Phantom of the Country Opera (2)

Time: April 08, 2011
Place: Las Positas College
Role: The Phantom
Director: Ken Ross
My Reflections

The return

It’d been many years since Phantom was last done Las Positas College, and I still remembered the production quite well. So when it was decided that it would be the first new musical in the new performing arts center, I figured I would partake…or at least audition.

First of all, the actors who played roles before were offered the same roles again. Well, most of them. Obviously, the little boy character couldn’t be played by the same actor, who was now in his late 20s. For me, Mort de Soleil was offered. Oh yeah, Mort…



Don’t get me wrong. It was a fun role and I had a great time before, but I fear going in too many circles in life, and doing it all again would be…well. Look I just didn’t want to play that character again.

The audition

Since the roles of Aaron (the Phantom) and Antonio (the Opera Singer) were open to all (the actors were not able to return), I decided to write them down on the audition form. Actually, I was mainly figuring on Antonio since Aaron was a little older of a character. But I wouldn’t turn it down either.

Technically, Aaron being the Phantom is supposed to be a secret, but really, I doubt this show is going to be done anytime soon. It’s not like Spelling Bee, where it’s done 100 times in as many days in as many theatres.

The callback.

Well, there were readings and more singing and more readings. It was the usual process with the unusual suspects. I recognized a few people, but most were new to me. A couple days later I received a phone call–they were offering me the role of the Phantom and asked if I would accept. Um, yeah. A most hearty yeah! And yeehaw to boot! Rehearsals wouldn’t start for weeks, but I would be preparing as soon as possible.

The beginning

The first meeting held many new faces. So much had changed in all the years. I knew the girl plying my “opposite” from other shows. She was very nice and great to work with. A couple other returning players were there, but I think there were more people from City of Angels than the first Phantom. Time can do that.
We sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. Then we read through the script. I’m fond of that part. But we also sang the songs. Now THAT, I don’t care for that as much. It’s tough to sight sing something for the first time in front of strangers who were auditioning for the same roles. Yeah, I’d just as soon skip the first sing-thru.

Now tech week. There’s a great time to sing through the songs with the cast. Should be nice and polished by then. Yes, sir.

The rehearsals.

Oh boy! I got to be a student again. Seriously, that part is always a pain, but they make it easier now with everything being done online. They even allow you to print a temp parking pass while you wait for the real one to arrive in the mail. That’s nice. I like the little things like that. I’d like it better if performing didn’t actually cost me money, but we can’t have everything.

Yup, it does cost some money and the credits are literally worthless for me. I mean I finished the AA, the bachelor’s and the master’s. Community college credits just don’t help–I suppose they don’t hurt either. I could get all F’s and it wouldn’t really matter.

But it’s hard to get an F in theater.

I did get a D in computer programming in high school once. My parents were aghast about that happening. I think we (the teacher and I) just had our differences. I liked to copy code from other classmates; he didn’t like me doing that. We agreed to disagree and he agreed to give me a D.

Hey, it beat an F.

But really? Assembly language programming. Who gets a D in that?!?

The drive

The drive was nice. It was so close to home. I carpooled a few times, but I think the young lady found another willing participant, so that ended quickly. I suppose it was for the best since it can be somewhat frustrating to have to wait on others to get ready.

The cast.

We had a good team. There were very little, if any, personality conflicts. And when there’s drama in a musical, it’s often bad for morale. We did have a girl, one of the principals, who just seemed to be in the wrong situation. It was her first show, and she had other things going on at the same time in her life. I think she was discovering that the theater just was not where she wanted to be. She didn’t actually quit, but after missing some key rehearsals a week before opening, the staff had to make a choice. We had another person who could step in and do the role. In the end, it worked out best for everybody. Doing a show is a huge commitment; if someone isn’t happy being there, he or she needs to take action immediately.

The music.

While I didn’t sing the same songs the previous time, I heard them a lot. And many were very memorable. There are some things that just stay with you. The Phantom’s songs were just ingrained into my mind. I’d been humming them (and unknowingly making up new lyrics) frequently over the years. So learning them wasn’t too tough. Nevertheless, I brought in a recorder (my iPhone) and recorded the piano accompaniment. I moved it to CD and practiced in my car almost everywhere I drove. I even bought a mike stand so I could practice using my karaoke system. Eventually, I even started arriving about an hour earlier to use the music rooms to work on vocal exercises. I must say that it’s nice having those options at the new facility.

