TONIGHT is press night of Phantom of the Opera, when I will get to see the musical for the second time – the first was a catalogue of near disasters.
By the time you read this column however – thanks to journalistic sleight of hand – I will already have been to the performance, and indeed you can read my review of it on p7 of this supplement.
But at the moment I am writing I have not yet witnessed the masked man’s torment, the crashing chandelier or the rustle of sweet wrappers during All I Ask of You so I cannot tell you what it was like.
However, I can hazard a guess that it will bear little resemblance to my last Phantom experience – and not just because this is a brand new production.
The tickets were a 16th birthday present. I’d asked for them after watching the actors playing Phantom and Christine singing a duet on This Morning, while Richard nodded sagely and Judy’s eyes welled up.
Fred was probably defending the floating weather map from a streaker at the time but nobody noticed because the performance was so captivating.
I must have recorded the show for some reason because I seem to remember rewinding the segment and playing it over and over, feeding my overinflated teenage love of romance.
Most likely it was one of those occasions when I had taped the show because a group of us had spent 15 minutes walking back and forth past the This Morning studio windows at the Albert Dock.
This was in the days before Formby’s great swimming pool revolution and teenage entertainment options were pretty barren. The only thing to do was to get drunk in the park or wander aimlessly around the town for hours. So what did we do instead? Jumped on a train and wandered aimlessly around the Albert Dock.
Then we’d go home and try and spot ourselves on the video. At least I’ve never claimed to have been a teenage rebel.
The big day dawned and I was sitting excitedly in the fifth year common room when I felt a tug at the side of my glasses and one of the lenses dropped out and shattered on the floor. My glasses were proper Deirdre Barlows so it’s lucky there were no shrapnel injuries.
Have you ever tried watching a musical through a monocle? I imagine it’s quite fun if you go the whole hog – spats, cravat and a hip flask of tawny port.
Less so in my situation. It’s testament to Phantom’s draw that I barely noticed the growing ache in the hand I was using to cover the empty lens space in my spectacles.
We nearly didn’t get to see the show at all because we went to the wrong theatre.
I should have been warned when my friend who had been to see it the week before and was coming again as my guest turned a spectacular shade of grey in McDonalds as she heard my parents discussing a different venue.
But she had a flair for the dramatic – her party trick was fitting her entire pencil case in her mouth – so I didn’t pay it much attention. And besides I was too busy indulging the hilarity of my parents taking us to a fast food chain. I don’t think they’d ever set foot in one before – or probably since.
They were debating filet of fish versus McChicken nuggets, C was hyperventilating despite the pencil case being safely nowhere near her trachea and we were headed in the wrong direction. It was only when we saw the huge posters for Ken Dodd’s Live Laughter Tour that we realised how unstuck we had come.
But we made it to the right theatre on time anyway – mission accomplished and the seed sown for a career in arts journalism. It’s funny how things have a habit of turning out okay in the end.