Inside the Phantom’s lair
MANILA, Philippines - We ran a few minutes late the first time my family and I watched The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. A key part of Act One was already happening when we sat down. It was one of the highlights.
I started crying.
Who could have known I’d get to go on a backstage tour of Phantom at the Cultural Center of the Philippines many years later?
Officially the longest running show on Broadway and staged all over the world — from London’s West End to the Esplanade in Singapore — Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical finally came to Manila last August 25.
It is on an extended run until October 14.
“The show follows a blueprint,” says head of wardrobe Eugene Titus, “which means it’s the same show anywhere in the world. Everything you see here is what you see in all other shows.”
There are 130 international cast and orchestra members in Phantom. It takes another 100 people working backstage to keep the performance going.
Costume changes alone can involve up to 10 specially trained staff, called “dressers,” working on one actor. So when female lead Christine needs a quick change in the boat scene, it’s done in 12 seconds.
“It’s 12 seconds no matter what happens,” Eugene says.
The Phantom’s silk and velvet costumes entail hundreds of hours of beadwork by hand. The fabrics are vintage, with registered trademarks sourced from England.
Every piece from the wardrobe department is custom-made.
The letters read on set are real, written in the style of the period. Even the newspapers are produced from the printing press.
“This is from 1906,” head of props Bernard Fitzgerald says holding up a newspaper backstage.
“You’re sitting back 10 rows you probably wouldn’t be able to see what it was but the details are there. The same with the letters.
"They have to be set correctly. Everything’s got to be set perfectly, correctly.”
Bernard’s favorite prop is the Phantom’s monkey. It’s been with the production since 1990.
“It’s a beautiful piece, I love it,” he says.
Unfortunately, someone on set decided the monkey needed a little haircut one time. Bernard has since been on the lookout for the right kind of fur to put his monkey back to rights.
“Every little thing is checked everyday to make sure,” he says.
“Little things happen, like paintwork gets scratched and all that. You touch it up with a fine little bit of paint.
"If you leave all those little scratches like that, over time the show starts to look very tired and old, so you do it on a daily basis.”
The Phantom of the Opera continues to dazzle audiences around the world after 26 years onstage.
I couldn’t be the only one who never gets tired of watching the romance, fearing yet feeling for the Phantom at the same time.
The performances don’t fade, because on the stage and behind it are people who tirelessly put on the best show every single night. - Rappler.com
Ivy Ong is a management graduate of ADMU who pursued a journalism MA in Australia for the love of writing. She believes in using words to inspire world peace, kindness and integrity.