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Antigone in the Spotlight (Again): Phantom Overcoats

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Scene I: The Music of the Night

Georgie was concerned they weren’t connecting enough. “No one is going to believe that she’s under your spell, Eric. They’ve really got to feel like you’ve… ensorcelled her, and right now you don’t look like you want to be here, much less have her be here.” Eric nodded intently, scrawling notes in the margins of his libretto.

Antigone bent her libretto back and forth restlessly. If Eric was doing poorly, she could only imagine what Georgie would have to say to her.

“Antigone…” Georgie paused in that way that meant Antigone wouldn’t like what she was about to say. “You need to let go. Starting way back from when he appears in the mirror, he’s cast a spell on you. You’re enchanted and totally, totally trustin’. You just gotta relax.”

Antigone laughed quickly, slightly hysterical. “Right, of course, of course.” Let go, around Eric. Be totally trusting, of Eric. Ohhh, she could do this.

“Now,” Georgie said, “You two have been working hard today. Let’s start again at the mirror, and I’ll read Raoul’s lines, and we’ll go all the way through until “Stranger Than You Dreamt It”. I really want to see you two leaning into each other. Eric, the only thing that matters to you is that Christine comes, that she wants to be with you like you want to be with her. Antigone, this is your angel—you’re grateful, and you trust him, so of course you’ll go. Let’s have a go, shall we? And Antigone, Eric, let’s try it without the librettos this time. I know you’re both memorised.”

Antigone clutched the booklet to her chest, “Georgie, no, I can’t. I don’t, I’m not—” She cut off, staring at Georgie desperately.

“Fine, go ahead and keep it, it’s early anyway.” Georgie said to Antigone, then raised an eyebrow at Eric, who was setting his libretto down.

“I’ll be fine,” he smiled pleasantly, “At least for this scene.”

Georgie took her seat in the first row, starting the rehearsal track for the mirror scene. Antigone took a deep breath and tried to settle into the right demeanor as Eric began singing, berating (the currently absent) Raoul for trying to steal his triumph. Antigone responded, pleading with the Phantom to stay and guide her. As she let herself feel the music, she let herself trust the Phantom as well, and she went willingly through the mirror with him. Somewhere in the middle of “The Phantom of the Opera”, Antigone got rid of her libretto and allowed herself to really enjoy the music, and Eric the Phantom leading her by the hand down into his lair. Even though she had immersed herself in the scene, fainting from shock when she saw the mannequin wearing the wedding dress still felt incredibly awkward. It did every time, but Georgie had never said anything, so Antigone just had to assume it was alright.

In any case, it was nice to just ‘sleep’ and listen to Eric sing “The Music of the Night”—he had a lovely voice, and the song was so grand. When she ‘awoke’, she drifted as if in a daze until she saw the Phantom and tore his mask off. Antigone didn't like this scene—Eric shouted at her, and it was so jarring. But then, their first few rehearsals together, he hadn't sounded convincingly upset at all, and Georgie had really given him the what-for. Still, this time Antigone held it together and they made it through the scene, as the Phantom exploded and then pleadingly sang of his deep loneliness and wish to be loved.

“Well done, you two,” Georgie called out, clapping firmly. “Let's take ten, yeah? And then I want to work on the graveyard scene in the second act before we call it a night.” She busied herself with her notes, checking her plans against the schedule to make sure they were still on track.

Eric sat back down on the bench for the organ, fiddling with the keys. He startled when Antigone spoke to him.

“I didn't know you could play.”

“Ah,” he rubbed the back of his neck, sheepish, “Only a little. I took lessons when I was a child.”

“When you were a child? Not,” Antigone lowered her voice dramatically, “... a long time ago?”

“Ha! No.” Eric paused, tilting his head curiously, “I don't really say that so often, do I?”

“You do, actually. Jennifer says it makes you seem like a vampire,” Antigone said with a mock serious expression, “like you've just lived too long to be more specific.”

Eric laughed then, a real kind of laugh, kind of ugly, like Antigone hadn't heard from him before. “A vampire! I've never had anyone say that to me before!”

“I mean, obviously we've seen you when the sun's out, so it's not true.” Antigone leaned on the organ. “But Jennifer was so convinced of it.”

Eric hummed, then looked back down at his hands, still tinkering with the keys. “Oh, Antigone, I've been meaning to ask you…”

“Yes?” Antigone hoped she didn't sound as breathless as she felt.

“Do you know why Herbert stormed out that first day? He said something about Jesus Christ…?”

Superstar, yes.” Antigone nodded. “A few years back, they were putting it on, and the cast got a little drunk before the show, and well… The crucifixion was a little too realistic, I suppose. He was traumatised.”

Eric laughed again, loud and ugly; Antigone wanted to bottle that laugh and keep it for a bad day.

