Review: "The Phantom of the Opera: Music Box Tour 8/17/03"

or: "What Marni Can Do With an Apple..."


I'm not much of a writer, much less a reviewer. I do it for film classes, but that's for a grade. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE reading them, but I think I just take too much baggage with me when I see a performance: other actors I've seen, other productions, etc. But for this review, I'll try to be as clinical and unbiased as possible.


No Lisa Vroman? PHUCK!!!!!


Okay, honestly, that's what the little voice in my head spouted off when I glanced over at the cast listing in the lobby and saw the replacements for the show. No disrespect to Marni, though. I enjoyed her performance in July when I went with my friends, but I had bought this second row, center orchestra ticket with the *express* purpose of seeing Brad and Lisa. So out the window went all the questions I had for her when I saw her at the stage door, the chance to see her play the part of Christine one last time before she retires from the musical completely later this year. And yes, the opportunity to have a photo of her and I that actually had a halfway decent chance of coming out nice. Lisa is my favorite Christine, and probably always will be. But Marni started to grow on me this second time around. They sound a bit similar (except when they're speaking the dialogue -- Lisa pitches her voice a little higher, I think), and they both have very expressive interpretations of the role which is always nice to see. This performance shot Marni up the list to my second favorite Christine.


And now, a scene by scene analysis. And you kids better use the bathroom now, 'cuz we ain't taking many rest stops along the way...


Prologue -- Who is the woman all in black with the veil sitting next to Old Raoul? I don't recall her in the Broadway production, nor even in this same company when I saw it in July. This scene played out as it always does, with just the right amount of mystery and eeriness. The Raouls I've seen recently (those being John Cudia and Tim Martin Gleason) do some funky stuff in delivering the word "dead." Tim delivered it kind of flat this afternoon. Just sort of lay there like a dead fish. Poke it with a stick, kick it with your foot, ain't no life in it. No harm, no foul. That's some tough dialogue to deliver to begin with without sounding corny and melodramatic.


The chandelier flash went off without a hitch, as did the overture. But I think ol' chandy jumped the gun and started to move forward a bit before she got her figure back. Never saw the show from that angle before, so I can't say for sure if that's a flub.




"Hannibal" -- cute ballerinas, lotsa animal prints and a fabulous diva. Kim Stengel's Carlotta is very much on the level of Patricia Hurd's comic diva, only a bit more contained. I didn't notice Joelle Gates amongst the slave girls, but she is listed in the playbill. One ballerina seemed to smile quite a bit, so much so that I began to fear for her health. Frederic Heringes' Piangi is quite good, playing up the difficulty in overcoming his accent to nice effect. With the introduction of the new managers, I am certain that if D.C. Anderson's Andre had come out in a T-shirt with Carlotta's face on the front, it still would not have done justice to how much of a "Carlotta-groupie" his character appeared to be. Blissfully comic, his Andre gushed over the diva and Kim's Carlotta soaked it up wonderfully. Personally, I always thought Andre had a thing for Meg, but then again, maybe he's a playa... No slouch himself, David Cryer's Firmin had a little thing going with a ballerina for a second or two during Carlotta's aria. And was he ever eager to cut that song short (he had his hands raised to applaud LONG in advance of when he actually does so). Marni is introduced the same way Lisa is, running in in the middle of the dance. I chose to pay more attention to her this time around since I was so close up and I enjoyed what I saw (but not in a sick, "dirty old man" kinda way). Marni's Christine is completely innocent and vulnerable, very much someone in need of a protector. Came through loud and clear in her body language and in her rather expressive eyes.


Flub #1 (there were only a few minor ones over the course of the afternoon): Lefevre's lines about Buquet, which came out something like: "Chief of th -- chief of the -- you know, the flies (while waving wildly to empty space above him)." No big deal.


