Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty's, 1 December 2014 Review)

1 December 2014 – Her Majesty’s Theatre

I live in London and call myself a phan, but I haven’t seen POTO for almost three years.  In an ideal world, I’d get a chance to see every new cast, but it doesn’t work that way.  I like psyching myself up for a cast but equally I like being surprised.  Such was the case last time I saw the show (we got swing Simon Shorten, who, despite having had a cold, soldiered on and was pretty good as I recall), and such was the case this time.  (I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised considering the last time I saw the show was during the Christmas holidays and last night was a Monday night!)  Last night we got the alternate Christine (who I find is normally just as good or often better than the main Christine) and a house cover Phantom.  I was most surprised to check the board and see, not Geronimo Rauch or Scott Davies, but someone called Jeremy Secomb who I had never heard of before!!  (I had heard really good things about Rauch and had always wanted to see Davies as I understand he is a bit of a Marmite Phantom.)  Some Internet digging later, I discovered that Davies had lost his voice mid-show (I assume on Sunday) and had continued miming onstage while Jeremy Secomb sang from backstage, looking at the monitor.  Apparently it was a phenomenal save.  But I would say it’s a real rarity to get a Phantom who normally plays Piangi.  I’m still on the fence how I felt about his vocal performance, but his Final Lair was very powerful.  

There were a couple of unusual factors in this performance, in fact.  It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a blonde Christine in POTO (although of course in the original book Christine is blonde and Swedish); I feel quite lucky to have gotten to see a blonde, Swedish actress actually play Christine!  This meant that Meg had a brunette wig, which was quite trippy.  It took some getting used to.  I was pretty impressed with Emmi Christensson as Christine, vocally and performance-wise, although I thought she was better in the first act.  Liam Tamne was Raoul.  Raoul is a bit of a thankless part, at least in my opinion; Tamne was okay.  Several of his character decisions were not to my taste, but I will say he gave an excellent performance in “All I Ask of You,” which is something I rarely say about a Raoul!  It was nice, as well, to see a completely new cast as in recent years I have had some overlap with supporting characters (nothing against them, it’s just nice seeing different people in the roles).

Seats were in the front row of the Grand Circle.  (One day before I die I am going to get seats for the stalls in Her Majesty’s.  I don’t think I’ve sat in the stalls at POTO since my 2nd show in Albuquerque, more than 10 years ago.)  Visibility was good (I could see Red Death!  Hooray!) except for bits of STYDI and some of the other stuff really far downstage.  We were nearly at eye level with the chandelier, and if the angel hadn’t lowered so much during AIAOYR the Phantom could have spat in our eyes.  The orchestra seemed really loud at this performance—to the point I couldn’t understand Raoul when he shouted “but this time, the DISASTER WILL BE YOURS!!!” even though you could tell he was singing as loudly as he could.  The harpsichord effect on the keyboard sounded really prominent in quite a few places, too.

Auctioneer unremarkable.  Robert le Diable skulls didn’t get any notice.  It’s the first time I can remember seeing the Chalumeau poster very clearly.  I didn’t like the Raoul characterisation at all.  He shouted “Booooy!” loudly and gratingly.  There was a lot of fake coughing.  Some Raouls can sound old convincingly; this one couldn’t (also he looked nothing like Professor Travers J).  The nurse nudged him on the shoulder when bidding commenced for Lot 665.  Mme Giry (Jacinta Mulcahy) seemed subsumed in a giant fur wrap.  Overture excellent.  For the first time I could see actual stagehands holding big spotlights on the chandelier as it rose.  Stagehands always seem to need to help pull the cloth off the statues on stage left.  

