Well, amidst all the excitement leading up to the 21st anniversary I have fallen almost four weeks behind my Phantom blogging. I have missed writing. There are actually a few unfinished blogs but I figured I should quickly write a blog to bring us up to date and then carry on from there. I will then go back and finish the other blogs where I will endeavour to write about getting the mask and prosthetics ready, and how they are individually made (without giving away too much) and also getting the Phantom his made to measure bespoke suit. Now there’s nothing like getting a bespoke suit, talk about feeling like a million bucks. I also want to get some points of view from other cast members and also get some shots up of our understudy rehearsals.

I finally took over the role September 12, 2007. It felt like 12 years of anticipation had been stored up for that night. It was truly an amazing feeling to see my name on the poster, on the dressing door and in the same line as “The Phantom”. Moving in into the dress rooming was a pretty amazing thing. I redecorated to create a space where I feel at home since I’ll be spending so much time there. Needless to say it was a proud moment. It’s kind of odd writing about it now because I’m looking back 4 weeks. My worries and anticipation for my “take over” night seemed to be dwarfed by the last two weeks, but more on that at a later time.

I started on the Wednesday to allow Nic Greenshields a chance to solidify what he created and learned in rehearsals with the first three performances of that week. I think this works out best for both of us as I’m not suddenly hit with a full week as well. It kind warms you up in a way for the next week… er… 52 weeks I guess. Man, I remember thinking how am I going to do that. But it was great to start my week with 5 shows instead of 8. I remember thinking after the first two shows that this is going to be a challenge. I felt really tired and anxious actually. It reminded me of when I played Chris in Miss Saigon. That was a major uphill battle for the first four weeks. It was a very draining role, vocally and emotionally. It looks like The Phantom is not going to be any different. That’s a good thing though. It’s good to take yourself out of your comfort zone and work through it.

Thankfully I did get through Chris. I’ll never forget sitting in a sandwich shop four weeks into the run of Saigon. I had my head in my hands over my sandwich. I was literally thinking, I’m not going to be able to do this. I felt like I’ve been through many rounds in a UFC fight. My phone rang at that point from one of my closest friends and colleague. It was like fate. He had also taken on a heavy role about four months prior to that phone call. I remember to this day what he told me about his journey. It was exactly how I was feeling. The long and short of it was, “It will only get easier”. And it did. So, I now reminded myself of that conversation but this time I’m not waiting four weeks into the run. It’s after two shows, it’s Friday night, let’s get to the theatre early and gear up for another great show.

So I’m just about a ½ mile shy of Tower Bridge where there is a gas station and I figured I’d gas up my Harley for the journey home. It’s 4:45. Loads of time. I paid the dude in the shop and hopped back on… and just stayed there. Oh no, the starter motor has decided to die. I can’t believe it. I’ll give you the abridged version. It took me forever to get through to the bike SOS guys. I got through about 5:30 and they said it’ll be at least an hour. I phoned Phantom and told them to get another Phantom’s gear ready just in case. So with another Phantom on call, I could only wait. I looked at the traffic and it was bumper to bumper. Even if the SOS company came in good time, there is no way I’d make it to the theatre with a cab. I am not a fan of public transport due to their unreliability. It seems that I’ll have to rely on them this time, but I’m still a little way away from the nearest station which is the green line. It’s 6:35 and they had my bike safely in their van. Just as they were about to leave I heard the sweet, sweet sound of another Harley pulling in to gas up. I stopped the van to get my helmet back. It was worth a shot. I have never hitchhiked before but I figured getting through this traffic on two wheels was the only way. Thankfully, him being a fellow HOG man like myself, he said he’d help me out. He was Italian. Now, I love everything about Italy. It was my second home after Iran. One thing I will say about Italians is they do not fear traffic. I have never been a pillion on a bike before so that was nerve racking enough. To have this young speedy Italian knowing he’s fighting the clock to get me to the theatre was an experience I hope I never have to do again, lol. I don’t think I opened my eyes once. However I am so grateful that he did bring to the theatre with enough time for a bit of a warm up and straight into the make up chair.

Since then the show has been going strength to strength. Most of the time the audience is on their feet and they are very receptive to us. The cast is very strong and enthusiastic. The memory of the chat I had with my friend has kept me going through the last four weeks and with each day and each show I feel stronger and more relaxed about The Phantom. Sadly, my Harley is no longer with me. I left him with the shop and sold it back to them. On a more positive note, a new one is on the way. Whoo Hoo, can’t wait.

I will leave you here with this blog as I can’t wait to start writing the next one in a couple of days about October 9, 2007. I just need to sort out some photos, links and press clippings which have put Phantom of the Opera in the headlines. It’s great to see this show still in the public’s hearts and minds.

Speaking of birthdays, this Phantom has had one within the last four weeks as well.

Also, before I go I have to share with you a photo which was taken a couple of weeks ago. The legendary Mikey Rooney was in attendance one Saturday night and requested a little visit. Talk about a fan of the show. What a treat for all of us.

(A great photo with some previous members of the 2006-2007 cast)

Love to you all,
Ramin Karimloo

Her Majesty’s Theatre London