"Think of Me" went off without a hitch (although with all the stories of flubs in various productions that I've been reading, I was half expecting the Hannibal skirt to drop to the floor -- okay, so maybe a *little* "dirty old man"), and it was then that I noticed the similarities in Marni and Lisa's voices. It actually got me to wondering if actresses we paired at least in part due to vocal similarities and if this extended into their staging. Of course, Tim Martin Gleason returns at this point as Raoul sans beard and nurse. He was an okay Raoul. I noticed at many points in the show, he wore this somewhat overconfident smirk, which I didn't care for much. But Raoul is an underwritten role, and with the Phantom/Christine dynamic, it's difficult to bring a lot of life to the part, in my opinion. He usually ends up being either an insufferable prat or Al Gore (only more wooden). For me, the benchmark for a good Raoul is one that shows a genuine concern for Christine's safety -- so much so as to overcome that little quibble about using her as bait to catch the Phantom.


After the Gala -- Plenty of "knowing" glances between Madame Giry and Christine whenever they speak of Christine's teacher. Christines and Girys seem to have a closer relationship now than I remember them in my earlier viewings of the show. Also, Patti Davidson-Gorbea's Giry isn't as much a "stern enigmatic ballet mistress" as others that I've seen. But wow, does she ever have a mean glare! And she also can deliver a funny line, as her "You were a disgrace!" attested, delivered in an amused, "Hahahaha! You guys sucked so bad..." sort of way. Everything played out fine here. Kate Wray's Meg actually sings the lines prior to their entering the dressing room, which is nice. As it turns out, the aisle seat that close up is at just the right angle to NOT see Christine's "sittin' around" dress (hmmm... that dress was blue, and then there's the "Blue Dress," and the blue hooded cloak. D'ya think Christine likes the color blue?) and the Phantom's introduction, not to mention the tour's traveling stage completely obscures the rear of the stage.


Flub #2: Marni wore the Hannibal slave girl skirt under her dressing gown. Now, seeing as how those strips of color kept peeking out through this scene and the next, something I had NEVER seen before, I chalk this up as a costume flub.


Christine's Dressing Room -- Marni's Christine remembers Raoul from the start (even when Giry mentions him during Scene 1). I was on the wrong side of the theatre, so I couldn't get a reading of how she reacted to Raoul's first lines, but I got the impression that she knew who it was and played ignorance for a moment before acknowledging. So they reminisce, a little back and forth about dinner plans, and Brad makes his grand entrance with a big, booming, "INSOLENT BOY!" Raw anger and power in those lines. Quite unnerving.


The Labyrinth -- Ah, a change from the sit-down productions. The false Phantom and Christine walk from one wing to another instead of going down a trapdoor. They could have picked better doubles, though. Brad is much taller than Marni and these two were about the same height. Some travelator fun with Brad swirling his cloak about and the boat winding it's way downstage. More changes from the sit-down versions in that the candelabra slide in from the wings rather than popping up through the stage itself. Marni does a mean candenza, Brad gets some great lighting and strikes a mean pose as he's doffing his duds. Overall, a favorite scene. Just wish I could have *seen* half of it.


Beyond the Lake -- A pregnant pause before "Music of the Night," almost on the verge of being too long. Brad sang the first verse like a lullabye, coaxing Christine further under his spell. Marni's expressions through the song range from peacefulness to fear to wonder to attraction. Like Lisa's, a very animated performance. Brad also sinks his teeth into the song, at times singing with a gentleness and then turning around and sexily growling another line.


Flub #3: The mirror dustcover catches on a fragment of glass and Brad has to yank a second time to free it. This one was a more obvious one. The scene ends with Christine fainting, Brad doing a funny little kick back with his left leg before he flares the cloak out to cover her -- and in a change from the last time I saw him -- reaching down to touch her face only to stop suddenly in a frustrated attempt to control himself.


