The Phantom of the Orchestra
or, the Dark Side of the Symphony
by Justin Locke
[The stage is in a standard orchestral set-up, although there is a little more space between the orchestra and the edge of the stage to allow the characters to move about. It is suggested that most of the dramatic scenes take place downstage right. It is helpful if the percussion section can be close to downstage right. Harp should be placed "outside" so audience can see it. There should also be a staircase of sorts to allow movement between the audience area and the stage. There are stand lights for the orchestra. Note: these are suggestions only, and should not be considered as a prohibition to a different approach to staging.]
[House lights to half; Enter NARRATOR.]
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, both those young in years and those young at heart. Today we are going to tell you a story about an orchestra. Now before we begin I just want to explain a few things. This story, as you probably already know, is called "The Phantom of the Orchestra." Now as the title implies, there will be, in a few minutes, a phantom lurking about on the stage. But I can tell you from personal experience that he is quite harmless and you have no reason to be afraid of him, even though he does wear a mask and a long black cape. Now: since this is a story about an orchestra, it wouldn't be much of a story if that orchestra didn't have an audience. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough room to hire a professional audience and still have any room left over for you, and, what with funding cutbacks and all, we decided to split the difference and call upon all of you to play the audience in the story. So before the show begins I thought it might be a good idea
for us to have you rehearse your part so you'll be sure to do a good job in helping me to tell the story. NOW . . . Your part is really quite simple, you just do what I tell you. For example, if I say, "and the audience burst into thunderous applause . . . " [gestures to audience] Well, that was more polite than
thunderous. Let's try this again. "And the audience [not yet!] burst into . . . thunderous applause!" [ad lib, etc.] Well, that was much better. Now: in another part of the story I might say . . . And the audience booed and hissed very loudly! [gestures] Well, that wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly inspired, either, now was it? Let's try it again. Ahem. "And the audience booed and hissed so loudly the music was completely drowned out!" That's very good. Now don't wear it out,
save it for the performance. I have no doubt but that you will give yourselves a standing ovation. And now I shall tell you the story of "The Phantom of the Orchestra."
Once upon a time, there was a big concert hall, very much like this one-- in fact, it looked exactly like this one. It stood empty and silent for many, many years. Some people said the concert hall was haunted by some sort of fiendish ghost, but of course, everyone knows that can't be. Anyway, one day, a new orchestra moved into the old concert hall. [Orch tunes.] There was lots of excitement. Everyone had come to hear the beautiful music, and no one remembered anything about the concert hall being haunted.
[House to black, stage lights full; CONDUCTOR enters, bows.]
The conductor entered and was received by the audience with thunderous applause . . . And they began to play the concert, not knowing that somewhere . . . in the shadows . . . someone . . . or some thing . . . was watching.
[Immediate segue to music]
[Music cues 1, 2, 3 & 4 are played as one, with pauses for applause:]
[Music CUE #1: Swan Lake, Finale Act II. Toward the end, stage to low or black. Spot (or backlight) fades up on Phantom (dressed in classic Phantom of the Opera garb & mask), in cloud of fog. End Music.]
[Music cue #2: Phantom recit]
I hate music!
Night and day, day and night my ears are assaulted by the sounds of this orchestra!
Playing their Overtures . . .
And their Symphonies . . .
And their TONE POEMS . . .
I haven't slept in weeks!!!
I must formulate a plan. Gridley! Come here! I need you!
[Music cue #3: Harp music for Gridley Entrance. Enter Gridley, a miniature Phantom.]
Gridley, an orchestra has moved an upstairs. Do you have any idea what this means? Do you even know what orchestra is?
[Gridley shakes her head "no."]
[Instrument Demo, Music cue #4:]
Well let me tell you. First, it starts with a string players. They've got these funny little wooden boxes with metal strings stretched across the tops of them.
Sometimes they pick them with their fingers... they call this "pizzicato."
[Music here-- all strings in fast pizzicato-- Phantom acts like he has an itch in response]
It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.
But that's not the worst of it. Then they take out these long wooden sticks with horse hair strung across them, and when they draw these "bows" across the string, it makes this horrible sound . . .
Gridley, it would be bad enough if we just had a string orchestra. But we've got something much worse than that. We have a SYMPHONY Orchestra.
That means there are also a bunch of woodwinds . . .
And it doesn't stop there. It gets worse. They have an entire brass section!
You would think that would be enough noise for anyone! But NO! It gets worse than that! There's the percussion section! They have nothing better to do than to wake me up by taking little sticks and beating on everything in sight.
Then, of course there's the harp...
[harp alone in gentle glissando]
Hummmm . . . well, that's not so bad. But the rest of them! Individually they are bad enough, but when you put them all together,
it sounds like this!
