A man so interesting, so entertaining and imaginative, that I found it impossible to write a stage adaptation of Phantom without including Leroux as a main character. In our new musical production at the Players Theatre in NYC Gaston Leroux is the narrator. Then man who spins the tale in front of the audiences eyes, inviting them to open their imaginations and join him on a thrilling journey backstage at the Opera d’ Paris!
One of the reasons Leroux’s writing is so compelling is that he draws on his background as an investigative reporter. His stories are steeped in facts – or near facts – or at least they are flavored with the facts. For instance – everyone knows about the scene in the book when the Phantom causes the great chandelier in the Paris Opera House to come crashing down on the audience. People often ask if this is true. So when I chased the Phantom in Paris I made sure to get the answer. Well, the whole truth is that the chandelier never actually crashed on the audience BUT, one night one of its cables inexplicably snapped and killed a woman in the balcony. Leroux reported on this incident and I imagine he embellished the story in his mind and tucked it away for future use - the inspiration for the legendary scene in his novel and all the movies and stage adaptations that followed.
But these “facts” are found in every corner of the novel. For instance, when the opera managers are tricked by the Opera Ghost, and find play money in place of their 20,000 francs, Richard remarks that it is better than anything Robert Houdin could do. I often wondered who Robert Houdin was and it turns out that he did exist, he was a French magician widely considered to be the father of the modern style of conjuring. I imagine Leroux found a great deal of inspiration from Houdin’s life and works.
Leroux’s fascination with the facts certainly helped me on my trip to Paris. His detailed descriptions of locations and events in the Phantom made it possible for me to track them down – but in true mystery writer style – it was not easy – he made me work for it and I enjoyed every stone I had to turn!
Until next time – Be Bold!