Scene I: Overture
“Georgie,” Antigone hissed, “You tricked me!” They were in the first row of the theatre, a place Antigone had sworn she would never set foot in again.
“No, I didn’t.” Georgie was smug, “I promised you would like it, and ya will. We just have to wait for everyone else to get here.” A few minutes passed and people started finding their way into the theatre, first the mayor and the reverend, then Agatha Doyle, then the village hoodlums… Antigone waved at them and they greeted her enthusiastically. They chatted for a few minutes before something she said triggered a chorus of, “Discuss!” and they were drawn into their own little world.
While Antigone had been distracted, several more people had come in including Rudyard, Antigone noticed with some surprise, and—
“May I sit here?” Eric Chapman gestured at the seat next to Antigone, a soft smile playing on his lips. Antigone nodded, looking down shyly.
On her other side, Georgie huffed, rolling her eyes, but it was more out of habit than any real malice. “Told ya you’d like it.”
“Shut up.” Antigone tried to keep her smile to herself, and then Eric asked her about her latest scented embalming fluids. They talked while more people trickled into the theatre. It looked like a lot of the Piffling Amateur Dramatics Society regulars, as well as some people Antigone was sure had never been in a production before.
Then Georgie got up on stage and clapped her hands. “Alright, everybody. I’m gonna be directing the next production the Dramatics Society is doing. We’re gonna be going up in October, so we’re doing Phantom of the Opera.” There was a murmur of excitement around the theater, then Herbert Cough got up and began walking out.
“Hey, where you goin’?” Georgie called out from the stage.
Herbert kept walking, but he answered, “I won’t do anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Not after Jesus Christ Superstar. Never again!” With that, he shut the door behind him.
There was an awkward beat of silence and then Georgie went on, “Alright then. We’ll work around that. Now, if everyone else is up for doing Phantom of the Opera and rehearsing three nights a week until October, when we’ll pick it up a little bit, let’s get goin’.”
Everyone nodded or shouted their agreement, and Georgie grinned. “Cal, if you would?” Calliope nodded and began walking around with a stack of papers and booklets, while Georgie continued. “Cal’s passin’ out the schedules and your librettos, please keep track of ‘em. I’ve assigned everyone roles, you’ll notice that some of the leads have more rehearsals, and some are just for the ensemble. It should be easy to read but if you have questions, ask me. So. Just so you all know, we’ll have live music, which should be really excitin’. Rudyard Funn will be directing, Miss Scruple agreed to play the organ for us, and Calliope and the bassoon patrol and the other scouts will be playin’ other instruments and extra percussion as they see fit. We’re not doin’ too much with the orchestra until October, but we’re all here for this first meeting.”
Antigone glanced around, and sure enough, a few rows back was Rudyard, smiling smugly and listening to something Madeleine was squeaking at him.
Georgie went on, “Jennifer is stage managin’ for us, and she’s got great ideas for set and props, so look forward to that. The Dramatics Society has costumes and things for us, but if you have something you want for your character or that you think would work for someone else, let Jennifer know. Now, I’m sure you’re all dyin’ to know, so I’ll tell you what’s been decided for the cast. We’re doing a real minimal, stripped down show with a small ensemble, and they’re gonna be played by the village hoodlums. Roz, Wez, Baz, you good for that?”
“Yeah, it’ll be a really great chance to explore the shiftin’ nature of humanity as we play all our parts.” Wez said, and the other two nodded in agreement.
“Great.” Georgie grinned, “Mayor, Reverend, I want you to play Andre and Firmin.”
The Mayor’s reedy voice cut over the crowd, “I’m usually very busy, Georgie.”
“Mayor, I’m in charge of your schedule. I promise you won’t be overburdened. And you two have almost all your scenes together, so you can practice.”
“That’s alright then,” Reverend Wavering said, “Unless it isn’t, Dezy?”
“No, it’s fine with me, Nigel.”
“Great. Petunia, you’ll be Meg, and Agatha, Madame Giry. You’re dependable for the Dramatics Society, so I know you can pull this off. We have some newcomers too. Tanya and Bill, I need you as Carlotta and Piangi. And Roger, can you play Raoul? I know it’s bigger than what we had discussed originally, but I think you can do it—it’ll really give you a chance to stand out.” All the people named agreed.
“Antigone, you’ll be Christine, and Eric, you’ll be the Phantom!”
A sudden feeling of dread swept over Antigone.
“Oh perfect!” Eric enthused from the seat next to her, “You know, I actually played the Phantom of the Opera for a few weeks on Broadway,” he paused dramatically—
“A long time ago, yes, we know, Eric.” Georgie interrupted, then turned her attention on Antigone, sitting stock still in the front row of seats. “What do ya say, Antigone? Christine?”
