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Final Das Phantom Shows in Hamburg
Memories from Hildegard

June 29th, evening show

To have tickets for the three last shows of POTO made it feel a little bit like a countdown when we entered the 'Neue Flora' in Hamburg once more.

It wasn't planned to be like this, but when we bought the tickets for today's evening show it was December, we wanted to celebrate the eleventh anniversary of POTO in Hamburg and hadn't any idea it would be one of the last shows...

Well, now we were there, it was indeed the eleventh anniversary of POTO in Hamburg, but little left to celebrate.

But with good luck we ought to see IJB for two last times as the 'Phantom'.

I was dressed like the Phantom, as I was once before in May at a charity gala (IJB may remember) with a home-made dress-coat, self-made half-mask and my hair shaped Phantomlike - it felt like a helmet of glass. It takes some effort to keep my hair in it's place...

It's not easy to explain why I did so, but I'll try, for I didn't do it just for fun.

I love Webber's musical, I love the story itself, and I feel great empathy for Erik, the man behind the mask. I don't like the way everyone tries to make money by putting him on display - something he himself must have hated - and I tried to remind the people of the genuine story behind the musical, the real man hidden by the mask by showing them an actual human behind the mask, walking around like themselves, talking, drinking cola and being as real as everybody else.

Erik's story is the story of us all - everybody wears some kind of a mask. And there are thousands of people like Erik, out casted because not 'normal'.

Last but not least, it was a great fun.

Anyway, the doorkeeper wasn't as impressed as I had hoped she would be, so it was fine we had normal tickets - no chance to ask for box five.

Well, now, no humour at all at the door, so let's enter the foyer and there glance at first at the casting.

Yeah, fine, happiness: IJB as 'Phantom'.

The first and biggest highlight of the evening. Every other following based on this first. So I told myself not to think about tomorrow, when we would have to say 'good-bye', but to enjoy the show with all my favourites, with my preferred seat in the middle of the first row and the wonderful music of POTO.

The lights went out, my husband and I leaned back and waited for the things to come. And the show began.

What's to say about the show?

It was the best show I've ever seen. They were all at their best that evening, it seemed to me they performed the farewell-show for the fans, knowing well that next days last show was determined to the VIP's.

They were all brilliant that evening, Colby Thomas as innocent and youthful as Christine should be, with a wonderful voice that let understand why the Phantom called her his 'angel of music', Raoul, impersonated by Kyle Gonyea, just splendid, Vera Borisova diva like, great, and with a comical talent fitting well for the part of 'La Carlotta', Christopher Morandi (who also sang the 'Raoul' in Hamburg) and David Hunerjaeger as 'the directors', singing with all their voice and a big twinkle in their eyes. Piangi, sung by Marcello Ronchietto, wonderful and really Italian (oh, Rrroma), Don Attilio, sung by Peter Graham, strong voiced and ridiculous, and Mme. Giry as serious as ever, performed by Karin Westfal, just fine! They all were great - the not mentioned as great as the mentioned - but IJB was terrific.

You who read this all know IJB and have heard him, so I need not much to say. That's good, for - how to describe a phenomenon?

That first refrain of 'Music Of The Night' with it's soft mezzopiano - nobody sings it like him, with that lightly soaring voice - it sounds so easy ... for him, it is. And the same tone in the next refrain a clear, strong fortissimo, and you know, he could reach even higher, if he wants to. He's the perfect singer for this song, for his voice reaches no limit. It's not his deepest and not his highest tone included. Not much people who can say that!

And as if such a clear, strong, warm and beautiful voice was not enough, he is also a blessed actor. His performance was as good as you never saw him perform but be Erik the Phantom. There was no IJB on the stage but Erik himself.

What a talent!

Something I've always wanted to know was what IJB really used to do while waiting in that angel. I know, he says just thinking about being Erik and hearing Christine's speech and what pain this would cause. But the angel was always shaking when he was inside. This must have been a restless kind of thinking - causing such an 'angel quake'!

The result of this angel shaking thoughts was a reprise of 'All I Want Of You' so touching, so unforgettable heartbreaking and tear driving as only IJB can sing it. And then the angel rose again, as every show, and every time I saw it I hold my breath while watching it, for IJB used to stand in it with outstretched arms, and it would have needed such a little deviation in the angel's way up to the Phantom's gangway to cause an accident that it was a load off my mind when it was over.

You know all the Phantom's way on the gangway, and IJB did it like every time, but when at last he had to look for the chandelier to fall, he leaned forward across the balustrade and looked down.

What did you see, Mr. Bourg?

We spent the interval trying to get a cola and a coffee - strange drinks for the Phantom, I know, but this Phantom needed caffeine.

There is a Phantom fan club in Germany, and members of this club had taken the seats in the first rows. Coming back from the interval, most of them had flowers with them. Nice idea. I never tried to threw anything on a stage but once, 'cause I'm not a good pitcher, but more about that later.

