The Phantom of the Opera: Original London Cast Albums Review

When I was a child, there was a Carol Burnett/Julie Andrews skit that I thought was absolutely hilarious called “The Phantom of the Opry”:

Inspired, my parents gave me the “Highlights from The Phantom of the Opera: Original London Cast” album for my 8th birthday and I’ve been a huge “phan” ever since.

To this day, more than 25 years after the musical opened on London’s 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 Brightman’s acting skills apparently left something to be desired on stage (see the music video below for evidence), but her high, pure soprano was perfect for the role of Christine and comes across beautifully in the cast albums, while Michael Crawford’s vocals – by turns hypnotically beautiful and threatening – epitomized angel, phantom, and ultimately, man.

Which original London cast album is right for you?

Option #1 – Highlights from The Phantom of the Opera: Original London Cast Album

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The highlights album is an excellent abridgment that includes all the most famous songs and is more than adequate for the needs of casual Phantom fans or people wanting to familiarize themselves with the music before seeing it on stage.

It does include a different version of “The Music of the Night” than the full cast album. The full cast album has the version of the song that is used in the stage musical, while the highlights album has the version used in a music video that was produced to promote the show.

This is the version of the song in the highlights album:

And this is the version in the full album:

I actually prefer the music video version (I think it’s more hypnotic-sounding), so I appreciated this change, but if you prefer the stage version, you’ll want to buy the full cast album.

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Option #2 – The Phantom of the Opera London Cast Album

More serious phans will want the full cast album, which includes additional songs. Since nearly everything is sung, the full cast album gives you most of the musical, including all the songs and quite a bit of dialogue.

Here’s a track-by-track comparison of what’s on the two albums:

Track TitleHighlights albumFull albumDescription
Prologuenofull songThis track is hard to hear if you're listening via anything but headphones in a quiet room. It's skippable anyway.
Overturefull songfull songDUN-dun-dun-dun-dun-DUN. On stage, the moment when overture bursts forth and the chandelier begins its climb to the ceiling is jaw-dropping. Re-live it with this track.
Think Of Mepartial songfull songIn the highlight album, you go straight to Christine's version of the aria. In the full cast album, you hear Carlotta's version (and subsequent tantrum) first.
Angel Of Musicfull songfull songA pretty little duet, as Meg Giry tries to figure out what the heck is going on with Christine and her "angel."
Little Lottie/The Mirror (Angel Of Music)The Mirror (Angel of Music) onlyfull songLittle Lottie establishes Christine and Raoul's childhood friendship and is only on the full cast album. The Mirror (Angel of Music) is on both the highlight and full cast albums, and is our first real introduction to the Phantom. It's got one of my favorite vocal moments in the album as the Phantom sings, first muffled, then clear and powerful, "Look at your face in the mirror, I am there inside!" It's thrilling and hypnotic, and in that moment, you can scarcely blame Christine for believing she's dealing with an angel.
The Phantom Of The Operafull songfull songThe famous duet as they descend to the Phantom's lair
The Music Of The Nightfull songfull songThe Phantom's even more famous invitation to Christine to join him in the dark. As noted above, the two albums have different versions of the song.
I Remember.../Stranger Than You Dream It...nofull songChristine rips off the Phantom's mask and he goes from seductive angel to snarling monster in the blink of an eye. Neither song is really outstanding or critical in any way, but I've always liked "Stranger than You Dreamt It," when the Phantom calms down enough to plead with her to look beyond his deformity.
Magical Lassonofull songBuquet terrifies the ballet girls. Another one that's hard to hear and totally skippable.
Notes/Prima DonnaPrima Donna onlyfull song"Notes" is my favorite of the songs left out of the highlight album, just because it's so funny. However, it is quite long when combined with "Prima Donna" (almost 11 minutes) and I know my husband tends to get bored with all the arguing when listening on CD and want to skip this track.
Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laughnofull songMy husband loves this track, though. It features a fake opera about a cheating young wife and it's also pretty funny, especially once Carlotta starts croaking. You have to be impressed with Michael Crawford's talent for maniacal laughter as well.
Why Have You Brought Me Here.../Raoul, I've Been There...nofull songChristine betrays the Phantom to Raoul. "Yet in his eyes, all the sadness of the world. Those pleading eyes, that both threaten and adore..." Important plot point, but musically skippable.
All I Ask Of Youfull songfull songThe famous love duet between Raoul and Christine. Not one of my favorites, to be honest, but probably mostly because I don't like Raoul!
All I Ask Of You (Reprise)partial songfull songThe full cast album includes some more of Raoul and Christine being lovebirds at each other (including the line "Order your fine horses now" which gets a reprise in the finale as Phantom mocks Raoul), while the highlights album skips straight to the Phantom mourning his betrayal, then hearing them again and swearing revenge, complete with more first rate maniacal laughter as he sends the chandelier crashing to the stage at Christine's feet. Boom!
Entr'actefull songfull songAnother overture-y thing
Masquerade/Why So Silent...Masquerade onlyfull songThe highlight album cuts off at the end of "Masquerade," while the full cast album includes the Phantom's appearance at the ball. I don't like the note Crawford hits at the end, when he tells Christine, "Your chains are still mine, you will sing for meeeeeee!" but otherwise it's good, especially his mocking reminder that "there are worse things than a shattered chandelier!"
Notes.../Twisted Every Waynofull songAnother funny batch of notes ensues, as the Phantom's opera, "Don Juan Triumphant," goes into rehearsal and he proves to be a bit of a micro-manager. I also like "Twisted Every Way" which encapsulates in a few lines exactly why I dislike Raoul. Another funny bit follows at the end, as Piangi struggles to sing his role in Don Juan. I've read that Lloyd Webber wrote the Phantom's opera in whole-tone scale, which was considered strange and experimental in the late 19th century - a musical in-joke for those in the know. (I wouldn't have known by myself, but was pretty amused to learn it!)
Wishing You Were Somehow Here Againfull songfull songChristine's "daddy issues" song - beautiful!
Wandering Child.../Bravo, Monsieurnofull song"Wandering Child" features the Phantom at his most seductive and hypnotic, but just as Christine is about to fall back under his spell, Raoul shows up and intervenes and the two men fight. The fight is more fun in the theater, where it includes fireballs.
The Point Of No Returnpartial songfull songThere's an extra minute or two of dialogue at the start of the full album, but it's skippable. The Phantom kills Piangi and takes his role on stage to sing with Christine in "Don Juan Triumphant," just in time for his character to get thoroughly groped by her character while she sings about how much she wants to have sex with him. (I guess that's one way to get some action when you're a deformed, homicidal maniac?) All joking aside, though, it's a very intense and beautiful song, and one of my favorites in the show. The Phantom's desperate plea at the end always breaks my heart.

Then she rips off his mask in front of the entire audience and it all goes to hell.
Down Once More.../Track Down This Murderer...full songfull songThe intense and heart-breaking finale.

My rating: (5 / 5)


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