The Next Morning -- I still can't figure out how the monkey music box wakes Christine up, yet the Phantom playing the organ doesn't... But Marni wakes in that cute way that some Christines do, stretching a bit while singing their first few lines. "And in the boat, there was a man..," was sung while hugging the cloak to her body. Nice. But all honeymoons must come to an end, and sure enough, the mask comes off and everybody on my side of the theatre got a GOOD look at the disfigurement. Having always seen the show from house right, I figured they must put a really hard spotlight on him to mask the prosthetics from the audience on the left. But nope, there it is in all its glory. And "Damn you!" has never been uttered with such howling anger as what I heard that afternoon. Brad's Phantom is definitely a character of extremes. A reprise of that nice character interaction that I saw in July. Brad reaches out to touch Christine's face and she pulls back. Not quickly as if she's disgusted by him, but a bit slowly, with a sense that the character doesn't want to anger him further but also wants to avoid the touch. At that moment, (which is a perk of being so close for a change) Brad's expression turns from pleading straight to pain as he turns away from her and chokes out, "Oh, Christine..." Marni hands the mask back and Brad slips it on in one fluid motion -- and with it, his character's dignity and elegance returns.


The Manager's Office -- This scene was done very well. The casts' comic timing was on and everybody gave a solid performance. Highlights were Carlotta's double-take when she learns what role the Phantom wants her to play, and the general flow of voices in and out of each other. This scene can sometimes get a bit incoherent, but for some reason or another, even though everyone was singing at once, all the voices got a chance to be at the forefront for a line or two.


Flub #4: Another prop thing. Carlotta's parasol seemed to have been stripped of it's fabric and ribs making it look more like a walking stick with a lot of fur at one end. Broken, maybe?


Il Muto -- Carlotta's Countess dress was pink. Very pink. Pinker than I'm used to seeing. The chorus was very cheerful and the scene was played for the comic effect that's inherent in the "opera." We had an understudy as Don Atillio (Kirk Vaughn-Robinson) who did as good a job with holding that note as the regular actor -- with all the characters reacting in surprise with how he just keeps going and going and going... But Kim's Carlotta is the true scene-stealer here with her excellent croaking before the audience and one last one from far offstage at the very perfect moment of quiet. I never noticed that Meg is the only blonde ballerina before, but she certainly stands out during the Country Nymphs ballet. Kate even gets to play a little comedy in her reaction to the Phantom's silhouettes. Wide eyes, big grin. Pay no attention to the shadows behind the sylvan glade, folks! Ain't we pretty? You know, with, like, the dancing and stuff? Buquet drops in, literally, and then pandemonium erupts. I never noticed that Giry takes it upon herself to get all her ballerinas offstage during all the screaming. You go girl!


Roof of the Opera House -- No trapdoor to act as an access point to the roof, they just run in from the wings. This set always looks the emptiest to me, I always expect to see some more business onstage to make it look more like the roof. Anyway, a few things of note: Marni laughs in surprise when Tim drops to one knee as all Raouls seem to do. The fateful, "Christine, I love you" line is given a unique interpretation by Tim, saying it strongly and then suddenly switching into boyish, awkward embarrassment. This was nice and original. Brad's reprise is done with a lot of emotion, his voice breaking a couple of times and apparently in tears. I had an awkward angle and couldn't see him very well so I just tried to tune into his singing. And did the eyes and mouths of the angel statue always glow like that?


So the Il Muto cast comes out and takes their bows and the chandelier starts flickering. It takes a bit to start falling, and Tim is onstage for a good amount of time before he rushes across to pull Marni to safety. Chandelier falls, flash goes off, end of Act 1.




Masquerade Ball -- You can really appreciate the rich details of the costumes when you're up close. This is actually my friend KelleyFaye's favorite song in the show, but she always did enjoy big numbers similar to this. Watching the choreography of swirling dancers in the foreground and the background was great, as was seeing Patti apparently enjoying herself while dancing with one of the men in the ensemble (nice to see Madame Giry have a little fun once in awhile). I spent most of the time vainly trying to capture costume details but with so many costumes and so much movement, I only succeeded in drawing one sketch on top of another and only came out with a few details on a couple of costumes. Variation from the sit-down productions: Red Death doesn't fall through a trapdoor, he runs offstage after the distracting flash of light and bit of smoke.


Backstage -- Patti's Giry was very panicky here. It would probably have been more effective had she been really stoic in her other scenes (she seemed the most Giry-like when confronting Buquet), but it worked out okay. You can see the wheels turning in Raoul's head when he finally figures out that the Phantom is real.