[Big orchestral fanfare] [Phantom puts fingers in ears]
Gridley! I can't sleep with that orchestra making so much racket! We must . . . get rid of them. But what to do? What to do?
[Music Cue #5: Phantom's First Aria
from Marriage of Figaro: "Se Vuol Ballare"]
Faced with a problem, one should not ponder
Whether of them or yourself you are fonder
I'm at the point where enough is enough.
Frankly I find this artistic expressing
Very distressing Time to get tough!
The question now is / Just how to do it
These things must be done / Delicately
Something that's certain / Something with which we'd
Bring down the curtain!
Something pernicious / And quite malicious
That's what I need.
But how, But how, but how, but how but how
I got it, I got it, I got it, I got it, I got it . . . [laughs]
I am so brilliant / This is so simple
It cannot fail
If they play badly / That's their undoing
For very sadly, / Hissing and booing
Comes from the audience
Yes, they will boo,
They'll hiss and boo
Soon, things will go wrong / Wrong notes and mistakes
Then we'll see how long / Just how long it takes
For all the audience to stay far away
They will be staying far away in droves!
All of the audience will stay far away
Away in droves away in droves
Without the audience they cannot function
This I will do without any compunction
I need my sleep so I simply don't care
And with the symphony's audience decreasing
They will be ceasing / Then I can sleep!
[End aria; NARR holds up "applause" sign. Exit Phantom and Gridley.]
[Music Cue #6: Detective underscore]
[In spotlight, enter Shamrock Jones, a detective. Making great use of a large magnifying glass, he examines the audience, the proscenium, the musicians, etc.]
Uh HUH. Uh HUH.... [etc., Ad lib]
[Manager enters. Suggested: Jones crouches down to examine floor, comes up to Manager's feet, slowly examines up Manager's body until their eyes meet, at which point JONES screams in fright and jumps away, punctuate with cymbals or other percussion SFX]
Inspector Jones, Inspector Jones, at last you are here! I'm so glad you have come.
Thank you. And you are . . . ?
I am Mr. Phipps. I am the one who called you. I am the manager of the orchestra. And I need your help desperately!
I see. So, Mr. . . . Mr. . . . .
Phipps. Well, you need not worry. I think I have already solved your problem.
But I haven't told you what it is yet.
No matter. In my line of work Mr. . . . Mr. . . .
. . . Phipps, in my line of work it is essential to notice things that go unnoticed by the casual observer. My exceptional powers of
observation and logic have already told me everything. For example, don't look now, but, strange though it may seem, there are large number of people seated directly behind us with musical instruments on their laps.
That's the orchestra!
Oh. I see. Well that's not all. There are also quite a large number of people seated in this area . . .
That's the audience!
I see. Well now that we have that all figured out, is there anything else I can do for you?
Yes there is. You see, the orchestra just isn’t sounding right lately. In fact, sometimes the music just sounds . . . BAD.
Mr Phipps, that's not a crime. If bad music were a crime, the prisons would be filled with bag pipers, accordion players, and rap artists.
But the prisons ARE filled with rap artists.
Hmmmm . . . Ya know, that's true . . . [ALT: say nothing, give quizzical look, react to laughter]
Inspector Jones, you may think I'm crazy, but I think this concert hall is . . . HAUNTED.
Oh yes, I've heard those old fairy tales . . . something about a . . . Phantom? And some rumor that the last orchestra that played here came to a rather bad end?
YES. Exactly. And I'm afraid the same thing might happen to us.
Oh come now, Mr. . . .
. . . Phipps . . . Surely you don't believe in a lot of hocus pocus and boogey men.
Well SOMETHING very strange is going on here, and we are in desperate need of someone with exceptional talent, skill and crime-solving experience to solve this problem.
So who did you have in mind? OH! Yes, of course, certainly . . .
And so, Shamrock Jones, the famous detective, began his investigation into the strange happenings at the concert hall. He began by attending a rehearsal for the next day's performance.
[Lights up on orchestra; they are tuning, in rehearsal.]
I suggest we start from the very beginning. Who is that person standing on that little box?
That is Maestro [Name].
I see. And which instrument does he play?
He doesn't play an instrument.
He doesn't play an instrument? Well then just what exactly does he do?
Well, he uh . . . He sort of waves his arms around.
Waves his arms around? Well, isn't it obvious? How do expect the musicians to do their jobs with someone constantly distracting them
with a lot of arm waving? I shall simply place him under arrest and your problems will be solved.
No, no, no. Maestro [Name] is the Conductor.
The Conductor? What's that?
He tells the orchestra when to start playing and when to start and stop playing, and he sets the tempos.
I see. All right then, let's hear something.
