People always want to know just what is the meaning of life? There is no definitive answer. For me though, it is all about the memorable experiences that have defined my life so far. There are the big ones: the first time I fell in love; the first time I had my heart broken and, of course, the day my daughter was born – but there are so many more too.
I remember my first kiss. I remember when I passed my driving test. I remember holding my first ever pay check. I remember when I became an auntie for the first time (but not the last – four nieces and nephews now, with another on the way!). I remember seeing myself on TV. I remember the day I had my first piece of writing published and saw my name there in print. I remember meeting someone who I greatly admired. And I remember The Phantom of the Opera at The Royal Albert Hall.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic musical will always hold a special meaning for me. There’s no need to delve into all the reasons, but one of them is that I credit it with reigniting my love of theatre. I left it all behind when I moved away from London and it was Phantom that finally reminded me how much I adored it. Stepping back into that world not only gave me back a forgotten-passion, but it honestly changed my life’s direction and I’ll always be grateful for that because I absolutely love where I am now and what I’m doing with it.
I wasn’t there for Les Miserables’ 25th anniversary concert at The O2 and every time I watch the DVD of that night, I wish I had been. So when it was The Phantom of the Opera’s turn, there was no chance I was going to miss it. Still, although it claims prime position on my ‘musical theatre’ list, I wasn’t going to shell out £250 for a prime view at the RAH. I didn’t have that kind of money to hand anyway, even after digging down the back of the sofa, but I would have resented paying it anyway. I was content to be in the rafters with my ‘nosebleed’ seat because, for me, it was all about just being there. I wanted to experience the atmosphere of the night, watching this spectacular production while surrounded by thousands of people who shared my love for it. It wasn’t about who had the best seat and the best view, it was enough to be there; after all, that’s why we have the DVD right?
It’s been six weeks since that truly memorable night and on Monday, the DVD that captured it all was released. I’ve bought it. I’ve watched it. It is simply stunning.
It was like watching it for the first time again. Part of the joy of live theatre is having the story play out in front of you and seeing every emotion the characters go through plain to see on their faces. As wonderful as it was on the night, I wasn’t near enough for that, so to watch it again and be able to see every moment of anguish, passion, dread and ecstasy this time added another layer of depth to the production. I know some people bemoaned the fact that the epic staging took away from the emotion of the story and they found themselves left somewhat cold by it – impossible once you’ve seen the DVD. Some people need that level of intimacy to involve themselves in what they’re seeing and here, that’s exactly what they get. The performances are amplified by their new focus and Ramin Karimloo is simply outstanding, terrifying in the intensity of his rage one moment and breaking hearts with the depth of his despair the next.
I was able to re-live the night through the DVD and recall exactly how it had made me feel. Watching the finale again and seeing the specialness of Phantom reflected in so many peoples faces, from the cast to Andrew Lloyd Webber, brought a small tear to my eye. And of course, I got to share in it with my daughter this time.
Having been there in the presence of such musical theatre legends is an amazing feeling and I will be reminded of that now every time I watch the DVD. I know I won’t be alone in that. The Phantom of the Opera is beloved by millions of people around the globe and for good reason, but not everyone could be there to enjoy its twenty-fifth birthday. As much as the DVD serves as a memento for those who were there, it also gives a second chance to those who were not. They too can now share in the magic of the night and between us all, we can make sure that we’ll be gathering again to celebrate its next twenty-five years.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
17th November 2011