Monday, March 16, 2020

Phantom Of The Opera At The Royal Albert Hall

I figure I'd throw my hat into the month of March musical madness, and look at some musicals I haven't talked about yet.

Well it's official, Phantom is now the longest running show in history, been played for almost 35 years and a special commemorative DVD was released on it's 25th anniversary which we'll look at today. Now I will say I have actually seen the show live years ago and very much loved it, yet even I can't fathom why this show has practically been god tier theatre since it's premiere. I know people say oh Phantom Of The Opera is just dramatic fluff for teenage girls and midwestern moms and while I am slightly biased with me being a major fan of the character in multiple iterations across books, films, and musicals I very much enjoy the story. We start off in the dilapidated opera house as we get some preamble and a tiny taste of mystery before things get spectacular with the unveiling of the chandelier and one of the all time most iconic and awesome musical pieces is performed as we're whisked away to the grand days of the opera populaire, and from then it follows the classic story of the love triangle between Christine Daae, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagney, and the eponymous Phantom. I love everything about it, the songs are wonderful, the acting is mighty fine, even the more hokey things like a fireball casting man in a mask is pretty damn great, big emotional ending, expertly crafted staging, the whole lot. I think it's quite safe to say this is the most popular version of the character, unless you know some hardcore movie fans who know of the Lon Chaney 1925 silent classic, this is the version everyone knows about. The 1925 film saved Gaston Leroux's story from absolute obscurity, and the stage show propelled it to a househeld name. This particular production is the most lavish I've seen of any production, fully utilizing the Royal Albert Hall and modern technology to create a seamless spectacle of music and visuals, and rightfully so with it being that special occasion. We have quite possibly the most beloved and well known actors playing the Phantom and Christine after Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess. These two are something truly special to see, both with very powerful and outstanding vocals but also very strong acting particularly in Ramin's case. He goes 150% and I love it, I can hear some people say it's a bit much but well...the book version is a drama queen of the highest level so I can accept it. Now with this being a taped event that was actually broadcasted to cinemas around the world, it's shot incredibly well and the camera always knows where to be to show the full range of the performances with the editing being spot on. The musical itself is about two hours long but it has a very special encore that lasts almost 30 minutes with the cast, original creators, and even the man himself Lord Andy to show their appreciation for the fans and their partners in show business which is actually quite sweet and you can tell they have immense love and respect for everyone who made the show possible. I know such a task as filming a live show is difficult to do and I can only imagine how the original run went, but good lord I've seen countless recordings on good old VHS camcorders of the stage show because we couldn't get a high quality official release of it, and I'm not terribly upset that it took 25 years to finally get it because I can understand why and with such a well executed production it does almost make up for it but I'm a greedy fan and always wanted a copy of my own to watch whenever. It's certainly not for everyone, I can admit the source material is flawed but musicals like I've said before are not logical, it's all about suspension of disbelief and the emotions which is the most likely reason this show is still running strong. Is it perfect? No. Is it very entertaining and engaging? Absolutely. The cast is downright amazing, the sets and costumes are extravagant but not to the point of ludicrous taste, the music.....ohh my gawd it is so good! You can say what you will about the story, but no one can deny this is masterfully crafted music in every single scene even if it's not a main big famous song. I was a total nerd for this stuff a decade ago and my love for it has certainly not waned, this is a real treat and if you've always wanted to see it but don't have a theatre production near your home that is about to do it, pick this up and enjoy yourself. I'd give it a high 9/10, what slight issue I take with this can be forgiven due to the craftsmanship and emotion of this play. Certainly a strong start to the week, but what comes next for our musical tribute? Something unexpected but a movie I've been meaning to talk about for quite some time. Until then my friend.

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