Everyone these days seems to be on the bandwagon regarding Webber’s pending sequel to The Phantom of the Opera entitled “Lover Never Dies.” There’s one big stir running across the Internet pipeline and it's filling with articles and opinions. I’ve seen everything from petitions to halt the production to others who can’t wait for the release. What do I think about all the hubbub? Here’s my two cents worth, which might greatly surprise you.
The Phantom of the Opera is a timeless masterpiece originally penned by Gaston Leroux. God bless his heart. He’d probably sit up in his coffin and shake his head in amazement over a book he wrote that did poorly when released in 1910 and is now revered as a classic. The basic premise of the story has turned into a worldwide obsession that breeds a frenzy of strong fan opinions that occasionally get down right ugly.
Fans are divided into camps: (1) original Leroux lovers; (2) Webber’s stage play lovers; and (3) 2004 movie lovers. Some lovers cross camps and some stay entrenched in one camp while despising the others. I sort of chuckle over the whole matter myself. As for me? I slide between all three, but tend to lean heavier toward the play and Leroux camp. I love the play, but without Leroux you can't understand the motivations of the characters.
However, let’s make one point clear. The story does not belong to one person in fan land, as some might like to think. Oh, sure, Leroux wrote it, Webber has copyrights plastered everywhere, but the story belongs to us ALL. We are individually touched by the message. That is what is so great about The Phantom of the Opera – it universally touches everyone, but in different ways.
The current uproar is now Webber has written a sequel, he’s chosen actors to play the part (and there's complaints over those choices), and the countdown to the stage production has begun (as you can see by my widget on my blog here). Many are screaming he should leave well enough alone. Let good things stay as they are, so to speak. Don't mess with it - it's not broken.
In reality, no one will ever stop the influx of books on the Phantom of the Opera from people who continue to write their own sequels or spinoffs. Before I sat down to write this article, I went on Amazon.com and counted at least 30 books written about the Phantom beyond Leroux’s or Webber’s version, and I’m sure there are many others worldwide in different languages. I personally know of four other works in progress from various authors that are expansions or sequels that haven't hit the market yet. Let’s face it folks, Webber’s sequel will only be one out of heaven knows how many more to come from fan-filled imaginations.
I’ve also heard complaints that in the new sequel Raoul is being portrayed in a less than lovable light. Heavens, will anybody be happy? Most didn't like Raoul to begin with. Millions of fans complained because Christine didn’t end up with the Phantom, so Webber writes a sequel that will no doubt give you Christine and the Phantom. He needs to give some plausible reason for Christine now to choose the Phantom over Raoul, so naturally Raoul becomes the bad guy rather than the Phantom. I can think of a thousand scenarios to spin everyone’s head. Webber chose a storyline spinning off from another novel sequel. Like it or not. It will be what it will be.
So I say all that to say this! Frankly, let Webber produce his musical sequel. For me it will not distract from the story that so profoundly touched my life. Erik's cry, "All I ever wanted was to be loved for myself," will continue to resonate throughout the world. Allow Webber the creative license to do with the story as he pleases. After all, he’s responsible for taking Leroux’s book and making it into a worldwide phenomenon by producing a stage play in 1986. If the new sequel flops, it flops. If it’s another success, it’s another success. Will it please everyone? Well, we all know you can only please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
In conclusion, The Phantom of the Opera belongs to us all! Not one of you out there in fan land own the Phantom, Philippe de Chagny, Raoul de Chagny, Christine Daae, Madame Giry, Meg Giry, Carlotta, the Managers, or any other character for that matter. These characters belong to us all, and each character touches us in different ways. I dare say that every one of us has the creative license and right to pen stories about their lives if we so choose no matter what venue that may be - public or private.
Webber’s sequel will touch the hearts of those it is meant to touch, and I do not believe it will dilute in any way the stage play, the movie, or Leroux’s version. His sequel will not be the last sequel to hit the market either. Many more will come, and there will probably be sequels upon his sequel. The Music of the Night never ends folks! The story will continue to morph as others see fit to satisfy the hunger within to produce the outcomes they wish.
As I have said before, as far as I am concerned Andrew Lloyd Webber is a musical genius, and he continues to immortalize the musical genius in a musical. I support him wholeheartedly in his right to do so, whether or not I like his new play or not. He is a gifted creator, and I respect his talent. Take heart. He will not ruin The Phantom of the Opera - it's immortal.
As always, I am your obedient and thought provoking servant -
The Phantom’s Student
PS -- Don't be shy! What's your view? Chime in! I respect everyone's opinion.