Mewsings from Lowecat (aka Indianacat)

My rants, ravings, and overall 'mewsings' on life, the universe, and everything.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Twenty Five Years of the Music of the NIght

It was in the late 1980s that I became aware of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Phantom of the Opera, and fell completely in love with the main character thanks to an infant cable network called VH1. Set up to be a more mature (IE adult contemporary) sibling to MTV, VH1 ran music videos 24 hours a day. In order to fill out the programming, a lot of Broadway musics submitted clips. And that's how I met Michael Crawford's portrayal of 'The Phantom' aka Erik.
I remember reading Gaston LeRoux's novel sometime in high school. It was required reading for a literature course. Even then, my sympathies leaned towards Erik. Guess it was because of the kindred soul thing. Like Erik, I was often judged by my looks, which weren't the best as a child, having the double whammy of being overweight and wearing thick lensed glasses.
Didn't get around to seeing the 1925 Lon Chaney version of Phantom until many years later. I had read about it, and seen clips of it, but not the whole movie. Strangely enough, the scene where Christine unmasks the Angel of Music didn't scare me at all.
All Erik/The Phantom wanted was to be loved for himself. For someone to see past the outer shell to love the man underneath. Don't we all? His grief/rage/heartbreak over being denied is somethin' I could relate to. Unfortunately, I don't possess the genius of Erik - at least not in magic, potions, and architecture (though at least have an affinity for writin' and music).
When I first heard the thundering organ chords and the drumbeat for the title to ALW's masterpiece, I was hooked. When I saw Michael Crawford's Phantom lead Sarah Brightman's Christine along the television screen to his lair during the titel song, I was doubly hooked. And when Michael Crawford sang 'Music of the Night' with all it's seductive qualities, I was a goner for life.
Regrettably, all I ever had for a few decades was my cassette soundtrack and a few on line videos. I never got to see POTO - except for the various films such as Chaney's, Claude Rains version, and Charles Dance's version from NBC. There are some other derivations of POTO out there, including a well done animated version. The really gory ones I have stayed away from.
But I never saw ALW's version until 2004 when it was finally brought to the big screen. By that time, Ms. Brightman and Mr. Crawford had moved on to other things. That's when I discovered what became one of my few actor obsessions - Gerard Butler - as The Phantom. I've loved that movie for it's own merits ever since, and Gerry took his place as my 2nd favorite Phantom.
I never subscribed to the fan frenzy that demanded the original portrayers of The Phantom and Christine - Mr. Crawford and Ms. Brightman - reprise their roles for the movie. It would have been nice and probably would've worked had the movie been made in the 1990s or late 80s. By 2003, when the movie was being produced, Ms. Brightman was beyond the ingenue role, and Mr. Crawford had also moved on to other roles. The players cast in the movie WORKED, in my opinion. It made the production more accessible.
(Now, and I hope Mr. Kurt Sutter doesn't kick me in the ass for this admission), as much as I detest bootleg DVDs, someone made a video recording of Paul Stanley's portrayal of ALW's Phantom in 1995 that I purchased. It's a very bad quality video, but I treasure it anyway. It's the only bootleg I own. Have to give Mr. Stanley kudos for taking on the part. It's vocally demanding for any male, and there was a lot of hype at the time about his notoriety as KISS's front man. But he made the Phantom someone you could care about. He became my 3rd favorite Phantom.
This year marked the silver anniversary of ALW's POTO debuting on the London theatre stage. POTO had already reached a milestone by surpassing Cats (another ALW creation) as the longest running show on the Great White Way. So what was going to be done to celebrate this monumentous occasion?
One thing that came about was a sequel to POTO. Love Never Dies. It died in London, much to my regret. Frankly, I think it's because people couldn't accept the storyline that the sequel was based upon. I read that book, own it, and will probably re read it a few more times. It's not great literature, but it's not truly bad, either. I look forward - with great relish - to the release of the DVD of Love Never Dies.
