Phantom Las Vegas Finale Week

30 August - 3 September 2012


When it was announced that the Las Vegas production of "Phantom" was going to close, there was no way I could let that pass without one more big trip to see the show off in style. One Facebook event page and a lot of haphazard planning later, and a large group of phans converged on Sin City the final week of August to celebrate together and say goodbye to a truly unique and awesome production.


*Note: For the sake of anonimity, most phans have been addressed by their online screennames whenever possible.


Day One


Upon my arrival at the Venetian, phantom10906 popped up alongside me as I was finishing up checking inand helped me take my bags up to the suite (sorry dude, I forgot to tip you). I had picked out a Prima suite for the first two nights, which was nice and spacious:


Not too shabby, huh?


View from the master bedroom


and after I realized that I couldn’t make a call to my roomie for the week operafantomet's phone, I got a text from her about her status. I quickly texted her back so we could meet up in the hotel lobby. On the way, we ran into Goblins or Shoes (yay!) and we all hung out in the lobby until operafantomet arrived.

Since operafantomet had left her luggage with phantomfett and Phantom on a Budget and they were both out, the first order of business was getting something to eat, so we headed over to First Food and Bar for lunch.


Afterwards, I picked up the remainder of the tickets I had at will call (that was a fun experience trying to pinpoint which ones had been picked up and which one hadn't), and making an appointment with Georgia to hand over her tickets for that night’s show. With that scheduled, we all took a walk down to Caesar's Palace so I could get some tickets for the late performance of one of the other big hit shows, "Absinthe" (more on that later).


On the way back, operafantomet split off from us to visit artistkae at Harrah's while the rest of us returned to the Venetian and I met with Georgia and her dad to give them their tickets. By then it was almost time for dinner, so we all went to our respective suites and got ready.


Operafantomet texted me that she was still full from lunch, so I headed down to the Grand Lux Café to meet Goblins or Shoes, phantom10906, phantomfett, Phantom on a Budget, Georgia and her father for dinner. At this point I also learned that the nice pair of Italian trousers I was wearing were lying b@stards when they patted me on the back for all the exercise I was doing and swore to me that they fit again when I tried them on the night before my flight, so I resigned myself to a cup of soup for dinner.


Brianne came out to chat with the phans after the show. Due to lack of time, I had to postpone giving Brianne the company farewell cards since I hadn't finished signing them yet. So I arranged to hand them off before the show the next evening and stayed up that night finishing that up, setting them out to let the ink dry. Here’s a pic of them laid out before I left for Vegas:


Phantom Vegas farewell cards


After running upstairs and picking a few things up, Phantom on a Budget and I led operafantomet and phantomfett down to Caesar's Palace for Absinthe. Phantom on a Budget and I had already seen it a few months ago, but it was so much fun we had to bring some friends to share it with. For the uninitiated, it's sort of a hilariously bawdy Cirque de Soleil-meets-burlesque show. Here’s a sample of some of the acts:


The Green Fairy: Melody Sweets




Penny Pibbets' infamous hand puppet monologue


Caesarian Ballet


The Bodyguards: Duo Vector


Day Two


Operafantomet had told me the previous day that the ideal scenario for the Elissa skirt to be presented to Brianne was for it to be hanging on her costume rack in her dressing room when she arrived. I thought it was a great idea, if a little tricky to pull off on such short notice. Luckily, when it comes to pulling off tricky things at the last minute, I had an inside man: cast member Michael Lackey :) So that night I texted Michael the idea to see if he’d be able to help out. The reply came in the following morning in the resoundingly affirmative.

Phantom10906 and MasqPhan soon made their way to our suite (MasqPhan wisely chose to change here rather than make the journey up from The Signature in costume) and costume gushing ensued.


MasqPhan in full ToM regalia


Operfantomet intended to post a picture of MasqPhan trying on the Elissa skirt on Facebook as a ruse to throw Brianne off the trail since she suspected that she may have thought the skirt was a gift for her, but we never got around to posting it.

So while operafantomet, MasqPhan, and phantom10906 played around with costumes, I was busy texting phans, changing reservations and coordinating with Michael via email and text about when we’d meet and how he’d sneak the skirt into Brianne’s dressing room. Due to his schedule that day it seemed a bit tricky, but thankfully he was very gung-ho about making it happen.