Why don't you listen to something from tomorrow night's concert? This is the "Air" from the 3rd Orchestral Suite of Bach. [Music Cue #5: Air from 3rd Orchestral Suite of Bach.]
[Orch plays Cue #7, Bach Air; Jones moves about, inspecting as they do so. Music ends, applause.]
[Begin scene change for "Gridley Conducts" in darkness behind actors.]
[Shrugs] Sounds OK to me.
Of course. The rehearsals are always all right. It's the concerts where everything goes haywire.
Not to worry. Shamrock Jones is on the job.
And so, the great Shamrock Jones continued his investigation of the strange happenings at the concert hall. But that night, unbeknownst to everyone, a mysterious figure appeared on the stage of the concert hall. [Music Cue #8: "GRIDLEY CONDUCTS."]
[NOTE: While this scene is an important part of Gridley's character development, it is an optional segment. It does help to cover the costume change, but if your program MUST be 60 minutes or less, cutting this segment is reluctantly recommended to save time.]
[Gridley enters, pantomiming to incidental music. She sees a sign: "Conductor's Baton/ DO NOT TOUCH." After a brief struggle with temptation, she picks up the baton and conducts three segments, laughing after the first two (trumpet plays laughter). While dancing about to the 3rd segment (16 bars of "Can-Can"), she trips and falls on the last bar (on or off stage); (Orchestra punctuates with SFX of quick crash). She discovers the baton is now broken; puts fingers to mouth, bassoon plays "UH-oh." She waves baton again. Principal bass makes ugly noises to follow her motions. She shrugs her shoulders, returns baton to its stand, begins to creep out.]
[To Music Cue #9: Underscore Phantom Entrance. Swan Lake Act II Opening (Fade at appropriate moment)]
[Enter Phantom and Gridley. There is a chalkboard (or equivalent) nearby.]
Airs. Minuets. Gavottes. It never ends. Why can't I have some peace and quiet?? And if that weren't bad enough, now that detective is snooping around here at all hours of the day and night. That's it. I've had it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Time to get serious. Gridley? Gridley? Come here, I want to explain something to you.
[Phantom picks up sheet music]
Hmmm . . . Gridley, did you ever wonder how it is that people in the orchestra know when to play?
[Gridley shakes head "no." Phantom looks disapprovingly, she quickly changes to nodding "yes."]
I'm glad you asked me that question. On the music stand in front of him, each musician has his part--it's just a piece of paper-- Each part has these lines on it-- called a staff. And on that staff . . . Are these accursed little black dots, and those are the notes! [Draws on chalkboard, or uses other visual aid] But every instrument has different notes to play-- for example, the violins have lots of notes. But by comparison, this percussion part-- is rather barren and plain and uninteresting. That hardly seems fair! This gives me an idea!
[Licks pencil tip, starts to write, with much intense anger punching each word:]
So they're going to keep me awake with their infernal noise making! We'll just give them a taste of their own medicine, when they least expect it! I think a few extra notes [begin exit music*] . . . are just what the doctor ordered!!! [puts percussion part back on stand, blackout, maniacal laughter, exit Phantom and Gridley]
[*Music Cue #10: Last 11 bars of Swan Lake Act II Opening]
And so, the time for the concert arrived. The conductor made his entrance and bowed to the audience's thunderous applause. The orchestra then began to play the piece they had rehearsed, the Air from the 3rd Orchestral Suite of Bach . . . little knowing the danger that lay before them.
[Music Cue #11: Bach Air with Dixieland. Stage action follows narration]
At first, everything sounded just fine . . . so the orchestra played and played until [ad lib to fill time as needed: "the end of the 'A' section, where . . . "]
[At repeat, various players jump in with a dixieland version]
[After Dixieland (strings continue with Bach Air):]
At first, the audience wasn't sure what to think. But then the people who liked the Bach decided they didn't like the extra notes. And the people who liked the dixieland were upset that it had stopped. So as a group they began to boo and hiss so loudly that the Conductor had to stop the concert. [Stop music]
[Lights up on Jones and Manager.]
You see? That's the sort of thing that has been going on. Concerts ruined. The crowds booing us off the stage. It's terrible. If this keeps up we'll have to disband.
All right then. I think I may have the answer. Bring the percussionist in here.
[Enter perc, with cymbals and a piece of sheet music. MANAGER takes sheet music.]
Are you the one who played all those extra wrong loud notes during the concert?
[Perc pantomimes extreme agitation, protestation of innocence. Note, TRUMPET should play muted wa-wa notes to take place of PERC actually speaking.]
The percussionist assented that he was.
And why did you do it?
[Perc pantomimes considerable agitation.]
The percussionist explained that he was simply playing the notes that were in the percussion "part." [Plays cymbals, surprises Jones]
That's it. He's the one. Take him away.
But how can you be sure?
