So, it was a week of disappointment and mild disillusion. I won't even talk about the Britney VMA's fiasco because I can't without sounding a little sad. And sadness at the failure of Britney seems a trifle silly only because believing in Britney is akin to believing in the Easter Bunny or the Loch Ness Monster or the fact that people look as hot in person as they do on Myspace...So let's not even go there, ok?
Another disappointment this week occurred last night. I was wandering about town, looking for divertissement but there are no good movies out, the Met and the Frick were closed and it was raining. Luckily, I had just read an article on Playbill.com about how not all Broadway theatres were dark on Monday nights anymore…another belief BUSTED, but luckily to my benefit. I wanted to get the cheapest seats available for either a Chorus Line or the Fantasticks or my ultimate favorite, the Phantom of the Opera. You see, those three have got to be the three most important shows to me, in terms of my development into the sad little gay man I am now, and serendipitously they are all currently running.
A Chorus Line was the first Broadway show I ever saw at the age of 6 or 7. Subsequently, my sister and I were OBSESSED with the movie and would spend hours in our living room, the couches pushed back, trying to memorize the dance combinations. It was at this point that I not only realized my sister was NOT perfect (alas, she could neither sing nor dance) but also must have noted that almost all the male characters were gay gay gay.
The fact that faggotry was ok subconsciously fixed in my head, I started going to singing and acting classes, and shortly thereafter was spending months at a time skipping school to perform in productions at Boston's Wheelock Theatre.
Not really having many friends or feeling particularly close to anyone, being involved in theatre was a magical experience. Until then, I was a fuck-up. I was riding low after discovering that I was left handed and no amount of counter-subversion technique was going to change the fact that I could not write 'right.' I had also recently been kicked off the T-Ball team for picking flowers in the outfield. So in the real world, filled with real little boys doing real good at real activities, I was really really bad. But, that was all ok, because I now reigned supreme over the FAKE world, the world of artifice. In this world I was no longer just some uncoordinated a part-asian fag…I was part-asian, part-white, part-gypsy, part-wizard, part-princess, part-tiger, part-panther and part-king. I was anything I wanted to be…and I was good at it.
Anyway, I digress. So, after seeing a Chorus Line, every winter our family would go to New York City and see two shows. The next year was the Fantasticks and the Phantom of the Opera. The Fantasticks was my dad's favorite show, which he had already seen several times. I'll never forget my dad watching that show and crying at the end and then exclaiming "Wow, just look at THAT! That is real talent. Those people have more talent in their little finger than most people have in their entire bodies." Seeing my dad so highly approving of actors further cemented my love for participating in the theatre. At last, I had a valued skill too! One day I would be up on the stage and someone else's father was going to say the same thing about me.
If you have ever seen the Fantasticks or a Chorus Line, then you know that these shows are comparatively realistic, in that they take place in the 20th century and contain no witches, singing candle sticks or dancing cats. While I was satisfied with the simple plot premises of these shows and their correspondingly plain costumes and minimal sets, something inside me was crying out for corsets and high drama! When I saw the Phantom of the Opera, it was like a giant piñata filled with the glitter of life's essential fire exploded within me. I was suddenly possessed of a new found sense of longing, pain, joy and a multitude of other heightened emotions. I immediately went home and started reading the original novel and fell in love even further. Looking back, it occurs to me that perhaps a novel about a controlling opium-addicted murderous freak-show escapee was not the most appropriate material for a child to be enraptured with. Rapture is defined as 'The state of being transported by a lofty emotion; ecstasy' and seeing as how I was too young to have discovered masturbation and my discovery of drugs was far off, this was as close to being in rapture as I was going to get.
It was amazing. I related to Christine in my ever present longing for some older man to fall obsessively in love with me on the merit of my amazing talent and ethereal beauty. I could also identify with the Phantom's feeling of being a social outcast, a person whose sexuality and romantic longing had to be repressed because it was wrong, him because his face was hideously disfigured and me because my sexual longings for other males made me disfigured in a way too. But, it was Christine who was lucky, because not only did she possess the ultimately romantic (and oppressive) sense of constant incurable sadness and loneliness, but in the Phantom and Raoul, she had two suitors just aching to take all of her pain away. Oh, the dilemma…to have the choice between a loving, but harsh genius or a handsome and gallant gentleman of title and property. But alas, such opulent options do not come without their own drawbacks. In the end, she is the ultimate martyr. Fighting all human prejudices and rational thought, she gives her heart to the Phantom…but only to save her other lover, with whom she has only a shallow surface level love. Raoul will never truly love her because he has never felt the abandonment and loneliness that Christine and the Phantom had both survived. In the end, she marries Raoul, but the Phantom has already embedded himself in her heart and head. Will she ever be able to truly love Raoul? Has she been ruined by the two men who claimed to lover her forever? Can she relax in the arms of a steady and handsome man after knowing the wildly artistic and unbridled love of the Phantom? And what, pray tell, did the Phantom's penis actually look like? Did God make up for smiting the Phantom's face by giving him unearthly talents in the bed? These are questions that will never be answered.
Anyways, away from 19th century Paris and back to 21st century New York. Both the Fantasticks and a Chorus Line were still dark on Monday, so that left Phantom as my final option. I marched over to the box office and purchased one ticket in the box seats. I have never sat in the box seats before and had always wanted to. Well…the show was an utter disappointment. It seemed as if all the actors were on auto-pilot, there was no sense of tension or passion. The girl who played Christine was miserably miscast because she was a short little spunky-spunkstress with a woefully nasal singing voice. Christine is supposed to be statuesque, with a somberly nervous countenance and bearing. Never mind the fact that her voice is supposed to be her ultimate asset, able to seduce both the hearts and minds of men in a single aria.
From my box seating I could see every person in the orchestra pit as well as things going on backstage in the wings of the theatre. The cellist was ironically wearing a mini little gas-mask, I suppose to shield her delicate respiratory system from all the fake smog rolling off the stage and one of the flautists was reading a book in her spare time. Talk about a reality check. Also, the guy playing Raoul was an understudy and because of this, so many cues and special effects were either messed up or omitted completely. Sadness. There were so many distractions and detractions to this experience that I left the theatre feeling a bit empty.
How is one supposed to maintain a sense of hope, of the belief in fantasy? First Britney zombie-walks her way through a miserable performance at the VMA's and then the Phantom of the Opera loses all its magic and intensity. I suppose I will always have the memory of what it felt like to be exhilarated by fantasy, to imagine that miracles can happen, that romanticism is not dead…but these days it is getting harder and harder to believe in these tarnished relics. My concern is, in times like these, which is the better option? Burying oneself further into a world of fancy and escapism or facing the bleak reality that you can glue a million fake crystals to either a chandelier or Britney's black bikini, but in the end, both are going liable to come crashing down.