I was ambivalent about the Carlotta, Lara Martins.  She had a powerful and operatic voice certainly and at least she wasn’t shrill.  The accent was muddled and inconsistent which is surprising given she’s apparently Portuguese. I couldn’t really tell what kind of woman this Carlotta was, at least until the second act.  John Ellis was a good Piangi.  He seemed much taller than many a Piangi and therefore less silly as the bulk, though obviously fake, made him look like a man who was more than a match for anyone (including the Phantom).  He prised his way up on the elephant but didn’t flail around and only played the sword raise for laughs.  He really got some laughs after Carlotta screamed, “Ubaldo, andiamo!”  He sort of sheepishly moved across the stage which was a lot funnier than the last-minute “Amateurs!”    

I really liked this Lefèvre (Tim Laurenti), he seemed ordinary and trustworthy.  Along with Firmin (Andy Hockley) and André (Martin Ball), they seemed far less sleazy than many recent characterizations of them that I’ve seen (either characterization is fine, I just thought it was interesting).  I just got a large sense of character from Lefèvre.  He looked older and very dapper (although he pronounced Firmin “FUR-min”).  For example, “our leading soprano for five seasons now” was said without any sarcasm or weariness, rather refreshing!  Firmin was really jolly.  He spent a lot of the first act laughing, and again, as I said, less of the sleaze factor.  He seemed like more of a legitimate businessman; in fact, André did, too, less of a dilettante (and he seemed less sure about Elissa’s aria being in act three, less sycophantic).  Firmin, for example, didn’t seem to purposefully blow off Piangi when introduced to him.  What a hilarious moment when Firmin started clapping prematurely after the first verse of TOM—André and a few of the others tried to gently but forcefully motion at him not to start clapping yet.  “God in Heaven, you’re all obsessed” was like “WTF is wrong with you people” rather than angry or shocked. 

Hannibal lively as ever.  I noticed a stagehand who I later figured out was Buquet with the Wild Man’s huge, ridiculous club at the back of the stage which I had somehow failed to see all the other seven times I’ve seen this show.  The Slave Driver was covered in shine but it’s the first time I can recall a Slave Driver who didn’t wax.  There was also a moment when some of the supernumeraries were in the background looking at what I thought at first was a map but realized later was a newspaper!  Oh and the stagehands in the elephant got a big laugh, they never cease to do so.   

Think of Me
I thought Emmi Christensson was so appealing.  The really fair Swedish looks with the big dark eye make up (echoes of Sarah Brightman!) worked really well, made for a highly unusual Christine.  I found her face highly expressive as well; others have commented she was somewhat stoic in portrayal but I didn’t think so.  She made me think of the Clara Bow actresses from the silent film age who used their faces in that way (though obviously she wasn’t silent!).  Rachel Barrell was really smiley and so was Sofia Escobar; Gina Beck I don’t really remember and Celia Graham had a pretty mobile face.  But EC was at least as expressive as any of them; I thought she was charming.  Her voice reminded me of Catherine Porter, sort of pop-like but also not too slack, not too showy either.  Not incredibly warm but not cold either.  She seemed genuinely excited and pleased, which was refreshing in a song that (though it’s a joy to sing) can be a bit of a concert piece. The cadenza was powerful and very ornamental.  It also looked as though she was putting a lot of effort into it—not necessarily in a bad way.

Tamne looked very young and rather handsome up in his box.  He had a charming smile.  He had to be restrained by Firmin after his “brava!”; it wasn’t seemly, I guess!  

Thought this was reasonably well-sung, although Meg (Alicia Beck) sounded mousy.  (I am very hard to please as far as Megs go.)  Not much else to say about it!

Little Lotte/The Mirror
After all these years, I finally took a mental note of Madame Firmin’s line:  it’s “greedy!” which she says in response to Firmin saying that all the seats were filled.  Once again, Firmin and André seemed playful rather than sleazy.