There was a beat of silence, and then Antigone went on, “We're doing well, I think? Or it's going better today?”

He nodded, “Yeah, definitely. The direction has helped, and we'll keep settling in the more we rehearse together. I can't wait to do these scenes with the cast—I think you're going to blow them away.”

Antigone flushed, heat creeping up the back of her neck. “Ohhhh, shut up, shut up, shut uuup! That's hardly true.”

Eric didn't disagree, but a wry smile sat on his face, making Antigone think that he wanted to. Still, he dropped it, and their conversation drifted away from the musical until Georgie called their attention again to run the graveyard scenes.

“Now, Antigone, like we talked about,” Georgie glanced over her notes before she went on. “You're torn between your feelings for Raoul and the Phantom, and you wish you could have your father's advice. This is wistful and longing. Eric, you're just trying to keep Christine on your side. You feel like you've already won her over, and you want her to stay there. Now, you head offstage, and we'll start with Antigone.”

Eric walked off to wait in the wings, and Antigone stood alone in the middle of the stage. “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” made her feel such a peculiar mixture of sadness and nostalgia for a relationship she never really had. Antigone hadn't been close to her parents, but she missed them anyway. And when she thought of Georgie’s relationship to her Gran, she understood a little better how Christine must feel in this moment—she hoped that would be enough to pull the song off correctly. It was lovely, and Antigone liked singing it. She wanted to do a good job in this role, dammit!

She tried to channel all those emotions into the song, and felt alright with her efforts. Georgie didn’t have too many notes for Antigone and Eric after they finished running the scene, and Antigone was left with the overall feeling that rehearsal had gone quite well. She had listened to Georgie, who wasn’t annoyed at her; she had talked to Eric, who she wasn’t annoyed with; and she had performed well. It was a good, satisfying sort of feeling, rather like when she had made the chocolates with Agatha Doyle—Antigone could look at this rehearsal and know she had done something.

Scene II: Prima Donna

Antigone had decided full cast rehearsals were exhausting. They could also be exhilarating, and it was wonderful to see everything coming together and everyone doing so well, but it was also a lot of sitting and waiting and worrying about her next scene, her next line. The end of the first act was going quite well, which was promising, because next week they would all be off book. Antigone waited backstage, watching as the rest of the cast worked on “Notes”. The Reverend was doing better, but he had a bad habit of wanting to make one of his typical declarations about uncertainty—“Gossip’s worth its weight in gold… unless it isn’t…”

Georgie sighed and cut the track off. “Reverend, you can’t add lines like that. There’s just not space in the song for it. Mayor, d’you think you can help keep the Reverend on track?” The reverend and the mayor smiled at each other a little goofily—months married and they were still in their honeymoon phase. It was sweet, even if Antigone found them a little too saccharine for the most part.

The mayor said, “I’ll do my best, Miss Crusoe.”

“Alright, let’s go again, then.” Georgie started “Notes” again, and they made it through quite well. Eric stood upstage on a platform, ominously declaring his desires for the next show and threatening what might happen if his wishes were not met. It was strange to hear someone who was so constantly affable sound so cold, cruel, but he did a good job.

Antigone held in a snort of laughter as Tanya as Carlotta angrily declared that the person who was sending the notes about Christine was, “the Viscount, her lover!” Roger Noggins was doing well enough as Raoul, and they had improved in their scenes together, but they still had absolutely no chemistry, which frustrated Georgie to no end.

The transition into “Prima Donna” went smoothly, and Antigone got ready to make her entrance. She was reluctant to prepare since she had such fun watching. Tanya did a fantastic job as Carlotta, and Bill, despite having no lines in the song, was an integral part of the blocking. His Piangi had the perfect amount of devoted support for the diva in her anger and her eventual acquiescence to the flattery of the theatre owners. The mayor and the reverend did a fantastic job of acting desperate to convince her to stay.

The next scene was one of Antigone’s favorites. She had almost no lines in the scene, and she was comfortable lurking silently. However, when they had first started rehearsing the scene, Georgie had said that she needed to have more presence. Since then, Antigone thought she’d gotten the hang of really engaging with Carlotta’s lines.  She also enjoyed this scene because she got to work directly with the hoodlums! They were a surprisingly competent ensemble of three. They did a very impressive job, along with Petunia Bloom, of filling all the background vocals and parts in the scene. The culminating event of the whole scene—in Antigone’s opinion at least—was the ballet that the hoodlums performed. It wasn’t actually a ballet, per se, but the dancing was quite good and fun to watch. 

