Today I went to see the Phantom of the Opera. I’ve seen it five times. The last time I was with my parents and I was probably about 13 or so and I was an aspiring actress/singer… My biggest champion was my Dad, more on that at another time.
My Dad was a lover of the arts, music and musical theater and is responsible for instilling and encouraging my love of theater–a love that has brought me much joy even though my theatrical aspirations have long been abandoned. We would listen to a number of scores on our two-hour drives upstate (we had a country house in Columbia County). The primary ones were Les Miserables, Into The Woods and — of course — Phantom of the Opera. I know all of them by heart, seriously. I haven’t listened to them in a very long time though and had forgotten some of the nuances of the story (or book) and honestly had thought that this trip to Phantom was going to be more for my daughter than for me. I thought I would find it hokey… I’ve seen other shows in the decades since my last trip and wrote it off as a tourist trap (ok, I’m a jaded New Yorker… I’m copping to it).
I was wrong. Watching this show with my daughter — someone who shares the same joy of theater I do, by the way — was joyous, bizarre and emotional. She thought the pageantry was spectacular and she’s yet to see a show with me that she didn’t want to see again and again (she’s me in that way).
What I forgot was the storyline about Christine Daae and her connection to her father and how he had been her champion too, telling her when he was gone she would experience the “Angel of Music.” Then in Act II there is a very emotional song she sings when she visits his grave called, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again:
“You were once my one companion
You were all that mattered
You were once a friend and father
Then my world was shattered
Wishing you were somehow here again
Wishing you were somehow near
Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed
Somehow you would be here
“Wishing I could hear your voice again
Knowing that I never would
Dreaming of you helped me to do
All that you dreamed I could”
So shes really sad, and seems to be wallowing in the fact that he’s gone But then there is this turning point, Where she seems to understand she needs to move on, embrace all that he gave her and still gives her and live. And at that moment my daughter grabs my hand and puts her head on my shoulder:
“Too many years
Fighting back tears
Why can’t the past just die!
Wishing you were somehow here again
Knowing we must say goodbye
“Try to forgive
Teach me to live
Give me the strength to try!
No more memories
No more silent tears
No more gazing across the wasted years
“Help me say goodbye
Help me say goodbye!”
I wish closure and “saying goodbye” was as beautiful and as neat as it is portrayed in books and movies and plays. It’s not. Its a process and it may never be complete. But it occurred to me in this dark theater with my daughter stroking my arm that I have everything I could ever want and more than I need. That heart was not empty and I was not crying because I missed him or because he was gone. I was crying because this was familiar, comfortably so. The torch was passed. I could have been back in that car on the way upstate with my daughter manning the stereo (we had a tape deck back then). There was no ghost (or phantom) ache I could not fill. In fact it was quite the opposite. I felt my cup had run over and was, well, lucky.
These are the moments that make life worth living, I think. Who knew all this could happen at a Saturday matinee? 🙂