Raoul was being a twonk, which is a characterization choice you can make, and I quite liked some of Tamne’s choices here—at least they were interesting.  For example, when Christine greeted him at her door, he leaned forward and tried to kiss her but she nervously moved away.  YOU GOT TOLD!  There were a few more details in this vein which alas I’ve forgotten, but the one that absolutely shocked me was after Christine had protested, “The Angel of Music is very strict.”  He looked her up and down with a proprietary gleam in his (young, scuzzy) eye and said, “Little Lotte” in the same tone you might say like “oooh baby.”  “Two minutes . . . Little Lotte.”  Scuzz bucket!  :-D
EC flattened herself against the door when the Phantom appeared as if genuinely scared.  I don’t remember seeing a Christine quite that shocked or scared.  “Who IS that in there?” Raoul demanded.  

Title Song
I love love love this.  I can’t remember the misty lake ever looking bluer!  Good, competent rendition.  The hat toss and the cape twirl were adequate.  There was a very good Dave Willetts hair slick back motion, absolutely carried through to the front of the thighs, egads.  I loved EC’s reaction at the first “Sing for me!”  She looked suitably chastised, in a professional way, as if she realized she could sing better and would try to do so.  At the very end of the cadenza, she looked genuinely scared as if she couldn’t believe what was happening to her.  Not a sexual kind of “I’ve lost my innocence” kind of scared, but as if she was afraid she was being possessed.  It was interesting.  She even touched her throat after the song was over as if she couldn’t believe that her voice had come out like that.  For his part, he wasn’t super-sexualizing the bit at the end; if anything, he was on the same wavelength as far as trying to push himself for musical excellence.  That was what I got out of it, anyway.

This was beautifully staged, though to be completely honest, it wasn’t the best rendition I’ve ever heard.  I really struggled as I watched this show to think how to describe Jeremy Secomb’s voice.  Now that I know that he is normally Piangi, my “he must be a baritone” theory has gotten blown out of the water.  “Powerful” is the main adjective I would use; not floaty or caressing (à la Simon Shorten or Hugh Panaro, occasionally, Ted Keegan), nor raw and anguished (à la Gary Mauer, although there were moments I thought of Mauer).  Looking back at my previous reviews, I think he most resembled Earl Carpenter (who I loved, probably my third favorite Phantom, though I also liked Ramin, who had some amazing acting moments and his voice was so beautiful . . . but I digress) or possibly David Shannon.  Vocally, I thought overall he was a very strong singer, and his characterization was very enjoyable.  I have to admit, though, his “soar” was breathy and the very last “niiiight” was pretty weak.  The final “Be!” was excellent.

EC worked well with Secomb.  As I’ve said previously, Christine pretty much has to look dazed.  There’s no provision for her to stop the Phantom mid-song and say, “What is going on?”  There’s no provision for her to be angry or annoyed.  She just has to accept the magic of the song and let him sing it to her.  Nevertheless, EC carried on her characterization of being slightly scared of what the Phantom was making her become.  She looked as though she understood that he really meant darkness when he sang, “the darkness of the music of the night.”  Just before the “Let your mind” verse, when he was back by the portcullis, she seemed to think to herself, “Okay, now I get it, this is a seduction.”  So she moved toward him to lean in—to, what?  Touch him?  Kiss him?  He was surprised and pulled back, to the point that she got frightened too and ran away.  He hung around on the portcullis—that is such a self-consciously sexy pose in MOTN, it always surprises me.  He seemed very nervous to do the “touch me, trust me” pose and flinched when she reached up for “savour each sensation.”   And he caught her, of course, hooray!

I liked how he worked on the score.  It was like he was doing miniature conducting.  Previously Phantoms I’ve seen have been really pissed off as they composed.  He was pretty equable about it.  She sat straight up at “on the lake.”  Again, this is something I really liked:  EC was really coquettish as she started reaching out to grab the mask during “Who was that shape in the shadows / whose is the face in the mask?”  Normally I get the feeling that Christines are just overwhelmed with Bluebeard’s wives-like curiosity which feels kind of wrong.  The magic wore off so now you have an uncontrollable urge to do what didn’t matter last night because he was singing sexily to you?  I guess that’s one way of playing it, but I liked this better:  it was like she thought, okay, here’s the situation we’re in, if he wants me to “help make the music of the night,” let’s be like real lovers, maybe he’s playing a game with me.  Or something.  And she also looped the trailing end of her dressing gown under her arm for most of this scene.  Maybe she slipped and fell another time?  

“No!” he shrieked.  The “damn” and “curse” were yelps.  After “Damn you!  Curse you!” he fell onto the stage with his back to the audience.  She was crying in a heap.  He was so heartbreaking on “fear can turn to love.”  As he was right next to the mirror, he seemed to contemplate its jagged edges at, “carcass.”  He pulled himself along on his elbows.  He was quite unashamedly sobbing while she took her time in getting the mask back to him.  He wasn’t angry for “Come, we must return / Those two fools who run my theatre will be missing you,” and though he spirited her out post-haste, he didn’t drag her.  

This is probably the youngest Buquet I have ever seen.  He reminded me of the Buquet in the David Staller Phantom, although that one had impressive fake facial hair and this guy looked ill.  It was very funny when he seemed to think he had scared all the ballet girls off and it was actually the Phantom appearing.

Notes/Prima Donna
Firmin, not surprisingly, began the scene laughing.  André spent this song looking more bemused than upset.  Yes, indeed, these were two of the most low-key, calm managers I have seen.  (But they weren’t boring.)  There was a wonderfully long pause after “wrote,” at which point everyone turned to Firmin, who, embarrassed, replied, “written.”  “If you didn’t write it,” said Raoul, “WHO did?”  Meg advanced on André for “she needed rest,” to such a degree he seemed a bit scared of her.  She was embarrassed and backed off.  At “here another note,” they actually seemed to cry out in pain!  It was quite funny.  “Why did Christine fly from my arms?” was exceptionally clear.  Yet Tamne was very quiet for the rest of the song; I couldn’t hear his other lines.  “We need you,” said Firmin.  “Too,” he added.  

Carlotta, yes, fine; she seemed to enjoy singing, “Would you rather not have your precious little ingénue?”  They were very firm about “Signora, no.  The world wants you.”  And not very sycophantic.   André bumped Firmin who bumped Piangi at some point—quite funny.  

Il Muto
“Observe herrrr,” sang Don Atillo, though not as long as some have held that note.  “Though I’d happily take the maid with me,” he noted, while making bonking motions.  The Serafimo outfit seemed far less blue than normal, more of an icy pale green.  

I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but Carlotta didn’t seem to be wearing any make up.  This made all the difference.  The actress looked so much younger and very appealing.  If it was on purpose, it really changed the scene.  I actually felt compassion for Carlotta here.  The singing was of course great, and she seemed to have fun with it.  There was a sense of “shrug, shrug, I’m going to put you in your place,” when she said, “your part is silent, little toad.”  However, it wasn’t much of a croak—just a “bleeehhh” sound.  During the Phantom’s demands to Carlotta, the orchestra was very loud, I could barely hear him.  And geez, he shook the chandelier.  I can’t remember seeing it shake that much. 

The wonderful André-ness continued.  “I will be bringing you . . . bringing you the ballet from . . . uh . . . Act Three,” he muttered to the audience.  Then he announced, with confidence, “The ballet!”  As nothing happened, he said crossly to the pit, “Now!”  He almost ran into the hoops of not one but about 4 of the dancers!!  The Il Muto male dancer seemed to be noticing the Phantom’s shadows; I always thought they were blissfully unaware of them.  Firmin announced “it was an accident, simply an accident” seeming as though he had a bad taste in his mouth.  The Phantom’s laugh was entertaining but not diabolically sinister like some I can think of.

