The Phantom of the Opera

March 1, 2020 — 37 Comments

A strong childhood memory for me is watching The Phantom of the Opera with my parents on a Sunday afternoon. We would sing along with the 2004 film adaptation of the musical starring Gerald Butler and Emmy Rossum. To me, it is a beautiful film, with sparkling costumes and sweet moments of intimacy between the Phantom and Christine.

This Tuesday I was invited to watch a friend Eleanor Sanderson-Nash perform in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. Ellie and I shared the stage in Mansfield Park, whilst working for the Waterperry Opera Festival and we were also students at the Royal College of Music.

Ellie is one of the company’s ‘Swings’. A Swing is a member of the company who understudies several chorus roles, this involves memorising multiple parts (or as they call it in the biz “tracks”), which can involve different vocal harmonies, entrance and exits and actions. It is a very demanding role and needs an artist who is not only talented but one who is organised, able to remember multiple tracks and able to accommodate flexibility within their scheduling, (as they may the called upon with short notice). It was great seeing her rock her stuff on Tuesday!

Ellie also took me on a backstage tour before the show began. I was able to stand on the stage, see iconic props and moveable set such as Christine’s dressing room, Phantom’s organ, and boat, the life-size masquerade props – which click into the stairs to give the impression of raucous party-goers and of course the iconic, and very large, Elephant from the Hannibal rehearsal scene.

I was interested to find out that this show has a team of 130 people involved (cast, crew, and orchestra). The Show has been at Her Majesties Theatre for over 30 years and because the theatre is historically listed it still uses many old-fashioned techniques to manually change the sets. In modern theatres, these changes are normally done by a computer but at this theatre, stagehands are positioned at particular pullies with specifically timed queues to ensure the show runs smoothly. There are truly many phantoms who create this magnificent show, who the audience never gets to see!

Eleanor Sanderson-Nash in her costume for the Hannibal Scene

I had a fantastic time seeing a different side to this show that holds a special place for me in my heart. Go to see it if you’re in London you won’t be sorry.

37 responses to The Phantom of the Opera

  1. 
    Timothy Price March 1, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    It looks like you an Ellie could be sisters. Being a Swing sounds like a really tough job. Ellie is impressive. What a great opportunity to get a backstage tour. Opera’s take a lot of man and woman power to make them happen. It’s not surprising the tickets can be pricey. The combination of the top, shoes and jeans you were wearing are fabulous. The top is beautiful and fashionable. Were the shoes platform high tops?

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 1, 2020 at 9:32 pm

      Thanks Timothy. I always enjoy backstage visits and seeing how things work. Mid-week tickets aren’t too badly priced. A few years ago I went to see Love Never Dies the sequel and they used more film projection for scenery in that one and it was great to see Christine’s story move on.
      My shoes are ankle boots by Doc Martins, they were the first thing I bought in Glasgow when I moved there in 2012 for the winter, turned out to be a great buy because they’re still going strong 😀.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

      • 

        I think I mentioned we went to see Giulio Cesare by Handel when we were in Paris in 2013. It was pricey at $200 a ticket, but it was wonderfully produced.

      • 
        Charlotte Hoather March 5, 2020 at 5:27 pm

        That is a pricey ticket! But I am glad that you had a marvelous experience. As you said it takes a large team to put on an opera and often the audience do not see all the stars who make a show spectacular.

        Best Wishes,
        Charlotte

  2. 

    Wonderful as ever.

  3. 

    It’s a great show. Love your pictures of back stage. x

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 1, 2020 at 9:37 pm

      It was a strong cast and I had a great seat, it was hard not to join in the singing 😂.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  4. 

    Very nice and interesting like always !!! Wish you a great week my friend , best thoughts for you !!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 1, 2020 at 9:35 pm

      Thank you Pascal. I’ve a week full of lessons and concert preparation so thank you for your best thoughts 😀.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  5. 

    Thankyou for sharing your Phantom experience, Charlotte.

  6. 

    I so would have enjoyed the backstage experience such are you had when I saw Phantom ages ago! Thank you for sharing your joy!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 3, 2020 at 6:01 pm

      It was great to see how they put the show together, but sometimes it’s best not to know how the magic happens 😃.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  7. 

    Thanks for bringing back so many memories, Charlotte, I worked five month long Phantoms over the years. As I recall each of them came in about thirty trucks and took a week to set up.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 3, 2020 at 6:02 pm

      Wow Don, I did wonder whether you’d been involved with this show I thought you might it’s such a long running favourite like West Side Story and Les Mis.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  8. 

