Monday, 31 October 2011

Phantom 25 Encore

It seems only appropriate to start my blog with a review of the 25th Anniversary of Phantom of the Opera. This has been the event of the year for musical theatre and, being a lifelong “phan”, I feel really lucky to have had the privilege to have seen it live at the Royal Albert Hall.

Not being very rich, I had to go for the cheap seats (and by cheap I mean relative to the top price tickets - the 'cheap' tickets being £85). These were high up in the circle and though the atmosphere of actually being there is irreplaceable, the one thing that I missed out on was the acting. From where we were sat the sound was perfect, the general overview was perfect but the performers were little more than blurry blobs with indistinguishable features, moving about on stage.

So, it was with much excitement that I went to see the Phantom Encore screening at the Vue last night. Being able to see the actors so close up is usually only a luxury afforded to the top priced seats. Even then, not in such detail.

And in detail, it was. Filmed in HD, we could see every bead of sweat! (and sweating we all were. What you can't know from just watching the recording is how sweltering the heat was – I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortably hot, not even when I was a bridesmaid in Malta wearing a dress complete with padded bodice. Phans with fans made from leaflets for other shows all around).
From the moment it began I was completely mesmerized and enchanted. I already knew the singing was flawless from all involved, but I was blown away by the incredible acting. They all seemed to understand their characters and embody them entirely.  

Ramin Karimloo’s phantom is lonely, desperate  and clearly insane, yet at the same time occupies a strange allure for both Christine and the audience. Something Sierra Boggess’s Christine plays very well to. Her facial expressions when looking at the phantom at the beginning, shows her complete intoxication with him, which over the course of the show turns to fear, then pity.

Hadley Fraser’s Raoul is imposing, wilful and, quite frankly, a bit of a bastard! Through, I imagine, no fault of Hadley himself, but rather a directional insistence, no doubt to fit in with the story of Love Never Dies.

Before you dismiss this as hate toward Love Never Dies, know that I was actually a supporter. The music is beautiful; in my opinion, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best since Phantom. The story, however, was massively flawed. So, I would urge:-

Do not mess with the well loved original for the sake of a show that wasn’t well received!!

Another example of this:-  Christine turning to Phantom at the end of the lair scene to sing a reprise of ‘All I Ask of You’ rather than singing it to Raoul, giving us the impression she still hasn’t fully made her choice. This, of course, in keeping with the story of Love Never Dies.

These are, however, minor complaints of an otherwise perfect celebration of my favourite musical, with my favourite west end stars of the moment and I, for one, cannot wait to own the dvd. Never again will I have need to watch Joel Schumacher’s disappointing let down :- 

I hope you were taking notes, Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, because this is how it’s meant to be done.