I was recently made aware of Phantom 25 and the fact that it was being showered in positive reviews and thus ended up wondering whether or not I should buy the DVD version. You see, despite the positive reviews, the debacle that is LND is still fresh in my mind and I'm not exactly in the mood to give ALW any of my money after he pulled that
stunt. Phantom 25 would have to be REALLY good to change my mind. So a kind person on Tumblr gave me a livestream link and I thought, might at well check it out and if it's good then I'll consider buying it.
After having watched it, I have only really one main reaction: ALW, shut up and take my money!
I've only seen the movie before and so didn't really have anything to compare that to, this however, is a totally different slice of cake. First of all, Sierra Boggess is fantastic as Christine and miles above Emmy Rossum's bland depiction. She's bright-eyed and radiant and brings a kind of almost impish mischievousness to the role. Here in SA, we'd say she's 'op en wakker' but I can't think of a proper translation.
Hadley Frasier's Raoul and the Phantom played well too and certainly sang fantastically. This Raoul has a definite thread of badassery running through him (and looks disconcertingly like Cpt. Jack Harkness) which is great, and doesn't have that stupid long hair cut, which is even better, but every now and again seemed to me a little harsh. But still, definitely a worthy opponent for the Phantom for once.
Ramin's Phantom was also brilliantly sung, but at a few points here and there I rather missed Gerard Butler's acting (not his singing, mind) and couldn't help thinking: better in the movie, but at other points he was better than Butler, so I guess in the end it evens out. Also, they both have nasty hands. (Don't mind me, I just have a hand thing and imagine Erik's hands to be more like David Tennant's than Butler's or Karimloo's. I'll shut up now.) And any shortcomings I still felt he had evaporated when I watched the final lair scene. He was utterly terrifying and heartbreakingly pitiable at the same time, and you're sitting there watching thinking: What are my feelings doing??!
Now, a few words about the supporting roles: they were glorious! Normally, when I watch the movie, I tend to skip the bits with the managers and Carlotta not here I don't, that's for sure! The managers are hilarious (I had no idea they had wives...), and Carlotta is sublime. Her actress brings subtle nuances to her role that makes her so much more interesting to watch than the movie version, especially those smug little glances we get every now and again, and, oddly enough, something that looked a lot like genuine surprise and sympathy when she says of Christine, "She's mad..." Interesting... Also, Piangi is epic. End of story. With an oddly beautiful voice, too.
Finally, my favourite character: Mme. Giry. Yes, Miranda Richardson still wins this hands down, but I think this is largely because she was given complete full reign when she played her and added a lot of interesting facets because she could. This Mme. Giry looks terrifying, yes, but she definitely makes it clear, with very little stage time and even fewer lines, that she's the one who runs the men who run the theatre. I haven't yet worked out whether I include Erik in this or not. Her actress portrayed her brilliantly, one of the most mysterious characters in the story, more mysterious, I think, than Erik himself. Think about it: by the end of the show, we know a great deal more about him than we know of Mme. Giry we know pretty much nothing about her and that's part of her great fascination. But now I'm sidetracking myself with my fangirling. Moving on...
Their take (or maybe that's how the musical always does it) on how DJT panned out was refreshingly different and a damn good idea I loved it to bits and, by gum, it certainly makes a good deal more sense than the movie version's did: how it was plausible that Christine not know, not until Erik was tempted into breaking character and she, rightfully, became suspicious. Love it!! Right up until she pulls the hood off and he just stands there all: "Oh deary me, what to do, what to dooh, I know: I'll propose!!" and I'm all: "Seriously, Erik? Seriously?"
But the best bit, by far, was the extra stuff at the end. There's something so chokingly emotional about seeing the whole original cast assemble on the stage, seeing Michael and Sarah together on the stage again, and, especially, seeing Sarah and the old Phantoms singing the theme together. That took watching in small instalments because I had to stop and breathe deeply and calm down every few seconds.
(Also: LOL at Tim Rice watching that performance!
But what can we take away from this: Colm Wilkinson still has it, as does Sarah Brightman (...eventually) and John Owen-Jones OWNS ALL!!!!!!
Seriously. I kid you not that man outsang every other Phantom on the stage. When he started to sing, pretty much everyone else could just pack up and go home. Did they record a soundtrack while he was still the Phantom? Because if so someone has to PLEASE let me know where I can buy it!
! There are just no words. That this musical has lasted a quarter of a century is an amazing feat in and of itself, but if there is one thing that Phantom 25 shows us, it is that neither the show nor the story have aged in the least. They've stood the test of time and passed with flying colours, just as appealing and "mitreissend" today as they were in 1987.