The Manager's Office -- The managers were stand-outs in this scene for me. David's Firmin is ever the businessman, trying to keep his Opera House running and holding the backstage catfighting down to a minimum. When Carlotta accuses Christine of being the cause of all the trouble, David attempts to placate them both -- sympathizing with Marni's Christine and turning around and frantically trying to get Kim's Carlotta to stop aggravating things. I paid attention to reactions more than who was speaking this time around and noticed that Patti reacts when Marni says "Do I become his prey?" after which Patti looks at Tim. That's nice since it helps tie these two characters together a bit more and doesn't just drop what just took place in the previous scene.


A Rehearsal for "Don Juan Triumphant" -- Honestly, I always thought this scene belonged after the graveyard scene. As is, it makes it look like Christine caves in to pressure and agrees to perform in the opera despite her just saying a second ago that she couldn't do it. The scene opens with Frederic as Piangi apparently bored out of his skull and irritated at the cacophony of sound he's being subjected to by the chorus. After David DeWitt's Reyer corrects him like a schoolteacher speaking to a slow child (and the chorus hums the note for him), Frederic seems to intentionally sing it wrong, showing his frustration and dislike for the piece. The piano starts up and we segue into the next scene.


A Graveyard in Perros -- Marni's chance to show off her acting chops. She does a lot of business with the scarf: smelling it (sounds weird, but it's not), stroking it, etc, as if it is the last link she has to her father. She got off to a slow start, but the character's conflict soon came through, with a lot of frustration apparent in the line, "Why can't the past just die?" She ended the song with a lot of strength in her character's attitude, as if she had taken the first step towards closure. And amusing to me if to no one else, she also ended the song in a pose Lisa is well-known for: left hand resting on her chest, right hand at her waist. A mannerism of Lisa's since I've never seen any other Christines do the same thing. All in all, a great job, and she got a healthy round of applause for her efforts. "Wandering Child" starts off with Brad singing very softly; a gentle, loving caressing of Christine's senses to lure her back to him. Their voices get stronger and stronger as they sing -- and is that recognition in her voice as she sings, "Wildly my heart beats against you"? I'm not sure... But then Raoul jumps in and tries to break the spell. Brad's Phantom waves his hand dismissively in a sort of "Get out of here!" or "Ignore the fop" manner and then displays more urgency in getting Christine to come to him (Hurry! Or the fop's gonna ruin it all!). So they have their little battle of words against fireballs and Tim and Marni run off. Brad did that flashy bit with the skull staff, firing off several horizontally across the stage just before the flames shot up and burned off my eyebrows.


The Opera House stage before the premiere -- Just stalling for time as they put up the sets, if you ask me. Tim had that overconfident smirk on his face the entire time and it began to wear thin. Got a good look at the costumes of the police and firemen, so you may be seeing them in my illustrations eventually.


Don Juan Triumphant -- I was busy counting actors and sketching costumes during the chorus' part, but they sounded really good. Kate and Frederic come out and he does a little "keep away" with the purse before tossing it to her. Kate then does the little flirting bit with Passarino (played by Lawrence Asher at this performance). Frederic and Larry do their thing and then Marni comes on. Marni's interpretation of Christine's interpretation of Aminta is that of a vixen. A saucy little cocktease, if you will. Basically any cast member of "The Real World: Las Vegas." And with Brad's Phantom, this turned out to be the steamiest "Point of No Return" that I've been witness to. We're talking "squirm in your seat" hot.


"Set off the sprinkler system" hot.


"Oh my God! Did she just LICK that apple?!?!" hot.


It all started with a sultry sidelong glance when she hears "Don Juan" close the curtains. Marni played the role as a complete 180 degree turn in characterization to her Christine. Aminta was confident and bold, she was aware of her sexuality and knew what kind of power she held over "Passarino/Don Juan." It would be hard for me to describe what was happening without going into a blow-by-blow account, but suffice it to say that there were lots of silent gasps and hands that were doing things that they shouldn't be doing that early in the day.


