Prior to arriving at the Straz Center, I didn’t have any idea of what to expect.
Were people sitting in high levels with mini eye binoculars? Were there people walking around masking their faces? Would they even be dressed nicely or is this just a regular ‘thing’? Would there even be a lot of people there?
[Sorry so blurry. My phone was dying and I was trying to hurry. I wish I had taken a camera, not that you’re allowed to take pictures like that anyway, just around outside and during intermission.]
We decided to park in the furthest parking garage in Tampa and ended up having a proposed thirty hour walk for a mile there. We made an adventure out of it in the cold, dark night marveling at the exact places we had been during more trying times and even exact places we had been when we were elated from getting married downtown almost exactly four years ago. We enjoyed both sides of the spectrum, true happiness and true sadness. It was exhilarating cutting through parking lots, bouncing through lit streets, and giddily gazing at sky scrapers towering above us.
We were supposed to make it ten minutes before the performance started but ended up shaving ten minutes with our on-point maneuvers. When we arrived, I was overtaken by the sight of a hundred beautifully lit bulbs, surrounded by sparkly dresses and freshly pressed suits, and classy staircases carpeted with plush carpet.
As we ascended the ruby velvet stairs to reach the gallery level, I melted into this aura of pure bliss. The Phantom of the Opera held a special place in my heart since my middle school orchestra teacher sent us home with permission slips to see this movie. I fell in love with the music, the masquerade theme, and the romantic plot of the movie. I played violin for three years and it was simply heaven in my ears. Recently, I picked up the book to gain another perspective on one of my favorite stories, and now here we are seeing the performance live on Broadway? Pinch me, please!
They aligned themselves evenly to the plot of the movie and started in the first scene of the auction house. I sat happily in my uncomfortable seat with a huge smile on my face and gleam in my eye at every scene. It was a dream come true to sit here, holding the hand of my husband, viewing something so dear to my heart.
Passion filled my heart upon hearing the deep organ growls of the unveiling of famous chandelier. I almost clutched my stomach for fear of my heart bursting with such joy. I also enjoyed when they dropped the chandelier a few acts later.
The intermission proceeded and we walked around the Straz to get a bearing on the place. Originally, we were to take a picture and I waited in an awfully long line to use the restroom. Of course me being totally oblivious to standard protocol in these sorts of situations, saw the lights start flashing on and off. I connected the dots and figured I wouldn’t have enough time to wait throughout the rest. We went back up four flights of stairs, sat down, and nothing happened still at this point. My love told me to just go ahead and try then, I left, and mid-steps had to run back to ask if I even had the time to go since they were about to close the doors. It was scary; no one was outside and the halls were bare.
That’s how it stays so dark for the performance. They don’t let people constantly go in and out. It’s nice to know now because I swear, I was in turbo speed. There was no line on our floor but there was an automatic toilet pushing my patience. I went in and out upon finishing just to trigger the stupid thing to flush. I swear these new advances in our technology was created to make people feel like morons, waving at small black sensor pads, mashing buttons that look like they will make it flush, and so on. In fact, I am quite certain there are little cameras watching people after the fact laughing! The worst part is that I almost left without turning the water off! Can you imagine? Thank you for having difficult automatic toilets but not sinks.
The masquerade scene was my favorite scene. They matched the music, the dancing, the colors, just everything so perfectly accurate. It was the most amazing scene of the entire performance. Every scene was put together so well and the special effects were very impressive. They made his lair look perfect with the reservoir of water and all. They even had some comical elements thrown in just like in the movie, between the Moncharmin and Richard, the managers of the Opera House. Then the romance. Don’t even get me started. The way she fell into Raoul and then again when she fell into the Phantom to save her dearly beloved from a miserable fate. The way you could tell he was heartbroken when he finally let her go. Ah.
The French culture and the costumes were beyond dazzling and their voices were magnificent. There was nothing better than hearing the perfectly smooth notes the men singing very high and the women holding notes longer than a typical person should go without breathing.
Except maybe hearing the soundtrack that I knew to be so dear to me.
I fell hypnotized in the movements the maestro was making in the orchestra right beside the stage. It played on my heartstrings because I remember sitting in front of a stand, playing my violin to the very notes they were creating. In some of our performances, we would actually play songs from the Phantom soundtrack. I miss playing more than anything and truly haven’t since then. Although I did birth a love and interest in playing the violin in my little brother and then passed it down to him. In fact, my mother was at his Christmas performance as we were entering the glass doors. One day I will pick up some Austrian wood and continue on my way with my own love for music.
Everyone started gathering on stage after the final act and started bowing. The applause grew and grew after each set of actors came forward and did what they do best. They all performed to the highest standards and it was just something else to hear the reaction of the audience when the Phantom bowed his final goodbyes, same with Christine, and really the rest of the cast. You form a connection to those painting a beautifully artistic masterpiece right before your eyes with each brush stroke as graceful as the ballet dancers twirling around the main characters.
The show was over and I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay longer and watch it again. I probably could watch it one-hundred more times without getting tired of it. My only complaint is that next time we’ll park closer and probably sit closer. I love the view the gallery offers but with eye-sight like mine, I definitely would get more for what I pay for sitting closer.
Overwhelmed with joy, we waltzed back down our back roads and side streets to get to our car. I left with my eyes welled up with happy tears at how truly beautiful of an experience we had. We walked back and I was swooning the entire time through the starlit night.