When I was a teenager, I loved the musical The Phantom of the Opera. I identified with the innocent and talented young woman torn between her love for her angel of music – a tormented bad boy with (literally) mad decorating skills – and the handsome nobleman who had loved her since they were children. Romantic, right?

So when my editor challenged me to write a steampunk Phantom of the Opera, I accepted with glee. For research, I read the original novel by Gaston Leroux and dusted off my old two-CD Broadway recording. I settled in with some egg nog (it was December) and a notepad and promptly remembered I was no longer sixteen. Here are my notes for Act One:

Prologue:
“Will you still play when all the rest of us are dead?” – Yeesh, Vicomte. No spoilers!

Cue the organ! I’ve played those chords. They’re serious business and make you use all your fingers. It’s in the key of D Major, if anyone’s curious.

End of Overture: wow, that’s some oversinging by Carlotta. That would be a fun part to play, that of the prima donna bitch. When I was a teenager, I of course wanted to be Christine, but playing Carlotta would be more fun. If I could sing like that, which I can’t.

The next time my office lights flicker, I’m going to start singing, “He’s there, the Phantom of the Opera!” My admin might look at me funny, though.

Hey, someone with a French accent! Oh, right, this is set in France.

Ooh, “Think of Me.” Singalong time!

The cats are looking at me funny.

“We never said our love was evergreen… Don’t think of the things that might have been.” Well, that’s depressing. Oh, right, it’s opera.

Enter Raoul, the hero: “You’re not the gawkish girl that once you were.” Meaning she has boobs now?

The cats are really looking at me funny. Guess I’ll stop singing.

Meg – jealous much? No, concerned that her friend is hallucinating. It seems like a valid concern.

I wonder if exaggerated vibrato is a symptom of nineteenth century neurosis.

And the anti-hero uses the heroine’s father’s story to teach her and then trick her into following him to his dark lair. This is getting creepy and strange. How did he know? He must have been stalking her for a really long time.

I wanted to be part of the musical orchestra that played Phantom. It sounds like it would be so much fun!

“…for now I find the Phantom of the Opera is there inside my mind.” So he’s not an angel anymore? That’s a good deduction, but you should really be more freaked out.

“Sing for me.” Um, dude, she is.

“For one purpose and one alone.” In your pants? Oh, right, your music. Sure, that’s really why you’ve kidnapped her. Bet you’ve got a big ol’ G clef waiting right there for her.

“Music of the Night” – more fun to play on the piano than to listen to

“Let your mind start a journey to a strange new world…let your soul take you where you want to be!” (in my pants)

Sweet intoxication? Did he drug her?

He’s trying to drug her with his music. Right, that’s gonna work. Worst pickup line ever.

“You alone can make my song take flight!” (in my pants)

(borrowed from a meme) He’s banging on the organ, and the music box monkey thing wakes her up?

“Whose was that face in the mask?” She’s hoping for Raoul, probably.

Phantom: I’m going to scream at you and then get all pitiful and try to guilt trip you into not being mad at me. And then I’m going to un-kidnap you and insult your bosses. Abusive relationship alert!

Notes: Firmin and Andre get messages from the phantom, who wants a salary although he doesn’t do anything to add value to the theatre. Maybe if he were to be more ghostly and less murder-y they’d be able to make some money off him with tours.

Hubby just informed me that if I’m going to play PTO, he’s hitting the booze. And if it’s the Michael Crawford version, he’s drinking extra.

Heh, they think Christine has been “burning the midnight oil.” Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Wondering when the Phantom had time to write and deliver all these notes. It’s not like he had a busy night kidnapping and singing to sopranos.

Also, potentially related – I’m going to insist on a libretto rule for all conference calls from now on. I’ll take the part of grumpy mezzo soprano.

Don’t they have, y’know, a boy to play the page boy, especially since it’s a silent part?

Carlotta is doing some pretty impressive vocal gymnastics. I think I’d prefer her as Christine rather than the wibbly wobbly vibrato of Sarah Brightman.

“Señora, no, the world wants you” – and you have an expensive contract, so we want to get our money’s worth

You’d think that one of the theatre’s main patrons would have his own designated seat or box or find a seat in a box with one of his noble friends. Oh, right, he’s going to take on the Phantom.

This sounds like the dumbest ballet ever. It needed the corpse.

At this point, the phantom’s actions make no logical sense. What is his motivation? To get them to cooperate with him to produce his strange opera? Killing their stage manager isn’t going to make him any friends. Oh, right, he’s a psychopath. He doesn’t care about building and maintaining good professional relationships.

“No more talk of darkness, forget these wide-eyed fears…” Well, that’s rather invalidating. The phantom just killed someone, after all. Oh, wait, Raoul wants to get in her pants. Er, skirt.

“Let daylight dry your tears.” But it’s night time.

Christine seems very easily influenced by the men in her life, and Raoul is overestimating his ability to protect her.

Cue the Phantom – “…denied me and betrayed me…” Because kidnapping her should make her totally loyal to you.

What Phantom taught a generation of theatre and opera goers – don’t ever sit under the light fixtures. I still look up when I enter a performance space.
I will admit to being a little snarky for the sake of the internet, but I really do enjoy this musical. It’s just interesting how I’m picking up on things now that I didn’t then. I’ll do notes for Act Two, which I will likely post on my blog once I get more alcohol for Hubby first.

Oh, and if you’re interested in reading my steampunk take on Phantom of the Opera, Light Fantastique is available now for 99 cents for a limited time

Everyone wears a mask. But the deadliest secrets hide in plain sight.

Marie St. Jean’s supreme acting talent comes with a price: Every spellbinding performance extracts a piece of her soul. When she reluctantly steps into a role abandoned by another leading lady, she encounters the reason the other woman fled in terror—a ghostly spirit who promises to fix her affliction.

Violinist Johann Bledsoe pulls her heart in a direction she dares not go, but with the Prussians surrounding Paris, she is well and truly trapped.

Johann thought he’s left disgrace and his gambling debt behind in England, but a murder outside the Théâtre Bohème makes him fear he’s been exposed. Though his heart resonates for the ravishing daughter of Madame St. Jean, he knows that once the siege is over, he’ll have to keep running.

Under the baleful eye of steam-powered ravens, more murders drive Marie and Johann closer to the truth of what really lurks below the stage, and what dangers hang over their heads. Their only hope could lie in exposing their darkest secrets—and surrendering to the Eros Element in a way that could push them irretrievably close to the edge of madness.

Warning: Main ingredients include copious amounts of wine and decadent desserts. And drama. Mon dieu, lots of drama. May result in the uncontrollable urge to applaud even if you’re reading this in a public place.

Grab your copy today – don’t worry, I won’t make you sing.