I don’t particularly remember when but I am pretty sure that the first time I found out about The Phantom of the Opera was when I went to my best friend’s house where she made us watch the 2004 movie. Ever since that day, I’ve been in love with the man with the white half-mask.

Okay. So maybe it’s Gerard Butler I first fell for. He’s a gorgeous actor, you have to give him that. I also absolutely love the songs used and unlike most people, I adore All I Ask of You (Reprise) a heck of a lot more than the song itself. You see, I think I have a weak spot for broken souls. It is followed then by The Point of No Return, and then that’s the time I can put All I Ask of You in the list. I remember watching the movie again and when that was no longer enough, I went on to YouTube clips.

Some time passed and I found Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera in an aisle least visited (Children’s Classics) in a National Bookstore branch that I don’t frequent. I know it’s kind of weird to find this book in the Children’s Section but then, it looked good beside Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The mask cover is a bit scary though.

It wasn’t a very easy book to read (I can blame the translation or perhaps I really am not good with classics). The book isn’t too thick, you see, but it took me about a week to finish it. One thing is for sure though. Erik had me scared a lot of times (his mirror chamber/prison is traumatic) but he also tugged at my heartstrings just as much. People say that the book portrayed the Opera Ghost in a creepy, malicious way but I think he’s just a victim of society’s cruelty. I found myself hating both Christine and Raoul for being so judgmental and narrow-minded. And then I cried in what was the final lair scene in the musical where Erik’s vulnerability is pretty much exposed.

Perhaps it’s my idealistic views that made me like Erik much better than the other characters despite his criminal activities but I don’t care. In my mind, he doesn’t deserve the judgment thrown at him (I abhor his mother, I swear). I don’t particularly remember the details of the story yet I don’t seem to forget the feelings the book evoked in me.

Fast forward to early 2012 when I revisited the Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier)  by seeing the filmed version of The Phantom of the Opera’s 25th Anniversary. I watched it alone at night, in our LCD TV, and found myself even more enchanted by the story. I thought the movie and the book were amazing but seeing a production meant for theater blew my mind and soul away. The movie didn’t make me cry at all but Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess had me weeping even before the final lair scene ended. It was totally unexpected as I thought the book would always be the best version of the story.

This is another ‘milestone’, if I may say so, in my life as an admirer of Erik/Phantom. This is how I found out who Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh were. I watched clips of various productions, listened to songs and followed the Phantom actors on Twitter. I find it almost obsessive how I listen to four different versions of Music of the Night (Ramin Karimloo, John Owen-Jones, Michael Crawford & Colm Wilkinson) at least once a day. Since watching Phantom 25th, Music of the Night has become my all-time favorite song. I still smile at how I can fall asleep listening to pop rock songs but I couldn’t sleep when I listen to songs from musicals. It is always as if the voices of these great actors keep me entranced but never totally unconscious.

Their voices are literally hypnotizing.

What made 2012 even more meaningful to my passion for Phantom of the Opera is the fact that the world tour of the musical is being brought to Manila. Imagine what joy I felt when my financially broke self heard the news. It’s understandable as it is always a despair for theater lovers when they can’t afford a trip to Broadway and/or West End to watch the full production of their favorite musicals/plays.

I still struggled with the money to buy a ticket without asking from my parents but I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. There’s no telling when and if I could ever manage to see the production in Broadway/West End after all.

I continued my fangirling, looking for news, following Claire Lyon (Christine), Emilie Lynn (Christine Alternate), Jonathan Roxmouth (Phantom/Erik) and Anthony Downing (Raoul) on Twitter just to torture myself, and bugged everyone to come watch with me. Thank heavens for my best friend who also like Phantom. She bought a ticket for me (with a chance to let me pay at a later date) and upon seeing a photo she took, I knew the dream to see the production live is about to come true.

September 30, 2012

Before this date I had been tweeting the actors, telling them how excited I am to see them–and charming and humble people that they are, they tried to reply to as many fans like me as they can. They’re really wonderful and always tell us how they want to meet the fans at the stage door after their evening shows. I swear that kind of attitude from them is exactly what made their Filipino fans love them even more.

I’ve watched plays before although always far in between (years even), with “Ako Si Ninoy” being the latest musical I’ve seen. I love music from theatrical productions despite my lack of talent in that area. Anything that has songs in it like Phantom of the Opera is a production I know I would always enjoy no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

And so my friend and I went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines with seats in Balcony 1, more than excited to finally see the production. I must admit that the moment the lights dimmed, I found myself feeling emotional. My chest was tight and I wanted to cry of happiness all throughout the show. I guess that’s something one feels when s/he is seeing one of his/her dreams coming true.

The audio in our area wasn’t the best (it was a little difficult to hear sometimes) but it wasn’t enough of a deterrence for us to enjoy the production. I particularly loved the scenes in the lair as they give a lot of focus on Erik/Phantom. I should also point out how the production isn’t an exact copy of what we can see in the 25th anniversary. The stage is smaller and therefore must be maximized but heck, it still turned out to be a great show; the effects were mesmerizing and yes well, downright amazing

I enjoyed listening to that night’s cast. Emilie Lynn sings wonderfully and certainly a beautiful Christine. Anthony Downing made me love Raoul’s character as his portrayal didn’t seem immature to me and yes, we should all take note how handsome he is.

I’ve seen clips of Jonathan Roxmouth before watching the show and I must say, he definitely did not disappoint. I love his voice and he’s a great actor. I also love his hands and the way he acts with them–which is a big thing since I have a hand fetish. And he’s gorgeous too (which seems to be a requirement for Phantom actors. Haha!) even though Erik is supposed to be an ugly, corpse-like person. For now, I’d say he’s my third favorite Phantom (at least voice-wise since I haven’t seen any other live). My first is JOJ (who had retired from Phantom just recently, making me really sad), closely followed by Ramin (who I hope will reprise the role sometime in the future, preferably when I can finally afford to go to London).

Right now, my wish is to see the actors, take a photo with them and make them sign my souvenir program, before they leave in a week. My friend and I were supposed to go to the stage door after the show but careless that I am, I ended up leaving my iPod Touch by my seat and we had to rush back to the almost deserted theater to check if it was still there. Luckily, nobody has picked it up yet. Unluckily, by the time we managed to find where the stage door was, the cast had left. It’s somehow unfortunate but I guess it means that I have to make a way to get those photos and autographs before they leave. I sure hope I manage to do it. After all, this is certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

One other thing I really, really wish for is to have the cast, particularly Jonathan Roxmouth, make a studio-recorded album for the Phantom of the Opera songs. Even better if they can make a recording for Love Never Dies too. Well, there’s nothing wrong with hoping. 🙂

I can say that I have come quite far in my interest for this particular story/musical and I am pretty sure that the love for The Phantom of the Opera will never die. In fact, I think more and more people are going to fall in love with it as they years pass.