Over the weekend, I watched the 25th anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera on YouTube. I used to listen to the recording, radio-drama style, but this was my first time viewing the entire musical.
The production was certainly well done. Filmed with a live audience in London, the musical takes on a three-dimensional aspect, with fireworks, sound effects, and a stunning digital backdrop that changes in every scene. The leading trio of Sierra Boggess (Christine), Ramin Karimloo (Erik), and Hadley Fraser (Raoul) sang, acted, and even danced their roles with enormous conviction, if not quite the chemistry I had been expecting. The supporting cast was also excellent, and I was especially impressed with the touching, humanizing portrayal of Carlotta (sang by Wendy Ferguson), as well as the comedic charm of M. Andre (Gareth Snook).
I have to say, the older I get the less enthralled I am with the story. I just don’t enjoy stories with creepers, even if they sing really well. The entire musical is about stalking, kidnapping, and a couple of murders. I get that it’s supposed to be creepy, it’s just not my cup of tea, and I’ll stick my neck out further (no pun intended) and say it’s not suitable for tween girls (which was, unfortunately, when I first stumbled across it, and is probably its target audience, a la Twilight. Anyways…).
This is somewhat emphasized by Karimloo’s Phantom. He plays Erik with frenzy, passion, and anger, which is a perfectly valid interpretation and probably the most accurate. That said, a more suave Phantom would have made certain scenes less cringey to watch. This is just my 2 cents.
The songs are the best part, of course. I like some of them more than others (and certain ones not at all), though they’re each well written so as to move the story along. Though the group and chorus songs tend to be my favorites, the highlight here was definitely “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” Contrasted with Sarah Brightman, Boggess takes a really different approach to this elegy, and her rendition is utterly gut-wrenching. When I listen to her interpretation, the emotion she conveys isn’t just grief: it’s also anger at how her grief and her father’s hold over her is ruining her life. This completely explains the lyrics “No more memories / No more silent tears / No more gazing across the wasted years,” which had always felt a little off to me before. I actually teared up in this scene.