Some of that was even happening onstage.


Brad and Marni's choreography was very fluid and raised the temperature in the theatre by at least a couple of degrees. While the Phantom was busy rubbing Christine's hands all over his torso, she leaned down and felt the mask beneath the hood. She's surprised and touches it with her hand only to confirm her fears. By this time, Brad's Phantom has realized that she knows what's happened and grabs her wrists when she tries to flee. Another big scream out of Marni when this takes place -- a very realistic display of fear. After being pulled center-stage, she yanked her hands free, angry at the deception and when the time came, pulled the hood off and left him literally at a loss for words. Her expression then turned to one of regret, as if she was sorry for participating in his capture. The police came in but were quickly dismissed in a contrived plot device that I still can't comprehend. She tried to leave the stage as well, but the managers gesture for her to stay there (something else that I don't quite get). But when the Phantom sings those first few words "Say you'll share with me..," it got a reaction of "what did you say?" out of her. Not an actual oral outburst, mind you, just a look of surprise or shock. Brad continued singing in the gentlest of tones but growing with emotion, his voice breaking again when he sang, "Say you want me with you *here* beside you," with Marni reacting as if she's not sure what to do -- touched by his words but still... Regardless, she still ripped the mask and wig off and screamed when she found them in her hands. Brad howled like a wild animal, grabbed her and made a break for it.


The tour seems to have added the line, "Piangi's dead!" during the chaos backstage after the Phantom and Christine escape. I'm not sure why it was added, perhaps to make it clear that the guy on the stretcher is the late tenor.


The Labyrinth -- In an interesting move, Brad sang this portion with a softer voice. I'm used to hearing the Phantom in a frenzy at this point, but Brad went in the opposite direction.


STILL missed seeing the ratcatcher...


Beyond the Lake -- Brad's Phantom was definitely off-kilter at this point, a crazed look in his eyes and lots of stumbling around the Lair. He drags Marni onstage and more or less dumps her on the floor and seems to have a bit of trouble comprehending what she's saying (confused as in his mental faculties are skewered or confused that that's what she thinks of him, I can't say for sure). Either way, he went on with his lines; again beginning to break down into tears but this time stopping himself and switching to anger as he shoved the veil on her head -- to which Marni got an "oh!" look on her face (no, not THAT "oh!" face...) like he put it on a little to hard -- and stuffed the bouquet in her hands. Then the Christine dummy took a header into the wings and the other dummy popped up on the other side of the portcullis. Marni ran to Tim and he did the requisite pleading to Brad. Some interesting things here: Marni's line "Please, Raoul, it's useless" is delivered while looking at Brad, and rather matter-of-factly; something I've never noticed before and it put a little different spin on things for me. And Brad's "the world showed no compassion to me!" was screamed almost to the point of being unintelligible. I thought that was a little much even for the high emotions of the scene.


So Raoul walks right into a trap and in a nice touch, after Brad slipped the lasso over Tim's head, he sang the line, "Order your fine horses now!" dripping with sarcasm and right into Tim's ear. Tim sold the noose thing, struggling throughout the rest of the scene like it really was close to choking him to death. Brad then turned his attention to Marni and literally picked her up and pressed her body to his -- forcing a short cry from her throat -- as he was singing. He set her down on the floor again as he continued to sing with a mixture of anger, frenzy and desperation. Marni's Christine then grew some more backbone and tried to solve the situation by appealing to the Phantom's humanity -- a side I suppose she saw when he was still her Angel of Music. She pursued Brad around the Lair, touching his back, trying to reach the good side in him, but he constantly slipped out of her grasp until they converged on the throne. And when Brad delivered the lines, "You try my patience. Make your choice," he did so with the coldest and deepest of voices, leaning down into Marni's face as he issued it almost like a challenge. His hand was shaking as well, as if he was barely keeping himself under control. The kisses were strong, the second lasting longer than I remember it usually being. Marni seemed a bit awkward in how she was touching the disfigured side, but that's nit-picking. Brad's Phantom was shocked after this, as all Phantoms are, but Marni appeared shocked and surprised as well. That's a variation, as I seem to recall differences in the composure of Christines after the kiss. So Brad shuffled away, overcome by what just happened and picked up a candle. Marni did the "No!" bit, thinking that he's going to do harm to her honeybunny and then shrieked and turned away as Brad lunged forward with the candle at Tim. Tim dropped to the floor and Marni turned in surprise to find him safe and rushed to his side to embrace him. Brad quickly backed away from their display of affection and told them to leave. Brad's delivery was that of someone who is doing something that his entire being doesn't want to do. The frustration, the pain, the complete anguish; it was all there in his voice. Marni reached out to him while still in Tim's embrace; it was a little shorter than the last time, but still effective.


