Sunday, March 11, 2012

Phantom of the Opera Tour Observations: Act 2

Act 2
Andre does not have a skeleton costume for this, so that gag is out. Instead, Andre and Firmin wear creepy Carnevale masks that are bases on masks that doctors wore during plagues in the Middle Ages (I’m living in Italy, I know this stuff). They look like this:

There is no staircase in Masquerade, and I know this will upset Kaedra- the costumes are significantly different. There is no little band, no half/half manwoman, no Triton, none of that. A few of the costumes look like they were modified from the original to be more ballgown-y because the dancing in this version actually looks more like the dancing  a ball would have- lots of couples choreography and such. Everyone is actually wearing masks on their faces- Raoul has one and Christine’s is not on a stick. The background is a semi-circle of mirrors (sound familiar??) and when Christine and Raoul are downstage, there’s a figure lurking. He’s wearing a red overcoat thing and a full mask, but he’s very tall and his wig looks quite familiar. Once Christine and Raoul separate, he dances with Christine for a bit (with some other guys as well) and I think it ends up overwhelming her/freaking her out because she grabs her head a lot.
Note on her costume- the puffy arm things are gone but she is also not wearing her silver boots. Her shoes look more like her dressing room shoes.
rehearsal shot of Masquerade. You can see Katie's silver
shoes in the center

Anyway, the man in red slyly sneaks off at the end of the dance break and the crown keeps singing. The party is interrupted when the man in red enters through a door in the mirrors (now wearing a cloak and hat, still nowhere near the Original Red Death) and does his “Have you missed me” thing. Important to note that in this production, it has been 12 months since the Phantom was seen/heard from. This may not make much of a difference, but I think it must make Christine all the more terrified because she probably thought she was rid of him for good and could live happily with Raoul. That’s a pretty long time to leave everyone alone. Thankfully there are no whispers of “Christine! Christine!” when the phantom motions her forward- they do it in the London production and it is silly to me. Once or twice maybe, but 20 whispers is too much.

Anyway, there’s no spark after “You will sing for me!” He just turns and walks out the back door. However, there were a few statues in the room and they kind of enclose the guests and sort of trap them in the mirrors until Madame Giry shows them out (I think- there’s a lot of commotion). Raoul catches up with her and is like “wtf is happening” so she tells her story. As she does, some shadows appear on the wall behind her, showing a man in a cage getting his mask pulled off, etc. An interesting addition. Not too graphic, and you might miss it if you aren’t looking, but it was kind of creepy and cool.

Notes II
There are no scores in the scene, so they don’t throw it around and such. They also don’t sit Christine down in the chair, but most of it is the same. EXCEPT FOR THE RAOUL SLAP. Yup. That happens. Not sure why she slaps him, I mean, I guess she is frustrated. And Raoul did just set her up as bait. Yeah, I guess he deserves it. But right after she gets all weepy again. And runs out. In an added scene, Raoul runs and catches up with her. She shakes him off and yells “You said you’d protect me” or something like that and dashes off, and then Raoul delivers the “So it is to be war between us” line.

During the practice scene, Christine doesn’t have her cloak yet. She walks in and they do the rehearsal. The part that I really like about this scene is when they all get possessed. They stand in a bunch and all point at Christine while they sing. It really adds a creepy element to the scene that I think it was lacking (in fact, I normally don’t care much for it). Then they all just break off and walk away like nothing happened, which I think shows the Phantom’s power. I dunno, it was actually really cool. Afterwards, some random guy hands Christine her cloak and she heads to the graveyard.

The possessed crowd

The graveyard, as a previous reviewer described, is sparse- Cross with DAAE on it and an angel statue. (Thankfully it wasn’t a weeping angel or we would have all been screwed. Ahem). Hmmm. I wonder where the Phantom is. Anyway, there is no scarf attached to her cloak. I find this a significant change (what is their problem with giving this girl a scarf???) because A.) It gave her something to use as a prop and B.) I always took it as a symbol of her attachment to Raoul and her past (you know, cause I assumed it was the scarf he saved…) I felt like they were trying to either loosen the connection, or they just assumed people didn’t understand why she had the scarf in the first place.

