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Phantom: The American Musical Sensation 1991

Phantom: The American Musical Sensation 1991

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Synopsis

Act I It is late afternoon on the Avenue de l’Opéra in Paris, somewhere around the turn of the century. Christine Daee, a seller of songs, enters singing Mélodie de Paris. As she sings, she hands sheet music to people nearby. Among those her voice and beauty attract is the roguishly handsome Count de Chandon. He tells her that her voice may be lovely but, for opera, it will need training. He offers her his card. If she will show this card to Gerard Carriere, the Opera House manager, she will receive lessons. She stares at the card in amazement, then at the magnificent Opera House looming behind her. It’s like a dream come true! The set changes. The music darkens. Inside the Opera House, Carlotta, an imperious diva, orders her costume man, Joseph Buquet, to go down below. But stage hands have told him he shouldn’t go down there! She insists. Worried, he descends . . . . . . To the depths of the Opera House and the Phantom’s lair: we’ve just heard Christine singing “Paris is the sun” but, to the Phantom, Paris Is A Tomb. Suddenly, Joseph Buquet stumbles in. He sees the Phantom just as he’s changing masks. The sight causes Buquet to scream out in horror. The Phantom draws his sword. Blackout. Bright laughter draws us upwards. The opera company and various first-nighters are Dressing For The Night. Their excitement is undercut by Gerard Carriere’s startling announcement. He’s just been fired as the opera manager. Carlotta and her husband, Alain Cholet, will now be in charge. A mysterious note flutters down. It’s from the Phantom! In the manager’s office. Carriere explains that the Opera House is haunted by a ghost whose every rule must be obeyed or else. This ghost is called the Phantom of the Opera. But Cholet does not believe in ghosts. And leaves. A mysterious voice summons Carriere through a secret panel. It leads to the Phantom’s domain. Here Carriere and the Phantom meet. It seems they know each other! The Phantom tells Carriere that Joseph Buquet is dead because he found out where the Phantom lives and saw the Phantom’s face. The despairing Phantom asks how Carriere could have let this happen. It’s Carriere’s job to keep people from coming down! Carriere tells him he’s been replaced. To the Phantom, it’s the worst possible news. Who will protect him now? But worse news is coming. He hears Carlotta vocalizing. The woman has a terrible voice! He learns that she is now in charge, and will pick the opera season, and sing whenever she likes. He cannot allow it! Hearing this is a torment worse than any he’s ever known. Carriere, unable to help, leaves. The Phantom, all alone, asks the heavens Where In The World is a voice that can truly sing. The Phantom needs beauty in order to exist. Christine now enters the Opera House looking for Gerard Carriere. Jean-Claude, the stage door man, tells her that Carriere has just been fired. Her dreams seem dashed. Jean-Claude takes pity on her. Maybe the new manager will help, and he leads her off. In the manager’s suite, some of the opera staff try to show Carlotta what they have planned for the new season. “What you have planned?” Offended, she chases them out and looks around gloatingly. This Place Is Mine! It’s what she’s always wanted. Cholet brings Christine to meet his wife. Carlotta is aghast: “Singing lessons? This girl can’t sing! Look what she’s wearing!” But when the diva hears Christine’s benefactor is the opera’s leading patron she changes her mind, tells Christine the only way to learn to sing is to observe singers and puts her in the costume department. “She’s just replaced Joseph Buquet, who seems to have disappeared!” says Carlotta. It’s not quite what Christine had in mind, but she’s thrilled anyway. Just to be in the Opera House is enough! Left alone on the legendary stage to collect costumes, she looks out dreamily, clutching a costume. Somehow, it feels as if she’s Home. Down below, the Phantom, filled with despair, hears her angelic voice. It’s what he’s been waiting for, maybe all his life. Nervously, he goes up on stage and speaks to her from the shadows. He tells her not to be afraid. He has heard