Raoul shouted, “Come on now!” before Christine added, “The roof, we’ll be safe there.”  I forgot to mention that EC has a slight accent, but frankly, for this part, it was charming.  Okay, and I must say this is one of the AIAOY that has made the biggest impression on me.  I try politely to sit through it but it’s rather boring after awhile.  However, there were some interesting things in this one.  She got really put out with Raoul when he said, “There is no Phantom of the opera,” as if he was suggesting she was childish or making it up.  This is very similar to Raoul questioning Christine at Mamma Valerius’ in the book.  Christine therefore kind of shoved him.  “Raoul, I’ve BEEN THERE,” she said, as if to prove him wrong.  She wasn’t frightened as she sang that part, just trying to get him to believe her.  However, she seemed a bit more disturbed at “Raoul, I’ve SEEN him.”  “Yet his voice” was beautiful.  

There was a lot of coughing throughout AIAOY!  For once, this part actually made sense:  Raoul shouted “Christine!” but it’s because she had wandered to the very edge of the roof and he seemed concerned she was going to fall off.  When she began singing, “All I want is freedom,” she threw herself into his arms.  He wasn’t expecting that and did not hold her.  This was an awesome and very sad parody of what was going to happen in Final Lair when she kisses the Phantom.  That was GREAT.  She was genuinely sweetly happy for “And you.”  He got pleasantly surprised and got down on one knee.  She tried to mimic him, as if to go down on one knee, then raised him up beside her so he wasn’t kneeling, as if to say “We’re equals, this is a partnership.”  During the second kiss, she flung her arms around him.  Before that, she didn’t seem quite sure.  She giggled when she said, “They’ll wonder where I am!”

Not bad.  He put his hands over his ears while they were singing and shuddered and sort of hid under his hat.  He stood in that angel (it looked precarious) and sang a very resonant “Go!” although the laughter was, as I said, not insane. 

The Entr’acte seemed a very speedy tempo.

There was a very drawn out opening.  Firmin and André were circling around and around and it seemed as though the actors were actually having trouble finding each other to bump into each other.  It made me want to shout “He’s behind you!!”—but I didn’t.  The certain laugh of the second act is André’s skeleton costume, though for me at this point I’m sort of like, “Why is this even funny?” 
Not too much to say here, Christine’s costume looked a little different than usual.  I caught Firmin flirting at the top of the stairs with two masked guests (haha not mannequins though).  Secomb did a great, menacing Red Death.

Notes II/Sitzprobe
The staircase rolling back was loud but not disastrously loud.  Raoul here was more compassionate than melodramatic; sometimes Raouls go nuts with this scene.  

André was looking at the offensive score; Firmin was examining the notes.  André pulled Firmin toward the front of the stage for “if you could find out which / has a sense of pitch,” as they were too close to Carlotta and Piangi and André was obviously anxious they were going to be offended!  Some great touches from the managers in this show.  “The things I ‘ave to do for my art!” got a big laugh.  “Aaaahhhh!” was very loud.  By contrast, I could barely hear Christine for “How dare you?”  Not the sharpest or most confrontational of Christines; she seemed to be losing it, in fact.  As she sank into the chair and got up again, all the men—including a rather sheepish Piangi—moved forward to help her.  Raoul, on the other hand, however, was quite vicious to Madame Giry for “Or could it be that you’re on his side?!”  Carlotta was very subdued in this song.  She stood on stage left looking helplessly and a little sad at Christine.  “She’s mad” was said almost without emotion of any kind.
In the Sitzprobe, the man who sits next to Carlotta laughed for a long time at Piangi, then everyone was looking at him.  Including Reyer, who got in his face to say, “Nearly!!  But no.”  Normally Carlotta just acts outraged when Madame Giry says, “Would you say that in the presence of the composer?”  “The composer is not ‘ere, and if ‘e were—”  “Are you certain of that, Signora?”  At this, Carlotta had the good grace to actually look chastised.  A more human Carlotta, at least in some parts of this show, I haven’t seen.

