Last week, I was walking down the campus concourse and a certain poster caught my eye. I didn’t know what to think when I first saw it. Offended? Pleased? Won’t somebody think of the children? No, not the abortion bin baby, but The Phantom of the Opera poster.
The Phantom of the Opera is not just a personal favourite musical of mine; it is without doubt one of my favourite things that has ever existed, ever. It only narrowly lost out to oxygen and my iPhone.
Last Tuesday marked 26 years since the show opened for the first time at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and it has enjoyed glorious worldwide success since. The show has been seen by over 130 million people, grossed in excess of €4.3 billion, and is the longest running show in Broadway history. It’s even better than Les Misérables. Well, that’s my personal opinion, and I know I’m right therefore you must be wrong.
After seeing The Phantom of the Opera for the first time, I remember becoming infatuated with it. I got my hands on an old cassette that featured some of the all-star original cast such as the first Phantom, Michael Crawford, and the angel of music/cosmonaut herself, Sarah Brightman, and devoted hours to learning the lyrics to every song. I even put on a small one-man show of the rock opera in my living room.
My production only ran for a day. One poorly attended matinée and a disastrous evening performance at which the two bed sheet stage curtains collapsed was a gentle reminder that I don’t belong in musical theatre, and I resigned myself to playing football in the green with all the other kids.
Back then I was quite naïve and blinded by how much I loved the musical. Naturally I assumed that everyone who didn’t recognise how amazing The Phantom of the Opera was needed some education. Unfortunately, none of the boys in my 4th class in primary school shared my views and a reputation here and there may have been tarnished. To be honest, I think I lost most of my friends at the word ‘musical’.
What happened next was kind like a form of hibernation. My passion for the Phantom went into arrested development because, like most boys at the age of ten, I didn’t really feel like being called “gay” or being associated with, as my classmates put it: “musicals for the gays”. In fact, it was fundamentally a chat with a bully who featured high in our class hierarchy that swayed me away. He put it pretty bluntly when he said: “I can’t risk catching gay off you. You’re kind of like that leopard we learned about in religion that was banished. What’s his name? Jesus”.
Anyway, time passes and we’ve all grown wiser. Well, not wiser. Tolerant maybe, not wiser. That ex-bully now owns more pairs of skinny jeans and frameless glasses than I do. I’m not trying to say he’s gay now; he just looks awfully uncomfortable and has since learned that leopard is a type of animal and fashion print, not a highly contagious disease.
I rekindled my Phantom passion once I overcame my mildly homophobic and bigoted notion that theatre was something only women, and men who are sexually attracted to men, are allowed to appreciate. The height of that passion was last summer when I got to see the current West End production on tour in the Grand Canal Theatre. An amazing show that will be a very difficult act to follow for any future productions I attend.
This is where we come to a stumbling block; a point of no return. My curiosity will get the better of me and I will have to attend the Community Musical’s attempted showcase next semester. However, after learning a bit more about their production, I’m not exactly filled with confidence that such a masterpiece has been left in capable hands.
Initially I thought this was the UCD Community Musical’s first ambitious attempt at staging The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve since realised that plans to bring the musical to UCD last year were abandoned due to poor organisation and management and those involved felt that the production team lacked the sufficient experience to see this project through.
This is why I’m hesitant that the Phantom of the Opera is coming to Belfield next year. Here in UCD, we have this unmitigated ability to screw things up. That may seem a tad unfair, but if you think about it, with all the financial irregularities protruding from every administrative and representative body in UCD, it’s a miracle the lights turn on. And after previously admitting that they lack experience to pull-off such a feat, what has suddenly changed in the last year?
Truthfully, I should get involved with the community musical and help in any way I can, but like the Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, I hate failing even more than I want to succeed. And no matter how good their performance is, it will never match up to my admittedly unfair expectations.
Barring some sort of ironic phantom-esque intervention, I’m resigned to fact that The Phantom of the Opera will probably go ahead next semester. All I ask of you is that you think of me and other devoted fans, and don’t butcher the power of the music of the night.
And by the way, you’re welcome for the free half-page advertisement. You can leave my complementary tickets at the door.
Competition: Killian is offering his Dublin Bus receipt collection worth in excess of €10 to the person who can find all the Phantom of the Opera puns in his column.