Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Phantom of the Opera Part I

Phantom of the Opera—May Contain Some Spoiler Information

The Phantom of the Opera, original Broadway show, is coming again to Popejoy Hall, UNM, Albuquerque, NM, in October 2006. It played here two or three years ago. From what I understood, the set took two weeks to put up, was carried in seven semi-trailers, and took two weeks to tear down and repack for the next city. It was magnificent, the lake and candles looked real. If I recall correctly there was an actual horse used on stage to carry Christine to the depths of the opera house/phantom’s lair. Unfortunately, I sat in the very back of the theater and the actors appeared to be about an inch tall. I didn’t follow the story well, because when Christine kissed the Phantom, I couldn’t figure out why. He was supposed to be horrible and evil, right?
Also, so far back in the theater, I couldn’t see the faces and I had no idea how disfigured the phantom might have looked. Oh, another thing, were the characters such fools that they couldn’t see the slender, shorter phantom take the place of the tall, heavy opera singer in Don Juan Triumphant? But basically, the musical thrilled me—the music, the set, the chandelier that came to life at the beginning and fell to the stage during the disaster scene. Oh, what can I say? It made me laugh and it made me cry especially Christine’s song in the cemetery to her late father—it was all so bittersweet. I LOVED it.

I have tickets for Oct. 28th this year. I am not sitting in the balcony again! I have orchestra seats, even if the orchestra is on tape. I have already ordered a long opera cape with a hood, black with red lining, and am shopping for the perfect dress to wear with it. I am even considering wearing a phantom mask since it is so close to Halloween. And carrying a rose with a black bow and the little rhinestone ring that looks like Christine's ring (that's featured in the movie if not the play.) Heck, if the music is loud enough, and I'm sitting close enough, I'm going to sing along, since I know all the words to the songs by now, thanks to the CD from the movie.

I understood the plot much better after I saw the movie. My brother said he and his wife went to see it at the movie theater in Dec. 2004, and it was great. They loved it. Said the music was great, the actors excellent, and the settings mind-boggling. I was still thrilled with the play and didn’t go see it on the big screen myself, telling him it couldn’t possibly be as good as the stage play!

Ha! Was I wrong! I didn't go see it on the big screen, I rented the DVD. I am now considering buying a big screen television so I can see it lifesized. (Heck, I wish it was on Virtual Reality machine.)

Now, I understand, the whole Phantom of the Opera phenomenon is as amazing as it was unexpected and unexplainable! First of all, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Joel Schumacher wanted a young cast. They wanted to show this as a love story, a triangle with people young enough to show the passion and romance that they had written into and directed into the screenplay.

The movie was a bit ambiguous as far as marketing. A lot of people didn’t like it, some even told me they got up and walked out of the movie theaters!

People wanted it to be more like the stage play/musical, perhaps. Or they expected a horror movie and it wasn’t. Some wanted opera music and thought it had too much rock music tempo. Those that wanted more pop or rock music were turned off by the Broadway tunes and some of the songs, which bordered on the operatic. (Webber himself said he considered it more of a rock opera.) A lot of people didn’t like the Phantom himself. After all, he was a bad guywith serious anger management problems that crossed the line into murderous; and the character was portrayed perhaps as a sympathetic tortured soul, which turned a lot of people off. (Gerard Butler, the movie phantom, said he thought it was tragically sad even thought they kept urging him to play it "sexy.")

The most amazing phenomenon that couldn’t be predicted was the huge, vast masses of women that fell in love with the actor Gerard Butler. If you don't know by now, he’s a Scottish actor, former drunken rock singer, and actor in many B- and violent action movies, who did the whole Phantom (he sang not only his songs but his lines as well) in a broad upper crust British accent, which is not his usual way of speaking being from Paisley. And, if truth be told, he's really not all that good looking or outstanding as an actor. (For instance I saw him in other movies and didn’t even notice him.) However, once we fans got a taste of him in Phantom, we were swept away with his--what ever it is --"IT"--that can't possibly be explained by using the word "attractiveness." (What a mundane word for such a colossal experience.)

But I am one of the women who fell madly in-love with the 36-year old actor. Actually, he was only 34 when the movie was filmed, the co-star playing Christine being only 16 at that time. She was half his age, and therefore the illusion of the Phantom being much older than Christine was maintained. I thought Gerry was older and told one of my friends I finally had a favorite movie star that wasn't young enough to be my son. And she informed me that was sure wrong. (I have two sons older than Gerry Butler.)

There was something in Gerry Butler’s performance that captured heart and soul of viewers. He threw his own heart and soul (as well as his whole magnificient physique) into his singing and performance and it showed. He doesn’t appear entirely comfortable in some scenes, but he radiated a certain who-knows-what that just amazed and overwhelmed the viewers, some more than others!

Many women also fell in love with the Phantom character, seeing him portrayed as a suffering villian/hero who had serious psychological problems that could be forgiven, so to speak, because of his miserable life of being abused and mistreated as a freak simply because of a congenital disfigurement. As a result he was a talented and spectacular person who didn't know it, and had terrible self-esteem and an extremely big chip on his shoulder.

Actually, Andrew Lloyd Webber was a genius with this screenplay, putting layer and layer of meaning and symbolism into the musical and the character(s.) He went well beyond the orignal story by Gaston Leroux, which is good read if you happen to run across a good translation of it. It was written in French.

I rented the DVD of the movie first, then went and bought the CD with original songs from the movie that I play nearly non-stop on my car CD player. (I like to sing when I'm commuting on the long drive from the mountains to town. I guess the other drivers think I'm yelling at them.)

I then bought the movie and watched it a number of times. In fact, the first time I saw the movie, I back-tracked the DVD and played the scene where the Phantom sings Music of the Night to Christine in a very sexy, passionate, beautiful way. (Why are there no words that indicate something much more fabulous than “beautiful.” It was overwhelming.) I watched it over and over about 25 times. I thought at the time that it was the absolute best "love scene" ever put on film. At the end of all that, needless to say, I was a hopeless pile of melted putty in the Phantom’s hands.

In a later post I will explain the depth of the character of the Phantom and why he touched so many hearts, and how that occurred. Not to mention explaining why it made Gerard Butler, while still not well-known, a very much loved and exciting international actor.


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