Quite obvious, Mr . . . Mr. . . .
. . . Phipps. [Uses magnifying glass] Note the close-set eyes . . . the flawed attempt at respectable dress . . . the mediocre effort to remove the dirt from under the nails . . . [ad lib description specific to that Percussionist] . . . his
appearance is obviously that of the classic criminal type.
But Inspector Jones . . . He's a percussionist. They ALL look that. [EXIT PERC] It's not my place to suggest, but, don't you think it's possible that this is the work of THE PHANTOM?
[Cue #12: Orch plays 1-3 bars of Phantom Theme]
Stop that. Stop that. [end music]
Again with the Phantom. Mr Phipps, you have phantoms on the brain.
Yes, But Inspector, I happened to notice, I mean, I'm not a great detective like you, but this percussion part . . it seems to have extra notes written in it . . . If I could just borrow your magnifying glass . . .
[Hold Magnifying glass away protectively] Please. This is a super deluxe professional detective magnifying glass. Let me take a look. [takes sheet music] uh huh uh huh . . . how very interesting. You know, these wrong notes written in here are the same wrong notes that were played in the concert.
Do you mean ?
Could it be perhaps . . .?
[Cue #13: ORCH plays one-3 bars of "Phantom" theme, stops in response to JONES]
[To Orch:] Stop that. Stop it! Phantoms. Phantoms, indeed. Mr. Phipps, this really isn't much of a clue. It could have been done by anyone. But don't worry. This problem is easily solved. We'll just lock up the music after each rehearsal. Fear not. Shamrock Jones is on the job!
And so, their confidence renewed by the presence of the great Shamrock Jones, the orchestra rehearsed for their next concert. The next concert featured the concertmaster playing a solo on his/her violin, called "Meditation" from the Opera "Thais" by Massenet.
[Music CUE #14: "Meditation" from "Thais". Jones walks around with magnifying glass. Manager is not in this scene. Music Ends.]
And so, the rehearsal ended, and everyone passed in their music, for safekeeping by the great Shamrock Jones.
[Orch passes up pieces of paper; Jones ad lib's instructions to pass in music, wads it up carelessly, exits)]
[Music CUE #15: Swan Lake Act II (played as underscore). Enter Phantom and Gridley. There is a chair with a violin case (with
"prop" violin inside)]
So they think they can save themselves by locking up the music? HAH! Tell me Gridley, is there anyone in the world more clever than myself?
[Gridley shakes head "yes" then "no" after reproving glance from Phantom.]
That's right. And I'm just getting warmed up. Tell me, Gridley, do you know what this is? [Holds up violin. Gridley shakes head "no".] It's a violin. The concertmaster's violin, to be exact. Interesting things, these violins. They have four strings, which run up from the tailpiece over the bridge to the pegbox, where they wrap around these little pegs. By turning these little pegs, you adjust the tension on the strings, and that's how you tune a violin. Remarkable things, these little pegs. They're held in place by tension. It's important not to get [pulls out oil can] any grease or oil in there, because if you did . . . like this . . . [squirts oil into pegbox of violin] those little pegs might . . . slip!! and then . . . it might go out of tune!!! And that might not sound so good, would it? Of course, that would never happen . . . Hee hee hee! Wait 'til you hear this!!
[*Music CUE #16: Last 11 bars of Swan Lake Act II Opening]
[Blackout/ Exit Phantom and Gridley.]
And so, the orchestra began yet another concert, certain this time that no unexpected disasters would befall them. As the conductor and concertmaster came out to perform they were greeted with thunderous applause.
[Lights up on orchestra, conductor and concertmaster enter.]
[Music CUE #17: Thais Meditation. Eventually, soloist plays more and more out of tune, with sour downward glissandos at ends of phrases.]
[Wait for "out of tune" notes to establish, then] At first, the audience listened very quietly, thinking that they were being treated to a performance of a daring new contemporary work. But after a quick look at the program, they realized that the concertmaster was just PLAYING OUT OF TUNE! They started to boo and hiss and shuffle their feet, until the conductor had to stop
the orchestra, and, with the concertmaster, walk off the stage in disgrace.
[Lights up on area in front. Enter Jones and Manager]
Never, never, in all my years, have I ever heard someone play so out of tune! Inspector, if it isn't a phantom doing these terrible things, what else could it be?
Well, Mr. . . . Mr . . .
. . . Phipps, by using my extraordinary powers of observation, deductive reasoning and logic I have managed to narrow down our list of suspects. In the woodwinds, we can eliminate the oboes and the bassoons-- they're too busy making reeds. The clarinets seem to be
practicing every spare moment, that leaves them out. That leaves the flutes . . . But since the flute players make extra money just for playing piccolo every time you play "Stars and Stripes Forever" it seems unlikely they would want to ruin the orchestra . . .
