Monday, October 3, 2011

It's a Celebration - Not a Condemnation

Yesterday at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, I arrived at the Lloyd Center Regal Cinemas to take my seat for the 25th anniversary celebration. Thankfully, I bumped into Bonnie Anne Hudson Pinard aka Paisley Swan Stewart, the author of Chanson de l'Ange. Bonnie and I sat next to each other, along with a friend she brought, and my son and his friend on the other side of me. If it were not for Bonnie carrying an abundant amount of tissues in her purse, I would have been wiping my nose upon my sleeve or running to the ladies room to steal some toilet paper. How could I leave without tissues? Duh!

Whenever I see Phantom, I cry. Some shows I cry more than others, based upon the performance of the Phantom. Others have moved me to tears, but Ramin Karminloo moved me to uncontrolled weeping. Bonnie and I kept grabbing each other during various scenes, because they were so powerful.

I'm sure others have different opinions about the production, and I've read some already (not that the Phantom community ever complains or anything); but I can only reiterate yesterday was a celebration. I encourage the community not to turn it into a condemnation.

Those who were privileged to be in London and see the show live were surely blessed. The energy in the Albert Hall had to be electrifying. However, seeing it on the big screen in a theater was nothing less than mind blowing. The cinematography was fantastic! I thought we'd just be plugged into one camera during performance showing the stage as a whole, as if we were some person plunked in a seat in the auditorium with a cheap ticket. On the contrary, we were given a visual feast of various angles, closeups, and actually saw tears rolling down the faces of Ramin and Sierra.

As far as the staging and sets, it was somewhat different no doubt due to the change in venue. Some of the familiar items such as the dressing room were missing, the elephant for Piangi, and a few other nuances. No doubt that had much to do with the setting of the production, but frankly it did not deter the enjoyment of the show for me. The visuals were wonderful too on the big screen as far as the backdrops that showed such great views like the Phantom penning his notes.

The costumes were to die for! Have you ever been close enough to see the lines of the feathers in the Phantom's fedora or the bead work on his cape? How about Christine's wedding dress and all the intricate detail the eye can behold? The colorful costumes were breathtaking, and a fitting recognition was given to the designer, who passed away some years ago - Maria Bjornson.

The performances, as far as I'm concerned, were nothing close to mediocre. There were frankly brilliant in every possible way. Each Phantom, of course, brings their own interpretation of the role, and each fan has their preferences. However, after looking into Ramin Karimloo's eyes during some of the close-up scenes, I can honestly say the man embodied the Phantom perfectly. This was my first time seeing Karimloo play the original role. I have an extremely high regard for Ramin as a man of character, too, which was clearly demonstrated at the end of the show when he bowed to Crawford and held his hand to show him the respect he deserved.

As far as his overall portrayal and vocals, they were sublime. Frankly, I was a tad worried having heard reports that his voice wasn't up to par on the first performance, and he even tweeted he was aware of the problem. However, Sunday's performance he was at the top of his game. Ramin's portrayal moved me to tears. His hurt, longing, anger, and brokenness were palpable. He just didn't play a role; he became the character. If I could bow to him and kiss his hand, frankly I would. Well done indeed.

What can you say about Sierra Boggess? She is Christine Daae. Her performance was touching, conflicted, and filled with yearning -- frankly, I don't have enough words to express the depth of her portrayal or her wonderful vocals on stage. Her and Ramin were meant to play the part together. Their chemistry had already been forged in their roles in Love Never Dies, and that chemistry was brought to the 25th Anniversary celebration. Great casting choice, though some may disagree in my assessment and the reasons behind those choices.

I had never heard of Hadley Fraser until the 25th Anniversary cast was announced. Wonderful choice for Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny. He played it with just a tad bit of aristocratic arrogance, which was quite appropriate since he was a patron of the opera house, rich beyond belief, titled, and handsome to boot. I thought his endearment toward Christine quite touching, and his hatred toward his rival quite convincing. His vocals were superb.

As far as the remaining cast who played Meg, Madame Giry, Carlotta, Piangi, and the managers, they are all to be congratulated for their fantastic performances. They all deserve five star ratings, as well as the ensemble and chorus. Loved them all!

The onstage reprisals and celebration after the performance were fantastic. I get such joy seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber. (#1 bucket list for me - meet the guy personally). To top it off, we saw and heard Sarah Brightman, Anthony Warlow (former AU production), John Owen Jones (current Phantom in London), Colm Wilkinson (former Phantom Toronto), and Peter Joback (new Phantom for London effective March 2012). Michael Crawford came out on stage and the audience, of course, gave him the accolades due for being in the original cast. It was a very moving ending indeed.

Yes, it was a celebration of the 25th anniversary. Of course, other reviews contrary to my own are popping up making it more of a condemnation instead. And, yes, you are entitled to your opinions. I can only add that the joy of Phantom is a universal gift that has been bestowed upon us by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the many others responsible for the creation of this wonderful production. As for me, I will not and cannot condemn and nitpick to death the beauty of yesterday's production. Why? Because it's not about me, folks, nor shockingly is it about you. It's about the continued existence of this wonderful show and story and the success of 25 years rolled into a program of celebration.

In conclusion, all I can say is that it will be forever etched in my mind as a fantastic presentation of the story I so dearly love. I hope to own it on DVD one day and play it until I have to buy another copy because I've worn it out.

If you haven't had the opportunity to see it yet, it's replaying encore performances at selected theaters this week. CLICK HERE for information and tickets. Go! Go and enjoy it and glory in the celebration of The Phantom of the Opera.

The Phantom's Student aka Vicki

P.S. Read a great article of accolades BROADWAY WORLD


Shadow of a Joke said...

A brilliant review. I too saw it screened and thought it fantastic. It is nice to have close ups that you would not witness in the albert hall audience, still being there would have been spectacular too. Cant wait to buy it on dvd. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone… I’m from the PR company who are looking after the release of the CD and DVD of recordings from the Royal Albert Hall Phantom 25th Anniversary celebrations. If you would like any more information or to chat, my email address is:

Danielle Talbot said...

Lovely review!