My memory is hazy. I may have been six years old when my mother took my sister and I to the Vancouver production of The Phantom of the Opera. It was playing at the Queen Elizabeth theater. The phantom was played none other than Jeff Hyslop, star of the incredibly popular 80s series, Today’s Special. Considering how well we tend to document the lives of celebrities as well as past events, I was completely confounded today when I couldn’t track down an exact date when Jeff Hyslop performed — not on Wikipedia, Imdb, or on Hyslop’s own website. I can only say it must have been sometime between 1986-1991. I’m inclined to believe I may have seen the show in 1988, as my parents seem quite certain I was six years old at the time.
My mother was still in her 20s at this point, and she regales me with stories about how she and my father didn’t have a ton of money in the mid 80s. Taking two young children to a musical was not cheap. Tickets were somewhere in the $100 per person range. I was dead set on going though, and she just didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to expose me to a bit of culture. I’m happy she did this. Now that I think of it, I wonder how strange it would have looked to adults seeing two children, dressed up in fancy clothing and going to this kind of musical.
The play made such a lasting impression. After returning from the show, I talked endlessly about the experience, probably for hours on end. My parents purchased both the American and British versions of the soundtrack, and I repeatedly listened to them on cassette tape for many months afterwards. I would fall asleep to the sound track — in fact, my parents tell me now that many nights I demanded they put the soundtrack, lest I be unable to fall asleep.
I became so obsessed with the phantom, that I dressed up as him for Halloween. When it wasn’t Halloween, I would dress up as the phantom anyways. I recall showing up at school one day, in full costume no doubt. Boy did a lot of people give me shit for that! What I loved about the musical was the dark and mysterious nature of the lead character. I suppose this might have been the start of my dark personality, because I later grew up to have a penchant for dark and disturbing stories — I always found them far more interesting and entertaining. When I was thirteen, I picked up the electric guitar and ended up becoming very engrained in the sub-cultures of heavy metal.
I have never seen any live show that has made as large of an impact on me as The Phantom of the Opera did. I don’t know if I ever will again.