Well, who else is there?
The percussionists . . . But they all seem to be too busy with their other more profitable business concerns to have the time . . .
What about the brass players?
Yes, I considered that possibility. But it turns out they are all engaged in a perpetual card game in the downstairs lounge.
What about the harp?
AH-- the harp . . . Quite possible, until I discovered that she has to constantly tune the harp, if she were step away from it even for a moment we would all notice. That leaves the strings. It could be any one of them . . . And you heard how out of tune that concertmaster played last night.
Yes, but I don't think we can blame the concertmaster for that.
I took the liberty of examining his/her violin. Look here -- If I can just borrow your magnifying glass . . .
[JONES holds Magnifying glass away.]
Ahem. I will do the looking through the magnifying glass, thank you. Let me see that.
[Manager hands violin to JONES]
. . . uh HUH uh HUH.
As you can see, the tuning pegs have been soaked in oil! No wonder he/she played so out of tune!
Could it be? . . .
I think so!
[MUSIC CUE #18: 3 bars of "Phantom Theme"]
Stop that. Stop that. [end music] What am I saying? Again with the Phantom! I tell you there's no such things as phantoms.
So what do we do now?
I suggest we set up an all night security watch.
Good idea. We'll watch the whole place, from top to bottom.
From head to toe!
From stem to stern!
From fore to aft!
From Land's End to John O'Groat's!
[Manager exits; JONES remains on stage]
Who is John O'Groats- ?
Oh, Come on!
[Manager's hand yanks him off stage, lights out].
And so, the concert hall was placed under 24-hour watch. This time, they were going to make certain that no one would ruin the concerts. In fact, Inspector Shamrock Jones himself stood on guard. In the dark. All . . . by . . . himself . . .
[MUSIC CUE #18A-B-C etc. 6: Various creepy sound effects Enter Jones, in spotlight, center stage]
[Note the following section features a series of "funny noises." These can all be ad libbed by the percussion section, or it can incorporate the "funny noises" that virtually every orchestral musician knows but only plays when bored in rehearsal.]
Gee whiz . . . I never realized just how big and dark and empty this place was . . .
What was that? Must have been a m-m-m- mouse . . .
I'm a famous detective and I'm not sc-sc-sc-sc scared of the d-d-d-d-dark.
What was that??
Hmmm . . . maybe if all the children in the world were to clap right now it would give the courage I need. Let's try it! All the children, please clap! Clap! [signals audience to stop]
Nevermind. It's not helping.
Wait a minute. Get ahold of yourself, Shamrock. There's no such thing as phantoms. There's no such thing as phantoms. There's no such thing as phantoms. There's no such thing as phantoms. See? There. Hello ! Hello ! Hello !
HEEEELLLLLOOOO!!!!! [Followed by Evil laughter]
[JONES reacts with terror, runs one way then another, then off stage in a panic. Violins play "Psycho" upward glisses, then
Orch plays cue #18D: end of "Italian in Algiers" for Detective Panicked Exit]
And so, the mystery of Phantom became ever more mysterious. And later that night, in an overpriced condo complex on the other side of town . . .
[MUSIC CUE #19 (underscore): Swan Lake Act II Opening. Lights come up on a downstage area. Stagehands bring in an upholstered chair, perhaps with a night table and lamp. Enter Phantom and Gridley. Music Fades as appropriate. Conductor to costume change]
So . . . they think guarding the concert hall will save them! HA! They'll have to work a little harder than that! I have another little surprise for them. What do you suppose this is, Gridley? Well, I'll tell you what it is: just more evidence of my total brilliance. Specifically, it's one of those trashy best-selling mystery novels . . . I'm giving it to a special someone who I think will enjoy reading it! [Puts book on night stand, laughs, exits, blackout].
[No exit music due to conductor's role in scene]
And so, later that night, the orchestra's conductor went to bed to get a good night's sleep.
[Conductor enters in robe, crawls under covers, follows narrated action]
But just before he turned out the light, he noticed something on his night stand: a book. "Hmmm," said the conductor. "One of those trashy best-selling mystery novels. I wonder how this got here? Well, he said to himself . . . A little reading might help me relax a bit, and I'll sleep better." And so, he picked up the book and began to read. But no sooner had he started than he became totally absorbed in the plot.
[Conductor pantomimes feverish turning of pages.]
He decided he had to finish the book, no matter how long it might take. [Fade to black, exit conductor, remove chair, table, etc.]
And, he stayed up all night reading, just to discover on the last page that the butler had done it.
[Lights up on stage]
And so, the next day, the orchestra was ready to play another concert, this time secure in the knowledge that nothing could possibly go wrong. The conductor came out, greeted by thunderous applause. [Conductor might still have nightcap on, takes it off.] The orchestra then began to play the last movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony.
