The Phantom of the Opera: The Play vs. the Movie

If you’ve heard anything about The Phantom of the Opera on the Internet then you’ve probably been directed to the Joel Schumacher-directed film starring Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson and Gerard Butler.  The film actually helped to catapult these newcomers into movie stardom, particularly Patrick Wilson who went on to appear in dozens of non-musicals playing angsty older white men facing a midlife crises.  (If not Little Children check out Watchmen)  Gerard Butler’s best triumph post-phantom was possibly PS I Love You, costarring Hillary Swank.

Of course, we have nothing to say about the movie.  It was arguably Schumacher’s only great film, as he delicately balanced adherence to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and also delivered a visionary experience, even going so far as to give us a final ending to the age-old story, visiting Phantom and Raoul long after Christine’s death.

However, you have never truly experienced Phantom unless you’ve seen it in the theater–that is the “theatre” where music is sung live, and painstaking efforts are put into the choreography and the set decoration.  While much has been written about “The Music of the Night”, “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Learn to be Lonely”, which was actually written for the movie and not as part of the musical play, don’t forget to listen for the brilliant subtleties of “Think of Me” and “All I Ask of You.”

“Think of Me”, sung twice in the play, including by the show stopping Christine character, is particularly chilling and poignant, as it speaks to any lover who has left someone dear behind.  “All I Ask of You” is also a triumph of music, as it celebrates the emotional and spiritual bliss of coupling, only to be reminded of darkness, as a vengeful Phantom laments Christine’s betrayal in the same tone.

Of course, the main reason to see the play live and in person, instead of flipping on a DVD or Blu-Ray of the film, is to enjoy the music live–delivered in person and with amazing power by real singers and not Hollywood-embellished actor-singers.  The Phantom of the Opera was certainly Andrew Lloyd Webber’s creative peak, and for an illustrious career spanning Jesus Christ, Superstar and Evita, that certainly says a mouthful.

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