her sing and her voice is like an angel’s. But . . . it needs training. He offers to train her; he says he is in fact a singer of some renown but he has never given lessons before. If she accepts his tutelage, he will have to wear a mask so that he can remain anonymous. Otherwise, others might want lessons, too. The Music Lessons commence immediately. In between lessons, the Phantom sets out to destroy Carlotta’s career. “The opera’s been invaded by a Phantom!” shouts Cholet, and The Phantom Fugue begins, as does a hunt (in vain) for the Phantom. The lessons reach fruition. Christine is ready to audition! The Phantom looks at Christine in awe and love. You Are Music he sings. And she sings the same to him. Her audition will be no ordinary one; Carlotta would be too jealous for that. It will take place at the local bistro, where the company goes after the show. At the bistro everybody sings, and Christine’s opportunity comes when the Count, who’s been away, throws a huge party and invites her, of course. Sing! intone the waiters. Carlotta agrees to start the contest. Paree Is a Lark she sings (and none too well). Then Christine takes a turn. Christine’s Obbligato wins everyone’s applause except, of course. Carlotta’s. When Christine sings As You Would Love Paree the crowd goes wild, Cholet offers her a contract on the spot, and Carlotta begins her treachery. Christine must sing only leading roles, she proclaims. Christine is overwhelmed. The Count, no less overwhelmed, sweeps her off. Who Could Ever Have Dreamed Up You? is what the love-sick count wants to know. Within weeks it’s Christine’s debut. She’s to sing the challenging role of Titania in The Fairy Queen. But Carlotta has other plans. Under the guise of friendship, she gives the nervous soprano a goblet filled with an odd-tasting potion. Christine’s voice goes dry on her very first aria. The audience turns against her. The Phantom leaps onto the stage and cuts a certain rope. The great chandelier falls, plunging the Opera House into darkness and chaos. The Phantom finds Christine, who has fainted, and takes her into his arms. Having rescued the voice of his dreams, he carries her down to his subterranean lair as the curtain to Act I falls. Act II Through the mist of his lagoon, we see the Phantom gently poling a gondola, Christine lying near his side, still unconscious. “Here you’ll be safe,” he sings as he poles, and wonders what life would be like Without Your Music. He docks and carries her to a glorious four-poster bed with a gauzy canopy. It almost seems it’s been waiting for her. In the shadows we can make out the portrait of a woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Christine. He puts her gently into the bed, then heads for his rack of masks. But en route he meets Carriere, who has entered his domain uninvited. Carriere has guessed what’s happened and demands that the Phantom give Christine back. But the Phantom refuses. “Up there is hell! I will not send an angel to hell!” He tells Carriere to leave and never come again; from now on, Christine will be all he needs. Carriere goes off. The Phantom puts on the most ferocious of his masks and sings a reprise of Where In The World, but this time as a song of vengeance. Then he ascends the stairs with murder in his eyes. No sooner is he gone than Carriere returns and confronts Christine, who has just awakened. “Where am I?” she asks. “Am I dreaming this?” He assures her she’s not, and that she’s in grave danger and must get out at once. Then he tells her who her mentor really is, and that he has lived all his life down there, features hidden by a mask because “his face is like death.” “How do you know all this?” she asks. “I am his father.” He points to the portrait. “She was his mother. Her name was Belladova, and she was the most glorious singer I’ve ever heard. She died when he was still a child. But he’s always remembered her voice. That’s why he’s in love with you. Your voice reminds him of hers.” Both sweet and painful memories come flooding back. First is the sweet part, Carriere’s love for Belladova. Then comes his terrible betrayal of her trust and its tragic consequence: the birth of Erik, down here, as hideously deformed as their relationship had become. “She’d gone mad by then. And somehow saw only beauty in his face.” Christine