Pick of the Week – December 1-7, 2014

The stage musical of The Phantom of the Opera, which opened in 1986, is the longest running show in Broadway history.  Touring companies have traveled the globe for a couple of decades now, but despite all of these performances, there are still large portions of the planet who haven’t seen the show, even if they desperately want to.

They get a kind of chance in 2004, when the show was turned into a major motion picture directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Gerard Butler, Emily Rossum, Minnie Driver, and Patrick Wilson.  The film is…okay.  The critics didn’t love it (It’s currently running at 33% on Rottentomatoes.com), but I felt it had its moments.  Rossum was good as Christine, the film looks spectacular, and…well…it’s still got the show's music.  However, Butler does not have the voice for the Phantom.  He's more rock singer than Broadway, and he doesn't have the vocal power needed for the part.  Also other changes, such as the addition of a sword fight between the Phantom and Raoul in the cemetery (One that makes everything that happens afterwards Raoul's fault because he didn't kill the Phantom or turn him over to the authorities when he had the chance), did not work for me.  Even more annoying, some lines that were sung in the show are simply spoken in the movie, creating an odd Dr. Seuss effect.  One critic said that if you were unfamiliar with the stage version of The Phantom of the Opera, the movie would leave you wondering what all the fuss was about.  I am inclined to agree, but for a long time the movie was the best filmed version we had.

That finally changed in 2011 with the release of my pick for this week, The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, a full production of the stage show filmed to honor its 25th Anniversary.  If you have any interest in seeing Phantom or, if you have seen the show and want something that hews far closer to that experience than the 2004 movie, this is the production to see.  The performances by Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess as the Phantom and Christine respectively are wonderful, and, after the show, several past Phantoms as well as the original Christine, Sarah Brightman, perform. 

It’s a fantastic production and a great tribute to this long-running show.  Trust me.  Skip the movie and watch this instead.

- Alan Decker

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