The gentleman who plays The Phantom in Love Never Dies is Ramin Karimloo. He is a tremendously talented singer and actor. If you want to see his work, check out YouTube and his site is Sheytoons. You'll see what I mean. Mr. Karimloo was chosen to play the Phantom for the 25th Anniversary gala at the Royal Albert Hall in London this weekend. The gala was shown all over the world Sunday. Indianapolis had three theatres showing it.
The Gerard Butler fangroup I belong to, Indy Tarts and Tartans, decided to attend this showing. Two of us were at the southside showing, three of us went to the Castleton airing. I was the stage virgin of our group. I was amazed by the entire performance. Were there differences from the 1995 stage performance? Sure. Differences from the VH1 clips, too. There was extra lines in some of the songs, which didn't bother me a damn bit. It also didn't bother me that there were a large amount of differences from the stage performance and the movie. Hell, that's Hollyweird for ya. Movies can edit a lot of things in that you can't do live.
The chandelier was the one big difference. It didn't come down for this performance. I imagine that the RHA wasn't set up for that kind of thing to happen as it does on Broadway and London's West End. I suspect permits had a play in that matter. Still, though the chandelier didn't fall, the effect of the chandelier going out in response to Erik's wrath was well done.
I feel that every man to portray The Phantom/Erik brings a uniqueness to the chracter of his very own. Erik, despite his deformity, is sensual in his power and mystery. Mr. Karimloo brought every bit of that to the forefront. You felt his pain when he was rejected and denied by Christine, his determination to win her, his hope when he handed her the ring in Point of No Return. He scared the bejesus outta me as Red Death in Masquerade (not by the costume, but by his entire demeanor). I was crying at the very end. Course, I cry at the end of POTO anyway, but this was a heavier crying. There was something about Mr. Karimloo's portrayal that really touched me.
As I tweeted to him after the performance ended, and truly hope it didn't come out the wrong way, "Damn you! Curse you! You've become my 2nd favorite Phantom after Michael Crawford. Gerard Butler now 3rd, Paul Stanley 4th!" I followed it up with a later tweet to ask that he please understand I meant to praise his work.
Considering he probably got thousand of tweets, I don't expect an answering tweet. That's OK. His performance touched my creative soul, and I wanted to share that with him.
As far the production itself, it didn't fail to deliver as far as I was concerned. There had to be accomodations for the venue, and perhaps some who have seen other stage precentations of POTO might've been disappointed by some of the aspects of the RHA performance. Differences in sets and backdrops. I was kinda intrigued by the use of projected backdrops - a far cry from the many hours spent building sets from the ground up in high school drama. Likely, were this to be a longer runnin' situation, projections might not have been used. It might've taken away from the lake travel during the title song. The projections also added to the song 'Notes', where we see a projected image of the Phantom writing his note to the managers and also see some of the writing of the note. Very clever.
For someone like myself, who only had the 2004 movie to compare it to, I was NOT disappointed at all. From the very first item auctioned off, to Meg Giry finding the Phantom's mask in his chair at the end, I was intrigued and thrilled. Mr. Karimloo, Ms. Boggess, Mr. Fraser, all the performers gave their all, and it showed.
I am, and will continue to be, as obssessed with POTO in its' many forms as I am with Sons of Anarchy and Classic Star Trek. I thank ALW for comin' up with the show in the first place, the first originators for makin' it happen, and all those who have had a hand in the magic as well.
And a note about after the show. ALW came out to speak to the audience, and recognized the world wide viewings that were going on. When he mentioned the original cast and crew, my heart leapt for joy. Hearin' Ms. Brightman sing with four of the Phantoms was magnificient, and when Mr. Karimloo joined in, I had goosebumps and tears at the same time.
Seein' Mr. Crawford come out onto the stage, even though he wasn't wired to sing, was also a treat. And for those who didn't look, he WAS singin' with the others!
This is one Phan of Phantom who greatly enjoyed the program, and will treasure this memory for years to come. It's gonna be a long time until February when the US gets the DVD and CD release.
Well worth the wait, IMO, and I will NOT get a bootleg early edition. I'll wait for the real thing.

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