After Brad proceeded to chase them out of his house and hang with his monkey for a bit (while getting pretty weepy at the end there), Marni returned timidly and with an expression that spoke of sorrow and pity, returned the ring. Their hands were intertwined for what seemed an eternity before Brad said tearfully, "Christine, I love you." She slowly pulled away and then rushed off, leaving Brad's Phantom to complete his emotional breakdown alone. He picked up the veil and wept into it, repeating the words, "I love you" until the tightness in his chest made it impossible to speak anymore and simply left him crying. He looked up when he heard Marni and Tim as they sailed off, but now with a feeling of resignation as he sang his last lines. Brad let the veil slip from his fingers and went to the throne as the mob came down a rather wobbly portcullis. He did his disappearing act and when Kate pulled the cloak away...


Flub #5: the cloak caught on the armrest, obscuring the mask from all of us paying customers on the left. Only knew it was there when she picked it up.


Iris out on the mask, baby. That's a wrap.


Post Show Shenanigans -- After listening to the exiting music, I rushed (as fast as you can when you're in a theatre packed with people all heading for the exits at the same time) over to the stage door. I had already picked up one of Brad's CDs at intermission and mentally noted the absence of Lisa's CD at the gift stand.


Only a handful of people at the stage door when I got there. Some couples, a few young Brad fans and myself. Having done the stage door thing before, I came prepared with those new metallic sharpies so I could get the actors to autograph the cover of the generic black brochure and make it worth something to me. I noticed a bunch of people being allowed backstage and overheard snippets of how they were there to see Brad. So I waited patiently for the actors to come out. And waited. And waited some more. I guess many of the principal cast leave via the main doors or managed to slip out before I got there, because I didn't see Kate, Patti, Frederic or David or D.C. Tim was the first one that I recognized outside of a ballerina or two who slipped quickly past. He had his sharpie at the ready just as he did when my group and I saw him in July. As he was chatting and signing, Kim popped out and followed suit. I was really looking forward to meeting her since I enjoyed her performance so much. I mentioned some cards that I sent backstage the month before and she got this surprised look on her face. "That was you?" she said, telling me how she really liked them and wanted copies for herself -- apparently she puts up all the artwork that she gets from fans in her dressing room. So I promised her that I'd send her copies before the show left SF. Marni was next out the door and was pretty gracious with the fans. Since she only does a couple shows a week I asked her if she had a chance to see the cards as well. Got the same basic reaction, too. But she was a bit quiet and seemed in a rush so she took off pretty quick.


A few minutes later, Brad came out with a big smile on his face (he really seems to enjoy meeting the fans). I always find it best to situate yourself at the end of the line of fans so you get a little extra time to talk one-on-one with the actors before they leave for home. I asked him if he got his copies of the card artwork that I had mailed to the theatre the previous week and he did. He also said he was sorry that I missed seeing Lisa twice in a row and explained that she was sick and couldn't come in but he knew she'd be very sorry that she missed me as well (ain't that sweet?). He asked me if I was going to be seeing the show again and I told him that I simply couldn't afford it right now. Brad seemed to understand and said that maybe I could stop by after a show at least. Now that's actually a possibility if it's a weekend, so I may end up doing that -- maybe closing day if I'm not headed back to LA early for my sister's birthday that week. He said he was looking forward to browsing through my website and that he also had a copy of my "Phantom of South Park" that a friend and fan had sent to him since he's such a big fan of the cartoon. He then excused himself since he had to get back inside to give a tour -- after which he asked if I had ever been backstage. I said no, so he invited me in. Hey, I'm no idiot. I followed hot on his heels.