The dancing.

Ah, it was simple and easy–mainly because I had about nothing to learn. I think the last heavy dancing I’ve had was either a ballet show last year (in 2010) or a Christmas Show for 3 Crosses in 2008.

They did make me learn the curtain call dance though. So I guess I had some dancing. I learned it about three days before opening. Sometimes it was even correct.

The beard.

Wow. What an experiment that was. The last long period without shaving was in grad school when I refused to shave until a certain paper was finished. It wasn’t my thesis. That took two years and I probably would have just started pulling the hair out at that point. This was for about three weeks and I was dying to get out the razor.

For Phantom, I guess it was about a month. The beard was just itchy and uncomfortable for the most part, but not shaving did save some time after showering. Still, I didn’t like the look too much. A few people did; others didn’t; many just wouldn’t offer an opinion or didn’t care.

After closing, I did shave in the bathroom. I had new brand new blades, which is rare for me, but I also forgot the shaving lotion and the water wasn’t hot. I forgot scissors too. Yeah, the whole process took nearly an hour. It was slow going.

Upon finishing, it was like I had a new face. It was also a very thin face. I guess I wasn’t use to that. It was a little disconcerting, but after a day or so, I was used to it again. Problem solved.

The theatre.

Well this was the first musical in the new building. And it was nice. The LPC Theatre feels just like the Bankhead theatre in Livermore (I did TVRT’s first musical there in Wizard of Oz). The main difference is the LPC theatre has a steep incline. As well, it has box seats which I love. My last scene took place from there (an idea I proposed and was thrilled to have accepted).

The dressing rooms were also nice, although I did sort of miss the coed camaraderie we used to have in 801. In the old theatre, it was one big green room/makeup room/changing room. I guess it was just nice having the cast all together in one big place. It felt–unified.

The new theatre also has many hallways. For a while, it’s pretty easy to get lost and turned around. Oddly enough, the new green room has large glass windows, which are great at letting in sunlight, but they also allow the intermission folks to see the actors unwinding and feeding their faces. Curtains solved that problem, but the outer courtyard still had (has) the same issues. A slight oversight in the design phase. Can I get a collective “oops”?

The food.

Some shows are just great for food. Phantom rated pretty high. After one random rehearsal where people brought some snacks, it just sort of caught on. On opening night, a lot of food was provided. There were many choices during every show. Granted, most of it was unhealthy and likely to contribute to Diabetes, Types 1 through 17, but it was pretty tasty.

Ironically, the same thing didn’t apply to my cast parties where there was hardly any food. I guess I should have made a signup list or something. If you don’t tell people not to bring chips, you end up with tons and tons of chips, chips that you bring to the green room the following day.

One special treat was what Woody’s mom would bring. We had several nice surprises from here from rice crispy boots to exploding pigs. Well, we disagreed about the eviscerated pig, but either way, there was definitely swine cannibalism going one. There was no argument there.

The parties.

Yeah, I threw a couple. The first was a “getting to know you” party during the early apart of the rehearsals. We only had about 12 people, but the games were fun and people got to know each other a little. I mainly did it to better learn the names of the other actors. If I don’t do it early, it simply doesn’t happen. Otherwise, I learn the character names and that’s it. Usually a greeting begins and ends with the word “Hey.” Nothing more to say or buy. Ever!

I suppose the party helped, but then again, when I was creating the bio board during tech week, I was calling people to try and learn a few remaining names.

I also had an opening Saturday party. That went well, with my kitchen being packed with people. I figured with so many people in there, no one would even see my pizza incident (the logic works, trust me)–when the cardboard holding a karge cheese pizza collapsed in half and cheese was everywhere. Yup. It took a long time to clean that up. We saved the pizza I guess, but it only had about half the cheese. No one even seemed to be noticing, but days later, when I brought it up, people would say, “Oh yeah! That!” So much for my crowded room theory.