Georgie hadn’t yet worked out what they could do to make Buquet’s body hang from the rafters, so for now there was no discernible reason as to why the ballet dissolved into chaos and Antigone escaped with Roger to the roof. Their whole scene was done off book, but everyone watching saw the same thing: Antigone’s frantic run to the roof was phenomenal, and Roger trying to keep up as he tried to understand her fear was spot on. But the whole performance of “All I Ask of You” fell flat—no one believed for a millisecond that these two were in love.

Georgie had changed the blocking for this scene so many times trying to help them, but it didn’t seem to matter what she did. Roger just couldn’t soften his gaze (“I’ve never bothered with love, Antigone, I’ve never really thought about it,” he had shrugged once) and Antigone had a hard time imagining that she found Roger appealing (“Of course I think you’re a fine person…” she had trailed off, and he had nodded). She had an even harder time finding the character of Raoul appealing. He just shows up and suddenly declares himself in love with Christine, while at the same time he dismisses her concerns and calls her experiences a dream? Antigone didn’t find that sort of person romantic at all—but Christine wanted to be saved, and Antigone had a hard time understanding that feeling too.

But they got through the scene, and then Eric sang his tragic reprise, and Georgie called a ten minute break before they ran through the first few scenes of the second act. “Masquerade” was quite wonderful—Jennifer, Georgie, and the hoodlums had worked out something fantastical with mirrors that made it seem as though they had many more people on stage than were actually in their cast, and it contributed quite nicely to the chaotic effect of the song. Antigone couldn’t wait for people to see it.

Scene III: All I Ask of You

Their first rehearsal off book was focusing heavily on the second act, because Georgie wanted to make sure they were all confident with it. “As long as we have a good beginnin’—which we will, because Baz and Roz and Wez are doin’ amazin’—and a real strong endin’, it’ll be fine if the middle is a little touch and go in places. Of course, I know you’ll all be amazin’, and I think having the ending down solidly will really help build your confidence.”

She said it so certainly that Antigone and the rest of the cast found themselves nodding along, ready to begin rehearsal. They took it slowly, with Georgie prompting anyone who misplaced a line, and restarting a few times when several people got off track. Even though they were doing well as a group, Antigone found herself growing more nervous. Without the safety of her libretto she realised just how much of the second act depended on her. They made it through the whole act, and then took a break to set up to run the first few scenes of the first act.

Antigone skulked her way to the back of the house, sitting in a dimly lit corner and hoping that no one would find her until the break was over and her entrance was actually approaching. She wasn’t in the prologue, so she thought they might not wonder after her for a while—Georgie had too many other things to think about, and Antigone had been dependable during rehearsals, so…

Antigone hummed the melody of “The Point of No Return”, thinking over her lines and maybe daydreaming just a little about—

“Hello.” Eric Chapman sat down next to her.

She nodded sharply once, but didn’t speak.

He peered at her curiously, “Antigone, are you alright?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well,” he paused, “You just seemed a little stressed up there.”

“Ohhh,” Antigone groaned, “Did I mess it up that badly?”

“No, no, no!” Eric grasped one of her hands with both of his, “You were wonderful, as always, I just noticed that your shoulders were tense. You haven’t been that way since the first week of rehearsal.”

Antigone looked down at their hands, then out at the empty house. “I suppose I’ve just realised how much of this show really depends on me—and you as well of course, but you’re bri—well you’ve done this before—and that’s a lot of pressure. You know, two years ago a lot of people on this island thought I was dead? And I still think a lot of them don’t like me very much. I don’t want to mess this up. And Georgie, and Jennifer, and everyone, are working so hard. I don’t want to let them down.”

Eric didn’t respond and Antigone was filled with sudden regret, “Sorry, sorry, sorry, I’ve said too much, you don’t have to worry about me, I’m sure you have—”

“Antigone,” Eric interrupted gently, squeezing her hand—oh god, he was still holding her hand—“I don’t want to play this part with anyone but you. You’re a wonderful Christine, and you’ve been doing so well.”

God, she hoped the dim lighting would conceal the blush she felt on her neck. “That’s… only because Georgie is a good director, and the rest of the cast is good. They all make me seem better—you especially, you’re so damn believable as the Phantom.”

Eric grinned, leaning in closer. “It’s so easy to be a good Phantom with you, though. I had the worst time on Broadway—the woman playing Christine was lovely, but the director kept saying we had no chemistry. We were both good individually, but together, the scenes fell flat. We had to put so much work in, it was ridiculous.”

Antigone huffed, “That seems hard to believe.”

“It’s true though. Really, Antigone…” Eric trailed off, looking back up at the stage. He squeezed her hand again, and then made as if to stand up. “I suppose I’ve taken up enough of your break, I’ll let you sit in peace.”

He let go of her hand, but Antigone held on just long enough to stop him. “You could stay. I’m just going to brood, but…”

Eric settled back into his seat, and they fell into a comfortable silence.