Before I knew it 5:30 had rolled around, and I positioned myself in the theatre lobby with the cards while operafantomet stayed in my eyeline as she hid over in the guest elevator area with the skirt stuffed into one of her bags. For the next half hour waited in the lobby while getting texts from Michael about his ETA. There was lots of traffic that afternoon, so some of the costumed phans (artistkae, Danielle, PhantomOfTheSalle and her mother, and Georgia and her father) arrived before Brianne did. After handing off the cards, I excused myself "to go get dressed" and hurried over to operafantomet to let her know what was going on. Little did they know it, but the phans proved useful in our plans as a distraction to keep Brianne in the lobby while Michael (who was just then parking his car) snuck the skirt into her dressing room. So I took charge of the bag and went deeper into the casino area where Michael and I could meet out of sight while operafantomet went over to see how long she could keep Brianne occupied.


Bravo Team, you're up!


Michael came down the stairs a few minutes later, gave him the lay of the land (ie. Brianne was currently in the lobby), and after some quick instructions given to me by operafantomet, he quickly headed off to enter the theatre by a different way.


The rest of this story is best told by someone else, but this was the result:



It looked like we were the last to arrive, and to my dismay, between the individual photos being taken by patrons and how generally scattered the group was in the crowd, it looked like there was NO WAY we’d be able to get a professional photo taken by the house photographer on the lobby steps. So we all wound up taking random photos of ourselves (when not posing for other patrons).


Even some of the actors arriving for work stopped to takes pics with us


I swear this was not my idea


Once we were getting VERY close to showtime, I headed inside to get settled (full-circle cloaks are a bit cumbersome to sit on). As I understand it, someone associated with the show had to politely ask some of the other costumed phans to go inside because the show was being held up due to so many patrons taking pictures in the lobby *LOL*


The show was great, and my concern that I'd get dehydrated while in costume went unfounded (just as well since my jacket was so fitted that I couldn't reach into my pocket to take out the flask of water I'd put in there). I had taken my giant tricorn hat off to be polite, but not my mask as it was very securely fastened on. I can only wonder what the actors onstage thought!


After the show let out, we implemented Plan B: Loiter until we could take a group pic on the lobby staircase. A lot of the other patrons stayed behind for a bit to take more photos with us but eventually they left and it was just us phans.


Masquerading with a pro


Some of the actors came out to talk and take pictures, too. A few like John Leslie Wolfe (Monsieur André) Emily Thrasher (Madame Firmin) and Kevan Patriquin (stuntman) even came up to me to thank me for their farewell cards, although I'm not sure how they knew it was me underneath that mask. Anthony Crivello also eventually came out with his family and I got to say hello to him. His children were a bit frightened by the masks and costumes, so they didn't stay very long.


phantomfett with Kevan


And of course, I got a pic with my fave cast members Brianne and Michael.


Me with Brianne and Michael


There were lots of photos taken in increasingly ridiculous scenarios (some of which are best left in Vegas), and the staff was very gracious in not insisting we leave the lobby area so we stayed for what felt like an hour or so. But I was starving, so MasqPhan and I eventually headed back up to my suite to change out of our costumes. We wound up sharing an elevator with three guys who were either friendly or a bit drunk, I'm not sure which. They liked our costumes though, and asked if we were dressed up because we were in a show to which my only response was, "No, it's casual Friday." When we reached our floor, we paused to take a picture with them and then headed down the hall to my suite. After taking a few pics of my costume while lounging around the suite without the cloak on, we both got changed and then headed back downstairs.


Once we got down to the lobby, we found phantom10906 and Shasta (another phan) standing in the lobby and they informed us that everyone else had been taken downstairs by Brianne for one last backstage tour. Rather than heading downstairs myself, I called phantomfett who was at the Grand Lux bar. Phantomfett had changed out of his Red Death outfit, but Phantom on a Budget was still in costume, so we had drinks at the bar with their friend Alessandra - yet another phan - and her friend Renata (that was a sight – an unmasked Phantom casually having a drink at the bar :) ) until everyone else showed up.


Impromptu phan dinner before the official phan dinner on Saturday


I think we finished up around 2am, then it was back to the room to pack our stuff because the following morning, operafantomet and I were moving to the BIG suite.


Day Three


While the first two nights were in a very nice suite, I had chosen to upgrade for the final two nights since I figured we may require a larger space for the group gathering.


The Renaissance suite (aka Phan Central) was on the top floor of the Venetian and what a sight to behold!


Phan Central


The view


Again, had there been more time, Phantom on a Budget and I had planned on filming a Phantom-themed parody of the SNL Christopher Walken skit "The Continental" using this room. We also had thought about re-creating the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album cover down in Phantom costumes, but no one wanted to get up at 6 am to drive down to the Las Vegas sign. Ah, missed opportunities…


But I digress.