After the song (in which Katie had to wander around about half the stage in circles for a bit) the Phantom reveals himself from behind the angel statue. He’s on the same level as Christine (and Raoul when he enters) instead of being above them. Raoul stays in the back and sings as he observes, and the Phantom and Christine end up downstage left. At a certain point they make a triangle, which may be to emphasize the love triangle. They do this in the West End version as well, though the phantom at the top is above near the cross.
The phantom begins to hypnotize Christine again, holding out his hand and beckoning to her. She walks towards him, entranced, as Raoul screams in the back. I think the spell is more broken by the Phantom getting annoyed rather than Raoul snapping Christine out of it. The Phantom whirls around, taunting Raoul. Anytime Raoul gets close, the Phantom blasts fireballs at him (in the same way it was done in the 25th). I actually like this change. It’s quite scary and makes him seem superhuman or something. The staff is alright, but sometimes can be a bit underwhelming. Especially compared to huge bursts of flame from the floor. Eventually Raoul gets close enough to slam the Phantom into the wall near Daae’s grave, but the Phantom just laughs it off. I thought this was a nice little confrontation- the Phantom obviously doesn’t feel threatened by Raoul (Simon isn’t helped by the fact that JOJ is like 6 feet something) and then Raoul and Christine get outta there. The Phantom doesn’t seem super angry- he seems like he knew it was coming and was prepared for war. The final wall of flames is still there, which I’m happy about- that effect always wows people.

“Are the doors secure” is about the same (Rebecca will be happy to learn that the “secure!” guys voices are the same ones used on West End and Broadway- they didn’t change them like the 25th did) and the only diff I noticed was that only a shadow of the Phantom appeared in the box, not a double (the shot got lots of squeals-haha) and the line “let the audience in” was cut during Seal My Fate Tonight.

OK, PONR is where I have a difference of opinion with the director. It is VERY sexual. Christine reveals, quite early on, that there is a thigh high slit in the Aminta dress. She shows us this a bunch of times. HOLY SEXUAL. I was a bit embarrassed to be sitting next to the older couple next to me, it was almost that awkward. What I did like about this scene is that the switcheroo actually almost makes sense. The cloak is not the full body cloak like the Original, but instead only covers his head and shoulders. Piangi puts this cloak on before he hides, and when the Phantom comes out, they look almost the same. Not that JOJ is fat or anything, but he has an imposing figure and since he’s quite tall, from far away they don’t look that different. They're both in their shirtsleeves (the Phantom spends PONR through Final Lair without is overcoat on) so with the cloak over his head, they look very similar.

Anyway, PONR is very sexualized. Some parts, I liked. I’ve always seen it as almost a tango between the characters, and lo and behold, they actually do a sort of tango for a part of it. It gets very sexual- Christine gets on the table a couple of times (the table in this scene is actually the length of 2 standard PONR tables from the original) and at one point leans back while the Phantom sexily taunts her with grapes. It’s kind of the opposite of how she taunts him with the apple in the Original. Anyway, as she is leaning back he runs his hands up her shoulders to her head and covers her eyes during “what warm unspoken secrets will we learn.” Christine sits up with a bit of shock, then returns to performing like normal (much like in the original where she suspects him but remembers she has to perform) And this, to me, is where the blindfold from MOTN connects- he blindfolds her both times when he wants her to imagine something strange and wonderful and when he wants her to ‘surrender’ to something. It actually made sense to me in a roundabout way… Opinions? I'm personally a fan of the old version better and thought it was plenty sexy, but hey, it's a different production.

Moving on, during Christine’s verse, she stays on the table for a good part, there’s a lot of leg showing (so much so that I expected her to rip off the bottom of the dress at one point- it was that intense) and there’s a bit where she picks up a goblet and drinks, then shares it with him. (While she’s on the table he’s sitting at a bench in front of her watching her- his back is to the audience). She walks to the end of the table and around the last “Past the Point of no return, the final threshold” he lifts her off the table and down onto the floor. In some way he ends up kneeling in front of her and during “the bridge is crossed” she runs her hands along his chest from behind (kind of like in the original during ‘when will the blood begin to race’) and at the last “we’ve passed the point of no return” at the end of the phrase she pulls down the hood, fiercely revealing that she knew it was him the whole time. Christine has a backbone here which I liked. Not sure if she was distracting him by seducing him the whole time or not, but I dunno.

The Phantom gets up and tries to run, but the gunmen run onstage and Raoul shouts “stop him!” They don’t do anything, though, as the Phantom sings his plea to Christine, and this happens pretty much the same. He gives her the ring, she unmasks, they run. The gunman downstage right shoots but misses and accidentally hits the guy upstage left. It’s not supposed to be funny, but I thought it was lol.

In the commotion, Meg is already in her Final Lair outfit. Her mom tells her to stay and one of the male dancers tries to bring her with him as Raoul and Madame Giry leave, but Meg wrenches herself out of his grasp and follows behind (I like this change because it means she would have actually been able to follow them down).  She leads Raoul to the overlook of the stairs down to the lair and that’s as far as she will go. Raoul slowly and cautiously descends the stairs and we get to Final Lair (down once more is largely the same).

