She's Queer, The Phantom Of The Opera: Part One

There aren't enough lesbians in musical theatre, so I thought I'd reappropriate some existing musicals into my world of perversion and aberrance. A little bit of personal context and Takarazuka will be provided to facilitate transition into my queering of Phantom of the Opera.

When I was ten years old, I was just coming to term with what my identity was called by everyone else. Though I'd more or less known that I was gay long before this moment in life, it was around grade six that students and teachers in my school started talking about homosexuality. This was because of the ongoing debate in Canada on whether or not to make gay marriage legal, and my teacher thought that it was important we know about the issue and the realities of gay people.

The hurtful things that my fellow students said at the time still stay with me. They weren't trying to hurt me specifically, and it's my belief that their opinions must have been heavily influenced by their parents, but it was shocking and distressing for me.

Luckily, my birthday rolled around. The Christmas before, I'd received a soundtrack of Cats, which I'd enjoyed, and so on my birthday I got the London Highlights of The Phantom of the Opera.

What a horrible cover...
I don't really know how to explain what happened next.

First, I had a very limited idea of what musical theatre should be at that point, and to be honest Cats wasn't the ideal I had created. When I first heard the crashing chords of Phantom's overture, I remember thinking "That's it! That's what a musical is!"

Luckily for me and my drama degree, my idea of musical theatre has evolved since then, but my point is that Phantom's music was the right blend of grandiosity and exuberance that I wanted in a quintessential musical.

Second, I felt a connection with the Phantom that was instant and completely empathetic. Every time I finished the soundtrack, I was in tears for the Phantom, because I knew exactly what it was like to have to hide and to be unable to express feelings for someone because of a fear of rejection.

I think every person has his or her avatar in popular culture that they emulate or empathize with, or whose work helps them get through hard times. I know for a lot of my gay guy friends, it's Marilyn Monroe or Dorothy Gale. For me right now, it's Christopher Lee or Clifton Webb. At that point in my life, it switched from Mulan to the Phantom. The music and the Gothic aesthetic of the show helped greatly in this coup, I'm sure.

It was so easy to find gay context for the Phantom's pain, and it was especially easy to put myself in the Phantom's shoes, sometimes quite literally. The Hallowe'en after I got the soundtrack, I went out as Erik and had a blast.

The Phantom of the Opera was a great way to express myself without outing myself, and probably solidified my decision to go into theatre.

But I outgrew Phantom pretty quickly, in comparison to my other obsessions, and the show became sort of background noise to the other things I started getting exposed to. At some point, it actually became embarrassing to be a Phan, around after the movie came out and a little bit after I started to realize the quality of the work isn't that great.

But then, the all-powerful Takarazuka revue gave me Phantom. Maury Yeston's, not Andrew Lloyd Webber's. I discovered this only a couple of years ago.

The stylized aesthetic and all-female nature of the Revue, combined with the story I knew so well and the wonderful new music, rekindled my interest in The Phantom of the Opera in general.

But despite my new appreciation for my childhood obsession, I haven't really been able to express my feelings for it until today, when I read this article. I never thought I'd find someone else who had the same kind of connection to the material that I did, and it inspired me to get this thorough queering of Phantom of the Opera out into the ether.

1 comment: