Cancer is a disease which has affected nearly everyone in the world in one way or another. Talk to most anyone, and they’ll tell you a story about their current battle with the disease, how they’ve survived it, or how they have a friend or family member who has been afflicted, with any number of outcomes to the tale dependant on each individual person’s experience. Indeed, I have several people in my life who are fighting cancer right now, and sadly more who lost their fight against it. It targets without discrimination and can strike at any time, so when good-hearted people make charitable efforts in the name of cancer, no-one can turn away saying it doesn’t affect them, as chances are, it will affect them in some way at some point in their life. There are many organisations out there dedicated to researching cancer with the aim of one day being able to cure it, with others existing to offer help and support to those who are dealing with the disease. They rely on funding from outside sources to continue their good work, and thankfully, there are a good deal of generous and empathetic people in the world who go out of their way to aid the cause.
The West End is full of such people. Every year, dozens of concerts, cabarets and other fundraising events are organised by the amazing men and women of the West End stage; all for many different causes, with cancer charities being one of the highest recipients of these endeavours.
One such event has become an annual tradition now. Les Mis V Phantom sees cast and crew members from the West End companies of Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera take one another on in a football match, with the help of a few special celebrity players too. The popular event returned for its third year in 2014, with the West End giants facing off against one another on 3rd August 2014 at Bromley F.C. in a fun-filled day which also saw Carrie Hope Fletcher (Eponine in Les Miserables) and Geronimo Rauch (The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera) entertain the crowd with live performances, with proceeds from the event split between Macmillan Cancer Research, EllenorLions Hospices and Cardiac Risk in the Young. Les Mis V Phantom was inspired by Melanie Oakley-Dow, former Wig Mistress at Les Miserables, who, after a long battle with cancer, sadly passed away in December 2013. She had been with the production for an awe-inspiring 28 years and was very special to a lot of people in the industry.
It’s often the case that losing a loved one to cancer can inspire those left behind to go on and do great things in their name. Melanie Oakley-Dow touched a lot of people’s hearts in the course of her life, and they are ensuring that she will not be forgotten by doing great things in her name – such as Les Mis V Phantom.
That’s not the only charitable event that the much-loved Wig Mistress has inspired though. Several members of the Phantom family have taken a step beyond Les Mis V Phantom and thought up another way to continue to help Macmillan Cancer Research, one of Melanie’s chosen charities, with an all-new fundraising event: The Great Phantom Charity Cross Channel Cycle! What is it all about you ask? Well, five members from the company of Phantom are to take part in an overnight cycle of more than 400km, which will take them from London to France. After the evening performance of the show on Saturday 9th May 2015 (which is a 2-show day by the way!), they will set off from the front of Her Majesty’s Theatre and cycle all the way to the steps of the Paris Opera House – a well-chosen final destination as that is, of course, the setting in which the events of the show take place – where they’ll be photographed on stage before catching an easier ride back home on the train.
Taking part in the mammoth cycle event are cast members Ryan O’Gorman, Tim Laurenti, Richard Munday, Tim Morgan, and orchestra member Simon Cheney (trumpeter), under the organisation of fellow Phantomeer, Kieran Brown. A JustGiving page has been set up with a target amount of £5,000.00, of which they have already reached 27% of with a virtual donation bucket that currently holds £1,397.50 (correct at time of writing this).
Each of them should be commended for their efforts in this heart-warming endeavour, as too should all the many, many other wonderful men and women of the West End who have given their time for the benefit of worthy causes like this.
You can follow The Great Phantom Charity Cross Channel Cycle! on Twitter: @PhantomCycle
Anyone wishing to donate can do so online via the JustGiving page, or by texting TTRR86 and the amount you wish to give to 70070.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 10th February 2015