    I agree with Tim, you and Ellie look like sisters! Swing does sound like a very demanding role. Although I have seen some clips from it over the years, I have never seen The Phantom of the Opera in its entirety, and will put it on my list.

    Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 3, 2020 at 6:03 pm

      It’s definitely worth a watch live Lavinia, I love the music and the whole spectacle. I always quite like the Phantom too.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  9. 

    How exciting Charlotte.
    It looks like you had a lovely day with Ellie, I loved the photo’s backstage.
    Ellie looked amazing in costume, I’m glad you enjoyed the day and performance.xx

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 3, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      Glad you enjoyed reading 😀. I hope you both are keeping well. Are you staying in a bit more with this virus doing the rounds or are you keeping to normal routines? It’s hard to know what to do isn’t it.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  10. 

    This opera is such a classic, that people who don’t even like opera know the storyline. I love the idea that the theater has kept many of the old ways to do things – it helps to add to the fact that it’s a classic!
    Your friend looks beautiful and I’m certain her performance was magnificent.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 3, 2020 at 6:07 pm

      Strictly GP it’s a musical not an opera, a rather grand musical on the same lines as the other big favourites like Les Miserable and West Side Story. I think it’s to do with them amplifying the singing rather than just the natural voice over orchestra. Although the music and songs were composed by a classical composer and often need opera singers because some of the roles are so demanding on the voice.
      I gave Ellie a big whoop when she took her bow.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  11. 

    What a fabulous night out! A personal tour and the show afterwards, how wonderful! Ellie looks gorgeous in her Hannibal scene costume and your top is lovely and reminds me of a dress I had in 1970 with the same shaped sleeves!
    Your description of a ‘swing’ had me gasping! What a responsible job. I am so pleased Her Majesties Theatre still has the original set-changing pulleys and other mechanical bits and pieces behind stage.
    Have a good week, Charlotte.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 3, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      I love the top too Clare it looks nice with smart trousers or skirt or a more casual jeans to dress them up.
      I hadn’t realised there was such a big cast and crew!
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  12. 

    I think seeing how the old mechanical and manual operated to run the stage would be amazing. This must be a grand one as Eleanor’s costume looks very elegant.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 3, 2020 at 6:10 pm

      All the costumes and wigs in the show are just amazing and as you say very elegant. I love backstage operations in all shows, I did my training in Glasgow with lots of production trainees so I always appreciate how hard they work to put a show together.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  13. 

    This is one of my favourite shows. Fantastic backstage photos, and Ellie looks very grand in her costume. 👏👏👏😘

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 3, 2020 at 6:12 pm

      It’s one of my favourites as you know Gill, I never tire of seeing it. Different casts bring different highlights and the London staging is just sumptuous.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  14. 

    Seeing the backstage winch reminds me of Leo Slezak’s jolly comment to a stagehand upon having the swan boat take off without him during Lohengrin: “Bitte schön, Sie da, wann geht der nächste Schwan?“*

    * “You there, please, when does the next swan leave?”

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather March 5, 2020 at 5:27 pm

      Hahaha! That is a tremendous quote. I love the operatic joviality of a swan boat. An interesting fact – the boat used in the Phantom of the Opera is controlled by remote control – like a toy car! I can’t begin to imagine what would happen if you misplaced it or forgot to put the batteries in 😉

      Best Wishes,
      Charlotte

  15. 

    Ms. Sanderson-Nash does have a commanding presence and demeanor of elegance in that dress. You as ever, a scintillating bright-soul, even more so evidenced in that seemingly ominous backdrop. So much respect for both of you- you must have superb memories.

  16. 
    Rev, Tim George March 9, 2020 at 5:36 am

    Dear Charlotte,
    I am also a fan of Phantom of the Opera. I am so excited for your wedding to George, I wish I could go, but I will say a prayer for the Lord to bless y’all real good.

  17. 

    Only just seen this! I never knew about swings – really interesting and I bet it is fiendishly hard to do this.

  18. 

    One of my favourite operas (La Bohème is the other). La Belle et La Bete (although not an opera) as well. Loved the recent film versions – the French one for La Belle et La Bete.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather May 25, 2020 at 9:06 am

      Great choices, I also like Phantom by Maury Yeston the soprano songs are lovely but it is not often put on as Phantom of the Opera is better known and more popular. I saw Love Never Dies in London it is the follow up to Phantom of the Opera and uses newer stage techniques such as a projected back wall.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

Leave a Reply to hilarycustancegreen Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.