Sunday, October 16, 2011

25 Years of Phantom

Think of me. Think of me fondly.

Think you've seen everything there is to see in The Phantom of the Opera through that film starring Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler seven years ago? Think again.

Self-confessed theater junkies and Phantom addicts alike are celebrating throughout the world: Phantom's recently staged 25th anniversary production at London's Royal Albert Hall is now in theaters (up to October 18 in Manila) and, later this year, will be released in Blu-Ray, DVD, and CD. In other words, absolutely no reason to miss this while you live.

At the SM Mall of Asia cinema where I watched Phantom last Friday night, there were only around twenty of us for the last full show. But never mind the depressingly small number; at over three hours, the experience has only one parallel in my life: eight years ago, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The most glaring similarity? My mind shattered to pieces by the end. Spell 'epic'.

Here in this filmed version of what is very well Phantom as you'd see it on Broadway or the West End - only even grander - two questions demand contemplation: One, could Sarah Brightman really have acted her way through Phantom all those years ago as Sierra Boggess did here? And two, given the set and all those costumes, what exactly is Andrew Llord Webber's definition of 'lavish'?

Just think: If Sierra Boggess were the original Christine of Broadway, she definitely could have given Joanna Gleason's Baker's Wife in Into the Woods (the Tony winner for Best Actress that season) some really tough competition, agree? Boggess is now the definitive Christine, undoubtedly aided by her turn in the tragic Love Never Dies (whose score, above all, is just gorgeous).

Highlight of the entire film: Boggess' Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again - a masterclass in delivering those big musical theater solos. That number alone was justification enough for the ticket price.

And while we're at it, Ramin Karimloo's the Phantom, Hadley Fraser is a tad too operatic (between his and Patrick Wilson's All I Ask of You, guess whose I'd choose), Peter Joback is set to give London's Phantom a (literally) new voice, and Sarah Brightman's getting old (and losing her grip over the title song's last note).

But those are just side notes that I easily got over with. In the words of the Phantom: Bravo, bravo, bravissimo! Best of all, there was no Nick Jonas to ruin an otherwise perfect affair. 

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