I never understood why Webber composed his 'Don Juan Triumphant' as discordant as he did, for in the original story Christine loves Erik's music so it must have been contemporary, not too modern.

But we came to the great finale, and IJB just topped himself. Never seen anything like that before..

His Erik, fumbling with the bridal veil, torn between love, rage and doubtfulness, was a shy, so vulnerable man, hiding his tears behind a mask of angry sarcasm. So it was shown by IJB many times before, but this evening he seemed to put his heart and soul in it.

As I said, he seemed not to act, but to be the Phantom - more than usual.

Trying hard to keep control and failing, his Erik stood there, waiting crushed for Christine's decision (oh, Colby, you were great), loosing control both of the situation and his feelings in the moment of deliverance by Christine.

It's such an impressive scene, when Erik, embraced and kissed by Christine - the fulfilling of all his dreams - just doesn't know what to do with his hands, having never learned to deal with tenderness, then stumbles across the stage as if he hasn't the strength to reach the organ, thinking hard what to do next.

Oh, I loved IJB's countenance of 'I would never harm Raoul, what do you think of me' - and what a pity it seems I'll never see it again! - when Erik frees Raoul.

And how impolite to leave a room when someone tells his love to you - but Christine did.

Poor Erik disappeared, and the show was over.

Nothing can ever compare with that evening show on June 29th in Hamburg.

Everybody but us (Michael Nicholson knows why) threw flowers, we all applauded in standing ovations, and the actors were exhausted but seemed happy. They all picked up their flowers, but IJB carried off the prize: he caught all his flowers, one by one, in flight.

We don't like to bother people by hanging around backstage doors, so this was it for this evening - except about 140km to drive home and that I had to bang on my head to crack the pounds of wet gel and hairspray that kept my hair 'Phantom shaped' but felt like a helmet of beton. Beauty has it's price!

Good bye till tomorrow!

30.06.2001 -- Matinee --

Having vitrified my hair Phantom-shaped again, but dressed normal, I arrived again with my husband and our dog in Hamburg for the last two shows of POTO (sniff!) in the 'Neue Flora'.

Dogs aren't allowed in the theatre, so our poor Sharif had to wait in our - big - van. Thanks a lot, Sharif, for being such a nice dog and having waited all day and all night long in the garage of the 'Neue Flora' without barking, howling or anything else but sleeping.

The foyer looked emptier now, for first preparations had taken place for the big 'Dernièrenfeier' - after-show-party - in the evening. Well known things had been removed forever, and we felt a little bit lost in our usual, familiar foyer that looked so strange now.

But we were there for the show and not for good-bye tears which we ought to shed when all has gone, so we took our places as usual, first row middle seats, and waited for the show.

I had a teddy-bear with me, dressed like the Phantom with a little dress-suit and a little half-mask and with a real 'distortion' beneath the mask. But he was well hidden behind his mask and enjoyed the first act with us.

It was a wonderful show, starring Michael Nicholson (great) as Phantom, Olivia Safe (wonderful) as Christine and Christopher Morandi (fine) as Raoul.

The matinee staff was really great. They had put some gags for the fans in the show, as there were, for example, a bight on the head of the middle skull in the auction, clipped out little hearts in the Phantom's letters and other little jokes like that.

In the last years we somehow had managed always to hear IJB as 'the Phantom' , we now heard Michael Nicholson for the first and, sniff, the last time. We understand the Nicholson fans, for he was great, but for us nobody compares to IJB. Mr. Nicholson, for example, used to cut off the last tone of 'Music Of The Night' after few seconds, and we, used to IJB's half-a-minute-lasting 'night' , were quite surprised by Nicholson's interpretation.

But each one does it his way - otherwise, life would be boring.

During the interval I tried to photograph little Erik bear with the fallen chandelier, but some usher bellowed us away from it - copyright! What an idea! Last day of the show, tomorrow all would be torn apart, and there should be no possibility to shoot a photo with little teddy and a chandelier??

Now little teddy was shocked and wished to leave, so we brought him to the car - a teddy in your hands keeps you from clapping.

Phantom-club members arrived with their usual flowers, and one of them passed out red roses to those who had none for he wished to start a rain of flowers and couldn't do it alone. Okay, okay, we never thought about that, but we agreed to help him with his flower shower, and the second act began.

Also this team was on it's best and we enjoyed the show. And then, with our usual standing ovations, all people threw their flowers, also did my husband, and he reached the stage with his rose just at Mr. Nicholson's feet.

Fine, I thought, I'll do so also, but just in the moment I threw Mr. Nicholson bent down to pick up his flowers, and my rose hit him on the head. Now you know why I never throw things on stage - if I do, I shoot the actors.

I now can say, I shot the Phantom, but I never shot his fiancée...

We left the theatre for a little walk with our patient dog, some photos of a rainy 'Neue Flora', anticipating