A few days ago I read about the passing of the renowned ballerina, choreographer and artist Gillian Lynne. I was overwhelmed with a sense of sorrow as the world will now be without her amazing presence and essence.
I had the honor of working with “Gillie” in the original Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. I won’t talk about the difficulties of being the “alternate” Christine in that time period, but rather focus on the personal love and attention she showered on me daily as I undertook the demanding and remarkable role of Chrisitne Daae’.
There are so many memories of her taking me aside and working with me in the lobby, or giving me that much needed hug when everything seemed so overwhelming. Her energy and devotion she gave to each and every moment of movement in that musical, and of course all the other contributions her artistry touched have left an indelible mark which will last forever.
There were two incredible memories I want to impart. The first one was during the only “work through” I was given before starting my own two performances a week of Phantom. I had gone all the way through to the Point of No Return scene when all of a sudden the house lights went up as Mr. Crawford left the stage, and the director Mr. Prince got up and left the theater! I was just standing there in kind of a daze with the Assistant Conductor and orchestra in the pit not knowing what to do. It seemed there was no more Phantom, no more director, and basically no more work through! All of a sudden Gillie jumped onto the stage and played the role of Phantom which helped me to finish the final lair sequence and get an idea of how the rest of the piece was blocked. I will NEVER forget that generous and amazing gesture.
My second memory was at the end of a performance of The Light in the Piazza. Gillie and her lovely husband Peter came backstage to find me. They walked into my dressing room and she wrapped me in her arms and gave me the most amazing hug! Gillie was crying and effusive about my work as Signora, and then stated that my work in Phantom was incomparable, and how proud she was of me, She was proud of how I comported myself in those early days of Phantom, and of my achievements following Phantom. Needless to say, I will always hold what she said to me deep in my heart, and I hope she knows how much she meant to me.
Dearest Gillie. A Light that touched everyone. Rest In Peace you dear, wonderful soul. Love you!
Gillian Lynne; ballerina circa 1950 Barron-Hutton Archives
Other photo: Greg Heisler