Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Concert Review



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Review:

I recently had the pleasure of watching the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Concert on PBS.

As a longtime “phan” of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, I was terribly disappointed by the 2004 film version. Though there were some impressive special effects – especially the amazing opening sequence – the singing was mediocre, the Phantom’s supposedly horrific deformity looked like a bad sunburn, and there were some remarkably stupid changes to the plot.

Despite high hopes, I came away from the theater after seeing the 2004 film with the conclusion that the world was still missing a great video Phantom for phans who can’t make it to Broadway or the West End whenever they want to see the show live. With the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Concert, we’ve come much closer to having it.

Staging and Effects Review

When I first heard about the 25th Anniversary performance, I was worried that it would be similar to the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables – a brilliant cast, but essentially just a concert with costumes. Luckily, Lloyd Webber and the Really Useful Group decided to do an actual performance of the musical instead. The performance isn’t quite as definitive as I hoped it would be, however, because it was staged at the Royal Albert Hall, a magnificent venue, but a concert hall, not a theater. With no wings, no fly space, a larger stage, and other problems, they could not do several of the classic special effects, including:

  • the elephant
  • the magic mirror
  • the candles rising from the lake
  • the lightning bolt staff

Several of these effects were replaced by a giant digital screen, which was used with somewhat mixed success. It was used to beautiful effect during “All I Ask of You” to display the view of Paris from the top of the Opera, but at other times it was distracting and so low resolution that you could actually see the pixels in close-up shots.

Most importantly, they could not move the chandelier! Instead of coming to life at the start of the show and crashing to the stage at the end of Act 1, it just shoots a bunch of fireworks. As the most famous special effect in the show (and possibly in all of musical theater), not having the falling chandelier is one of the major disappointments of the performance, especially for phans wanting a stage performance to tide them over between trips to see the show live.

Music and Cast Review

These disappointments are made up for by the cast. Andrew Lloyd Webber personally selected Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess as his Phantom and Christine for the Phantom sequel Love Never Dies, and it’s pretty easy to see why. The two have good chemistry together and were a good choice for the 25th anniversary performance of the original Phantom as well.

Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom

As someone who’s listened to the Original London Cast album so many times I could sing it in my sleep, I did not feel Ramin Karimloo’s voice has the seductive, haunting quality that Michael Crawford, the original Phantom, was able to achieve. However, it was far superior to Gerard Butler’s gravelly vocals in the 2004 film! (Butler doesn’t have a bad voice, just a voice completely unsuited to anybody supposed to be able to trick a woman into believing he’s “the Angel of Music.”) Karimloo’s acting was also good, and brought me to tears at several points during the performance.

Sierra Boggess as Christine Daae

A good Christine is nearly as important as a good Phantom (more so, in some ways, since she’s on stage far more and has three times as many lines to sing) and I thought Sierra Boggess was excellent overall. I felt she over-enunciated some of the lyrics early on (unfortunately amplified on several occasions by nice close-up shots of the inside of her mouth), but she seemed to settle in and get more comfortable as the show progressed, and I thought both her singing and her acting were very good.

Hadley Fraser as Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny

Hadley Fraser gave a very interesting and fresh interpretation of Raoul. Raoul is usually played as a Shallow Love Interest: sweet, supportive, and not much else. Fraser’s Raoul was a much more aggressive and controlling personality. I found this jarring at first, but as the show went on, it increasingly grew on me. After all, this is a guy whose suggestion for resolving the Phantom problem is to trap him in the theater and shoot him like a rabid dog, and who also pressures his terrified fiancee into acting as bait for her crazy, violent stalker (I love Erik as much as the next phan, but let’s be realistic here), despite the fact that she’s already been kidnapped once from under everybody’s noses. I’ve always found the contrast between Raoul’s sweet words and his actions a little jarring in more conventional interpretations of the character, but Fraser’s interpretation made them seem natural.

Wendy Ferguson as Carlotta Giudicelli

Finally, I would like to put in a good word for Wendy Ferguson’s performance as La Carlotta. In a role that’s usually played as a pure villain, shallow and vindictive, Ferguson brought real vulnerability and pathos to the character. Seeing Carlotta as a confused and terrified diva helplessly watching her world crumble around her was almost enough to make you feel sorry for her.

Finale Review

Source: Broadway.com

The performance concludes with guest appearances by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman, the original Christine, who performs the title track with Ramin Karimloo and four of the most popular Phantoms from around the world: Colm Wilkinson, John Owen Jones, Anthony Warlow, and Peter Jöback. The five Phantoms then sing “Music of the Night.”

Michael Crawford also makes a guest appearance, but sadly does not sing.

Though still not quite the definitive version we phans dream of, the 25th anniversary concert is a satisfying performance and a great addition to any phan’s collection. My rating: (4 / 5)

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  1. […] West End, the original London cast is considered the best by many phans. Though I enjoyed the 25th Anniversary Concert and the three touring productions I’ve seen of the stage musical, I have to agree. Sarah […]