I thought this was sung well, and I felt EC was quite a bit more emotional than I recall other Christines being.  She was very rueful for “her father promised her” and wiped away tears on her red scarf at the beginning of the scene.  She did a motion with her arms that was physically “why can’t the past just die?”  She did a lot of throwing her arms out and making fists, much more physical than I can recall Christines doing before.  The endnote was towering, and she held it for a long time.

Wandering Child
Okay, he was totally in the front of the cross!  I always thought the Phantom climbed out of the back!  She seemed genuinely spooked by his appearance; not “deer in headlights” accepting it.  She actually covered her ears when he started singing.  He was very emphatic on “AAAAAn-GEL . . . what endless longings.”  There was a great moment when the Phantom visibly noticed Raoul for the first time and snarked out, “You resist!!”  “To the grave” was very clear.  Raoul actually tried to ward off the fireballs.  I really loved the ending here:  they were gone by the time he got to “Don’t stop, don’t st- DON’T GO!”  The last bit was a sob.  Usually the Phantom is too angry to sob at that part, but he was really upset that Christine had actually left him and his seduction plan had failed.  I had the great pleasure of hearing someone behind me remark incredulously, “Now he has a flamethrower?”  

I was quite amused by the police officer in the pit—I couldn’t see him, but when he spoke to Raoul, his accent made me think he was going to say, “ ‘Ow will I know, guv’nor?”  LOL.  The couple on the stage right side of the bench left absolutely nothing to the imagination with their quite graphic dry humping.  Egads.  Passarino’s expression was priceless when Aminta appeared:  like “hot damn!” 
Hilariously, after the Phantom sang, “Passarino, go away for the trap is set and waits for its prey!” the same person behind me more or less whisper/shouted:  “It’s a TRAP!!!”  I was rolling in the aisles after that one.  EC was demonstrative with the apple.  She seemed quite spooked throughout, though I don’t think the intent was to suggest she knew it was the Phantom.  

This is a pleasant song; there’s little revolutionary you can bring to it vocally (IMHO).  However, I have to confess I was a little disappointed acting-wise from the Phantom.  As one of the Phantom actors once said (I forget who), you are basically acting from inside a big black sack!  You have to be demonstrative—it’s the moment for some real hand acting!  From Secomb I got nothing.  Now, I wasn’t expecting something along the lines of Eiji Akutagawa ( but some kind of sign of life would have been good.  Oh well.
Once she had realized it was the Phantom and got up to run away, she shouted something like “No!  Not you!”  She pulled away quite heartily, but by the end of the song, she had given up and seemed rather resigned to this confrontation.  I really like how the Phantom reacted after she got the hood off.  He wanted to run away, then he went downstage toward the curtain, as if he seemed then to remember what was behind it and there really was no escape, then he seemed to think, “what the hell” and decided to lay his heart out for Christine and give her the ring. He touched his heart for “SAVE ME” which was really sweet.  There was some screaming from everybody when she got the mask and wig off.  

Down Once More/Final Lair
He really shouted “hell!!!!”  In the boat, he grabbed her as he spat out “Why you ask was I bound and chained in this cold and dismal place?”  It looked as though he was pulling her hair!  People were visibly stunned when Raoul jumped into the “lake.” 

She went “ugh” when he tried to touch her for “the joys of the flesh.”  Because she looked so repulsed, he pulled backward in shock.  “This FACE!” he shouted.  And he emphasized “scrrrrap.”  He threw his face at her for “of this!”  He gave her the bouquet quite late.  He really winced at “soul.”  