The suite was so impressive that I immediately texted some other phans to come up and hang out. Soon phantom10906, Betsy, artistkae, Danielle, Phantom on a Budget, phantomfett, and Goblins or Shoes trickled in and after a brief tour of the accommodations, commenced with the costuming which resulted in artistkae and phantom10906's PoNR shoot.


There was this -

artistkae's ponr shoot1


- and this -

artistkae's ponr shoot2


- then a break for some internetz -

artistkae's ponr shoot3


- and it eventually devolved into this.

artistkae's ponr shoot4


Oh, and Lil' Erik and monkey bonded over cleavage. Don't ask.

artistkae's ponr shoot5


When it was nearly time for dinner, everyone returned to their respective hotel suites to get ready. I did my best to get down to the restaurant early, but a few phans beat me there. While I checked everyone off my list as they arrived, another thing happened that often happens to me when I'm in Vegas: I was mistaken for a Venetian employee. I haven't minded it so much in the last few years since I knew enough about the hotel to give the proper advice or directions, but I think that’s one of the other things I'll miss about Vegas.


I also learned that if you’re hosting a party of 20+, two hours isn't enough time for dinner. Those of us who were going to the early show barely had enough time to eat and pay the check before rushing to the theatre to be seated (it's a good thing the Grand Lux was so close by). There was plenty of time for fun conversation and get to know some phans I'd only known online like Danielle, Becky, Loettchen and her sister, though :)


It was one final Vegas double-dip for me and in this case we were treated to (Christine alternate and founding cast member) Kristen Hertzenberg's final two performances - while sitting under the chandelier to boot! My only regret was that I wasn't sitting up front since Hertzenberg has a great deal of nuance to her acting that can't be appreciated as much if you're watching from a distance. But still, you can't pass up a chance to sit in the chandelier crash zone one last time!


Best moment of both shows? During "Angel of Music" when Brianne hugged Kristen as she sang, "Don't be frightened…"


I'd forgotten to give Brianne a couple of farewell cards for the musicians and the staff and management the previous day, so she agreed to meet in the lobby between shows which allowed me an opportunity to give her her "other" farewell gift, a phantoon of herself and Sarah Elizabeth Combs in their Masquerade costumes - incorporating a "Sex and the City" motif since I had heard they were both relocating to New York after the show closed:


Angels of Music


I managed to get in a couple of hugs as well since I thought that with the final cast Wine Night after the second show and the cast party immediately following the final performance it might be the last time I'd see her. From the beginning, Brianne had been the unofficial Phantom Las Vegas "ambassador" to the phans online - interacting with us on a regular basis over the years. She was, and is, a great friend who was very generous to me and us all, and she will be greatly missed.


After the second show several of us loitered (turns out we're very good at that) in the middle of the auditorium for a while before heading out to loiter a bit more in the lobby. While I attempted to purchase a souvenir brochure for my friend Janna (they were sold out when she came to see the show the previous month), Andrew apparently took a break from Wine Night to come say hello and take pictures with the fans.


phans in line for Andrew Ragone

(I think the line to talk to Andrew was longer than the lines at the merchandise tables)


Andrew gave me a hug and thanked me for his card, telling me he laughed out loud when he opened it. And ladies, I just thought I'd let you know that the man is built like a brick wall - I think I hurt my hand when I patted him on the back.


Andrew Ragone and Goblins or Shoes

(Andrew and Goblins or Shoes)


I had to do a little dashing up and downstairs, but as I was I headed back down to the lobby (it was a pleasant yet silent elevator ride down with certain fan of Anthony's who had been skirting around the edges of our entire trip so far. You folks who were there know who I'm talking about), MasqPhan informed me that Andrew was sending more cast members up to say hello. And true to his word, Brianne, Tina Walsh, Sarah Elizabeth Combs and a few others took some time to say hi and take pics with all of us (except for stupid me who left his camera upstairs)


Danielle andKristen Hertzenberg

(Danielle and Kristen Hertzenberg)


Oh, and there might have been some fainting involved. But honestly, when "'Meg vs Triangle Girl Twister Challenge' plus apples" becomes a topic of discussion, is there any other way that conversation’s going to end?


Eventually we let the cast head back downstairs to enjoy their final Wine Night or head home while the rest of us scattered, agreeing that we’d meet for our official Phan Gathering in my suite the following morning.


