10 February 2010
"Love Never Dies"
So, yeah... The sequel to The Phantom of the Opera...
I should point out, right up front, that I have to be really, really, REALLY careful about what information I write about the show - we've all been sworn to secrecy about pretty much every detail, from plot twists to the AMAZING spectacles that the show employs. Suffice to say, Andrew Lloyd Webber has quite literally pulled every trick out of the bag, and every day I've been in the theatre, I've been amazed and awed by something new.
The Adelphi Theatre is right on The Strand, just a two-minute walk down the street from Charing Cross Underground (and Train) Station (which, super happily, is on the Northern line, which takes me all the way down South to Balham, from where it's only a 5 minute train journey back to my place - easy peasy, as they say), next door to the Vaudeville Theatre (currently playing Noel Coward's "Private Lives" with Kim Catrall (bleh) and Matthew MacFadyen (yummy!), and kitty corner to the Savoy, currently playing "Legally Blonde: the Musical" (hells yeah!).
The theatre is a tribute to Art Deco style, as well as -in true London style- a curse to all cast and crew legs and feet. This is due to the fact that the theatre was built "up" rather than "out" - you enter the theatre on the ground level (stage door level), and have your choice - you can go up to the dressing rooms and various crew rooms (the wardrobe room is on floor 3 [the fourth floor up from the ground], while my dressing room is on the 4th floor [5th by US phrasing] ) Yep, five flights of stairs to get to my actors and their costumes. But, obviously, the show isn't happening in the dressing rooms - oh no, for that you have to go back down to the ground floor, then down a FURTHER floor to get to the stage level. However, from here you can only access Stage Right. Because the sets are so monstrously huge, there was no room to allow a cross-over space in the back [for the crew to cross the stage without being seen on the stage] SO, you go down ANOTHER flight of stairs to the "Substage" area (where we have multiple quick-change areas set up, as well as the "catch" area for the elevators and trap doors to the stage - you climb the stairs on the other end to access Stage Left, but have to come back down and through the Substage if you want to get back out again. One of these mornings I'll stop and buy a pedometer. Then again, I'm not sure I really want to know...
There are 10 dressers on the show, each assigned to a specific dressing room (or, more to the point, assigned to take care of the actors who are in said room) - I'm the dresser for the actress playing the character of Fleck (a lead - one of the Phantom's henchmen, so to speak), as well as three ensemble women, who are also the first understudies for Christine and Madame Giry. All four girls have been absolutely adorably sweet (Celia gave me a massive hug when I introduced myself, Niamh [pronounced "Neeve"] laughed and said we were in for a really fun year), even despite the fact that I'm the one who has to lace them into their corsets after dinner. ;) I've already learned absolutely HEEPS of London theatre gossip which I wish I could tell, but the Dresser's Code strictly forbids passing on gossip heard in the dressing room. One day, one day I shall write my memoirs, but not until I'm fantastically rich and living in seclusion on a desert island somewhere, eating bon-bons all day. Until then, the secrets told in Dressing Room 10 must remain in Dressing Room 10.
The other dressers (and the Wardrobe Assistants / Wig Persons / Wardrobe Head / Costume Supervisor / etc etc etc!) are all an absolute hoot - we spent our first day called in forced to sit through a Health and Safety lecture on not lifting heavy things and, basically, told us that everything we were doing was wrong. Whoops, but -really- what can you do? It's become something of a running gag amongst the costumers now - "are you keeping your back straight?!" One of the H&S guy's questions was, "Do you eat healthy?", to which we all chortled pretty much simultaneously. I've been bringing a dinner from home and have tried to keep fruit and good, hearty sandwiches involved, but I have also stocked up on microwave meals and diet coke. Especially for tech, what else can you do?
The basic premise of the show is that the Phantom escaped Paris at the end of "Phantom" with the help of Madame Giry and Meg. They escaped to New York and set up shop amongst the carnival atmosphere of Coney Island, where the Phantom has become rich and powerful. In disguise, he summons Christine (who has married Raoul and has son Gustave) to sing for a concert on Coney Island... and... you know... stuff happens. ;) Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (who I have yet to see wandering the halls, though I know it will happen and I know I will make an absolute idiot of myself when it does!) wrote the music (which is absolutely glorious and extremely addicting in the ear-worm sense - I always come home humming the last song teched), directed by Jack O'Brian (it's SOO bizarre to hear an American accent come over the God mike while hanging out backstage with a Northerner and Scots(wo)man), with costumes designed by 5-time Tony Award winning designer Bob Crowley(!!!) Actually, the whole of the Creative Team is absolutely mind-blowingly amazing, but the costume designs are absolutely, positively the most sumptuous, glorious, exquisite creations I've ever had the very great privilege to work with. They are incredibly gorgeous up close and look even more amazing on stage, though it pains me to realize the amazing amount of detail work that people won't even see, just from the distance of the audience. Truly, TRULY stunningly gorgeous.
So, since I can't really tell too many stories (or, at least, it's late and I don't trust myself not to squee out all the incredible things in the show), I will direct your attention to better places to find out about "Love Never Dies":
The LND Blog - with written updates from the cast and crew, as well as video clips where they've brought a camera along to rehearsals. A really fun way to see (and read about) the fun people I'm working with, and watch THEM stumble around trying not to give too much away.
Ramin (the Phantom) singing one of the show's songs "'Til I Hear You Sing Once More" - at first listen, I couldn't help but thinking, "Well, it's no 'Music of the Night' ", but the song has absolutely grown on me, and I catch myself humming it on the tube. Plus, the man has a voice like buddah.
Sierra (Christine) singing "Love Never Dies" - Eagle-eyed listeners will remember this song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday celebration TV special, though it had different lyrics back then. To be fair, I do rather prefer the old lyrics, but that may just be familiarity. Give me time, and I bet this one will grow on me. (And yes, that girl's voice IS that amazing!)
(Late addition: Just remembered a funny story from today that I *can* tell: I was sitting up in Dressing Room 9 with Jess [one of the other dressers] and a few of the girls in the cast. We were discussing the original Phantom vs. the film version of the musical, and I made the point that I found it distracting in the film when the actors spoke some of the musical lines as dialogue - being very familiar with the score of the show, it was distracting to hear the musical lines spoken with a different cadence and without the musicality behind them. In reference to the fact that I knew the musical well, I said, "I grew up with Andrew Lloyd Webber" - this turn of phrase confused one of the other girls, who looked at me with very wide, wide eyes and blurted out incredulously, "Literally?!" It took me a moment, then I laughed, "No, I mean I grew up with his music - I've never met him personally." We all had a good laugh.