Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Play Review: The Phantom of the Opera
Recommended for: Ages 13 to Adult
Rating: NR (I'm not sure what I would rate it, but it's kind of scary and dark, so I wouldn't recommend it for young children.)
A disfigured musical genius, hidden away in the Paris Opera House, terrorizes the opera company for the unwitting benefit of a young protégée whom he trains and loves.
Yes, I'm doing a play rather than a movie. We didn't watch an actual movie last weekend, just Phantom of the Opera on Netflix, and it's definitely worth reviewing.
I don't know how I missed out on The Phantom of the Opera for so long. I guess it just wasn't on my radar screen. I really was missing a lot by not having seen Phantom, because I immediately loved it. It jumped right onto my favorites list, and I've listened to the whole thing on Spotify several times since Friday night. And I found out someone I go to church with has seen it live, and so I'm jealous.
It is a little odd to watch a stage play on TV. Fortunately, it didn't take long to get used to, mostly because I knew it was stage, and so that's what I was expecting. Of course, you can't expect CGI work or detailed locations, and the actors all wore microphones, but it's stage, not a movie. And it was a spectacular stage production. It's the 25th anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall, after all.
The music. Ah, such music. I think the music was what first entranced me. I have an extreme fondness for orchestral pieces, and this was performed with a full live orchestra. (Of course, it was taped by the time I got around to seeing it, but it was live then.) Sometimes they would even show a shot of the orchestra and I could see the violinists playing up in high positions. (And yes, I couldn't help thinking how the guy they showed had thicker fingers than me, which would make double stops easier for him, but individual strings and high positions easier for me.) The singing was also phenomenal. The Phantom has an amazing voice, and Christine really puts my out of tune Disney songs to extreme shame. She has such high notes to hit, but she nailed them. And the songs. I already knew "Think of Me" because my sisters and I have all played it on the piano, but pretty much all the rest were new to me. I think my favorites are "The Phantom of the Opera" and "All I Ask of You." And the overtures, because there's time to focus on the orchestra.
The ballet also deserves a mention. As a former ballerina who spent one year on pointe, I greatly enjoyed watching them perform. They were all excellent dancers.
The Phantom of the Opera largely takes place inside the opera house, which makes the settings easy to create. The opera is performed on stage, after all. The transitions to the Phantom's place were a little confusing, and didn't seem to change things much, but that's really all the negative things I have to say about the setting.
The story was slightly confusing at first, but I managed to get my bearings fairly quickly, and now I feel like I have a good grasp on the storyline. The ownership of the opera house is transferred over at the previous owner's retirement, and the opera ghost, also known as the Phantom, has a difficult time getting the new owners to follow his instructions. This escalates into a war between the Phantom and the opera house, as the Phantom tries to get Christine Daae into lead roles and always have box 5, but the owners push back against it. And the Phantom is not above using extreme measures to get his way.
I really loved the story, enough that I have started reading the book upon which the musical was based. It has intrigue and tragedy, love and despair. It seemed well developed, and definitely interesting.
Character Development: 4/5
The character development was somewhat lacking, but Phantom has so much else going for it, it didn't reduce my enjoyment one bit. The Phantom was very interesting, and the sort of character one doesn't quite know whether to hate or feel sorry for. And his voice. He can sing! I liked Christine. She seemed rather under the Phantom's influence, but yet scared of him and desperate to get away at the same time. I did like Raoul as well, though I wouldn't say I could give a description of his personality. I'm hoping the book will be better at developing the characters.
Something else cool about this edition is that Andrew Lloyd Webber comes out at the end to talk about it, and the original Christine and several different Phantoms sing. It's pretty cool. Though the part where the Phantoms sing reminded my family of the part of "The Day of the Doctor" where Ten and Eleven move in sync and trade off lines in a monologue. That only made it better, Whovians that we are.
If, like me, you have been missing out on Phantom of the Opera, don't anymore. Watch it. This version is excellent, one of my friends said it was the best one. You won't regret it. (Well, unless you consider musicals the most horrible form of entertainment ever invented. But despite the unrealism, musicals are amazing.)
"He's here, the Phantom of the Opera."
EDIT: And it's even better the second time around.