In This Labyrinth: The Phantom of the Opera In Erik's Times and Ours

Phanship meets Queer-Crip intersectionality nerding!

Show/Reference notes for Episode 14 - Queer/Crip Desire in the ALW Phantom!

Amount of stage-time given to the various main characters and relationships in the ALW Phantom:

Christine - most of the show (Act I scenes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10, Act II scenes 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7-9)

The Phantom - Act I scenes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10, Act II scenes 1, 3, 5, and 6-9. Although, admittedly, in some of these scenes his appearances are only brief, such as Act I scenes 2 and 9.

Christine and the Phantom together - Act I scenes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and sort of 9 and 10, Act II scenes 1, 3 sort of, 5, and 7-9. Although, in some scenes, such as Il Muto (Act I scene 9) and the second “notes” scene (Act II scene 3), they’re both present in the scene but not interacting.

Raoul - Act I scenes 1 (though, in the stage-version, he only appears at the end of Think of Me, not during the Hannibal rehearsal as in the Gerik), 3 and 8-10, Act II all scenes. Although, in many scenes, although he’s present, Raoul is not necessarily the primary focus of the action.

Raoul and Christine together - Act I scenes 1, 3, 9 and 10, Act II scenes 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. And indeed, I would argue that the only scenes which really focus on interaction between Raoul and Christine are Act I scenes 3 and 10 and part of Act II scenes 1 and 3. In all other cases, they’re either together in the scene but not actually interacting much, and/or their interactions are embedded within larger action - for example their interaction in Masquerade (Act II scene 1, Wandering Child (Act II scene 5), or Act II scenes 7 and 9 (Don Juan Triumphant and the Final Lair respectively).

The above info is, of course, drawn from the scene summary and libretto found in George Perry’s superb 1987 The Complete Phantom of the Opera.

“'I was watching a BBC programme called The Skin Horse about people who were physically incapacitated, or deformed, a series of interviews with quadriplegics, Thalidomide victims, talking about what it was like, and I sensed that the thing that united them all was a very normal, healthy sexuality. And that's what Maria and I wanted to put up there, and it affected the design of the proscenium, with its statues intertwined in some moment of passion which the audiences sees and absorbs.”
(Perry, George (1987). The Complete Phantom of the Opera. Pavilion Books Ltd. pg 74-75.

Note. It is unclear whether the above quote is from Andrew Lloyd Webber himself or from Hal Prince.

Note also: the design of the proscenium, referenced in the quote above, has been criticized for displaying “acts of passion” that do not appear to be consentual (Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen 2018. The Phantom of the Opera: A Social History of the World’s Most Popular Musical).

However, even with the above-referenced critique of the proscenium design, it is interesting to note the consciously stated intent to portray the Phantom as having “a very normal, healthy sexuality”. Because, as noted in the episode, this is extremely unusual in terms of the ways Disabled/Deformed/Disfigured characters are typically portrayed!

And as can be seen in the later half of this 2010 (rather hilarious) BBC documentary on the making of the show, the sexuality, sensuality and desire in the ALW Phantom owes as much to Hal Prince (director), Maria Bjornson (set and costume design), Gillian Lynn (choreographer), and Michael Crawford (the amazing actor who originated the role) as it does to Lloyd Webber himself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpVTAvazjpg&t=875s

In particular, note how Michael Crawford says explicitly that, when creating the character in rehearsals, he didn’t feel the Phantom as a monster, but as a man who loves deeply and has deep emotions, but also how he and Sarah Brightman bring sensuality and sexuality to the character.

McRuer, Robert and Mollow, Anna, eds. (2012) Sex and Disability. Duke University Press.

The above book discusses the stereotypes and tropes referred to in the episode which form the conventional depictions of Disabled/Deformed/Disfigured people’s and characters’ sexualities. Ely Clare also discusses them in his superb book Exile and Pride (2015 edition, see below).

Clare, Ely (2015) Exile and Pride: A Journey of Disability, Queerness and Liberation. Duke University Press.

(See the “links and resources” page for more books and articles that deal with this.)

And here’s a link to that really excellent, Queer, gender-bent period-piece retelling Phanfic I mentioned in the episode! It’s called The Music Lovers, and it’s definitely worth checking out!

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13002836/1/The-Music-Lovers

There also at least used to be a whole bunch of very good, if relatively short, modern retelling slash Phanfics by some one who went by Lucifer Rosemont (not sure if I have the second part of that spelled right). But, unfortunately, I can’t find the link to their profile now or I’d post it!

Also, one of the best slash Phanfics I ever read, also a modern retelling, was a Phic called Sakikaeru by some one who, then, went by the handle Hikari no Tsubasa (all hyphenated together I think). It set the story in a slowly emerging Queer relationship amidst the 90s/early 2000s Visual Kai(sp?) music scene in contemporary Tokyo. It was brilliant! Unfortunately, though, it was left unfinished and seems to have also disappeared from Fanfiction.net. I really hope they some day finish it, though!!

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