Today in Halloween: ‘Phantom of the Opera’ live

dennis james

One of the coolest live theater experiences I ever had was one October evening in the 1980s when I experienced a unique way of seeing Lon Chaney’s classic 1925 silent film “The Phantom of the Opera” – with a live organ performance.

Dennis James, at the time the resident organist for the Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, came to Muncie with a Halloween-season show he had been doing for a while: A live organ performance with the Chaney film.

dennis james halloween

I’ll never forget standing onstage before the show – by virtue of covering the event for the newspaper, I had a little access – and seeing James, a showman, walking out of the dark wings at Emens Auditorium.

Actually, my friends and I heard James first: His footsteps echoed across the stage. When we could finally see him in the still relative darkness of the stage, he was wearing a tuxedo, top hat … and Chaney Phantom mask.


James, whom I had interviewed by phone before he came to town, is a friendly guy with extensive knowledge of not only music but the Chaney film.

He performed, on the theater organ, the historic score to Chaney’s film, Watching James perform added immensely to the experience, which to this day remains one of my favorite Halloween-era memories.


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