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The collectable conundrum

A replica of the mask from The Phantom of the Opera: Should there be more collectable items like this available to musical theatre fans? A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for this website about regular theatregoers and the different memorabilia they like to collect for each show they see; for example, I always purchase a program on every visit to the theatre, no matter whether I’m seeing a show for the first time or making a return trip to an old favourite. My mum on the other hand, is a member of the themed mug club, while others may prefer a keyring, or a fridge magnet perhaps?

It’s not really so important what they choose to collect. It’s less about the items themselves and more about what they represent, as each is a treasured memory of a particular show or theatre visit. Musical theatre fans are a dedicated and enthusiastic bunch who never tire of the whole song-and-dance experience of a good show. They all share a general love for stagey fun, but also have their favourites within the art genre…the secret favourite child of the family. Mine is The Phantom of the Opera. I loved it right from the start and it’s a show I could watch again and again and again without ever losing my love for it; I’m going next week in fact and couldn’t be more excited to be seeing it again. It’s a timeless classic that is musical perfection in my eyes and I just adore everything about it, from the characters, story and score, to the costumes, choreography and staging. You wouldn’t need to be told this if you paid a visit to my house however, as there are plenty of clues to my Phantom obsession to be found there.

All the big West End musicals offer fans the standard merchandise, such as key rings, programs, magnets, mugs, t-shirts, cast recordings, posters, and so forth, which make perfect souvenirs and sell well with theatregoers. They’re a great jumping-off point for fans looking to start a collection built around one show in particular, but where do you go after that? As a musical theatre fan, I like to collect programs, but as a Phantom of the Opera fan, I like to collect…well, anything Phantom-related really! In this respect, I couldn’t have chosen a better show to be my favourite child as there is just such a wide range of items out there ready and waiting to make my home their home.

From where I sit writing this right now, I see the text poster from Gaston Leroux’s Phantom novel, the RUG clay art replica of the full Phantom mask, a print of Her Majesty’s Theatre with Phantom posters on display, the Russian dolls with painted Phantom designs and a limited edition print of artist Bradley Parrish’s 1992 painting, Act 1, which was one in a series of Phantom-themed paintings. I have plenty more Phantom items around the place too.

As many wonderful pieces of memorabilia that I have, there are just so many more out there. Fans of the musical looking to build a Phantom of the Opera collection have a mountain of items to choose from, including jewellery, snow globes, thimbles, music boxes, replica masks books, wall art, and dolls, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I think it’s the ornaments that really set Phantom apart from other musicals in terms of memorabilia though. There are some beautiful pieces available to buy online that detail The Phantom and Christine separately and together, as well as more that capture other characters and iconic moments.

The Phantom of the Opera is the only musical which has this much range in terms of collectable items which are unique and memorable, and it seems to me that there is a huge gap out there to be filled by other popular shows. I’ve seen Wicked snow globes and some gorgeous Les Miserables wall art, but for shows like this that have such a huge following, there aren’t really a lot of collectable items to be found, and to be honest, I’m completely baffled as to why?

My mum has a shelf in her home that holds around ten Phantom-themed ornaments which form part of a collection paying homage to the musical. She loves the show too, but unlike me, it’s not her favourite child; it’s Les Miserables that holds the No.1 place in her heart. Yet, that shelf in her home is filled with Phantom ornaments as there are  no Les Miserables ones. How many Les Miserables fans would collect busts of Les Mis characters for example? Who would buy an ornament detailing the students’ death at the Barricades perhaps, or Valjean carrying Marius through the sewers, Javert and Valjean’s confrontation, Marius cradling a dying Eponine in the rain, or any one of the other key moments in the production? I know my mum certainly would, as she’s often bemoaned the lack of similar Les Mis-themed collectables to me.

Merchandise is a huge money-maker in any area of the entertainment industry. Are the big West End shows like Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and more, missing out by not appealing to the die-hard fans who would gladly spend out on collectable items like these? I honestly think so. There’s always a market out there for that. I took my daughter on the Harry Potter studio tour for her birthday a few years ago, and anyone who’s been will know just how massive the gift shop there is! It’s cavernous and holds every kind of Harry Potter-themed item you could ever think of, from pencils and postcards to replicas of broomsticks and swords, the latter of which would set you back a few hundred quid…yet there are people who would gladly pay that bit more to own a far more exclusive piece of the thing they love. The same is true of musicals.

 By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Tuesday 26th May 2015