Ladies of PHANTOM: Past and Present Part 2
Last time, we left off chatting about onstage mishaps...it seems that the fate of a Carlotta is to suffer from wardrobe malfunctions! Carlottas, I’ve heard that your costumes, albeit beautiful, are ridiculously heavy…what’s all that about?!
MP: The Hannibal costume weighs four and a half stone!
RL: They are mega heavy. My back took a while to get used to it when I started. I was told they weigh 3 stone...Maggie is showing off, ha ha!
Christines, are your costumes as heavy?
GB: No idea, as I've sadly never tried hers on...but I would hazard a guess that Carlotta's are heavier.
RC: The costumes are one of the great joys of the show, and the death of Maria Bjornson is a terrible blow. I sang in three productions of the show and the costumes all differed slightly. I remember doing a nine-hour costume fitting in Canada, and then doing a tour of the costume shop in the wedding dress; the makers cried with pride at their work. They were heavy, and being chucked around in the same way every night led to back and hip trouble. I got sciatica from twisting against the Hannibal skirt, and eventually fell during the rooftop scene and smashed up my knee and had to have an operation. But that’s the joy of a long run.
In the show, lots of creepy things seem to happen at the Paris Opera House…any unexplained Phantom tales at Her Majesty’s to report?!
RC: No…however, the Adelphi is famously haunted, so you might ask that lot!
RL: No, I haven’t heard of anything or seen anything...although I’d LOVE it if I did! Ooooo!!
MP: No, can't think of anything - but I always felt spooked during the show when the Phantom does his hypnotising trick!
GB: Well, apparently there are ghosts around the theatre, but no-one’s seen any since I've been there. There was a show once when all the mics went weird, and whatever anyone sang was repeated back to them a couple of seconds later. The Sound Department investigated and apparently a random switch had been flicked sub-stage and no-one knew how or why…ooooo!
Playing the role night after night, do/did any of you ever have weird Phantom-related dreams?
MP: No! Can’t say that I did!
RL: I haven’t yet, although I’m sure when I leave I’ll have loads! My scary actor’s dream involves me trying to put my 'Cats' makeup on and I haven’t enough time...hideous!
RC: Yes, I’ve been waking up screaming for the last 17 years! Seriously though, Gina was tweeting the other day that she couldn’t make it to the theatre that night because of transport, and I had terrible dreams that I had to rush to Her Madge’s and perform it after all this time and be the oldest Christine ever! Also I dream I am back in it and it’s all different and I have to do a trapeze act…usual actor’s stress dreams.
GB: Yes, I concur with Rebecca Caine, it's normally after you've left a show that you have the 'you have to go and perform at the last minute with no rehearsal and no costume and you don't know the words' dream! I have them about Les Mis all the time. When cast change was coming up for Phantom, I had a horrible dream that the directors came and told me I was rubbish, and that they wouldn't renew me because I had 'taken too much time off because of my many diseases'. Ha! Luckily they renewed me in real life the next day…phew! And I don't have diseases…
Glad to hear that, Gina. I believe you, thousands wouldn’t…just kidding, I know you’ve got a sterling track record with your health!
How does it feel to still be playing to packed houses so many years after the show first opened?
GB: It feels fantastic! In this financial climate we are very lucky to be in such a popular show and have job security, which is quite rare for actors. We are playing to audiences that have almost certainly been to see the show before somewhere along the line, they loved it the first time and have come back…so their excitement is palpable.
RL: It’s been great, we’re very lucky to have the audiences and they are always fabulous...wink wink, nudge nudge...ha!
Shows often undergo several changes and cuts in the preview period…were there any notable changes or cuts in the original Phantom production?
RC: I came in six months after the original production opened, so I would’ve missed any initial changes, though I remember Andrew (Lloyd Webber) telling me at the opening night party in Toronto that he was going to put the end of ‘Wishing’ up, which was a better finish. Also some costumes changed, Carlotta got an act two costume and Christine’s Masquerade costume changed… from Mrs. Tinman to Lady Pepto Bismol.
Rebecca C, as part of the original cast, did you ever dream it would still be running more than two decades down the line?
RC: I don’t think ANYONE thought that Les Mis, which I was in the original production of, or Phantom would run this long. Not because they weren’t wonderful, but because it was unheard of.
Maggie, you were the voice of Carlotta for the 2004 film version of Phantom…how different was that experience to being Carlotta on stage?
MP: It was simply amazing to hear my voice echoing around Pinewood Studios! I loved the experience of working on a film, as I was physically in the film too, of course. I should love to have portrayEd Carlotta visually on screen as well, but I got the next best thing and it was an unforgettable experience!
RL: There’s a lot of monster and a little bit of slut in there...for definite! I’ve loved the challenge of the Diva; I first sang the role in 'Prima Donna' at drama school so it’s a part I’ve always wanted to play. I’m very lucky to have had the chance to play such diverse roles! I miss my puppet girls though...
Gina, now that you’ve seen Love Never Dies, do you feel that it’s changed the way you view Christine? Has it been hard to keep her the same as before?
GB: No, I don't think so. Nothing has changed for me, as everything for my Christine is preceding Love Never Dies.
Rebecca C, you’ve seen Phantom recently (starring Gina and Rebecca L!)…how much has it changed?
RC: I did see the show recently, and actually was blown away. I thought it was in extraordinary shape. Both Rebecca and Gina were pretty definitive, though that’s not a word I really want to use because I think the reason the show was so fresh was that they were giving their own performances within the context of telling the story. I think that is vital to keeping the show alive, and why maintaining a long running show is so difficult. In an opera you wouldn’t expect one soprano to play Tosca the same way as another would. Rebecca's Carlotta was very earthy and extraordinarily funny. However I’ve seen other terrific Carlottas like Judy Kaye, and played opposite Rosy (Rosemary Ashe) as well, and they've been totally different takes but just as valid. I wish I'd seen Maggie’s.
Glad you enjoyed it!
Our final word must go to our current Christine. Gina, as you said earlier, Phantom attracts return audiences, as well as being a favourite with first-time tourists. What is it about Phantom that makes it such a popular show?
GB: I think there are several components that make Phantom so successful. Firstly, the music. The show has a host of memorable tunes and a lavish score which people across the globe have grown up listening to. Secondly, the exquisite design by Maria Bjornson, which is a work of pure genius and definitely still holds its own 24 years later. Lastly, the story itself and the characters in that story. Audiences across the world cannot help but be intrigued by the man with the disfigured face (although this is not such a good title!) and his infatuation with the young Christine. The show is romantic yet mysterious, and has a good mix of drama and comedy which continues to delight audiences worldwide. It’s thrilling to be a part of it!
Three of our ladies are on Twitter...follow them to keep up-to-date with what they're up to:
Gina Beck @Redscarf
Rebecca Lock @lucythelocket
Rebecca Caine @Divabiva1