Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. In celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary, Cameron Mackintosh produced a unique staging in London’s Royal Albert Hall. Universal Pictures has released performance on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s a must-have for any true Phantom fan (or phan, as we call ourselves).
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Webber debuted the show about the love triangle between vocal ingénue Christine Daaé, the musically maniacal Phantom, and Christine’s childhood sweetheart Raoul. And it’s no wonder that the show is unabashedly romantic. Webber wrote the musical while passionately in love with his wife and eventual star of the show, Sarah Brightman. He’s even said he feels a kinship with the mad composer who tries to win the love of a woman with his music.
The 25th anniversary production magnifies and updates the original staging by Hal Prince and Gillian Lynne. The musical features a cast and orchestra of over 200 members. The “Masquerade” scene features a full troupe of dancers, rather than interspersing them with the mannequins which are used in the traditional production (check out the video at the end of this post). There are also some updates to props and technology. Large electronic screens help to fill out the scenery. There is no longer a Christine doll at the end of “The Music of the Night”. The infamous chandelier does not fall at the end of the first act, although it does set off some impressive sparks.
The performers all perfectly embody their roles. Ramin Karimloo uses his versatile voice to seduce Christine and rage at his enemies. Sierra Boggess‘s pitch-perfect vocals and wide blue eyes exemplify the innocence of Christine. Some have criticized Hadley Fraser’s aggressive portrayal of Raoul, although I thought it was nice to see the traditionally wishy-washy character grow a set.
The production also features appearances by guest artists. Sarah Brightman and former Phantoms Peter Jöback, John Owen-Jones, Anthony Warlow, and Colm Wilkinson join forces for a powerful version of the show’s title tune. Michael Crawford (the original Phantom in the London production) comes out on stage, although does not sing. The celebration closes out with a mass performance of “The Music of the Night”(check it out at the end of this post).
I’m so glad that a staged version of the musical has finally been released on DVD and Blu-ray. I’ve been a lifelong phan, ever since I first heard about the musical back in 1986. At the time, I was too young to go to the musical. I saw the movie version when it came out in 2004, but I didn’t realize what a pale imitation it was of original until I finally got to see my first staged version of Phantom when it came to Chicago several years ago. I loved it so much that I would have returned to see it again the next day, if only I had the money. But now that I have the Blu-ray version, I can watch it to my heart’s content. Good thing that Contrapuntist loves this musical too, because he’s going to be seeing a lot of it.