It was January 19th, 2013. It was freezing cold on our trip to New York City and dressed in our warmest winter gear, we were shaking with excitement. My best friend Meta and I were finally on our way to see Phantom of the Opera after years of longing. Arriving just as the bus was pulling in; we ran across the parking lot and hopped on the bus out of breath, hearts racing. It was a mere week or two ago that Meta had surprised me with the tickets for my 21st birthday. And since I was finally 21 we made plans to go to the Museum of Sex and the bar down below.
Meta loved Phantom, but I had become obsessed. I owned the movie, the original novel, and a copy of the Broadway book they sell at the show. I also owned the soundtrack and sheet music so I could learn all of the songs. Even once for Halloween I dressed up as Christine, the lead female in the production. But of course no one knew who I was actually dressed as and kept referring to me as Scarlet O’Hara. I leaned over to my friend and took a ridiculous selfie.
Aware of the expenses in NYC and the time constraints before the show, we were brown bagging our lunches, elementary school style. I had packed turkey and cucumber sandwiches and fruit cups for lunch with a few chewy fruit bars tossed in. Once we were settled in, coats off, we began devouring our food as Meta informed me what seeing Wicked was like. I tried to keep crumbs from falling out of my mouth as said how much I wanted to see it. This was my first ever Broadway show and I didn’t know what to expect. I was only even in NYC twice before, only to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art for school and the only musicals I had seen were low budget high school productions.
After a cramped, long bus ride we had arrived, ditched our trash and roamed through the terminal until it was time to head to the Majestic Theater. It’s located a few blocks down the street through the blistering winter wind. Outside the theater was a mob, slowly filing in. A large woman with wild curly hair was standing outside selling books and cheap fake roses with black satin ribbons. We snuck past and headed inside. There, security checked our bags for weapons and boos. Having none they let us by to head up the red carpeted steps, past the glass case of phantom memorabilia. Cups, movies, soundtracks and horribly ill-fitting T-shirts were waiting for suckers to whip out their cash.
Once we climbed the steep stairs and walked past the bar we were finally in front of the stage. The usher lead us to our seats in the center, front row of the mezzanine. We sat down and leaned over the railing looking down. We could see everything! Our eyes were wide and we laughed. Finally, after years we were here in front of the stage. The stage was surrounded by large gilded cupids covered in sheer dark cloth. The lights dimmed and the curtains were pulled back to reveal the auction in the opening scene. Lot number 666 came up and with sparks flying the chandelier was revealed, rising to its place in the ceiling. Our jaws dropped and we looked at each other ecstatic. The chandelier was a mere few feet away.
The show was marvelous, the actors chosen for the lead roles were incredible, and the costumes still had their original 80s flair. During the graveyard scene we were hovering over the railing when flames rose up from the stage. They shot so high they burned our cheeks all the way in the mezzanine. We quickly leaned back trying to cool off our faces.
I was curious how they would portray the trip through the sewers to the Phantom’s labyrinth. The scene did not disappoint as the stage filled with white smoke and giant candelabras rose up through the floor boards of the stage. I was in awe of their ability to wow the audience with the limitations of a live production. There is something about a live show and being in the moment that surpasses anything Hollywood could produce. It evokes a higher level of emotion than a film. When the curtains closed I rose from seat and clapped until my hands were sore.
After the show we got McDonalds next door and there on the wall was a picture of the original phantom. As we sat there defrosting from the cold and drinking hot chocolate I pondered the hat. We raved about the chandelier and the differences between the film and the play. When we began talking about the costumes I brought up the hat. The phantom had a large brimmed black hat and a cape in the live production. However, in the movie they ditched the hat. “He looks like Darkwing Duck,” I said. She laughed, and agreed that the hat greatly resembled the one belonging to the Disney character.
It was a few hours before we had to be at the terminal so Meta and I took the liberty of window shopping in Times Square before seeing the museum. Being children at heart, we had to stop in the Disney store and see the latest princess dolls and stuffed characters. We then popped into the massive Forever 21 next door. It was so large with its 4 floors that I lost Meta at some point and she lost her hat. We found each other but the hat was gone. A street vendor outside provided her with a moderately priced faux fur bomber hat and we marched onward to the Museum of Sex. We past the naked cowboys, and made our best attempts at avoiding the numerous ticket salesmen.
Right inside the door of the museum was a sign: “Please do not touch, lick, stroke, or mount the exhibits.” I laughed and a bought a keychain of the sign. The shop was filled with condoms, vibrators, and any book imaginable about sex. I stared quizzically at the display of crystal phalluses wondering simply, why. After paying the small entrance fee we headed into the first section of the museum. It was filled with horrifying Victorian era medical equipment for circumcisions and other peculiar devices in front of silicone male and female bodies with chest and genitals exposed. It was obvious female had seen a bit more action. The rest of the rooms contained animal sex and modern art. There was even a list of the top 100 things searched on the internet. Gilfs were surprisingly high on the list.
The bar was pretty tame compared to the museum. It looked like any other small bar, but with a bench in the shape of giant red lips by the door. The drinks were exotic with sexual names, naturally. We both had one drink and mine was a lot stronger than anticipated. I had just turned 21 three days prior and I was drunk from one drink. Stumbling from the bar we were able to leave and grab some sushi before heading to the terminal early. I was too drunk to realize I had forgotten my license.
After nearly missing our bus, losing a hat and a license there’s still nothing I would have changed. It was great day with my friend of 16 years in the Big Apple and everything was perfect. It even began to snow as we were leaving. We excitedly pranced through the flakes falling from the night sky on our way home.