Thirty Years of Phantom of the Opera

Screen-Shot-2011-09-14-at-3.16.10-PMThis October marks the 30th anniversary of the debut of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera and we’re celebrating on Saturday, October 1st with a showing of the 25th anniversary production filmed on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London. This lavish performance stars Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess. (Can’t wait for October 1st? Download the 25th anniversary performance from hoopla.)

Phantom originated as a novel by Gaston Leroux that takes place in the Paris Opera House. Nearly everyone connected with the opera house has felt the phantom’s vague, troubling presence. But only Christine Daae will  learn the secret of why the man who has made the tunnels beneath Paris his private domain must forever hide his face behind a mask. Part horror story, part historical romance, and part detective thriller, the tale of a masked, disfigured musical genius is familiar to millions of readers, as well as to movie and theater-goers. Leroux’s phantom is darker and, yes, crazier than the phantom of stage and screen and a comparison of the original story to the play and movie adaptations is a must for all Phantom fans.

So read the book, listen to an audio version, watch the movies and then join us at the library on October 1st to see the ultimate stage production of the longest running musical of all time.

Phantom2And don’t forget! The elusive Phantom himself will be on hand to pose for pictures before and after the show!




Jacket1The Phantom of the Opera downloadable audiobook




Jacket2The Phantom of the Opera DVD.

The  2005 movie starring Gerard Butler.



jacket3The Phantom of the Opera downloadable movie.

The original version starring Lon Chaney!


Jacket4The Phantom of the Opera

The original novel.

Front Row Seating

“The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”     – Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2

Back in the 80’s, when we still had a Shakespeare Theater down in Stratford, CT, there was a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth that was put on for all the high schools to come and see. Of all the plays, Macbeth seemed like it would be the most interesting, with witches and murder and blood, and big velvety Elizabethan costumes. I was excited – anything for a field trip and a day out of class. Until we got there. Some idiot had decided the best way for 1,500 rowdy high school kids to understand Shakespeare was to imagine it, with a play that had no scenery and no costumes – the entire set was draped in billowing soft blue nylon fabric, like the green-screens of modern movie-making, and the actors all wore tight-fitting outfits of the same blue, as if they’d just escaped from some monochromatic ballet. That was it. It was a total disaster. The audience was so bored and riled you couldn’t hear the dialogue for the catcalls. That is NOT the way to introduce children to Shakespeare.

The good thing is, you don’t have to be a Shakespeare scholar to enjoy a good play. Whether you’ve had to suffer through drudging high school productions of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town or been dazzled on Broadway by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan performing Waiting for Godot, a play is not a bad thing. Perhaps your only exposure to waiting-for-godot-ian-mckellen-patrick-stewarttheater has been dragging yourself through Oedipus or Antigone in school, not caring a flying duck about the role of the Chorus in Greek tragedy, just glad you scraped by and passed the test. The real tragedy of teaching plays as literature is that they are meant to be performed, not just read in a monotone like a stumbling seventh-grader who has no idea how to pronounce 15th century British comedies, let alone understand them. When performed, they come alive, like listening to a good movie on the television from the next room over. Even my five year old, with occasional explanations, could follow the movie version of Romeo and Juliet.

drama-collection_FRONT_349x349-300x300So if you’re a theater lover, or just a student struggling to understand Ibsen, Cheshire Library is ready to help! Our newest precious addition is a 25-volume audiobook collection of 250 plays and dramatic adaptions by L.A. Theaterworks. You won’t just hear the play, you’ll feel it, as you were meant to. The plays aren’t just read to you, but fully performed by an all-star cast of more than 1,000 actors you are probably familiar with – George Clooney, Calista Flockhart, Dan Castellaneta, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Dreyfus, Jean Stapleton, John de Lancie (who also wrote one of the Doyle adaptions), and so many, many more. Leonard Nimoy performing War of the Worlds with fellow Star Trek actors? Yeah, that’s in there too. Neil Simon, Chekhov, O’Neill, Miller, Shakespeare, Sophocles – they’re all here, ready to keep you entertained for a solid year of performances. Listen to one or listen to them all – you’ll be glad you did.


Revisiting Fiddler on the Roof

My family and I recently saw a live performance of Fiddler on the Roof. It was my daughter’s first time seeing the play and as we discussed it afterwards, I marveled at how my perspective of the show has changed over the years.

I first saw Fiddler in the 1970’s when I was a young girl. I always identified with Tevye’s daughters and their hopes and fears as they dealt with their roles in their traditional village and the changes overtaking their world.

Upon seeing the play again, as the mother of a twenty year old, I discovered that my perspective had shifted. When as a girl I could not understand Golde’s preoccupation with planning her daughters’ futures, as an adult I now saw her point of view. It’s not the “can my daughter make a good match” aspect of Golde that I mean; it’s the concern over the future of a beloved child.

When I was younger I watched as Hodel, the second daughter, boarded the train for Siberia so she could be with the man she loved, and I saw nothing but the romance and the adventure. Now as a parent watching that scene, I cringed at the thought of sending a child off to a far away place, perhaps never to see her again.

And the songs! My sisters and I would often sing the Matchmaker song. Now, as I watched the play, it was Do You Love Me that held my attention and Sunrise, Sunset that brought tears to my eyes.

My daughter was enthusiastic about the show and wanted to see the movie to compare it to the stage production. She borrowed the DVD from the library, along with the Broadway soundtrack.

We spent an enjoyable evening later that week watching the film version and had an animated discussion about Tevye’s daughters and the choices each made. I watched my daughter as she focused on Tevye’s daughters and thought of a stanza from Sunrise, Sunset. Swiftly fly the years…


If you would like to revisit Fiddler on the Roof or perhaps see it for the first time, you can find the movie, soundtrack, and the musical score all at the library.

Fiddler2           Fiddler3          Fiddler5