Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.
As many of you will know, Access London has been running a series of posts over the last few weeks for Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary. The celebrations this weekend at the Royal Albert Hall will be the musical event of the year and we've been using the opportunity to promote the Access to both the Hall and to Phantom's London home, Her Majesty's Theatre.
This is the final post before the celebrations begin tomorrow, however, the posts will continue to run throughout the anniversary month and we've lots more fabulous interviews to bring you also.
I mentioned in the last Phantom 25 post that the Royal Albert Hall's disabled parking arrangements had been experiencing some difficulties for this weekend's celebrations. It appears that with the amount of set and equipment being brought in to stage the event, extra parking is needed on site. Obviously this isn't ideal for those who initially booked disabled parking bays at the Hall but I guess we will reap the benefits from what looks to be some spectacular sets once inside. The Hall have been providing people who were booked into these spaces with a free parking permit for another car park nearby. If you did have a space booked at the Hall but haven't heard anything about this I urge you to contact them to check what the arrangements may be for you on 020 7070 4410. Also note that it appears the alternative car park can only be accessed from 6pm so you may need to keep this in mind if you had a table booked at the hall for a pre-show dinner.
Many of you have sent in messages to say that you have signed up for the Hall's Access List since reading the posts. This is becoming quite a common feature in many arts venues in London now (Royal Opera House, The Barbican, London Coliseum, Royal Festival Hall...) and is especially helpful if you are thinking about watching future events at the Hall. The people on the dedicated Access booking line are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about where the best seats are to suit your individual needs once you have signed up to the List, so again, if you haven't already done so, it is well worth it! To sign up to Royal Albert Hall's Access List, call: 020 7070 4410.
If you are a wheelchair or scooter user, when arriving at the Hall, there is ramped access to doors 1, 3, 8, 9 and 12. Once inside, there are lifts to all levels (Basement-Gallery) near doors 1 and 8.
Wheelchair and Access Seating:
"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 do have tickets to one of the performances this weekend....have a 'Phantastic' time! If not, then don't forget, the Sunday evening performance is being screened to cinemas around the world and of course you can buy the DVD and new recording from November (UK). Our Phantom 25 posts throughout October will focus on Her Majesty's Access and we'll also have lots more interviews, including some from the current London cast. To book Access tickets to see the show at Her Majesty's Theatre, call: 0844 412 4648.
Today's Phantom 25 interview is with former Christine, the fabulous Gina Beck. Access London would like to take this opportunity to say a Huge Thank You to Gina for taking the time to answer some questions and support disabled access to the arts.
AL: The show and story of The Phantom are so well loved, why do you believe it is so successful?
GB: It's because the character of the Phantom is so complex, and also the relationship between the three central characters. The love triangle creates a gripping tension within the piece all heightened by the dark and dangerous setting of the Opera House.
AL: The designs for the show are spectacular and the costumes beautiful - did you have a favourite costume and set?
GB: The design is absolutely astonishing and it's always been a great sadness that I never got to meet Maria Bjornson the designer. The set for the lair with all the candles is truly breathtaking when it appears and I felt little need to act Christine's amazement as the boat entered the lair every night.
AL: You sang as Christine at Andrew Lloyd Webber's 60th birthday concert in Hyde Park, what was that experience like?
GB: It was unreal, I had opened in the show the Monday before the concert and had performed the show only 6 times. In hindsight I wish I'd had a little more experience as I'm sure I would've enjoyed it more and not simply been petrified!
AL: As far as disabled access goes, Her Majesty's works very well and they have made many efforts there to make it accessible to all. But, as an actress, what is it like as a theatre to perform in?
GB: Oh it's a lovely theatre, perfect setting for the show, I mean it's been there for 25 years so the building and the show are truly bonded now. What a lot of people don't know is that at the top of the theatre is a large room called 'The Dome' which we use for rehearsals and that other people can hire out. It has massive dark wood doors and medieval looking chandeliers inside!
AL: Which was your favourite song/scene to perform in the show?
GB: I did enjoy the journey to the lair.. Who doesn't want to ride on a boat into a room filled with candles?!
AL: Phantom is set in the Paris Opera House. You had the opportunity to perform 'All I Ask Of You' there on the Grand Staircase - what was that like and was it as beautiful as the sets on the show make it?
GB: The Opera Garnier was stunning, I went back to Paris later and was able to do a tour of the building which is very interesting. The auditorium is massive and it was great to get the scope of just how daunting that would have been to Christine on her first night. Filming there was fun but unfortunately something went wrong with Simon's earpiece so he couldn't hear the backing track. I'm sure you'll agree he did suprisingly well considering!
AL: During the final lair scene, the audience sees a much more vulnerable side to The Phantom. How would you describe Christine's character and emotions in that scene?
GB: Well Christine actually comes into her own in this scene, she is scared but she doesn't crumble, she gets angry with the Phantom rather than cowering and then realises what it is that might make him see reason and gives herself to him. After he frees Raoul she has nothing but pity for him and his plight.
AL: If you could perform the role of Christine anywhere in the world, where would it be?
GB: Well I'd love to perform it in Las Vegas because the sets and special effects are all majorly Vegas-ed up! It would be fun to experience the show there.
AL: Having played two of the most recognisable female roles in MT (Christine & Cosette), if you could play any other role, what would it be?
GB: Well as you know I've been lucky enough to secure the role of Glinda in Wicked taking over in December so I would have said that, but I'd also love to play Mary Poppins and Eliza Doolittle. After playing Maria in The Sound of Music earlier this year I've got a taste for the Julie Andrews repertoire!
AL: Lastly, do you have any Birthday Message for Phantom and its fans?
GB: Yes, thank you to all the fans of Phantom who have been so kind to me over the years. I hope you enjoy the celebrations which I'm sad to be unable to take part in, but I'm sure will be spectacular. Here's to another 25 years.
Once again, a huge Thank You to Gina for taking part and for her amazing support for Access London.
Gina will be joining the cast of Wicked from December 12 2011 to play Glinda so make sure you book your tickets to go and see her in Oz!
Gina will also be performing at 'A Night for Jen' a gala charity concert at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue on 31st October 2011 alongside a line up of over 50West End performers - this promises to be a fabulous, entertaining night out and all for charity.
To keep up with all of Gina's news VISIT HER WEBSITE
You can also Follow Gina on Twitter @Gina_Beck
Photographs of Gina Copyright to Catherine Ashmore, Chris Brown
COMING NEXT: Priscilla & Cast Interview
COMING SOON: More from Phantom 25 & Interviews incl Sofia Escobar, Rebecca Caine, Scott Davies and more...
The Globe Tours & Exhibition, The London Coliseum, Dreamboats & Petticoats.