Antigone sputtered, nerves taking over—she didn’t have good experiences with the stage, from that long ago talent show to The Sun Beyond the Shade, and Georgie knew this, the traitor. “Oh, well, I’m not sure if I…”
“Yeah you can,” Georgie’s tone was soft, but full of her usual confidence, “ I know you can. You’ll be great.”
Antigone huffed, “Well, alright, but if it goes wrong I’m never leaving the mortuary again.”
“Yeah!” Georgie punched the air. “So today, we’re gonna jump in with a full cast readthrough, and I’ll be playin’ the original West End cast soundtrack in place of the songs. Orchestra, follow along in your scores and pay attention to what you want to play. It’ll be kind of a long day, but we can make it through.” She sat down on the edge of the stage, swinging her legs back and forth. She pressed play on a speaker sitting next to her and the dramatic pipe organ of the intro filled the stage as everyone flipped open their librettos to follow along.
Scene II: Think of Me
Antigone really, really regretted the fact that Georgie had ever heard her sing. Yes, technically she had the range to sing this part, but that didn’t mean she was going to survive singing it, and acting it, opposite Eric Chapman! Not that he was at rehearsal today, thank everything that was holy. No, today it was just her and Roger Noggins. Antigone liked Roger, she did, they’d had such a good time putting his funeral on, but acting together…
“Alright, Antigone,” Georgie said, “I need a little more from you in this scene. Really channel Christine’s excitement and disbelief, yeah? She can’t believe her old childhood friend is back and so handsome now.”
“I, well, right…” Antigone tried to agree, but she felt so stiff. And Roger was too. Georgie was saying something to him now, but Antigone wasn’t really listening, staring at the theater seats distractedly. To be in love with Roger Noggins (Antigone had a sudden terrible flashback of Marlene Magdalena on her knees in front of her) was beyond—no, she wasn’t in love with Roger, Christine was in love with Raoul. Or at least infatuated. Antigone could do this.
At least Georgie had said they didn't have to actually kiss until tech rehearsals, the week before they opened. But then they would have to kiss. Antigone tried not to think about the kissing, because doing that with Roger wasn't particularly appealing, and the idea of doing that with Eric was simply too much.
(She tried not to think about it, but she thought about it all the time. What would it be like to kiss Eric? How would he hold her?)
But right now she was focusing. Georgie gestured, and Antigone sat back in the chair that was standing in for Christine's dressing room seat. Many of their scenes together were here, the initial meeting and the second act planning, and for the rooftop scenes they just took the chair away. Georgie had explained her concept for the sets, based on the limited experience and resources of Piffling Vale, and Antigone thought it really sounded quite nice.
Georgie started the rehearsal track and Roger mimed letting himself into the room and then began to sing, “Little Lotte let her mind wander…” He was still focused on his libretto, but they hadn't been rehearsing that long. Antigone still leaned heavily on hers as well. And Georgie had told the cast she expected them to be off book the third week of September, so Antigone wasn't too worried about it… yet.
They spent a few hours working on their scenes together, with Georgie running the rehearsal tracks and reading lines when another character was in the scene. Georgie was surprisingly competent as a director, and actually quite knowledgeable about music and how they could sing successfully. A good portion of their time was spent rehearsing their songs, as well. Antigone hadn't expected Georgie to know so much, but then she had said, “I'm great at directin’ musicals, Antigone,” and she wondered why she had ever doubted. Georgie was great at so many things, why not this as well?
Georgie declared that they would run “All I Ask of You” one more time and then they could call it a night. Antigone listened as Roger began singing, his voice warm and clear as he started the song. When Antigone came in, she let herself get swept up in the melody. “Say you'll love me every waking moment, turn my head with thoughts of summertime…” The music really was lovely, and Antigone enjoyed singing it, although it was hard to even pretend she had these feelings for Roger. At least Eric wasn't here to see her pretending to be in love with someone else—no, wait—oh god, what was it about the theatre that always made her honestly consider her feelings?
Antigone stared at her libretto, trying to banish that train of thought. This was a tremendous feat, especially considering that the lyrics of the song were so saccharine sweet. She shuddered, but she would make it through this.
Georgie ended rehearsal, telling them both how well they had done, and that she looked forward to seeing them at the full cast rehearsal in two days. Roger clapped Antigone amiably on the shoulder as he set off, and she mirrored his pleasant words in a daze.
Jennifer Delacroix appeared from backstage, and Georgie lit up upon seeing her. Jennifer started gesturing to notes on her clipboard, and Antigone slipped out the door without either of them noticing her departure. They were sweet together, Georgie and Jennifer—always seeking each other out, leaning into each other.