Day Four


Closing Day started off with the BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast) Phan Gathering late in the morning. It was a pretty decent turnout: Loettchen and her sister Chris, PhantomOfTheSalle and her mother, Georgia and her father, operafantomet, Phantom on a Budget, phantomfett, phantom10906, Betsy, Goblins or Shoes, artistkae, Danielle, and Stephanie.


Phan Gathering 1


After some mingling, we had a meeting at the round table to get a couple of topics out of the way: picking out what Phantom-themed dvd to watch in the media room, figuring out our game plan on how to lead the applause during the closing night performance, and ordering Brianne’s closing night flowers (everyone chipped in, Phantom on a Budget composed the message and my personal concierge - yay Gold membership perks - made it happen on short notice).


Phan Gathering 2


Once all the business was out of the way, we all sat down to screen one of the Phantom Australia Easter benefit concerts in the media room, along with a few clips from other things. Apparently not everyone was familiar with these items, so it was nice to see their reactions.


We finished up around 3pm and all scattered to do our own thing until the show. I had to get ready a little early because I had been informed the previous night that the LAST box of fifty souvenir brochures was being opened up at the merchandise stands and I needed to pick one up for a friend of mine who missed out the previous month. So after a dinner consisting of vitamin water and a bag of cashews, I put on my monkey suit (no, not that one, I mean my tuxedo) and headed downstairs.


For details on the performance itself, read my Phantom Las Vegas closing night review.


After the show was over, we did our usual thing of waiting in our seats for the crowd to thin out. A lot more people were waiting than normal, but for some reason the ushers weren’t requesting us to leave as they usually do. I figured it was because many of the folks were guests of the cast or crew and were waiting for them to finish up downstairs with the press. So we waited. And waited.


And then people started taking pictures of the auditorium. And NO ushers said a word.

So more people started taking pictures of the auditorium.


Phans and the Elephant


And while waiting around, operafantomet introduced me to StrangerThanUDreamt (aka STUD), who turned out to be a very pleasant young man who fit in with the rest of us immediately.


Eventually some of the people who were waiting around had moved onstage when the cast or crew member they were waiting for appeared. Using them as cover, a lot of other phans started to make their way onstage. I eventually caved and went onstage too, taking reference pictures of the stage, boxes, proscenium arch, the fly gallery, just about everything I could think of that I neglected to photograph all the times I'd been onstage after the show previously. We all eventually made our way to the portion of the Masquerade staircase that was accessible and decided to do one more group photo on it. At this point, Brianne came up from backstage and we insisted she join us in the photo.


One final masquerade on the Vegas staircase


Brianne then gave a little impromptu speech thanking all the fans for their support over the years. There were so many of us there surrounding her that I couldn't get within earshot, but I believe tears were shed. As she headed off to the cast after-party, we all gave her a big round of applause as left the stage one final time.


Brianne's farewell


After Brianne had left (and by then a great deal of the people who were waiting after the show had also disappeared), we continued to take photos - the more daring phans dashing into the wings and posing and crawling all over props like this one:


Phans in the Boat


And to my shock, phans started popping up in Box Five! Phantom on a Budget's and my immediate reaction was, "No no no no no... This can’t be authorized, you guys are going to get in trouble!"


We eventually caved to peer pressure, but hey, it wasn't like we'd ever have a chance to do this again, right?


Phans behaving badly


More phans behaving badly


I'm HERE!!!!

(Even Lil' Erik got into the act)


We finally said goodbye to the Phantom Theatre and it was back to the Grand Lux for another impromptu phan dinner. We were split up amongst our usual long table and an adjacent booth, so I took the booth this time and got to chat with MasqPhan, phantom10906, Ashley, Betsy, Danielle, and operafantomet. I think my adrenaline finally wore out because I wasn’t all that talkative, but it was still a treat to hang out.


We even toasted absent friends who were sorely missed during a really fantastic week.


Day Five


I got about 3 hours of sleep before getting up at 5am to see operafantomet and artistkae off to the airport. It's odd how people you've only known online and only met in person for a few days can seem like such close friends. But as we said goodbye at the taxi stand, I realized that I really would miss not hanging out with them in person. While facebooking, emailing and chatting online is great, nothing beats being face-to-face with a friend.


After packing up all my things, it was time to head back downstairs to end the trip with the Phan Farewell brunch. All the usual suspects eventually trickled in (we must have driven our waiter crazy with more and more people joining the table as the meal progressed), along with first-time meal guests Shasta and STUD. It was a nice wrap-up to the week. The last anecdotes were told, the last laughs shared, and as we all went our separate ways, we left Las Vegas with some really great memories.