Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.
It is now less than a week until the celebrations for Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary are held at the Royal Albert Hall and by all accounts, it is going to be some event!
For those lucky enough to have got tickets to one of the concerts, the Hall's restaurants and bars are all accessible to those using a wheelchair or scooter. Tables can be booked from two hours before the start of a performance. If you do use a wheelchair or scooter, make sure you take advantage of the access booking line to reserve your table - 020 7070 4410. This line can also be used to book and enquire about disabled car parking. The Hall has a limited number of spaces on site reserved for disabled visitors. If travelling in from outside of London, please remember that the single and double yellow line rules differ from other parts of the country - please check the latest guidelines on the blue badge scheme website.
I have heard of a few problems with the onsite disabled parking at the Hall for Phantom 25 - people having made reservations for a space when they booked their concert tickets are now being told that the spaces are being used by other people! However, the Hall are offering spaces at a nearby car park to compensate for this at no charge. If you are affected however, the Hall should have contacted you by now.
The lifts inside the Hall are located near to Doors 1 and 8 (8 being the nearest to the disabled parking bays) and these service all levels of the Hall. For wheelchair spaces in the Hall:
"Fourteen wheelchair spaces with adjacent companion seats are situated in the Stalls at Ground floor level. We have a limited number of chairs that can be elevated which may be used by customers seated at the back of the Stalls platforms who are able to transfer from their wheelchair. If you are interested in this facility, please speak to a Steward on arrival.
There are also six wheelchair spaces in the Circle at sections P, R, V and X and four spaces within the unreserved standing area of the Gallery. Please note that due to the physical limitations of the circular shape of the auditorium, the spaces in the Circle are more suitable for customers with good upper body mobility."
If you are able to transfer, more seating options will be open to you and the Hall can store your chair or scooter throughout the performance. For most events at the Hall, including Phantom 25, a companion/carer can have access to a free ticket when accompanying a disabled guest. The number of companion seats is limited for each performance and is down to the organisers of each individual show there. For all access ticket enquiries, please call 020 7070 4410. For all other tickets, the Hall's box office number is 0845 401 5034.
The Hall also has a scheme called the Access List that enables those with disabilities to book tickets and make enquiries with a more efficient service. It works by registering your details for free with the hall - your access requirements, whether you are a blue badge holder, seating requirements etc. This allows the access box office line (020 7070 4410) to be able to deal with your call more efficiently, rather than having to go through all of your requirements every time. It also entitles you to the free companion/carer tickets (depending on availability).
Access London has been lucky enough to bring you an interview with a current or former cast member with each of our Phantom 25 posts and this post is no different. Today's interview is with the original London Carlotta, Rosemary Ashe. Access London would like to say a huge Thank You to Rosemary for taking the time to answer some questions...
AL: You joined Phantom as part of the original cast. Did you think at the time that it would go on to be one of the longest running and best-loved shows?
RA: When I was rehearsing the new production of 'Phantom' I had no idea it was going to be such a massive hit and run for years. I thought and hoped I would get a year's work out of it. It wasn't really until the press night, when we received a standing ovation, that I realised we were on to a winner. Up until that time you could still purchase tickets quite easily, then the box office went mad, and the rest is history!
AL: In your opinion, why do you think that people love the show so much and come back to see it time and again?
RA: It's such a good story and a brilliant production. The music is very memorable and the whole experience of watching the show is magical and provides escapism
AL: Have you been back to see the show since you left it? If yes, has it changed much since it originally opened?
RA: I've seen the show a few times since I left, as various friends have gone into it. It hasn't really changed that much, although the last time I saw it, there was less humour than before.
AL: Carlotta is such a deliciously extrovert and diva character, what did you enjoy most about playing her?
RA: I loved playing Carlotta because not only is she a wonderfully extrovert character, but she has to sing incredibly difficult music (some of that is MY fault as I was allowed to give my input with the top notes and show off)! Many people just talk about the singing but it's a real acting part too. My favourite combination. Also, having previously done a lot of opera, it was the ideal role for me, to play an opera singer in a musical.
AL: The designs for the production are magnificent. Did you have a favourite costume in the show?
RA: I loved Carlotta's second act costume, the red dress with an ermine stole (originally they used real fur, then had to dye it down as the white of the ermine was too bright! Think they use fake fur these days!). That costume was made after the opening and I didn't get it until several months into the run.
AL: What was your favourite song or scene to perform in Phantom?
RA: 'Prima Donna' because it's so brilliantly written and is a fantastic ensemble number, very operatic in form.
AL: Phantom is full of special effects and technical surprises. Do you have a tale to tell of any mishap during a performance?
RA: There was a performance when the chandelier didn't fly out. I was so busy preparing for my opening cadenza I didn't know until I got on stage. Apparently the stage manager had been gesturing to me from the wings not to go on stage, but I was oblivious. I walked on, singing, carried on until the end, at the same time walking around the chandelier on the floor. When I finished, the stage manager came on stage and stopped the show. So I had to go off while they sorted it! It was all to do with the air conditioning being installed in the theater apparently, someone hadn't switched a simple switch back on. So it didn't take too long to sort out. Then I had to come back on and sing the cadenza again. The audience went wild. It was a matinee day too!
AL: From an Access point of view, Her Majesty's Theatre has made some great efforts to make itself accessible to as many as possible. But, what is it like as a theatre to perform in?
RA: It's a lovely theatre to perform in; in fact I sang there quite recently in a gala concert. It feels very intimate.
AL: Finally, do you have a Birthday Message for Phantom and its fans?
RA: It's incredible that Phantom has reached it's 25th birthday. I am so proud to have been a part of its inception. I have a feeling it will be around for at least another 25 years, and I look forward to being at the 50th celebration!!
Once again, a huge Thank You to Rosemary for taking part. Rosemary will be performing in the 25th Anniversary Concerts this coming weekend. To keep up to date with all of her news, buy cds and watch videos or her perform SEE HER WEBSITE
To see the full cast list for Phantom 25 CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE
COMING SOON: More from Phantom 25 and Interviews (right through the October anniversary month), Priscilla, The Globe Tour and Exhibition, Billy Elliot.