LIKE “Titanic” and “Romeo and Juliet,” we all know how “The Phantom of the Opera” would end. Yes, including the “fate” that would befall the huge, crystal chandelier.
Yet, since it first debuted as a novel by French writer Gaston Leroux in 1904, not a few people have seen “The Phantom” in its various incarnations—from silent film in 1925 to musical in 1986, and back again to film, this time as a motion picture musical, in 2004.
The current staging by an Australian production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila, the first time it’s being staged here, is no exception. It has been drawing crowds from all over the country that producers have decided to add 16 more shows.
Longest and most successful
My good friend Blas, who grew up listening to the musical’s recording, was surprised to find out that “The Phantom” is the longest and most successful production of its kind in both West End and Broadway. In fact, according to a newspaper item I read, the Guinness Book of World Records has declared it the longest running and perhaps most successful musical in Broadway history.
I won’t even attempt to review this latest production. Apart from being ill equipped to do it, I think that so much has already been said about it that I have nothing substantial to add anymore.
Prior to watching it last week with Blas (thanks Chita!), my idea of “The Phantom” was limited to the movie version directed by Joel Schumacher and the original musical soundtrack featuring Sarah Brightman.
But having seen a number of musicals on both West End and Broadway, I can safely say that members of the Australian production, from
director Harold Prince down, have done a superb job.
For one, they didn’t allow the CCP’s modest stage to limit their vision as far as production design, choreography and costumes are concerned. God knows how they’ve managed to achieve it, including the underground lake scene and masquerade ball, but they did!
The crashing chandelier could have been executed with more impact, but the idea is there. Lest they wreck the CCP doing it, I’d be willing to settle for what they’ve achieved.
Casting, especially Jonathan Roxmouth as the Phantom and Claire Lyon as Christine Daae, was inspired. With the sexy Gerald Butler as my template, Roxmouth didn’t disappoint. His stage presence, oozing charisma and vocal chops could put any Hollywood actor to shame.
So, what is it that lures people to “The Phantom?”
Well, I believe it’s a combination of many factors: the beautiful music, which, unlike, say, “Miss Saigon,” leaves you singing, if not humming, many of its songs as you leave the theater; the classic boy-meets-girl love story; and how unrequited love drives one to resort to extreme measures that border on the sinister as well as the tragic.
But no matter how seemingly bad and scheming the title character is, you can’t help but feel for him in the end.
The moment Christine agrees to the Phantom’s demands, kissing him with seeming abandon to prove how serious and desperate she is, just to save Raoul from certain death, all his bravado, like air gushing out of an inflated toy balloon, instantly left him. Before that happened, he thought he knew what true love is. Who would have expected that a supposedly inexperienced ingenue would teach him what true love really means?
It was then that he realized that, hey, “I could imprison this girl for eternity, but her heart would never be mine.” With a mixture of pain, defeat, resignation and shame ringing in his voice, he let the lovers go. That, and not the Phantom’s hideous appearance, is the real tragedy.
In our own lives, how many times have we found ourselves in a similar bind? I’m not just referring to matters of the heart, but in countless situations we encounter, either big or small, as we embark on our respective journeys.
How many times have we had to set aside our best laid plans to give way to something totally unexpected and bigger than ourselves, which, in the end, might not even directly benefit us? A lot, I’m sure. That’s what makes “The Phantom” such an enduring love story. I guess, it’s safe to say that there’s a little of the Phantom in all of us.