Phantom Thread

Author: Kirsten K., Books, Entertainment, History, Literature, Nostalgia, Theatre

On this day in 1986, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera premiered in London’s West End, beginning its theatrical journey around the world and into the record books as the longest running show in Broadway history,* but it wasn’t until years later that I first fell under the Phantom’s spell. I heard The Music of the Night while watching Brian Boitano skate his signature routine on a frozen pond in some long-forgotten television special, but I could not forget the song.

From that moment, The Phantom of the Opera began to weave a ghostly thread through my life. I promptly purchased the Original London Cast Recording of the musical and—as Kirsti can attest—learned every word and every note. That year, I dressed as the Phantom for Halloween (when I couldn’t find his trademark half-mask, I made my own) and held out the vain hope of traveling to New York City to see the show on Broadway, but when the touring production finally came to Los Angeles, tickets were so in-demand and expensive that I couldn’t afford one!

I was in school at the time and supplemented my meager income by babysitting. When I was asked to watch the children of a couple who were going to the theater, I was both excited and envious to discover that they were seeing The Phantom of the Opera. I was also secretly resentful: as season ticket holders, they were merely going to see the latest show, whereas I—a TRUE “phan”—was stuck watching the kids. But they brought me back one of the free programs, which I read cover-to-cover and still have to this day.

I eventually saw the show for the first time with my family, and it was both phantastic and anti-climactic, as such long-awaited moments tend to be, but it rekindled my childhood love of musicals and gave me a new appreciation for live theater—another thread that continues to twine its way through my life.

During The Phantom of the Opera’s historic 4½-year run in Los Angeles, the theater began to offer upper balcony (aka “nosebleed”) seats to students for just $15, so I went there every few months to see the show, taking a different friend or co-worker with me each time and delighting in their reactions to the phanfare. Serendipitously, I happened to be there on the night of Davis Gaines’s 100th performance as the Phantom, as well as the time he surpassed Michael Crawford as the longest-running Phantom. In addition to various touring productions and Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular, I’ve seen the show almost 20 times, which is a modest number, considering the 100+ times that some phanatics have seen it.

As most people are aware, the stage production is based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, but it was largely the musical that inspired a wave of phanfic in the ensuing years, the first—and, arguably, the best—of which is Phantom by Susan Kay. This year marks both the 110th anniversary of the publication of Leroux’s classic novel and the 30th anniversary of  the release of Susan Kay’s reimagining of the tale, which follows the disfigured genius Erik from his birth all the way through the dramatic events at the Paris Opera.

There are other threads in my life that have spun off from the original—books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, music I’ve played, friends I’ve made, and places I’ve traveled as a result of my introduction to the Phantom. When I started piano lessons as an adult, the first song I learned to play was The Music of the Night. I’ve studied both voice and French, the latter culminating in a trip to Paris, where I visited the Palais Garnier and stood outside Box 5, a favorite haunt of the O.G.

The Phantom of the Opera unspooled more of its own thread to produce both a film version and a sequel to the original stage production called Love Never Dies, which—despite its lush sets and some truly beautiful music—was not well received by either critics or audiences (much the way an unseen monster is more frightening when conjured in the mind’s eye, an unfulfilled love story is more intriguing when left to the imagination).

Some threads become worn with time and need to be stored away to protect them, but every once in a while I like to pull gently at the Phantom thread, revisiting the musical and hearing those haunting melodies again, allowing them to weave their spectral spell once more.

Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Phantom of the Opera


*The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway history to date, but another blockbuster may come along someday to push the Phantom off its pedestal.

Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux was serialized in the French newspaper Le Gaulois beginning in 1909, but was officially published in volume form in March of 1910.

The Phantom signs his letters O.G. for “Opera Ghost.”


A Show with Legs

Author: Kirsten K., Entertainment, Music, Theatre

Jane Eyre Original Broadway Cast RecordingReading Jane Eyre in high school had me racing to English class each day to discuss the brooding Mr. Rochester and the mystery in his attic. I fell hard for gothic romance and subsequently saw every iteration of the story on film, which is why a notice about a pre-Broadway tryout of the musical version at the La Jolla Playhouse caught my eye in the summer of 1999. I recruited My Crazy Friend Marianne™ to drive with me from L.A. to San Diego to see the show, and was later able to catch it on Broadway in 2001 during its brief run.

Since then, I’ve followed the career of composer and lyricist Paul Gordon, but I somehow failed to hear about his production of Daddy Long Legs until mere weeks after it had finished its premiere run at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura County, just a short drive north of Los Angeles. Disappointed at this missed opportunity, I consoled myself by listening to the delightful cast recording, which presents the story in such a way that I was able to clearly envision the show.

Daddy Long Legs Original Cast RecordingUntil reading about the musical, I’d never heard of the book Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster or the 1955 film of the same name starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. The book is an epistolary novel, told through a series of letters, and the musical takes advantage of this device. Set in early 1900s New England, it tells the story of Jerusha Abbott, “The Oldest Orphan in the John Grier Home,” a trustee of which chooses to be her benefactor and send her to school for a proper education. Though she’s never met him, she sees his long shadow cast by the lights of a car as he’s leaving the home and nicknames him Daddy Long Legs. His one requirement is that she write to him regularly with updates about her progress, and it is through these letters that her intelligence, humor, and innocent wonder begin to chip away at his cynicism. While she assumes that he is an older gentlemen, he’s actually a young man who is starting to develop feelings for her.

Daddy Long Legs is one of the sweetest, most charming musicals I’ve ever heard. Sung entirely by the two main characters, the inventive score is brought to life by the expressive voices of stars Megan McGinnis and Paul Alexander Nolan (Robert Adelman Hancock in the original production). And, like a Progressive Era You’ve Got Mail (a Swoon Society favorite), the letter-writing format heightens the anticipation as it builds to the big reveal. Unfortunately, despite being nominated for three Outer Critics Circle Awards (Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical, Book of a Musical, and New Score) and two Drama Desk Awards (Outstanding Musical and Score), the show will close its Off-Broadway run on June 6th after less than nine months.

Daddy Long Legs Original Off-Broadway Cast RecordingIt seems I’m always just two steps behind these Long Legs, first missing the original production in my own backyard, then neglecting to read about the livestream event this past December until shortly after it had come and gone. Now the show will close in less than a week, dashing any hope of seeing it on Broadway, but the music lives on. Perhaps, like other critical darlings that have closed after short runs (remember Side Show?), it will find new life in regional theatres and I’ll have the opportunity to see it someday.

Until then, anyone can pop in the CD or download the Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording and swoon over this lyrical love letter. Even though the current production is coming to an end, I believe this show has legs and will continue to weave its magic for a long time to come.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Daddy Long Legs


The Off-Broadway Cast Recording is also available for download from Amazon and Google Play. The Original Cast Recording* can be downloaded from iTunes and Amazon. The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Jane Eyre can be purchased as a CD or MP3 from Amazon and is available for download from iTunes.


*This recording is slightly different from the Off-Broadway version and contains my favorite verse from the show, which was cut from the subsequent production:

“I see my name upon the page,
She writes of me in such detail.
Am I just fostering her education,
Or reading someone else’s mail?”