[Music CUE #20: Beethoven 7th Symphony Last Mvt. w/ slow-downs]
But as they went along, the conductor, who had stayed up all through the night before, began to fall asleep, and the tempo got slower and slower.
[Tempo slows (every eight bars, as written in score), until concertmaster/ principal viola/cello (whoever is outside) occasionally poke him with their bows. Conductor wakes up, re-establishes tempo, then slows down again, ad lib repeats.]
The audience, now impatient with so many things going wrong, booed and hissed yet again, this time louder than ever before.
[Music ends] [Blackout]
[Lights up on small downstage area]
[Pacing about] Inspector, Inspector, where are you going?
[Packing up] I'm packing up and getting out of here. And I advise you to do the same.
Isn't it obvious? This place is haunted. You have a Phantom.
I thought you didn't believe in ghosts and phantoms.
SHHH! He might be listening!
Come now, Inspector Jones. Surely someone of your talent and experience isn't going to be frightened away by a ghost!
Well, Mr. . . . Mr. . . .
. . . Phipps, I have a terrible confession to make. I'm not a great detective.
That's right. In fact, I'm not anything. I just graduated from a correspondence course last week. This is my first case. And I prefer that it not be my last. Frankly, Mr. Phipps, this phantom, whoever or whatever he is, is too smart for me. I would advise you to disband the orchestra and get out of here before anything worse happens to you.
Well under these circumstances I guess we have no choice. Tonight's concert will be our last. Goodbye, Inspector Jones!
[EXIT MANAGER. Lights on Jones, alone.]
Alright, just need to pack up a few more things and I can get the heck out of here . . . hey . . . where's my wallet? Must have left it somewhere . . . Hmmm . . . Where's my pipe? And my badge! And my lottery tickets . . . And MY PROFESSIONAL DETECTIVE MAGNIFYING GLASS! Oh no! It's . . . it's GONE! How can I ever hope to be a famous detective without it??? It must have been . . . the Phantom!!
[ORCH plays 1-3 bars of Phantom Theme]
Wait a minute . . . Stop that! Stop that! What would a Phantom want with a magnifying glass? Something funny is going on around here.
[MUSIC CUE #22 ORCH PLAYS DETECTIVE THEME]
I may not be much, but Phantom or no Phantom, no one is going to steal my super deluxe professional detective magnifying glass and get away with it. I'm going to get to the bottom of this, no matter what. Hmmm . . . I think this calls for a clever disguise . . . I'll just blend in as one of the musicians . . . [as he puts on costume of musician:] As you know, the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime . . . And when he does . . . Shamrock Jones will be there! [Exits] [Blackout, fade out Detective theme music]
[Music CUE #23: Swan Lake (underscore). Enter Gridley. Gridley is playing with the Magnifying glass. She is using it to look at a newspaper with headline: "Orchestra Folds/ Final Concert Tonight." Enter Phantom. Music fades.]
Gridley, where are you? Gridley . . . [Briefly takes Magnifying glass] Where did you get this? [realizes it is the Detective's] That's my girl! Is that today's paper? Let me see that. [Gridley hands him the paper, begins to scratch lottery tickets, mimes repeated disappointment.] Thank you. [Leafs through paper, ad libs about local current events.] Wait a minute! Look at this! "Orchestra Folds! Final Concert tonight"! See arts section, page forty-two [laughs] Gridley, I've done it! Ah, the thrill of victory. The sweet, sweet smell of success. The satisfaction of a job well done. The orchestra will play
its final concert tonight, and then . . . SILENCE!
[MUSIC CUE #24: Phantom sings 2nd aria: "Aprite un Po' Quegli Occhi" from "Marriage of Figaro."]
The noise at last has ended
Just as I had intended!
It really was no contest
They were no match for me
They were no match for me
They were no they were no match for me
All of my work has paid off
The orchestra's been laid off
And I can take the credit
I did it all myself
I did it all myself
I did it all myself
That conductor really was a pest, he really was a pain!
The next time you see him conduct will be aboard a train!
Did I ever tell you of my favorite composition?
A simple but delightful piece, it's called the intermission!
The guy who plays the oboe / Will soon become a hobo
And add to that moreover / I won't hear one more
Overture, symphony, song or concerto
Or opera or tone poem or medley or scherzo
I won't have to hear them again
Won't hear them again, no no no no
My planning, my planning was perfect
It's quiet, it's quiet at last.
The trombone and the trumpet / Won't like it, so they'll lump it!
The guy who plays the tympani / Will also have to go, have to go, have
The first and second violins (My planning was perfect)
Must learn some different dis-o-plines (My planning was perfect)
Because instead of fiddle-ing (My planning was perfect)
Their thumbs they are now twiddle-ing (My planning was perfect!)
