Every once in awhile, something unexpected happens in live theatre. Phantom of the Opera is certainly no exception.
Actually, it is amazing that there are not more mishaps in this show, given the complexity of the sets (there are many electronic moving parts) and the various explosions throughout the performance. Most of the time, everything runs like clockwork.
Except for last night.
When the chandelier drops at the very end of Act I, the descent begins far above the heads of the audience, usually in the first ten rows of seats. The orchestra plays a series of rapid runs as the chandelier drops directly downward. It then sweeps horizontally towards the stage, barely missing the conductor's head on its way, and passes over the footlights.
As the orchestra plays its final punctuated chord, the lights are suddenly extinguished so that the audience does not see the stagehands behind the heavy chandelier. They are ready to grab it on both sides to keep it from swinging back and forth from the momentum of its journey.
The chandelier is tethered by a series of cables. Sometimes, in its final descent on the stage, some of the wires can become tangled as the stagehands reach for it -- especially if it is moving faster than usual. Last night was one of those nights. Some cables brushed against the many strings of plastic, faceted beads of various sizes (to look like glass, of course) and some popped off. This has happened occasionally over the years, so I've been able to collect quite a few beads which make it into the pit.
There was a huge cascade and rattle of beads on the stage, which sounded like a hailstorm.
Since I am now playing Principal for the next three weeks (while the regular 1st horn is home for Christmas) my chair is situated a few feet away from the edge of the stage, rather than underneath as usual.
I was hit on the head by a flying bead, and pulled my horn closer to my body to protect it from any further rain of stones.
The concertmaster was likewise hit (it didn't hurt, but could have scratched an instrument) and is saving her bead as a souvenir.
The flute player directly ahead of me found a bead under her chair, and gave it to me. So I've got only two new beads to add to my collection.
This kind of "live theatre moment" helps keep this show fresh for us, many of whom have thousands of performances under our belts!