Halloween is a big deal in New York City. I grew up thinking of it as a kid’s thing. Little children dressed up in costumes and go door to door for candy. When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, Halloween was a one big crazy
block neighborhood party in The Castro. When I moved to New York, people began asking me what I was planning to wear as my costume starting in August. It was still summer, but Halloween is celebrated by NYers in no other way that I’ve seen. On Halloween night the streets are teeming with sloshed adults dressed in provocative or topical costumes. I’ve spent a few Halloweens with my friends among the throng. Although they were fun because it was novel, I’m not really a big fan of being crammed in a horde.
So when I received this invitation below
I was more than pleased to go. A Phantom of the Opera-themed Halloween party at the historic Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theater? Yes, please! When I was in high school and college, I was OBSESSED with Phantom. My friends and I memorized all the lyrics and belted them out in wild abandon (whatever we lacked in singing ability, we made up with gusto and enthusiasm) as we daydreamed that we were the beautiful Christine Daaé being wooed by Raoul and the mysterious Phantom. A night of entertainment and dancing in a potentially intriguing location for $25 ($30 at the door) seemed like a good deal.
I was in charge of our costumes. I’m really terrible in being creative with costumes. I’m more than happy to dress up in them, but I just don’t want to bother with coming up with one and doing the work to put it together. And out of the two of us, I’m better at this than Ben. So I bought a cravat and asked Ben to dress up in his best suit and vest. He was some kind of “aristocrat.” I bought a Renaissance noblewoman costume online. It met all of my criteria:
- fit me
- fancy looking
- and I could move around easily
- not too expensive
We arrived around 8 pm. The crowd at this point was still a bit thin, but more and more people were coming. Ben and I explored the theater. The Loew’s is a wonderful example of the old movie palaces that existed back in the days of Old Hollywood. It had fallen into disrepair, but a non-profit organization is restoring this glorious building and turning it into a community arts center. This Halloween party is one of their events to raise money and awareness for saving this historical monument. The theater has a baroque atmosphere with tapestries on the wall, brocade curtains, marble columns, and a huge crystal chandelier hanging in the lobby. The second floor space is designed to look as if there were many little balconies that look down to the first floor lobby. That’s where we were when the first performance began.
We had noticed a couple of people dressed in S&M attire (you can’t not notice them). Music began playing and we noticed that people were looking toward one end of the theater. Ben and I walked over to get a good view of the show, which was the two of them dancing on a pole. They were very talented and impressed us with their gymnastic moves. It’s not easy twirling around a pole. After that show, we continued to explore the theater.
All of a sudden, elegantly costumed men and women broke into song and dance.
“Masquerade! Paper faces on parade. Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you”
I stifled a squeal. They were performing the famous masquerade scene from Phantom. We watched as the singers and dancers recreated one of my favorite scenes. Then the piece-de-resistance, Phantom appeared! After “scaring” us, he announced that the costume contest would be held in the theater.
The costume contest was quite fun. Everyone who wanted to enter stood up on stage. The judges announced categories and if you wanted to be judged in that category, you stepped forward. While the judges deliberated their decisions, the audience yelled out their favorites. The audience definitely influenced the judges’ choices. The contest was way more fun and engaging than I thought it would be.
After the contest, there were more performances. A couple of singers sang songs from Phantom and there was more pole dancing. The crowd was a really fun one and people were dancing in the lobby. I love dancing, but only when other people are doing it. I’m too self-conscious otherwise. Everyone was really friendly and pulling in various people to come in and dance. A rumba line snaked through the lobby. There was a dance walk off. I rumba’ed with someone dressed as Prince. It was really fun. Even Ben got into it and he NEVER dances. Because I was having so much fun dancing, Ben shyly danced with me. It was very cute.
There was also a long table full of sandwiches, chips, and other little snacks. Our first drink was free, but more alcoholic beverages could be bought quite cheaply. They had Angry Orchard cider, which we love! We were impressed with how well they kept the table stocked with food and drinks. They did the smart thing by not having everything out all at once. As one platter emptied, then another one would take its place. The only thing that was a bit annoying was the idiosyncratically applied rule of only volunteers could serve you. We were told this was because of health codes and permits, but it didn’t make any sense. We could get our own food for some of platters. One lady shrilly yelled at us that only she could serve us with tongs, but when she couldn’t serve us grapes with tongs, she used her hands to touch the grapes. Honestly that seemed more unsanitary than letting us get our own grapes. This was the only smudge on what was otherwise a really fun night.
It was the perfect way to spend Halloween with people who love art and the theater. I hope they have this event again next year.