This symphony is finished / Their chords are all diminished / And add
to that moreover / I won't hear one more
Overture, symphony, song or concerto
Or opera or tone poem or medley or scherzo
I won't have to hear them again / Won't hear them again, no no no no
My planning, my planning was perfect
It's quiet, it's quiet at last.
It's quiet at last / (Shhh!) It's quiet at last
It's quiet at last!
[End music; Narrator holds up sign saying "Thunderous Applause"]
Thank you, Gridley. I had no idea I was so talented.
And now, the orchestra is tuning up for its final concert! I think this is one performance I will actually enjoy!
[Enter JONES in costume, (perhaps wig and nose/eyebrow glasses?), honking miserably on plastic horn or other cheap instrument.]
Oh no, it's one of the musicians, and he's late! This might delay the event. Can I risk being seen? I can't! But I must!! [Lets "musician" see him.] Hey, you . . . get on stage. The concert is about to begin.
Well, that may be [removes costume], but it's curtains for you, Phantom!
Shamrock Jones! Curses! Well, you've got to catch me first!
[They run off stage; orchestra plays:
Music CUE #25: Beethoven 7th Symphony last mvt. OR Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture with slow section cut.).
Lights come up on orchestra.]
[Chase scene ensues, first across the stage, then into the audience, utilizing unique characteristics of the concert hall. Gridley is involved also. Phantom insults audience members ad lib]
------PHANTOM (ad lib during chase)
[To couple in audience:] This HAS to be a blind date! [Points to well-dressed girl in audience:] Gridley, why can't you look nice like this once in a while? [Tears up Narrator's notes] That's what I think of this stupid story! [Ad libs insults of everyone]
[Gridley can tease detective with his magnifying glass, etc. Jones can yell "give me back those lottery tickets," etc., throughout. Note, Jones should ask for audience's help even though Phantom is in plain view.]
[Music ends. Narrator cues audience to applaud. Phantom is in center stage, exhausted.]
Oh oh oh . . . I can't go any further. Help! Gridley! Oh help! This is surely the end. He's going to catch me! I can't bear it! Oh, Gridley, help! [Grabs Gridley's ankle] Gridley! Gridley! Save me! Save me Oh Save me! [sobs]
L-l-l-et go! Let GO! LET GO! LET GO! LET GO! [Pulls away from Phantom's grip] For crying out loud, pull yourself together!! [During laughter, Gridley struggles to pull off hat and mask, then says:] I can't deal with this anymore!! [runs off stage]
And when I think of all I've done for her . . . So it has come to this. Ah, well. Life is a poor player, who struts and frets his part upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
[sits up] You know, speaking of idiots . . .
[Music CUE #26: Swan Lake Act III Finale, played to "break."]
[JONES chases Phantom around a chair, eventually forcing him into it, Phantom facing upstage. At "break" in music:]
And now, Phantom, at last, we'll see just who you really are!
[JONES removes Phantom's mask;]
Why . . . It's . . . it's . . . Mr. . . . Mr . . .
Phipps!! Phipps! Phiipps!!!
[Music Cue #26A: Remaining Swan Lake Act III cue is played. Phantom gathers costume and exits, optional:
saying "I hate you all!"
JONES makes small motion to pursue, but gives up. JONES ambles over to Conductor, triumphant, implying some passage of time]
And so you see, it was your own Mr. . . . Mr . . .
. . . Phipps?
. . . Phipps . . . who was the manager by day, and was the Phantom by night. Of course, the only way I could catch him was by pretending that I didn't know who he was or what was going on . . .
Uh HUH. Well, I understand now that the reason he was ruining the concerts was because we were keeping him awake. But what's to keep him from coming back and ruining our concerts again?
Quite elementary, my dear Maestro. I simply demonstrated to the Phantom how two pieces of cotton wadding, inserted in the ears thusly (don't try this at home, kids), [Sticks wads of cotton on ears, now speaks very loudly:] keep the noise out. He's gone back down into the catacombs beneath the stage for some well-needed shut-eye. He's sound asleep! And considering the fact that he hasn't slept for so long, I expect he won't wake up for a few weeks.
Are you sure our playing won't wake him up this time?
I said, are you sure our playing won't wake him up this time?
[Conductor pulls cotton from JONES' ears]
Are you sure our playing won't wake him up this time?
No need to shout. And you needn't worry, You won't wake him up. He's sound asleep. Go on, give it try . . . [ad lib:] go on, go on . . .
