Musical theatre? Yawn. Phantom of the Opera? Double yawn.
Unless it’s the old hippy film versions of Hair or Jesus Christ Superstar, I’d be happy never, ever to see another bit of over the top, over produced, flawlessly performed, over dramatic, predictably musical theatre again.
But last night, which happened to be Halloween night, was different.
A dozen or so audience members gathered in the basement weightroom of a home in Toronto’s west end to see Lia and Russel’s brave production of a play that the Guardian called “the most deeply uncool musical out there.”
While Phantom may be uncool, the 15-minute Phantom is cool. How cool? Way cool. Don’t believe me?
- The elimination of the unnecessary: supporting cast, orchestra, set changes, nearly all of the drawn-out, excruciatingly boring bits of the usual 2 and a half hours of melodrama.
- Falling chandelier. I think that happened. I think that’s what that hoola hoop looking thing in the photo is.
- Performances by the Russell Winkelaar, who brilliantly and nearly convincingly played both the role of the sexy shadowy phantom and the normy, boring, rich Raoul. Trying to keep up with Russell as he moved in and out of character confused me in a good way.
- Candy and cake and goldfish crackers and juice boxes and wine!
- Performance by Lia Maston. Sincere and sweet as trick or treat. So funny and light and easy to watch. Lia saves the irony for just the right moments.
- The re-envisioning and re-writing of a long and winded tale into a short and more interesting tale.
- Bubbling cauldron of dry Ice brought by an audience member for the river to the hellish catacombs
- The song of invocation, House on the side of the Mountain, that opened the evening by Lizzy Shift performing as S-a-tisfaxionista
- The poem, Fuck You Love, a Sonnet also performed by S-a-tisfaxionista, put us in the mood.
- The sound effects table (complete with hammer and broken glass) also performed by S-a-tisfaxionista
- The venue. Yes. You can host your own theatrical event in your own home, or someone else’s home. Why not? But if you want your audience to feel lured into something both mysterious and special, light the way with tea candles and a pumpkin.
- The footlights. (I’ll have to remember that trick with the cardboard box.)
- The supportive audience, who all had front row (or close enough) seating.
- The costumes. And costume changes. The back and forth transformations.
- The best thing about 15-minute Phantom is: the challenge.
15-minute Phantom challenges regular folk, people like you and me, to make our own theatre. Create our own art. Don’t let big budgets and grants and the powers that be fool us into thinking that we can only make art when we have the permission of the gate keepers to do so. Stop complaining about musical theatre and make some of our own. And when we do, create a world with love and care. Perform with our hearts open. Make it all look easy when it obviously isn’t. Invite an intimate community of support. Share the stage. Resurrect our demons. Re-invent the world.
Theatre is Dead. Long Live 15-minute Phantom.