When I was a teenager I wanted to read adult novels. Then when I became an adult all I wanted to read or write were teen novels. Go figure. But whether as a teen or as an adult, my favorite kinds of books have always been of the epic, sweeping saga variety—with a dash of tragic romance, of course. So it should come as no surprise to people who know me that I would undertake a reimagining of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. But the finished product is what has been surprising.
I knew I wanted to set Phantom’s Dance in real-time Houston. In the beginning, my Phantom, Erik, was to be a young homeless man whose face had been disfigured in a gang fight. And rather than wear a mask, I dressed him in an over-sized hoodie that he kept pulled low on his head to cover his scars, and I wanted him to live in the labyrinth of tunnels running beneath the streets of Houston. But early on, I scrapped the idea of the tunnels. It just didn’t work. I needed him beneath the theater. Then there was the hoodie. I really wanted to hang onto that hoodie. Nothing says 21st century like a worn-out old hoodie. But again, no matter what I did it simply didn’t work. So, yeah, my phantom got a mask.
The setting and clothing weren’t the only things that changed. Christine became a ballet dancer instead of an opera singer like that of Leroux’s original protagonist. I don’t remember how I settled on that, but I met a ballerina with the Houston Ballet who was an enormous help, and I toured the Ben Stevenson Academy where I learned a lot about the lives of ballerinas and the pursuit of their art.
These were the jumping off points for Phantom’s Dance, along with the addition of current technology and the phantom’s use of it. And without giving anything away, I will say that my Erik is like, yet different, from the original. He’s like Leroux’ s Erik in that he’s a gifted genius in not only dance but as an all-around artist. I think he’s different because of the view we get into his life by reading the story from Christine’s first person point-of-view. There were things about the original’s overall character, whether in books, movies, and plays, that I think were overlooked, and these were things it turned out I couldn’t ignore. So whether you’re a fan or have never given the Phantom a second thought, I hope you enjoy my version, Phantom’s Dance.
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