Raoul spent this entire scene breathing really heavily.  I don’t mind struggling with the noose (although I think he went a bit overboard) but the heavy breathing—I guess in real life Raoul would be gasping, but it’s one area in this production where you don’t want verisimilitude.  “I had rather hoped” came out as if he actually was a little bit relieved that Raoul had showed up, because at least here would be an end to it.  I’ve noticed that recent London Phantoms seem to like to say “your luuuuvver” in a really patronizing way (as opposed to an angry way, or a sardonic way).  That was true here; I’m not sure how much I like it.   However, I have to admit that overall the Secomb Final Lair was really moving.  In fact, I actually cried at this Final Lair, which I haven’t done in nearly ten years (I mean cry cry; getting tears in my eyes doesn’t count).  

As Raoul was making his passionate plea, the Phantom was half turning away as if he couldn’t bear listening to him.  I struggle to describe the exact tone in which he sang, “The world showed no compassion to ME!” although I could reproduce it vocally for you.  Raoul was very cautious about the portcullis (he seemed to think the Phantom was going to spear him with it as he ducked under).  And yes, once the noose was around his neck, Raoul sputtered and struggled.  Not the way Michael Xavier did, which was sort of heroic, but just as if he felt he had to constantly keep moving in order to keep our attention (or make it look realistic?  I’m not sure what he was doing).  

The Phantom flung the dummy; that’s always a shocker, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.  There was a real finality—like “no more games”—to “this is the choice.”  She was on the ground for “tears of hate!!”  The Phantom looked tormented throughout the trio.  He went once for Raoul, shouting “No!”  Then he went for him again—Christine shielding Raoul with her body—after Raoul got out “Why make her lie to you to save me?”  The Phantom absolutely slammed the organ and got out a really vicious “You try my patience.”  Once again, the finality in “make your choice.”  It’s fascinating to hear the different nuances different Phantoms give to this line.  It’s a great index of character.  The kiss was actually quite unexpectedly amazing.  She grabbed his shoulder and forcefully spun him around into the kiss so that he absolutely couldn’t resist.  After she let him go after the second kiss, he touched his lips.  I love when Phantoms do that.  With Ramin it was all about smelling his fingers, which me being me I adored, but this was more about deliberation and not shock:  here is the kiss, what do I do about it now? kind of thing.  

After he picked up the candle, Christine interposed, shouting something like, “No!  Don’t hurt him.”  Raoul collapsed after the thread was burnt.  Forget all you’ve seen” was again said with a great sense of deliberateness.  He dropped the candle as he strove to replace it at the music stand, fumbling around as he sang to try to smoosh it back into place!  “Angel in hellllll!!!!!!!”  I was reminded of John Owen-Jones for the screamy/shouty/sobby “Go now!  Go now and leeeeeaaaaaaavvvvvvve meeeeeeeeeeee!”  He turned on the waterworks here, and so did I.  I loved that when the monkey started playing, he looked up as if wondering what it was.  I always wondered how the Phantom would automatically know that the music box spontaneously started playing of its own accord.  Paper faces” was heartbreaking.  Usually the Phantom covers the left side of the monkey’s face with his right hand, but this time he wrapped his hand around it from the right side!  Really interesting! 
She gave him the ring, then seemed to struggle with herself as if she wanted to give it back.  However, in a split second she made her decision and ran off.  Aw, Christine.  He spent the next few bars crying into the veil.  Waaaahhh.  The last line was wonderful.  And people were genuinely stunned that he disappeared into the throne.  

The only inkling I ever had that Jeremy Secomb was Australian was at curtain call, when he introduced Martin Ball who told us it was Worlds’ AIDS Day (which I didn’t know).  We were told we must be the kind of folk who knew that kind of thing given we were at a Monday night performance (that seemed more likely to him than “darling, let’s go see Phantom, it’s been playing for 28 years and we have never seen it”).  We were given great assurance that the girls who play the ballets rats were going to be stopping us in the lobby for donations, but Jamie and I—prepared to shell out cash—were baffled to find no one collecting for Theatre MAD.  Oh, and I enjoyed hearing the Exit Music—normally I dash off to the stage door but this time I heard it in its entirety.  
Okay, when do I get to go again??

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