On Friday I was talking to a lady about my Bright Bugs Mobile Toy Shop business and during the conversation she asked me if I'd been to see The Phantom of the Opera. It has been showing in Hobart over recent weeks and I had thought about it numerous times and didn't quite get there. It is expensive to go to live theatre. I hadn't looked at the cost of the tickets at that time but when I thought about going I decided it wouldn't fit my budget just now and let the idea go. Now this lovely lady was asking me "Have you been?"
Then she added the clincher. "MY SON IS IN IT!" "Oh, I said, what part does he play?"
She told me he was Piangi. I didn't know there was a character called Piangi. I didn't really know the story; I just love live theatre. I love that things can go wrong. I love that they are real people on the stage and that they have the power to touch my soul with what they do up there. And here I was talking to the mother of one of the actors and she said the show was fantastic; I could feel her pride in her son's achievement. "There are only two more shows - tonight and tomorrow night, " she added.
I called to my good mate Sue and asked if she had been to see it. No she hadn't and yes she'd love to so that was it. I was going to check the website when I got home and see if there were any tickets left. Luckily there were and after some quick discussions about the cost and seating options, which were somewhat limited at this late hour, I booked two tickets in the Gallery of the very old and very beautiful Theatre Royal in Hobart for Saturday night. The finale. The tickets cost ninety-nine dollars each. I know I've said I'd like a pair of boots and that would have gone a long way towards buying some but instead I bought an experience. It was a good decision. Boots could never have given me the joy I felt sitting in that theatre and marvelling at the glorious decor, rich with gold paint and art deco embellishments. They would not have given the feeling of anticipation as I perched on my narrow bench seat up 'in the Gods' listening to the strains of familiar melodies prior to the show. Live music. The pit held an orchestra and they wove their magic as a packed theatre sat enthralled. I can only try to put into words such an experience, but really, you had to be there.
There had been some remarks on Facebook about it being a very good show so I was really looking forward to seeing it all for myself. There was not one inkling of disappointment. It was simply brilliant. Every member of the cast was fantastic. That mum I spoke to had every reason and more to be over the moon with her son's performance. If I was his mum I'd have tried to be there every night to marvel at this wonderful actor with a glorious voice that existed because of me. So Piangi was a wonderful character. I'm glad his mum got me there to see that. The singing was breath-takingly beautiful. I found myself holding my breath as the women took on impossibly high notes and sustained them with such clarity, so I mean that very literally; breath-taking.. That is what the ninety-nine dollars gets you. No squeaky microphones or squealing speakers. Pure, clear angelic sound. It was beyond beautiful.
I didn't know the story of The Phantom of the Opera, but now I do. It spoke to my heart about the ostracised, the unloved and unlovable in our communities. It wrenched my heart as I saw the tenderness the poor man felt for his chosen love. I felt her terror as his deformity was revealed, but also her compassion. Raw emotion was constantly evident in the performance of the phantom. One could feel his isolation, his heart bursting with a need to love and be loved, his raw anger at his terrible affliction that stood as an unyielding wall between him and others. It called on us all to have compassion for the those perceived as lowly or lesser beings by our callous judgement of appearance. That is the purpose of theatre. That is why people write theatre and perform it. I don't believe it is just for the applause or the camaraderie they feel during all those rehearsals; the friends they make. I believe it is because they know they can touch the hearts of their audiences through their gestures, their expressions, their words, their songs. A person could not sit through that performance and come away untouched or unchanged.
Costumes are a big part of the spectacle of live theatre and I smiled over and over again as we were presented with such a fabulous array of sparkling, grand and spectacular outfits prancing and swaying and sashaying across the stage. They were the icing on the cake of this great night out. It was a feast for the senses in every way. The three hours, part of which was a short interval mid-way through, went by in a flash. I was worried that it would be a long time to sit. Well I hardly noticed it and would gladly have sat another hour or two to be so lavishly entertained.
Forever now, when I hear the music from the show I will be transported back to last night, sitting in the Gods...not terribly comfortable but totally engaged and embraced by the magic of just being there. Thank you Piangi's mum for speaking to me about the show and giving me that last chance to get myself there to see it. It was a very grand experience and worth every penny.