[As conductor gives upbeat, there is a loud snore over the speakers (can be visually punctuated by sheet music flying around). Conductor taps on stand, regains order, Jones encourages a another try . . . Again, as Conductor gives upbeat, a loud snore disrupts him. Conductor looks at Jones with shrug. Jones holds up finger to imply he has an idea, hands conductor some wads of cotton,
they both put cotton in their ears. They look at eachother with "thumbs up" approval, then Orchestra plays.
MUSIC CUE #27: last 6 bars of Tragic Overture. Just before the final chord:]
------PHANTOM (offstage, highly amplified)
[Final chord of Tragic Overture]
[MUSIC CUE #28: (BOWS) Coda of ACT IV, Swan Lake] [Suggested: Gridley comes out bashfully, takes quick bow, then pulls NARR and then JONES out for bows, gestures "ta da" with her arms, then pushes them away. She can also give bow to conductor and concertmaster. Phantom appears on his own in spotlight and fog. Blackout at end of music.]
Did you enjoy reading this script? If so, we hope you will share it with your favorite orchestra conductor, manager, or musician! Word-of-mouth is our number one method of advertising and promotion! Thanks in advance-- JL
The Phantom of the Orchestra Copyright 1989, 2003 Justin Locke
The PHANTOM of the ORCHESTRA or The Dark Side of the Symphony
by Justin Locke
The Phantom (schizophrenic bipolar manic depressive baritone), and Mr. Phipps, The Manager (One person plays both characters)
Gridley (Phantom's able assistant; a child age 8-12)
Inspector Shamrock Jones, adult
The Conductor, the Orchestra, and the Audience
Orchestration is harp, stgs, dbl ww's, 4 horns, 4 tpts, 3 tbns, tuba, 3 perc. Note additional perc (trap set, tam tam, etc.)
2 Wireless Microphones, mike for narrator (or equivalent)
Costumes for Jones, Phantom, Gridley. Phantom costume [suggested] is a cape, broad brim hat, and mask; NOTE: it must be fairly easy for the Phantom to change from the Phantom costume to the Manager suit and back again.
Gridley is miniature version of Phantom.
Jones is a la Sherlock Holmes, with Magnifying Glass and trenchcoat.
Robe/Nightgown and cap for conductor
An overstuffed chair
A night table, with a book
A "musician" costume (suggested: "nose and eyebrow" glasses, plastic trumpet)
A chalkboard (or equivalent)
A Newspaper with "Orchestra Folds/Final Concert Tonight" Headline
A "Student" violin as prop
Cotton/pipe cleaners (for cotton in ears)
"Thunderous applause" sign
The Children's Concert was a smashing success. "Phantom" works so much better out here than the "traditional" children's concert format. I've never had a young audience be that attentive or involved in a concert.
--Stephen Bednarzyk, Music Director, Guam Symphony Orchestra
It was hysterical. The kids squealed and cheered through the Beethoven 7, and were SO IMPATIENT with Shamrock Jones and his inability to remember Mr. Whatshisname. The audience was engaged, truly involved... I watched some of the older kids with attitudes and/or doubts: "I'm here...but I'm probably not going to like this." They glowed, giggled and guffawed, and ate it right up.
--M.C.E., staff with Bremerton (WA) Symphony
There is always a temptation when writing a script to write little instructions about how every single word should be said. But to do so would, in my opinion, limit the creativity of the people actually staging the show, so I hold my tongue as much as possible in the script text. But here is my two cents on a number of subjects. Take it or leave it:
This story is very much about fašades. The Phantom/Manager is the most obvious, but the Detective, and Gridley, and yes even the
orchestra are all shown to be pretending to be something they are not in order to gain greater acceptance. Having said that, there is an opportunity here to do something awful to the Narrator during the chase scene to expose him/her to the audience-- I will leave that to directors and presenters.
The Detective's Magnifying glass is the "maguffin," and should be used by the Detective as much as possible.
Don't be bashful in staging the chase scene. Anything goes. Within reason.
I often refer to Gridley as "she" for a number of reasons: first of all, the greater the disparity in physical size between gridley and the phantom the better, and I tend to think of little girls being a little smaller than little boys. Also as a matter of social mores, little girls are more likely to have some dance and stage experience. Other than that, the actual sex of Gridley matters very little. However, it is very important that Gridley be small enough, and vulnerable enough, to elicit as much empathy from the audience as possible. It is easy to overlook Gridley's character as you read the script since she has so few lines, but in staging the show you are encouraged to tell, in purely visual terms (especially when she is forced to listen to the Phantom's manic rantings), the story of a small child who is desperate to be loved and finally finds the power of her own spirit. Her personal
triumph is the only redeeming element in an otherwise very tragic tale of artistic angst and narcissistic denial. -- JL
There is a royalty fee for the use of this work. Complete score and parts available.
"The Phantom of the Orchestra" is published by:
Justin Locke Productions
One Randall Street
Waltham, MA 02130