I’m not obsessed!!! Well maybe a little. This blog might not argue my point….
This is my Phantom PHANDOM story! (I am laughing at my own lame joke here!).Those who know me may notice that I go to see Phantom at least three times a year since I was 23. I have seen it a total of 8 times one of which was in America with three different casts. I wouldn’t say I am obsessed with it but I am a HUGE fan. Not everyone gets why. Now this might shed a little bit of light as to why, if not I will still be your weird friend who will go and see it whenever she can.
I started getting into musicals in late 2014 when me and my best friend went to see Les Mis in London. There was one of my favourites youtubers playing Eponine who I got to meet. However, the woman at the time who was playing Fantine really caught my attention. Her name is Celinde Schoenmaker and she comes from the Netherlands. She has over a metre of amazing blonde hair; her voice is out of this world and she is absolutely stunning. She also featured in Carries videos and came across as a nice person. After Carrie left Les Mis, I tried a few different musicals like Mamma Mia and the Lion king. Although they were good, I didn’t get the buzz off them from the music and I prefer a much more heart wrenching story.
I was down in London for a birthday celebration and I went into town to meet my friend again and we sat and watched west end live at Trafalgar square. This is where all the west end shows come and perform a few songs to the public completely for free and is held annually. The Phantom cast came on with Celinde playing Christine and the music really caught my attention. I went home and watched the film which had Gerard Butler as the Phantom and I was literally blown away.
The music was just incredible, even from the first few moments with the organ music of the lighting of the chandelier to the in between songs. The main ones that drew me in where “the theme song, Think of me and past the point of no return.” Butler did an incredible job in the film and gave a lot to live up to. He had no training prior to the show, only having sang before in pubs but he sold it.
So, the next thing to do was to go see it live in London at her majesty’s theatre on Haymarket. This was a short trip where I got to see a lot of my friend, explore London and I just fell in love with the city, but seeing Phantom was the best part. I got a gallery seat in the front row which was cheaper. The theatre is actually very small so the stage was completely visible and you could see when the Phantom was in the rafters. I pretty much had a full 360-degree view of the proceedings.
The only issue with the first trip, Celinde was not performing and I had been so excited. It was her alternate performing. Which I learned is someone who plays the role a few times a week as it is a vocally demanding part. However, this was my first experience seeing Ben Forster as the Phantom and Nadim as Raoul. The understudy for Christine was good but she wasn’t getting the high notes comfortably. But the moment I fell in love with Ben was during “Angel of Music” and the Phantom sings behind the mirror. That is favourite part when the Phantom opens the mirror.
After it had finished it was easy to say that I was floating. But I was determined to see Celinde as Christine. This was in April and the show changes cast in September and I avoid London in summer due to the heat. I came back before cast change. This time Celinde was in the production but Ben was off! Celinde killed it. She has such power and depth to her voice that the theme song and wishing you were somehow here again were my new favourites. The cast stayed on for the anniversary so come January the next year I returned with a friend and I got to see all three perform together.
When Ben, Celinde and Nadim sing “wandering child”, that was my favourite part. You could hear all of their voices filling the theatre each with amazing power and emotion that it set the bench mark for how I compare other casts. I have to say no one has beaten them in wandering child. Half the time the new Raoul’s voice can never be heard. For me these three will always be my original cast and they have videos singing together online so I can get my hit but it’s not the same as live.
I have gone to the stage door and met all of them and they are so nice. Ben even posed like a poster for me and you can see on my face how happy I was. I retake the picture in front of the poster all the time. I showed Ben the picture and his reaction oh god where is that (ticket booth on the corner of pedestrian road to Leicester square coming from Piccadilly) and recreated it with me!! Also hes done it himself! He’s still on that booth btw!
The first one was in 2016 so you can see my hair growing to tell when I retook the shot. I met a lot of nice people at stage door (some of which came to phantom weekly and got the £50+ seats) and the cast were kind enough to give us autographs. Stage door isn’t really a big thing here unless its for internet famous actors like Carrie or serious hard core fans. I went to the stage doors in America but I haven’t in the UK for a few years. I feel like I steal precious recovery time away from the actors even if it is just a hello and thank you for an amazing performance.
I have been to see Ben Lewis who was the Phantom after Ben Forster but I have not seen the new man who took over in September. Scott Davies who is a classic phantom has played twice. I like him but he doesn’t do it for me and I want to see the new cast and it’s a long way to come for a bit of a disappointment. I will see the new man next month though!!
(I’m not obsessed taking this picture each trip entertains me!)
That is pretty much my Phantom Phandom story. The music is the best thing out there next to Anastasia. The story connects to so many people about heart break and love and not being recognised. The score is just unlike anything else on the west end. The power of the story is just so much stronger it is hard to beat for me. I will be doing a review of different actors for the parts and my favourite Phantoms but these are harder to do as London is quite far away. However, thanks to my usual seat selection it is highly affordable. Get down there yourself!
My precious sign is gone!!! 😦