In the living room, we had some pretty, well, “interesting” karaoke going on. Granted, they picked very niche and tough songs to sing, but it was… a little off. We shall leave it at that.

The party went quite late into the morning, but no problems occurred. I drank lightly since we had a show the next day. Overall, a great time.

The performances.

Opening went well. The preview night had had a small audience, so opening night was our first real crowd. It was nice to get some response from the jokes and numbers.

I had brought in flowers and notes for all the ladies in the cast (Okay, I did know all their names). These items I had prepared the night before. I learned years ago never to try and do stuff like that on the actual opening day–you’ll run out of time–guaranteed.

The brushup.

We had it on our calendar, but it was up in the air what the brushup night would entail–or if it would occur at all. In the end it was decided that it would be just the principals going over the scenes. This was fine–it certainly couldn’t hurt, though I was in favor of reviewing the entire show. We just had so many technical aspects to it. Sometimes brush-up nights are for photo-taking too, but I guess we already had enough photos from tech week.

Nevertheless, this night allowed me to better watch the other scenes. It was great to see how things were being done on other parts of the stage or how they had developed since early times in the process. I think the time was well spent.

The mistakes.

There were some “errors” along the way. For me, things went fairly smoothly, but I certainly don’t mind when lines come my way that aren’t in the order expected. If anything, it keeps scenes fresh and forces one to always be aware. Although, occasionally, internally, I’ll be thinking, “NOOO! That skips my favorite line! How can we still get it back?!? What can be done!? Maybe…if I just…no, wait…I can simply say…oh, drat. Zero point five six seconds have passed, I need to just move on.” Yeah, a lot goes through your head when stuff like that happens.

The biggest glitch was when a sand bag didn’t fall. This was pretty huge since people were assuming a large and potentially deadly sand bag was still hanging overhead. People were certainly uncomfortable about being in that area of the stage. But the tech explained that it didn’t fall because it was never set up among the rails. Either way, I wasn’t totally relaxed until I saw the actual sand bag sitting on the floor stage right, waiting to be prepared for the second act. Ah, details. So important.

Finally, there was a time when our curtain call was a tad bit slower than usual so the final dance music started early. This caused a world of confusion for us even if many audience members were unaware. It wasn’t exactly fatalistic, but certainly woke everyone up.

The energy.

I think the show had plenty of energy, although I must say that that was the note which always came back to us during intermission–“more energy.” Hard to say whether or not it’s a valid request, but I suppose it also doesn’t hurt to always have that in mind.

Speaking of energy, different actors have different methods on eating before or during shows (most have no problem eating after a show though. Many local restaurants can vouch for that). I don’t usually have a preference, but my throat didn’t feel as free one night, so I decided to not eat during the next show. I think it helped. It keeps one physically and perhaps mentally hungry as well. Plus, eating can make one a little more tired and lethargic. No sense in risking that. My new strategy will be to not eat until my last big scene is over.

The closing.

The closing night came pretty quick. In fact the whole week off flew by in a flash as well. I decided to make a cast collage once again. It had been several years since I made the last one and I can’t remember what show it was for. I did have a lot of great photos printed and a lot of great headshots. A nice thing was that the light was all coming from the same direction and very similar–for each headshot had been taken in the exact same place. Thus the final Saturday night crept into the wee hours of the morning while I slaved away creating the photo.

During the last show, I went out during intermission to the stage to take some final shots as the Phantom. I had my guitar and duster on for effect. Afterwards, I had to remember to remove the duster before the act started. I did so, but then later realized about 20 seconds before my Ghost Town scene and song that my needed duster was now sitting patiently in the dressing room. I could have been a few seconds late into the scene by fetching it, but I also couldn’t risk being later than that. No, I had to forgo it. That’s probably the only big thing I forgot during the show’s run. It also wasn’t a Macbeth night. Not that it would have any difference. I won’t convince anyone otherwise, but saying the word changes nothing. I’ve seen the opposite effect on many shows. Someone started a superstition centuries ago and it stuck. Traditions are fun to some degree, but sometimes a bit naive and childish as well.

The end.

Next: Cain killed Abel…with a backhand?