asks Carriere if Erik knows he’s his father. “No, He thinks I’m some kind of uncle.” Carriere’s only excuse is cowardice. “I’ve always known someday I’d have to abandon him. And I couldn’t bear him knowing his father had left without taking him along. Which is what you must now do. Erik can’t be helped by anyone. He doesn’t understand your world and never will.” But she refuses. She will not leave till she’s spoken to him again. She’s not afraid. “I know his heart.” “Unfortunately, there’s more to him than that. Get out as soon as you can.” And Carriere leaves. Up above, the Phantom, pretending to be an admirer, presents Carlotta with a bouquet of flowers. But it’s a death bouquet, for when she tries to flee, he electrocutes her. Back again in his domain, the Phantom greets Christine as if it were just a normal day by suggesting they “go for a picnic.” He’s prepared a basket. In it are some wine and a book of poetry by William Blake, his favorite poet. The blissful mood is broken when Christine asks a favor: she wants to see his face. It’s the one favor he cannot grant and she must never ask it again! But she persists. “If love could let your mother gaze at you and smile, why can’t it do the same for me?” She sings My True Love and it wins his heart. Against his better judgment, he removes his mask. His face is a horror beyond anything she’s imagined and she screams and flees, plunging him into despair. His only refuge is the poetry his mother read him as a child, his beloved Blake! He grabs it. Rocking back and forth, he sings My Mother Bore Me. Then, singing Christine, he races after her in wildest fury. Her escape takes her up to her former dressing room, where the Count is in his own despair. She tells first him and then Carriere what’s happened. She’s betrayed Erik’s trust! She must go back and make amends! But Carriere senses what’s coming and tells the Count to get her out of the building at once. Then he warns the police to get everybody else out as well, but by this time the Phantom has emerged, seeking Christine and revenge. Policemen spot him. They shoot. He’s hit but he escapes. The police spread out. Carriere finds him first, hiding behind some props, too wounded to make it back down without help. He’s dying; they both know it. As they wait for the coast to be clear, they talk in a way they never have before. Carriere sings You Are My Own and his son responds in kind. The way seems clear and they make their move, but the Count appears. He has Christine. The Phantom and the Count struggle. Police arrive as they’re fighting. The Phantom escapes up into the flies but he’s badly hurt – he’s trapped up there! The chief of police tells his men not to shoot. “We can take him alive!” It’s Erik’s worst nightmare. He’ll be put on display like some circus freak! The police are closing in. He looks down at his father and cries out for help. Carriere knows what Erik means. He grabs a policeman’s gun and aims it at his son. But he can’t bring himself to do it. Erik begs him. Carriere fires. The Phantom falls, calling out Christine’s name. Christine runs to where he has fallen. Carriere gets the police to move away. Gently, despite Erik’s protests, she removes his mask. This time she doesn’t flinch. She has learned from Carriere what Belladova sang to him when he was a child (You Are Music) and she sings it to him now. Then, as all watch in amazement, she leans closer and kisses his forehead tenderly. His hands relax and, with a great, gentle sigh, he dies. Slowly, she puts his mask back on. The Count comes up and helps Christine off. Carriere bends down and cradles his son’s body in his arms as the final curtain falls. – Arthur Kopit

Credits

Christine Daee: Glory Crampton Count Philippe de Chandon: Paul Schoeffler Carlotta: Meg Bussert Joseph Buquet: Allen Kendall The Phantom: Richard White Gerard Carriere: Jack Dabdoub Alain Cholet: Lyle Garrett Inspector Ledoux: James Van Treuren Ensemble: Donald E. Birely, Stephen Brice Bogardus, Elaine Bruegeler, Sharmane Davis, Sandra DeGeorge, Lyle Garrett, Jim Gricar, Allen Kendall, Kim Lindsay, Michael Mark, Melolny Matthews, Helene Miles (Contractor), Bess Morrison, Tom Polum, Victoria,Reed, Lenny Roberts, Marguerite Shannon-Clancy, Melinda Thompson, James Van Treuren, Ed Walker Choral Direction: John Mulcahy