Children's Musical Adaptation by Theatreworks
PPI Recording, New York City, 1997
Book by Rob Barron, Music and Lyrics by David Spencer
Some are scared of monsters underneath the bed. Some are scared of bloodstains all sticky, warm, and red. Some are scared of Phantoms created in their head... Some are scared of footsteps that echo in the hall, but someone different will scare us all. Someone in the darkness, someone that we turn from, someone with a difference no one wants to learn from.... Some are scared of cases with unopened lids. Some are scared of places with lots and lots of kids...
~from song "Some are Scared," third song on CD soundtrack
I have not seen the actual musical on stage, so bear with me as I go by my CD recording. Listening to it, I had been under the impression that the target audience was small children and perhaps pre-teens. I was suprised to learn that the target audience had actually been teenagers. More on that on another day.
As with any children's adaptation, this one has almost no horror. Instead, this light-hearted comical musical focuses on the fear of change, failure, success, and most of all people who are different from ourselves. Story is narrated by a broom-pushing narrator named "Gaston" (Andrew Sgroi), as he remembers events that occured twenty years ago.
At a company meeting, Christine learns of a ghost that does not like change. Every time any change occurs, catastrophes happen. Now, a new director, M. Richard (Brian Robinson), has been sent by the Minister of Culture to save the opera. It has been losing money for the past five seasons, ever since the fire. Richard's new ideals obviously clash with M. Ghost as he tells them, "Out with the old, in with the new," and "Ancient is gruesome, modern is gold." He lays off a list of people who had been with the company for many years and agrees to cast Christine as the new star if he likes her voice.
Madame Giry seems to like Christine's story of the Angel of Music, and assigns her dressing room three on the grounds that it will bring her good luck. It is noticeably smaller, isolated, and drafty, but Giry insists and Christine accepts. While she is speaking out about her father and the angel in her dressing room, the Voice (Benjamin A. Damiano) calls her name. He claims to be her Angel and starts to give her singing lessons. This is one of the very few versions, on movie or in musicals, where the actual singing lessons are acted out.
The lessons are a success. The new director casts Christine as the star of the new spring productions, much to the horror of Carlotta (Heidi Anderson) who had been Prima Donna for ten years. He even offers her Carlotta's dressing room (number one), but Christine insists on remaining in dressing room three.
The Phantom is happy as he continues with Christine's singing lessons. He does not feel like a monster. He enjoys sharing his gifts for music with Christine and after years feels "normal" again. Meanwhile, the director cannot seem to find a new opera that interests him ("Don Carlos? No. Don Giovanni? No. Don Pasquale? Who wrote that one? Donizetti. No.") Meanwhile, the outraged Carlotta refuses to go quietly after being abruptly replaced. Flabbergasted that the Phantom has not scared off Christine yet, she dresses up as a Phantom herself to do the job. The Phantom intercepts and warns that no one will interfere with Christine's debut.
At long last, the manager and director find a perfect role for Christine's debut, Marguerite in Faust. Christine goes to tell her Angel of Music the good news, but he is outraged. Not only does he refuse to help her rehearse this role, but also makes the threat that no one will sing Faust in this opera house. Christine begins to doubt the nature of her angel and decides to sing the role with or without his approval. The director feels old star and new star should be together, but Carlotta does not want to be in Faust. The director gets a threatening note, but he refuses to back down especially two weeks before opening night.
The Phantom reveals to Christine he is not her angel. He warns her not to sing or else the chandelier will come crashing down. He then reveals his real identity and of his past. He had been in the chorus but was chosen to sing the lead role in Faust. He was in dressing room three when a fire broke out. His clothes caught fire and his face was badly scarred. He could barely remember who he was. As he wandered out and sought help, people treated him like a horrible monster. If they were not recoiling from him in terror, they were ganging up on him to assault him. He was pursued by mobs who threw rocks at him, tried to hit him with sticks, etc. while they hollered "Freak!" and other insults at him.
Finally able to find a hiding place from the mobs under the opera house, he saw himself in the mirror. It was then that he became the phantom, and tried to keep life at the opera house exactly like they were before the fire, before he became different.
Christine takes pity and reassures him she is not afraid of his difference. As she tries to remove his mask, he recoils and she loses her balance. The company thinks he assaulted her and pursue him. Christine regains consciousness and stops the crowd. She speaks of what a great and brilliant teacher he had been to her, to which Madame Giry replies, "My son has always been brilliant." Carlotta recognizes the name Erik Giry, saying he had been presumed dead from the fire but a body was ever found. Madame Giry reassures her son Erik that while he was Christine's angel, Christine has now become his angel.
Richard is inspired by this story and decides to start an opera school. Everyone applauds the idea, even Carlotta, who suggests maybe even she could use a few lessons. For once, Erik agrees wholeheartedly with something Carlotta says...
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