is one of the best Phantoms I’ve ever seen, but to see each facial expression and subtle movement from such a close vantage point was nothing short of astounding; Trista Moldovan was a fantastic Christine, one of the best I’ve seen in recent years, Kyle Barisich was a fine Raoul, even though I wasn’t that enamored on his interpretation of the role. Other notable performances came from Michele McConnell and Christian Sebec as Carlotta and Piangi, respectively, who are essentially the comic relief and have several scene-stealing moments; Andrew Galligan-Stierle and Kevin Ligon were also fantastic as Andre and Firmin, the managers of the Opera Populaire who had great rapport with one another and also have their comical moments to shine.
No matter how many times I go see Phantom, and regardless who the leads are, I always tear up a bit at the end, and even after all the years of seeing the show (and listening to the Original London cast recording) I can never really hear the exact words sung by Madame Giry and Meg during the sextet section in “Prima Donna” – even sitting in the front row and attempting to lip read (which I’m really bad at doing). Also sitting in the front orchestra, there is the unique experience of seeing the huge chandelier rise above you and then quickly (and safely) swoop down toward the stage at the end of the first act.
Of course the cast received a huge ovation at the end, and the post-show festivities included a few remarks from Hugh Panaro noting the significance of the 10,000th performance, the bringing out of a huge cake and some more remarks from choreographer Gillian Lynne, who had a bit of technical trouble with the microphone she was handed, which led to some cheeky improv until a replacement microphone was found. After the speeches, there as a video message from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as congratulatory well wishes from the London cast of Phantom.
There was little point to head to the stage door, as the cast had another performance to do that evening, and that oftentimes the cast don’t emerge from the stage door, which for the Majestic was around the block behind the theatre, shared with the Golden and Jacob Theatres. Nevertheless, it was a magical experience to witness another milestone event, the next one being the 25th Anniversary on January 26, 2013, of which there shall be a forthcoming (and presumably lengthy, fan girly) blog post.