Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Happy PHANTOM 25th One and All!

Ramin Karimloo revisits the Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera's
25th anniversary celebration at Royal Albert Hall in London;
photo c/o United International Pictures
New York, October 12, 2011 – I just broke one of my self-imposed rules:  Never watch a movie alone again in the United States, more so in New York City. But, who could possibly let go of the opportunity to join the audience (although virtually) at Royal Albert Hall during Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 25th anniversary presentation of their longest-running musical together, The Phantom of Opera?

So, I astutely took time off between graduate school and an internship today to catch not a live Broadway show in a theater in Times Square, but to purchase a ticket at the eleventh hour for the last day screening of Phantom 25th (Broadway geeks’ nickname for The Phantom of the Opera’s 25th anniversary celebration) at Regal Union Square Stadium 14, a cinema complex in East Village.

Filmed live in London last October 2, Phantom 25th’s show information, whose contents I recently used for my column on BroadwayWorld.com, has characterized very well the grand scale production:  “…a fully-staged, lavish production, [directed by Laurence Connor based on the original direction by Hal Prince, and musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne] set in the sumptuous Victorian splendour of the Royal Albert Hall with a cast and orchestra [players] of over 200.”

Scenic designer Matt Kinley has intriguingly recreated the late Maria Björnson’s original Victorian-inspired design by integrating conventional moving sceneries, and proscenium arches with digital LED projections.  It has worked astoundingly well; it has been evidently hard to distinguish which was a floating candle holder prop, and which was its digitally-projected copy during the scenes beneath the opera house at the Phantom’s eerie lair.  The show’s full, elaborate costumes, especially those worn by the entire cast in the musical number “Masquerade,” which opened Act II, were a spectacle to behold.

Arguably Webber’s most successful score written for the British musical theater, Phantom 25th’s music, which was masterfully performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra and conducted by Anthony Inglis, was a rich fusion of opera, pop, and rock leitmotifs.  One of its several duets, “All I Ask of You,” which was passionately sung by Broadway actress Sierra Boggess (Christine Daaé), and British actor Hadley Fraser (Raoul) by the end of Act I, has proved once again that it’s one of the most beautiful love songs ever written.  Lyricist Charles Hart’s words to the song have captured emotionally Christine and Raoul’s longing for unconditional love that bravely defied the Phantom’s single obsession.

Besides Boggess and Fraser, leading actor Ramin Karimloo (the Phantom) gave a very strong performance.  Karimloo’s (who also played the same role in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre, and in Love Never Dies at Adelphi Theatre) soaring tenor voice could “hunt you down and devour you alive.” His sensitive portrayal of the Phantom has made every audience completely empathized with the misunderstood character’s painful yearning for love:

…This face, the infection
which poisons our love
This face,
which earned a mother's fear and loathing
A mask,
my first unfeeling scrap of clothing…

(These words uttered by Karimloo’s Phantom, his voice breaking, were truly heartrending, and made me sigh.)

The Phantom of the Opera, based on the 1909 novel by French writer Gaston Leroux, tells the story of the Phantom's shadowy existence, and his love for the beautiful, talented ingénue Christine Daaé.  Till this day, the musical continues to captivate audiences in London after more than 10,000 performances. It also holds the record as Broadway's longest-running musical with over 9,000 performances.

My column on BroadwayWorld.com Philippines was one of the online sources that broke the news that Phantom 25th begins screenings in Manila today.  It’s been such a great joy to spread the word about this major musical event to fellow Broadway geeks in the Philippines; I’ve been reading all your questions, and exciting comments on the web site, Facebook, and Twitter.  I’ve actually posted my replies to some of them.

Don’t you miss out on this one; and don’t you dare buy a cinema ticket at the last minute!

Again, happy Phantom 25th one and all!

Oliver Oliveros is regional site editor, author and photographer at BroadwayWorld.com — an online news portal covering theater, live entertainment, Broadway shows and Broadway tickets.