This is a repost of an old blog entry I made during my stay in New York City as an exchange student to New York University at the beginning of 2008. That single semester was the most incredible four months and has changed my life more than I could possibly imagine.
The Phantom of the Opera is a through-composed stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the great masters of twentieth century musical theatre, written for the one and only Sarah Brightman (his then-wife). It is one of the longest-running musicals in history, opening in the West End in 1986 and is still showing as of the date of writing this post. Phantom is one of the earliest musicals I was introduced to; I fell in love with it the first time I heard the music at age of 10 at a New Year’s Eve party held by a family friend.
I saw the 2004 film (also produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber) before I ever saw the stage musical and I loved it. This is my review of the stage production on Broadway.
Originally posted on Thu, 28 February 2008 at 01:59 while listening to “The Phantom of the Opera”, OST ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and feeling in love.
I love New York.
So I finished up my Corporate Finance case study and sat my Futures & Options mid-term and wondered what I was going to do with a whole evening of lovely free time. Then it hit me. Times Square is only a stone’s throw away. I ate an early dinner, scribbled down the addresses of about four different shows and headed out.
I originally meant to see something else, like Chicago or A Chorus Line, but Phantom was the closest theatre to the subway station and I couldn’t just walk past. I thought it would be less packed on a Wednesday night but incredibly the line of people wound all around the foyer, out the door and onto the sidewalk. I have loved Phantom for so long that I couldn’t resist. Didn’t get my beloved front and dead center mezzanine seats as I did for Rent, but I did get front and center rear mezzanine for $36 USD and it was pretty decent.
I got there at about 7:20 PM or so and there was already a huge line of people queuing up and people trying to sell souvenir programs for $10 each (I love Phantom, but not enough to pay $10 for a program). Doors opened at 7:30 PM sharp and I walked into this absolutely gorgeous theatre, all ornate woodwork with gold leaf, plush carpets and velvet, and chandeliers everywhere. Sadly my camera chose this moment to die so all subsequent pictures are from my phone.
The sets were absolutely fantastic and I wish I had photos. The whole sequence of “Little Lotte/The Mirror” into “I Remember…Stranger Than You Dreamt It” was done brilliantly, with Phantom leading Christine through a trapdoor in the stage then down a tilting walkway from side to side to make it seem like they descended into the bowels of the opera house. Then the lake scene, just wow, there was a lot of dry ice for mist on the lake and the boat and candles gliding around. Other memorable sets were the giant staircase for “Masquerade” which was so lavish and wonderfully done and the roof of the opera house for “All I Ask Of You”, oh and the “Hannibal” scene with the giant elephant!
They made really good use of stage space the whole time, there was a walkway on top of the stage where the Phantom cut down the chandelier, and it was connected to the gargoyle where he hid and did “All I Ask Of You (Reprise)”.
There’s a bunch of miscellaneous comments I had on other stuff about the staging. Costuming and lighting was great for the whole show. There was quite of bit of pyrotechnics used: explosions to signify the flashback in time at the beginning, when the Phantom appears/disappears, then Phantom throwing fireballs in the graveyard scene during “Wandering Child” and there was a point where there were massive gouts of flame going up on stage (I think during Don Juan Triumphant?). Totally. Awesome.
Musically I was so impressed by Howard McGillin. He makes a brilliant Phantom and his voice is so wonderfully expressive. If it were possible to fall in love with a voice, I would be so in love right now. He conveyed such depths of emotion in his singing and then he acted the part of a genius caught between sociopathic violence and a pitiful yearning for unrequited love so perfectly. *swoon* Loved him. Jennifer Hope Wills did pull off a great Christine, but I think my rather subdued praise is due to listening to Sarah Brightman on repeat.
Tim Martin Gleason as Raoul was…good but compared to Phantom and Christine, he just kind of paled beside them. His diction wasn’t as clean and crisp and his delivery didn’t pull on the heartstrings enough. He seemed to sing at two extremes a lot – he’s either “yelling” in a dynamically flat way or a very nice softer, more expressive sound. I wish he had more gradations in his performance, like the other two leads (the ranges in their voices are unbelievable). He’s supposed to be the understudy for Phantom; I’m not sure that would work out so good, just because his Raoul didn’t really grab me. Patricia Phillips did Carlotta very well too, but I kept thinking about Minnie Driver’s version in the film and felt it was a bit too similar and Minnie Driver’s version was stronger.
Final comments on musicality before I sleep – orchestra was really, really good. And diction overall was fantastic. You could hear every single consonant being clipped off and it was done so strongly and cleanly that it would echo a little around the theatre. Except for Gleason. He was kind of slack on a lot of his diction. Blah, and now this is ending on a down note. Well, when all is said and done, it was still a great show and I still loved it. But on an overall basis, I’d have to say Rent left a stronger impression on me. Soooo…I will blog about Rent (which I saw like a month ago)…soon!