I saw The Phantom of the Opera last Saturday. Phantom is extremely popular–the Pantages was packed on Saturday– and the longest-running musical on Broadway. As billed in most advertisements, it’s the “haunting love story of a brilliant composer shamed by his disfigurement, and the opera singer he falls in love with.” (Or something like that.)
There was a certain poignancy to the musical–not only because of the plot, but because Saturday was the second to last day that the US National Tour of Phantom would be performing. I think the only other way to see it now (“it” being the full-length production) would be to go to New York. There’s a 90-minute abridged version in Las Vegas called “Phantom: the Las Vegas Spectacular,” which is worth seeing for the gorgeous set and special effects.
The plot in Vegas seemed hollow and rushed–probably the result of condensing this normally two and a half hour musical into ninety minutes. The full production gave everything more depth. Not to mention I really liked Tim Martin Gleason’s voice (interestingly enough, he was the longest-running Raoul in Phantom history, before taking over the main role for the US National Tour). The Pantages really made me feel for the Phantom (or maybe it’s the result of watching the 2004 movie multiple times). It’s not that I didn’t like him before, but… he’s a dude living in the cellar beneath the opera, who more or less kidnaps Christine and exhibits slightly terrifying possessiveness. But the moment when Christine first unmasks him, and he reaches for her only to have her flinch away–it doesn’t justify his subsequent actions in the musical, but it does make you realize that there’s a reason for his life underneath the opera, and his obsession with Christine as his way out. It’s sad.
For those who can’t afford to go to New York to see the full production (I know I can’t; I almost cried when I paid for my tickets at Pantages, but thankfully it was worth it), there’s the 2004 movie version. It’s… actually kind of hilariously bad at some points, but worth watching in spite (or even because) of that. Emmy Rossum is still my favorite Christine, and Gerard Butler actually makes a fascinating Phantom. The costumes and set designs are very lavish, too. Beautiful to watch.
Bonus: here’s Michael Crawford, the very first Phantom from the original London cast, singing Music of the Night. So far, his voice is my favorite for the Phantom. I really wish I could have heard him live.
(The Phantom of the Opera was originally a novel by French writer Gaston Leroux. There have been several adaptations of the novel, including the 1925 silent movie starring Lon Chaney. But I think Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical, with its catchy music and romanticized portrayal of the Phantom, is the most well-known. In fact, the half mask most people associate with the Phantom originated with the musical. In the novel, the Phantom’s facial deformity stretches across his entire face–he’s even missing a nose, and his hands “smell like death.” But a full mask would have inhibited the actor’s ability for facial expression, so as a result, only half of the Phantom’s face in the musical is deformed.
Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a sequel to Phantom, called Love Never Dies. I might–and I stress might–watch it if a.) cheap tickets are available or b.) a movie version is made. The music is probably gorgeous, but the plot sounds terrible. Don’t even get me started on it.)
On Sunday, after a Halloween night of pretending to be the Phantom (no Christine in sight, unfortunately), I watched AMC’s premiere of The Walking Dead. Awesome awesome awesome. I’ll admit I hid behind my blanket for the first few minutes, because I am a coward and quite bad with gore. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it was really fun. Granted, an actual zombie apocalypse would be the furthest thing from fun. But when you’re safely ensconced in your couch, with a comfortable blanket wrapped around you, and watching other people shoot and kick and run away from zombies–yeah, lots of fun. The premiere was well-written and well-paced, and I like the main character Rick.
The only potential problem I can see is the lack of a strong female presence. One of the first scenes we see is Rick’s fellow policeman, Shane, complaining about his wife (girlfriend?), and Rick telling Shane that the difference between men and women is that men would never say something cruel in front of children. Further on in the show, you see Shane mansplaining to Rick’s wife, Lori, exactly why she can’t put up signs to warn other survivors about Atlanta. The message seemed to be, “Women! Well-meaning but only able to think with their emotions. They need a man to explain things logically to them.” I can’t pass a final judgment yet, because it’s only the premiere, and Lori is the only living woman to get more than one line. So we’ll see. I hope we get some kickass female characters soon.
I’m looking forward to the next episode, when Steve Yeun’s character, Glenn, will appear.
The Walking Dead is on every Sunday night on AMC, at 10/9 Central.
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