There is no veil in this scene (though he was using it during STYDI when he was talking about beauty- no idea where it went). When she sings the first “have you gorged yourself” blah blah when she sings about the flesh he throws her on the bed (I was like OMG HES GONNA RAPE HER???) But he didn’t. He just got all sad and whatnot. When Raoul comes, there’s no portcullis or anything so he kind of just wanders in from the back. The Phantom gets Christine in this kind of death grip while Raoul stands opposite- I can only describe it as an ‘evil’ version of the “floating, falling” hold the Phantom does in MOTN. He then ends up actually choking her and when Raoul says “let me see her,” the Phantom lets go and looks at his hand like he didn’t realize he was choking her- he wasn’t choking her as long as Ramin in the concert so it was more believable.
I am alright with this change. I think of it as a different interpretation- I know some people don’t like the choking bit, but I think the Phantom is fully capable of hurting Christine without realizing it when he is in a blind rage. That’s just me.

Evil "floating, falling" pose as I call it. Idk why she's
in Aminta, this deff wasn't in PONR
Anyway, when he lets her go, there’s an opportunity for a tender Raoul/Christine moment as Raoul rushes to her and you can hear him murmur “I’m right here, Christine, I’m here…” which I found really cute. The Phantom obviously did not.

The lasso is largely the same, though Raoul is off to the side (stage left) rather than in the center like the original. I don’t remember any major changes besides that though. You know, emotions running high, all that. Oh, actually during the “We had such hopes and now those hopes lie shattered/murdered” Christine grabs the Phantom’s music and throws it so it scatters all over the lair.

She only kisses him once, and he falls to his knees. She hugs him on the floor and he kind of scrambles away in the end, unsure of what to do. He looks back and forth between the two and then kind of just waves at the lasso and it drops like he is a wizard or something. Kind of cool, makes him seem more magical or mystical, and avoids awkward moments where everyone can tell you had to turn on an electric candle. Ahem.
Anyway, they scramble away and JOJ despairs as he sings to his knees and the stupid music box plays. Christine comes back and gives him the ring and runs away, distraught over leaving him (in this version, though, she deff makes the right choice by leaving. He was driving her to suicidal thoughts! That is a red flag about the relationship if I ever saw one!). He wanders over to his scattered music and picks up a sheet, and sits on the bed and sobs as the voices of Raoul and Christine echo over him (we don’t see them leave). He hears the mob coming and puts on  a black cloak. He runs to escape but little Meg Giry enters, and he tries to run another way but a couple of armed officers enter and trap him. He’s by the bed and stops. Meg runs up to him and grabs him from behind (to hold him for the shooters? I dunno) and holds his shoulders for a few seconds, then the cloak just drops. Underneath, all that remains is the Phantom’s mask. End.

Overall, I enjoyed the show. There are some changes I liked, some I felt were unnecessary. I think that the stage design doesn’t use the whole stage as well as the original (many scenes like AIAOY, WYWSHA and Notes only use a part of the stage because of the set restrictions) andn I think those of us who are very attached to the original might have a hard time with the changes at first. I think it is refreshing to see a new design done professionally (new high school designs don’t count. Ugh) and I think I would like to see how the actors grow and adapt in the roles. The show is not set in stone yet, but still in previews.

The show is definitely good for those that live around the UK that want to see the show but can’t make the trip to London. I think people who have only seen the movie or the show a couple of times will enjoy it more. I think if I had a chance to see it again I would definitely go, because I spent so much time noticing the differences that I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it as much as I could have. That being said, I did truly, really enjoy the show. It’s hard to change something so iconic, but thanks to the music and at the base, the story, this production does try to keep the flavor of the original alive. If you do ever get a chance to see it, I would say see for yourself how you feel. I personally am looking forward to production shots so we can see the deformity up close.

Hope you enjoyed my notes and observations on the show!


  1. Hmmm, intriguing! There are some changes that sound really cool (I like your idea of the facepalm in MotN, I'd never thought of it that way but that's totally what it is!!) and some changes that just seem silly to me, but ah well. I'm glad you enjoyed the production and got to see it!!

  2. I was told by the director that the line "let the audience in" was cut because it logically doesn't fit with the show. Think about. If the doors are locked and secure, how can you let the audience in? This was pointed out to Cameron Mackintosh who was gobsmacked and said, "you know in 25 years, I've never noticed that!" So that is why that line was omitted.

  3. Hi Christina. thank you so much for posting this! I saw Phantom for the first time at the tour performance in bristol last Saturday, and im spellbound! I have been researching about the original version and the new production and this is how i found your site. Not only i can see the differences now, but with your INCREDIBLE description i can remember details of the show again! Thank you soooo much for all the trouble!!! I can really make a critical comment as I don't really know any other Phantom and still too much in love with JOJ to be impartial! Ill keep checking your blog as The Phantom got a new fan as from last Saturday and ill definitely see it again in London! Thanks again for posting!!!!!