Farewell to the Phantom

There have been better Broadway/West End shows, but for some reason, The Phantom of the Opera has lived on and on and on -- the longest running show in Broadway history.  

Many years ago, in 1988, a friend of mine worked for her uncle, a Broadway producer.  She was able to get me and two friends tickets for a special Hallowe'en performance, one that included a post-show auction conducted by the show's auctioneer.  So, the curtain went down... applause applause applause... and then the curtain rose, in the exact sequence the show started with except here, the items being auctioned off were masks created by members of the cast and crew to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (remember, in 1987, AIDS was still a death sentance and ravaging the theatre community).

The masks were incredibly ornate and went for quite a lot of money.  Because this was a special matinee performance, there were several children in the audience despite it being a school day.  At one point, getting into the action, one of those children bid on a mask (clearly with their parents' approval).  There was a counterbid.  The auctioneer, in a very drippingly disapproving voice, said "Outbidding the child..." but the child quickly responded with a higher bid.  Was the outbidder at their limit?  or did they not want even more scorn sent their way?  Who knows?  The child got that mask.

Finally, as the piece-de-resistance, the actual Phantom's mask was auctioned.  Originally it was supposed to be signed just by Michael Crawford but the price kept going up and up and finally, the entire cast decided to sign it for the lucky winner.  No, I couldn't bid but the fun of watching and the excitement of the auction was more than enough.

In perusing the Playbill I'd noticed a name that looked familiar.  Turns out, it was: the older sister of a friend I'd made at ballet school (we carpooled, and I never made it to toe shoes thanks to "soft" ankles) was part of the company.  Yesterday, for giggles, I looked at the ibdb page for Phantom and there she was - still dancing in Phantom after 35 years.  <i>That's</i> a career.

And that's a show.  It may not have been the best show, or the most thought-provoking or culturally relevant or any of the things that one might want from a Broadway show.  But as a gateway to other shows? A few hours entertainment?  Good for Phantom and good for all who danced on that stage.

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