We went over to his rather spacious dressing room that was filled with many of the people that I had seen go backstage earlier and he introduced me as the artist who had done the drawings that were hanging on his mirror and the "Phantom of South Park" drawing framed on his wall. Awkward moment there, being introduced by the lead actor to a bunch of strangers...


Brad then started the tour that lasted about a half-hour. We walked past costume racks (Hey! There are Carlotta's tights from "Masquerade!") and entered the wings. Brad pointed out the spot behind the mirror that he makes his first appearance in (looked essentially like a big black box with pillars and a vaulted ceiling airbrushed into the back). He also showed us the organ (really tiny) and Christine's dressing room high above us. The Orpheum is one of the smaller theatres they've played and there's not enough space for all the props and sets to be on the floor.


We then took to the stage, which quite frankly, seems MUCH smaller when you're standing on it than when you're sitting in the audience. Brad explained how the tour travels with it's own stage and pointed out all the little trapdoors for the candles and how they work. The also pointed out the chandelier that was plugged in to recharge its batteries for the next show (for some reason it surprised me that it was battery-powered. In hindsight, I guess it makes perfect sense), the proscenium arch with all the lights and cables inside it and the ladder he climbs to get up to the catwalk, and the other lighting trees. Then he had us all line up on a groove on the stage and look straight up to see the masquerade steps folded up above us, explaining how that set is constructed onstage -- lowering those steps and folding them out, linking them to the rear steps at the back of the stage (they still had a couple of mannequins attached to them) that also holds a platform that hoists him to the top of the steps, and then attaching the banister and sculpture. Brad also pointed out Buquet's feet and the portcullis up there as well. He also explained how the travelator worked and how everything except the back wall belonged to the show and after they clear out, all that will be left will be an empty stage and some wiring.


The wing opposite had a number of props as well, among them the throne, the elephant, Don Juan's bed, and the boat. Brad explained how the boat had originally been on a track, but Hal Prince decided it didn't look good, so they switched to radio-control. Unfortunately, the boat tended to pick up radio signals from other sources and started to steer itself, so they eventually made it infrared-controlled, much like a television remote (which means there's a stagehand running around the wings trying to keep the boat in eyesight to steer it in unison with Brad's movements).


Some people asked some questions about the show, how he keeps the role fresh for himself, how contracts work (chorus members seem to get the much better deal), and what he does in his down-time (he and some other cast members were going up to Napa the following day to check out some wineries), and one little girl kept trying to get him to tell her how he disappeared at the end. He also pointed out the monkey music box and showed how it had it's own little microphone and playback system.


One of the actresses also wandered in during the tour (I'm afraid I can't quite recall her name. Lydia, I think. She said she joined the tour about three months ago) and mentioned how San Francisco is one of the tour's favorite stops since the audience gets the jokes and doesn't feel embarassed to participate more in the show. I suppose the cast feeds off the energy coming back to them. A few more questions were asked before Brad walked everyone back to the stage door (I noticed the PonR benches as I made my way out). He had some family among the group, an aunt and a cousin's family I think, so they chatted a bit more before leaving. Then he spoke with me a little more and thanked me again for the cards (the crew and orchestra cards were still tacked up on one of the big bulletin boards near the door). He asked me to thank the rest of my friends for signing them as well and promised that he'd tell Lisa that I'd stopped by. I had a pic taken with him and then I went on my way...


Only to be nearly run over by two bicyclists speeding down the sidewalk. So Lisa wasn't there, and that was a big disappointment. But it was tempered by Brad's generous offer to let me join in the tour he was giving after the show. Marni was great and I enjoyed myself, so it wasn't like it was a total wash after all. All in all, a pretty good way to say goodbye to the show for awhile.


And maybe I *will* drop by closing day. Brad deserves a thank-you gift...