I love musical theatre. I’ve loved musical theatre since I was a kid. I performed in my first musical when I was 8, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s my ‘thing’. I especially love that it’s something I can continue to enjoy and participate in as an adult.
For the past 9 or 10 years, along with my mom, aunt, and grandma, I’ve gotten season tickets to the Broadway series touring shows that come to our city. We’ve seen several amazing shows and others that we still love to laugh about, but no matter what, it’s always a fun evening out.
Last night we saw The Phantom of the Opera, which is my number one favorite musical of all time. I’ve seen Phantom so many times, in 3 different countries, sometimes multiple times in the same tour when it’s come to my city, on Broadway in New York…I’m sure I’ve seen Phantom probably over 20 times in my lifetime.
I love this show. Not for the spectacle (although it is pretty impressive) but for the magic of the story. A good Phantom can make you forgive all of the creepy obsessive murdering behaviors, and truly make you feel sorry for him. When he sings the hauntingly painful, ‘Christine, I love you’ at the end of the show I cry every single time.
Well, this production of Phantom was billed as the ‘new’ Phantom – reimagined with different directorial concepts, so naturally I was excited to see how someone could update Phantom while still keeping the grandeur and magic of the original. But I have to say I was less than amazed with the results. Now, it’s still Phantom, so I still thoroughly enjoyed the performance, but here are a few of my thoughts about the ‘new’ Phantom.
The set was incredible. A large turn table tower became steps to the Phantom’s dungeon, the opera house office, rehearsal space, and many other settings for the play. While it didn’t have the opulence of the original performance, I didn’t miss that while watching this set seamlessly transform and take you wherever the story went. And, as is typical for our city, the pit orchestra was incredible. (One of my friend’s mom’s was playing cello!) There’s so much local talent here-it’s wonderful.
As a whole, the production was kind of soft. Part of what draws me (and I believe Christine) into the Phantom’s spell is his mystery and magic. Yes, he is just a man who grew up under unfortunate circumstances, but there’s something mysterious about him. The way he seems to appear from the shadows, how you never see him enter or exit a scene until it’s too late, how, until he’s exposed at the end of the play, you really wonder if he might actually be a ghost or spirit. This production humanized the Phantom, but I’d argue they took it too far. He lost some of his charm and appeal by being too ‘normal’. The song Music of the Night (which is my second favorite song of all time) is supposed to show his love/obsession with Christine while putting her under his spell, but the choices to not use the creepy Christine bride doll and to have so much physical separation between the two actors during the scene made it just another pretty ballad. I kept on wanting more. I wanted him to touch Christine, and I wanted her to have no choice but to fall under his spell until she became completely terrified with how deep his obsession ran. He was too gentle with her the entire time, almost apologetic, and the Phantom is not apologetic.
I understand the choice of trying to dial down the melodrama, and with some of the other characters it worked (Carlotta and Piangi missed a bit of their comedic nature, but their ego matched their talent which I appreciated) but the Phantom himself needs that layer of mystery. In the graveyard scene he just walked on from offstage. The Phantom never just walks on from offstage like he’s taking a stroll. His moves are calculated, and he’s got an eye on everything Christine is doing at all times, especially if she’s alone.
And the choice at the very end to not have the Phantom looking at Christine to truly confess his love (the one non obsessive proclamation he makes to her) did not hold the same weight to me. That line should rip your heart into a million pieces.
Overall, this humanized version of Phantom lacked the mystery and magic of the original. I found myself caring less about the characters when they made them ‘more human’ then I did when they had a bit more dramatic flare to them.
You didn’t ask, but you got it anyway. If you’ve seen the show both ways, I’d love to hear your comments on what you thought!!