Antigone breathed in the cool night air, and couldn't help wondering if she'd ever find someone like that.
Scene III: Angel of Music
“Petunia, Antigone, I need to believe that you are friends.” Georgie sounded somewhat exasperated, and Antigone couldn’t really blame her… but Antigone had never really had friends, she didn’t know how to have friends, so the relationship between Christine and Meg was a little beyond her. Yes, she counted Georgie as a friend, but their relationship wasn’t like Meg and Christine at all.
It wasn’t helping Antigone at all that Petunia Bloom didn’t have the soft and comforting energy that was usually ascribed to Meg Giry. It was an interesting tone, but it worked—just not for Antigone. Agatha Doyle, as Madame Giry, was a surprisingly intimidating ballet mistress, and they were working on the scene in which Meg tells Madame Giry and the theatre owners that Christine could sing Carlotta’s part. Tanya’s tantrum as Carlotta had gone admirably, and the Mayor and the Reverend were doing quite well as the owners, but somehow it didn’t seem that Petunia as Meg believed that Antigone as Christine could in fact perform the role, and it was hard to believe that Antigone as Christine wanted Petunia as Meg to vouch for her.
It was, in a word, awkward.
Georgie signalled them to start the scene again, and the hoodlums, Bill, and Tanya, along with Petunia and Antigone, got in place for the Hannibal number. They ran through the scene, past “Think of Me” and into “Angel of Music”, the duet between Meg and Christine. Petunia was at least committed to her role, and Antigone did her best as well, but she could see Georgie’s lips pressed together in a disapproving line, like she was thinking, “Yeah. They’ll have to work on that…” Jennifer sat next to her, rubbing her shoulder consolingly. But she didn’t stop them, and they made it through “Little Lotte”, stopping for a break just before the Phantom’s entrance, like they had planned.
Agatha and Petunia began chatting, and Jennifer was once again showing Georgie notes on her clipboard, probably something about the set. Antigone looked around for a moment before taking a seat in the audience, in a half-shadowed corner. The house lights were off, so it was nice. To be believable friends with Petunia… Antigone heaved a sigh.
“Mind if I join you?” The question broke into her reverie. Antigone looked up to see Eric Chapman standing at the end of her row and she waved a hand vaguely along the seats. Eric grinned, quick as a flash, and then sat down one seat away from Antigone, leaning on the armrest and over the empty seat between them. He was close, but not in an overwhelming way.
“You’re doing a fantastic job, you know,” he said. “I had no idea you could sing like that!”
Antigone willed herself not to blush, and only stuttered a little. “Oh, I’m, um. Thank you. I don’t sing often… but it’s hard to say no to Georgie.”
“She’s very persuasive,” Eric agreed. “But she’s put together a great show, I think. Although the orchestra…”
A flash of familial loyalty burned in Antigone’s chest. “The orchestra is going to be fantastic. My brother can do music, and the scouts are great, and Miss Scruple is excellent.”
Eric grinned again. “Whoa, okay, okay, I mean no harm.” He didn’t seem annoyed though, almost kind of… thrilled? Antigone wasn’t sure why he was smiling like that. “I just, I guess I didn’t know about your brother’s abilities, and Miss Scruple can be rather distracted. You’re right though, the scouts are great.”
Antigone nodded, glancing down at her hands where she was fiddling with her skirt. “Rudyard will surprise people, I think. It’s not a big island, but I’m not sure many know that he’s as competent as he is.” She met Eric’s gaze again, lips twisting sarcastically, “Especially with how some of our funerals have gone.”
He barked a laugh, almost as if she’d startled it out of him, and then, “Still,” he dragged the word out, “I’m sure everyone will be just as surprised and delighted by you.”
“Oh god, stop saying that.”
Unapologetic sunshine beamed back at her, “Why should I, when it’s true?” Eric glanced up at the stage, then stood up, saying, “Ah, it looks like Georgie is calling me, and break’s about done. Thanks for chatting with me, Antigone.” He touched her shoulder quickly, gently as he left, and Antigone found herself staring after him as he went. Ohhhh, why why why did Eric Chapman have to be so damn charming?
Soon enough, Georgie was calling the cast back together to rehearse the end of the first act, from “Magical Lasso” all the way through the Phantom’s reprise of “All I Ask of You”. They had skipped all of the Phantom and Christine’s scenes together, because while Eric and Antigone had both been working on their parts, and they’d had a few rehearsals together, Georgie didn’t feel like they were quite solid enough to put them in front of the rest of the cast yet. Antigone had been a little bothered to skip the scenes, but after the way Eric had just been acting, she found herself rather glad she wouldn’t have to listen to him sing “Music of the Night”, especially not if he was going to be looking at her like… like that, the whole time.