Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's
The Phantom of the Opera
This was my very first exposure to professional, live musical theatre, and it honestly blew me away. I was rather young when I saw it, but my family and I had prepared ourselves for months before seeing the show. We had the official script and music cues, soundtrack and a collection of nearly all of the film versions on hand for reference! As I walked into the theatre, I was trembling with excitement...but nothing could really prepare me for the spectacle, the emotion and the power of the entire production.
Special effects (of which there are many) aside, I think the story is really what entertains the audience. The PhantomThe Phantom is a man of many talents, who, because of his facial disfigurement, has lived his life hidden beneath the Paris Opera House. He has never known love, until the day he hears the voice of a young Ballerina named Christine Daee (accent on the last "e"). Since the death of her beloved father, Christine has prayed for an "Angel of Music" to visit her and help her reach her full potential. Upon assuming the role of this "Angel", the Phantom teaches her to sing, and scares the company's leading lady Carlotta off the stage in order to give Christine her time in the spotlight. She astounds the managers, who allow her to step in for Carlotta. The evening of her grand debut, Raoul, The Vicompte du Chagney, recognizes her as his childhood love and the two are reunited. Christine's love for him is quite a different thing than her love for her mysterious "Angel" however, and once Raoul steps out of her dressing room, The Phantom reveals himself to her and brings her down into his world of passionate music. She's entranced by his very presence, to say nothing of his heavenly voice, but is especially curious about the face hidden beneath his mask. In one dreadful moment, she removes it from his face, unleashing all of his self-hatred and anger upon her. When he eventually allows her to return to the world above, she runs straight to Raoul filled with both horror and confusion. Meanwhile, Carlotta and the headstrong managers decide to ignore the letters the Phantom sends them, blaming Christine for their troubles and spurning the "Opera Ghost" like never before.
The Phantom of the Opera is a story of "...deep, dark, dangerous passionate love..." (Director Hal Prince) that can hardly be described, much less duplicated. Be warned: There is another musical version of the story of the Opera Ghost simply titled "Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's The Phantom", which I have yet to see live, but the film version, which is available on DVD does move me to tears, although it differs quite considerably from the version I've come to love. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece is indeed something to behold, unlike some of his previous attempts, such as CATS and Jesus Christ Superstar, which have disappointed many an eager theatre-goer. Phantom is neither inaccessable nor revoltionnary. Instead, it embodies everything musicals were intended to be....Nay, it's an Opera! It brings me to tears every time and touches me deeply. Anyone who has ever longed for something or someone they felt they could have, can relate to the story, and the music - despite how it's been portrayed over the years - is simply dazzling. Go out and buy the original cast recording this minute!
I saw Phantom on Broadway this past November, some ten years after our first encounter, and I must say I was disappointed. The current production put an unnecessarily heavy enphasis on the few comedic aspects of the script, rather than allow them to subtly compliment the flow of the plot. All the lead performers sung using an annoying fasletto quiver that really turned me off, and most of the special effects were dumbed down considerably. When I first saw the show during it's intial Canadian tour, Jeff Hyslop (from "Today's Special Fame") and Patti Cohenour were astonishingly surreal as The Phantom and Christine, so I guess in all honesty, their's was a tough act to follow. Nonetheless, do yourself a favor and see this production. As a child, several aspects of the story flew right over my head, but it didn't bother me in the least....although, it probably scared most of my teachers when I walked through the halls singing "The Point of No Return" - a song about sexual and emotional surrender
As you may have noticed, I really can't say enough about this show. It's such a part of who I am. And no other song or scene can compare to Erik (The Phantom) and Christine's powerful duet entitled...duh ...."The Phantom of the Opera". Can I spoil it a little, please? Oh, a brief description can hardly spoil the best scene in all of theatre history! This song is about Christine's first meeting with her Angel-turned-masked-stranger, as he slowly brings her down into the depths of the Opera house. After descending an endless staircase leading to a tiny boat, a million sparkling candles light the shrouded mists that surround them as their voices rise to heights never before heard by human ears.
It gives me goosebumps, every single time! Goosebumps aren't even an accurate description of what my body goes through when I see that scene....it's completely unbelieveable!!!
I've also seen Miss Sigon as well as Les Miserables, but nothing compares!
Great topic Barb!!!