I’ll take a time out from my self-righteous hand-wringing on the state of downtown Detroit and make a few comments on the actual reason for mine and Bri’s visit to the Motor City: seeing The Phantom of the Opera. For me, it was my eighteenth time seeing the show–albeit my first time seeing it on the road. For Bri, it was her first period; to put that in perspective (such as it is), when I saw Phantom for the first time I was still in elementary school, Pearl Jam had just released Ten, Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister of Canada and the Toronto Blue Jays were one year away from a World Series championship. What that means, I don’t know; what I do know, however, is that I was almost more excited for Bri than I was for myself.
In the end, seeing Phantom again was like–for lack of a more original comparison–revisiting an old friend: safe, predictable, no real surprises but a comforting reassurance about the whole thing. It was a good performance–not quite good enough to infiltrate the upper echelon of Phantoms I’ve seen, but certainly nowhere near the nadir of seeing Laird Mackintosh in the title role on May 3, 1997 (you had to be there). The cast was solid; a few of the individual performances were sparkling, and Gary Mauer, as The Phantom, was absolutely devastating. (For the record, he’s a “far-reaching” guy…don’t ask). And once again, the seven “moments” that make Phantom great were present and accounted for and delivered the goods big time. I sometimes fail to understand my reasons for loving the show as much as I do. I’m a mature enough theatregoer to recognize its flaws…but I’m also at the point where I realize I don’t care. Phantom, for whatever reason, does me in. I’ve given up trying to delineate my relationship with this show…and to that end, I’m also going to stop apologizing for loving it as much as I do or flinching when people find out how many times I’ve seen it. (Even if they work at the U.S./Canada border, and even if I’m being sold out by a girl who says she loves me.)
In the absence of anything original to write (for that, you’ll have to check out Bri’s amazing blog…well, assuming she’s recovered to write coherent thoughts), I’ll comment instead on two other things: the Detroit audience and Bri’s attempts to sell us both out to a crack addict. First, the audience. I haven’t taken an etiquette course since I was twelve years old (long story), but I’m also fairly confident I didn’t need to be taught to not unwrap candy in the middle of a performance, cough up a baby during a crucial scene or sit in a seat I don’t own and then use my program as a fan and blow state cigarette smoke in the faces of the people sitting behind me. All of these things happened more than once during yesterday’s performance. Bri, for lack of a better explanation, attributed the boorish behaviour to Americans in general, and while I hestitate to paint entire countries with such broad strokes I’m inclined to agree with her. American audiences can be great; they’re a helluva lot more demonstrative than Canadians, a lot more given over to grand gestures and more than capable of turning a good performance into a great one. There is a fine line between being demonstrative, however, and eating a peanut butter sandwich during “All I Ask of You”.
Second, the crack addict. When Jon Thompson–a.k.a. Queen’s Most Valuable Jewish Negro–found out that Bri and I were going to Detroit, his assesment was as follows: “Steve, you are a target; Bri is an opportunity.” Sure enough, no sooner had we parked the car did a crazy homeless guy who may or may not have been on crack stumbled up to Bri and I and asked us for eighty cents. I told him I was broke; Bri, however, felt the need to explain that we were Canadians, that our money would be useless to him and then procure a Canadian five dollar bill just for good measure. Naturally, the guy snatched it away from her…which led, somehow, to this bizzare situation in which I negotiated for the $5 Canadian bill using a $1 American bill. Bri, however, didn’t see fit to put the $5 bill back in her pocket; the crack addict, recognizing opportunity when it comes knocking, promptly snatched it back from her, which forced me to snatch the bill away from him, grab Bri’s arm and escort her towards the theatre. (All this happened in broad daylight, by the way.) Reports that Bri is also attracted to shiny objects are yet to be confirmed.
When he heard about the incident Jon’s comment was, “The world’s a dangerous place when you’re Bri Johnson.” In light of yesterday’s performance, I can think of no more suitable assessment.
Anyway. During the ride home, it was revealed to me that Bri had never heard the music to Les Miserables. Which stunned me, of course, seeing as I have the show memorized back-to-front and have seen it no less than seven times in six different cities and that Bri is in Drama…so we spent the last two hours listening to the original Broadway cast recording. Bri was so moved she almost started crying during the show’s final, overwhelming chorus…and seeing as how Les Mis is in Chicago this summer and our road tripping was galvanized by yesterday’s epic events, I feel as though another theatre trip might be in order. Just hope that this time Bri keeps her money in her wallet. For both our sakes.