WATCH: Edinburgh's Edi the teddy's one-bear production of Phantom of The Opera on YouTube
A FAMILIAR face on the Capital’s musical theatre scene, Edi the teddy bear is hoping to become a YouTube sensation with the release of his ‘one bear’ version of Phantom Of The Opera, Phan-Bear of the Opera.
With musical theatre in the city on hold (just yesterday Cameron Mackintosh cancelled the UK tour of the real Phantom of The Opera, which was due to visit Edinburgh in September), Edi’s creator, Ritchie Steele, hopes the short film will provide a musical fix to keep fans of the genre going during the hiatus.
“The image of Edi in a Phantom mask is one of his earliest and he loves the music from that show, not to mention the amazing sets and costumes,” says Steele, with a knowing twinkle in his eye. He had always dreamed of playing the role of the Phantom, so during lockdown, it seemed that maybe it would be possible to do a ‘one bear’ production of it.”
The four and a half minute film sees Edi play all the roles. “I wanted it to be realistic in look, but funny in style - just having a bear playing the parts is kinda funny in itself, but trying to get those funny ‘expressions’ from Edi can take some time. It’s all in the angle of the head.”
Filming the homage took two weeks reveals Steele, who works as a Box Office clerk at The Playhouse. He continues, “The sets did take a little bit of time to create, but I wanted them to be instantly recognisable.”
Edi was born in 2004, when Steele researched the history of The Playhouse for the venue’s 75th anniversary.
Currently furloughed, the 52-year-old explains, “During this I learned a lot about the Playhouse and the surrounding area.
“When The Playhouse decided to have a 75th anniversary bear on sale, I came up with the name of Edi, that was when my really imagination began to run wild. I began to imagine that this bear had lived in the theatre for many many years, but how did he get there and what kind of life had he lived?
"I began making notes about his life and also decided that the bear that was on sale at the theatre was only a 'representation' of the real Edi Bear - Edi himself looked a little different and certainly older, so I set about making the real Edi and once I did his story began to develop."
That story has developed so much over the years it has now been published as a book, Edinburgh Theatre Bear.
"His bear-ography is exactly that, the life story of a little bear that just happens to get lost in a strange building back in 1929. He had been the mascot of a young boy actor (appearing at the old Theatre Royal) but when they get separated, Edi has to begin a new life. The book is a gentle introduction to various aspects of the entertainment world, but also about friendship, love and a few little bits of history."
Edi, who has now ‘appeared’ in many of the top shows that have come to the city with Steele crafting intricate replica costumes from musicals as diverse as Kinky Boots and Les Mis, has also become a friend to the stars.
“When he sent Sheridan Smith a ‘good luck’ card for the opening night of Funny Girl, she was very intrigued and asked to meet him,” says Ritchie, who live in Canonmills.
“I’m surprised people, especially adults, go along with the fun that I am trying to create but he seems to have an appeal for all ages.”
Edinburgh Theatre Bear is available as a Kindle download from www.amazon.co.uk/Edinburgh-Theatre-Bear-Robert-McLeese-ebook/dp/B00T27FS8Q/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=edi+bear&qid=1590581554&sr=8-1
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