Yes, we have arrived at the post dedicated to my favorite show, The Phantom of the Opera. If you’ve never heard of The Phantom of the Opera, a depressing thought in itself, let me elaborate without giving too much of it away.
“Masquerade!”: The Phantom of the Opera, the musical, was first opened in October of 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London (re-opened in 1897). The man behind it’s creation is Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has composed hit after West End hit and helped shape the 20th century musical. The original cast comprised of Sarah Brightman as the female lead, Christine, and Michael Crawford as the title character, the Phantom. The Phantom of the Opera has been playing at Her Majesty’s ever since opening night, without missing a performance. It is the longest running show on Broadway and the only longer running show in the West End is Les Miserables (my second favorite!). Cameron Mackintosh has bragging rights as being the producer behind both well-loved shows. The musical celebrated 10,000 performances in London in October of 2010, and has been seen by more than 100 million people worldwide.
“Enter at last, master”: But what is the Phantom of the Opera? Originally a novel written by Gaston Leroux in 1911, this story has been adapted various times in cinema, on stage, and in literature. Universal Pictures placed Leroux’s novel on the map in 1925 when it released the first movie version starring Lon Chaney. If Lon Chaney put it on the map, then Lloyd Webber’s musical immortalized it. It is ultimately a story of human compassion told through a haunting and tragic love story. A disfigured man living beneath the Opera Populaire, a young soprano, a flawless viscount. You get the picture.
“The Phantom of the opera is there…”: My own inner “phan” came to light after seeing the movie based on the stage production in 2004. I have been captivated ever since. So I was quick to get a copy of Leroux’s novel. As you may expect, there are definite differences between the musical version and original book, though the stage version does claim to stick most closely with that of the novel. It has been a while, readers, but from what I recall at the moment it is an interesting read, written as if the author is undergoing a true investigation of events. Not something that I would recommend for “happy” or “light” reading, but an intriguing novel in it’s own way. The themes and language of the book make the tale more morbid than the stage version. The book itself isn’t too long or hard to get through, so if you have an interest in knowing more about the origins of The Phantom of the Opera, I suggest grabbing a copy from the library and having at it! In fact, I think I may have to dig it out again when I return home.
“Anywhere you go let me go to!”: I didn’t stop there, however, oh no. For there was this other novel I’d heard about, one that didn’t have a bad review to it among the Phantom community, and I was in luck. The library was carrying a copy of Phantom by Susan Kay. Readers, I would recommend this book in a heart beat. It is an excellent version of The Phantom of the Opera which could be considered a companion piece to the musical. Kay brings to life Erik’s (the Phantom) past and gives us much more insight to the few meaningful relationships he has in his life; for better or worse. I particularly enjoyed the extra “scenes”, if you will, of the interaction between Erik and Christine that are missed on stage. Whether you are a “phan” or not, though, Phantom is worth giving a look. While on the longer side, it flows easily and keeps you captivated. Kay eloquently weaves the themes of the story into her version of the tale, which aside from elaborating on the past doesn’t stray from the original story, but simply adds to it in meaningful ways.
“Let the dream begin”: My first foray into the stage version of this phenomenon was only a few years ago, on the first night of 2010. The family had driven to Las Vegas for a few nights to celebrate my parents 50th birthdays. Somehow my dad managed to get us 4th row seats, 4th row! It was amazing, what a way to start the new year! It was certainly an unforgettable way to see a show and I am very grateful to my dad for giving that opportunity to us. Anthony Crivello played the title role and was excellent! The Vegas production, however, was created to be shorter than the normal stage version. Last week I had the pleasure of seeing the “brilliant original” at Her Majesty’s. Sofia Escobar did a really nice job as Christine and Killian Donnelly was a great Raoul (both have beautiful voices!).
“You alone can make my song take flight”: To top it off, though, was having the privilege of experiencing Earl Carpenter’s Phantom. He is the man behind the “Three Phantoms” concerts and one of the well-known and renowned actors who has played the Phantom at the West End before. Really, though, we weren’t going to go wrong because while here we were either going to see Earl or John Owen Jones (another absolutely astounding actor who’s played the Phantom before – my parents had the fortune of seeing him as Jean Valjean in the West End, lucky ducks!). If you’ve never heard John Owen Jones before, go look up a video of him on youtube and just listen to him. You won’t regret it. Anway, the two are tag-teaming the West End production and the national tour that began at the start of the year. Well, I have nothing but good things to say about Earl Carpenter. His voice is just breathtaking and I enjoyed watching his performance very much. I love how each actor brings their own, unique interpretation to the character through little details such as hand gestures or the inflection of a certain line. To me, this is one of the reasons this show is so prominent and long lasting.
“Imagine me, trying too hard to put you from my mind”: Our seats were pretty good, though I had to lean forward due to the taller man sitting in front of me but otherwise had a good view of the stage (nothing will beat those 4th row seats though!). I bought a program and, after debating over this or a shirt, got a 5 pound poster as well, which is now adding some decoration to my room. It was a phantastic evening (I bet you didn’t see that one coming) and I’m so glad I decided to see it in London, it was money well spent.
“Far too many notes for my taste”: And oh my goodness, I didn’t think I was going to write this much about Phantom! Readers I apologize for my enthusiasm and hope this hasn’t been boring you to death. As I recall mentioning, I could go on and on about this. Or any of my other more passionate interests (yes, there are more – despite what this post may make you believe) for that matter. At any rate, I will tie this up. The bottom line is this: if you have never seen The Phantom of the Opera, please do yourself a favor and at least see the movie of the musical. But I must point out here that I believe nothing beats the stage version, it is so ingeniously done (how do they go from under the stage to the moving walkway above so quickly?!) and the actors simply bring a whole other dimension and intimacy to the characters. Plus, the music! Hearing that riveting and often hair-raising music live is an experience in its own right. Like those beginning “DUN…DUH DUH DUH DUH DUUN” (work with me here). And seriously, just listen to this (Fair Warning – this is a sound clip of the ending) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHsKeYhwUwg&feature=fvwrel and tell me you didn’t have goosebumps by the end! (What a way to end a show; so powerful!)
“Knowing we must say goodbye”: I promise I’m done now. It is my sincerest hope that you all get the chance to see this amazing show at one point in your lives, it is truly timeless and I know I will never pass up an opportunity to see it. At least give it a listen (I’d suggest the original London cast to start). Pictures from our own outing to the show are below, take a look! Thank you again, readers, for putting up with my penchant for going overboard once more. I hope I have kept it interesting or even sparked a curiosity for those who didn’t know much about Phantom. Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…