The Phantom of the Opera
A few years ago we saw The Phantom of the Opera as part of the Broadway Series at Clowes Hall at Butler University in Indianapolis. Although I enjoyed the experience of seeing the stage play, I wasn't completely thrilled with the play itself. The music was just okay, and in an operatic play, the music is rather important. I also couldn't understand the lyrics very well, and in an operatic play, the lyrics are rather important. So I didn't enjoy the music and I didn't understand the story.
Brigid, however, loved Phantom. She insisted on buying the soundtrack, Highlights from the Phantom of the Opera, which featured Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. She also got the piano music book and can play several pieces. She plays the Phantom theme on her keyboard using the organ setting, rather than on the piano though. Sounds very cool. As a result, I have listened to the Phantom music quite a bit over the past few years, and the music has grown on me. I can't say it's among my favorite music, but at least it doesn't make my ears bleed.
When we first saw a trailer for the movie version, Brigid was excited, and naturally has been looking forward to seeing it. So today Ron, Brigid, and I saw the movie.
I enjoyed Emma Rossum as Christine, and I prefer her voice over Sarah Brightman's. Gerard Butler, as the Phantom, didn't suck, but he's no Michael Crawford. I was better able to understand the lyrics in the movie than in the stage production we saw, and so I understood the story better. I thought the love triangle was stronger in the film. Being able to actually see the actors' faces really helped. The movie was a faithful representation of the stage play. A few sets in the movie seemed to be lifted directly from the stage, particularly the scene for "Masquerade." Overall, however, the movie—like the play—was just okay.
Brigid thought the movie was disappointing. She enjoyed the music for the most part, but she absolutely hated Gerard Butler. She knew he had a tough role, trying to follow in Crawford's footsteps as the Phantom, and so she said she tried to keep an open mind about Butler's performance. But according to Brigid, he didn't even sing tenor properly. For example, in one bit he started an octave lower than he should have, which made her mad, then he moved to the proper octave, which also made her mad because that part was supposed to be all in one octave. Yeah. Well, Brigid has taken piano lessons for about nine years and is in her third year of choir at school, whereas I play the kazoo, so she has a bit on me, musically speaking.
Brigid also pointed out a major difficulty of turning the play into a movie: In the play, people often just stand around and sing a song, and it's fine because it's a stage play. But a movie needs action, so in one scene, for example, Christine sings while she walks ve-e-e-e-ery slo-o-o-o-owly through a graveyard toward her father's grave. In the stage version, she merely stands before her father's grave and sings the whole song there. The graveyard in the movie is beautiful, full of low smoky fog, evocative statuary, and dark atmospheric tree branches, but before long I was paying more attention to the cool statues, trying to decide which would look best in my backyard rock garden. A scene loses its emotional punch when it causes you to begin shopping!
Overall, we were happy we saw the movie. We couldn't not see it. For a good take on the movie and the play, read Roger Ebert's review.
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