Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Phantastic Rant: 25th Anniversary Edition

I just got back from seeing the 25th anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera. I have mixed feelings about it. Maybe it's too soon to blog but I would rather it be fresh in my mind, so here we go...

My first and foremost complaint involves the set design.

Looks awesome, right? Wrong!

It's all digital. Nothing behind them is real. Have you ever tried to record a television screen with a video camera? The resulting image is a warped/waggly disaster that's hardly recognizable. I'm sure it looked fantastic in person but to the thousands of broadcast viewers like myself, it was just downright distracting.

I never thought I would get drawn out of 'Music of the Night' because I kept noticing pixels behind the Phantom's head.

Overall, the set design made me miss the traditional/original set. One of the coolest moments in the show is when the candelabras rise out of the stage as the Phantom and Christine go on their little cruise.

What did the 25th anniversary have? Digital candelabras and the cruise lasted about 10 seconds. It was missing that organic feel that brings the stage and story to life. I felt shammed.

Oh, and speaking of shamming, I've never felt so shammed as I did during the chandelier drop. You know why? Because it didn't drop. Yes, you read that right.


And yet! The Phantom still hollered his infamous, "Goooooooo!" What the hell was he yelling at, then? My high hopes?

Let me stop here and say this: I thoroughly enjoyed this show. I really did. But I have to vent my frustrations before I can praise, so hang in there.

Another classic moment they totally botched was the death of Joseph Bouquet. Normally, the scene builds in suspense and tension by casting shadows of the Phantom chasing Bouquet above the ballerinas. This scene is staged in homage to the the 1929 Phantom film starring Lon Chaney, when the Phantom terrorizes via looming shadows:

And here's the same moment from the Broadway production in 2008:

And what did the 25th anniversary give us?

The Phantom casually strolls up behind Bouquet and slips the noose around his neck with little to no struggle. In plain view of the audience. No cat 'n mouse, no shadow play, no build up. Nothin'.

Ahh, what a lovely day for a little stroll in the catwalks. But ho! What's this? Joseph Bouquet? Methinks I'll strangle him.

Durp a-durp a-durp. I'll just stand here, facing one direction, holding perfectly still. It's not like I'm the perfect target or anythin--aaack!

And don't even get me started on how cheesy the Bouquet dummy looked. Honestly, people. This is the 25th anniversary. Can't we afford a decent dead body? Albeit fake?!

Another issue I had was in the position of the orchestra. They weren't in their customary pit. Rather, they were up above the actors, between the lower digital screens and the upper digital screens. Awkward? I think so.
Especially during 'Wandering Child' when the Phantom beckons Christine from her father's tomb. I couldn't focus on the Phantom because the conductor was literally right behind him flappin' his arms. That being said, the orchestra was beautiful.

Okay, now on to the good stuff.

The cast was amazing! Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess blew me away as the Phantom and Christine. Their chemistry is off the charts. They've previously played the Phantom and Christine together in the dreaded sequel 'Love Never Dies':

For those of you who haven't read my previous 'Phantastic Rant', these are the two I wanted to be in the film rather than Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. So it goes without saying I was pretty elated when I found out they were cast for this performance.

Ramin really captures the Phantom's anguish and madness in a perfect blend that makes him just as terrifying as he is piteous. His performance in the unmasking scene was particularly heart-wrenching.

Not to mention his powerhouse voice. All in all, Ramin Karimloo was born for this role.

Sierra Boggess actually made me like Christine. What the heck? Did I really just type that? Yes, I actually liked Christine for once! Boggess makes Christine vulnerable without resorting to the 'I'm-just-a-young-naive-girl' excuse. And, like Ramin, she has a spectacular voice I can't wait to slap on my iPod.

The rest of the ensemble was incredible, especially during 'Masquerade'. Instead of having a handful of people scattered on a staircase then filling in the spaces with dummies, they actually had a staircase jammed full with real people!

I don't think anything will ever top the 2004 movie's 'Masquerade' scene, but this came pretty dang close. Seeing nearly 200 people sing and dance in perfect sync was one of the many moments where I caught myself grinning like an idiot during the show.

But when it all boils down, the only thing this production had worth seeing was the cast.

Cameron Macintosh is mainly to blame for most of my complaints. He is the original and current producer of the show who wanted to 'revamp' the production and re-imagine the entire thing. I couldn't help but compare this to Les Miserables' 25th anniversary, for which he was also responsible as it's producer. This production didn't even compare with Les Miz's 25th.

The Les Miz 25th production was absolutely genius. I knew the music inside and out, I had seen the original production before, I had even been in my high school's production, yet I felt like I was seeing a whole new show and I have no desire to see the original production again.

Phantom's 25th, on the other hand, made me long for the original.

Is it fair to compare them? I think so. Macintosh was responsible for both, both were treated with equal amounts of hype and fanfare, and both are equally beloved by theatergoers around the world.

So why wasn't Phantom able to meet my expectations the way Les Miz did? I'm honestly not sure. All I know is that they could have and should have done better.

The cast, bless them, did their very best with what they were given. Their stellar performances are the only thing that makes this worth seeing, and trust me, it's definitely worth seeing.

A couple of after-party pics for your viewing pleasure:

BOW to the master!!!

I peed a little when Colm Wilkinson came out for the finale. He's one of my favorite Phantoms ever.

The Original Series and The Next Generation. Aww.

Ramin Karimloo, Michael Crawford, Colm Wilkinson, John Owen Jones, and Anthony Warlow! How did the camera that took this NOT explode from overexposure to pure awesomeness?! In fact, I'm pretty sure them physically touching could cause a chain reaction that would result in the known theatrical universe imploding.


  1. You crack me up Kimmy. I think my ADD would've ruined the film once I saw lasers and lights and that damnable distracting orchestra conductor. I still feel the need to see this though, I was so bummed I missed it in theaters! thanks for you thoughts and astute observations :)

  2. Why you're not a movie and theater critic is beyond me...