Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Last Thoughts on Phantom (for now)

Ok friends and family, bear with me. Seeing Phantom 2x this weekend has put me in rare Phantom obsession form so let me just get this last post out of my system, then I promise I won't update until I do something fun and interesting in Italy that has nothing to do with Phantom. I also don't expect you to read this (unless you really want to read another review of Phantom, haha) but it's more for my own personal enjoyment.

Saturday, as you all know, I returned to London to see the original West End production of the show. Surprisingly, this was my first time seeing the show twice in 2 days (albeit different productions) and it was great. I stated on my facebook that I was on a Phantom overload but “ridiculous Phantom high” is probably the better way to describe it. Every trip makes me ready to plan my next visit to the show (I’m thinking Vegas next!).

I was a bit worried when I was planning this trip. The timing had to be right- I wanted to have time to get to Plymouth to see the new tour, but I had to go early enough that I could catch Earl Carpenter in the West End version because I wanted to see him before the new Phantom, Peter Joback, arrived. I wasn’t 100% sold on him in the 25th anniversary concert, and more importantly Earl is on a list of actors that had played the role that I would have loved to see (JOJ and Hugh Panaro were on that list- coincidentally all of them returned to the role at a time where I could venture to see them! How lucky!) so I was desperate to catch him. Next weekend is out- it’s my birthday (which would have been perfect) but alas, my midterms week immediately follows, and since I tend to get ill after flights, I wanted to have time to study and relax. The weeks before were too full or the tour wasn’t playing. My window of opportunity was small- especially since actor illness or surprise holidays could strike at any time!

Fortunately, the stars aligned- I made my flight and all of the journeying with little to no trouble. After seeing the tour, I was a bit worried about seeing the original. Not because I thought it wouldn’t be good, but JOJ is one of my favorite Phantoms and I didn’t want to be biased about seeing the show with a different Phantom immediately after. Plus it is hard to see the two versions close to each other and then try not to think of the tour when you’re watching the original and vice versa.

I was not disappointed in the slightest. All three leads, Earl, Sofia and Killian (who I was also DYING to see- his tweets are hilarious) were on and really, the show was everything I could have asked for, especially for a two show day. I don’t know how they have the energy to do it twice in such a short amount of time!

Some highlights of the show (for me):
Killian Donnelly’s Raoul- he is hilariously full of himself in the beginning, even stopping to fix his hair and adjust his bowtie in the mirror while Christine is reminiscing about the Little Lotte stuff. I loved it because he obviously expects things to go his way, and when they don’t and Christine is threatened, he grows up and becomes her protector. It was awesome. He’s quite fierce by the end as well, when the noose is around his neck and the Phantom comes to grab Christine for the “start a new life with me” bit, Killian shouted “NO” and grabbed for the Phantom when he snatched Christine. I thought it was a brilliant touch. He was fantastic and very nice at the stage door. He asked where I was from and we had a nice conversation about him and Kyle being Raoul buddies and the wonders of the ‘magnetic portcullis’ when the noose fails, which happened a few nights prior.

Sofia- I find Sofia to be a brilliant Christine. Her voice is astoundingly beautiful and I think she’s very lively, innocent and adorable. She always has fantastic chemistry with her male leads as well, plus she’s one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. She remembered me and even said she missed having me next door! (I used to work next to HM when I was abroad in London). I can’t gush enough about her and her kindness/awesomeness.

Earl- What a brilliant Phantom. His voice is a bit different than JOJ, but I swear at some points they sound exactly the same. It only happened once or twice but I was like o.O whoaaa. I loved his MOTN especially- his body language was really interesting. During the “Turn your face away” facepalm (that I ABHOR) he only turned her face then sort of ran his hand back and caressed Christine’s hair lightly. This slight adjustment makes the blocking more bearable. His faint catch was awesome as well- usually it looks a bit awkward and staged to me because they don’t let her fall enough. Earl stood a bit farther back than normal and genuinely looked surprised and had to dart forward to catch her. I prefer the faint much more than letting her fall, but often it looks staged and fake (Peter Karrie is an excellent example of how to catch Christine, if you care to look it up).

You can tell Earl’s Phantom dearly wants to care and love Christine, but he doesn’t know how to put his violent temper aside. After the faint he literally stands there and looks at Christine and looks around much longer than any other Phantom I’ve seen, like in an “oh god, what the eff do I do now?” kind of way, because this is so foreign to him. His final lair was terrifying, awesome and  heartbreaking as well (though the noose wasn’t working well that night either, the magnetic portcullis was not necessary). He and Killian had an interesting standoff after “be my guest sir” where Earl was kind of taunting him in a “I raised the gate- am I really gonna let you through? I don’t know” kind of way while he kind of chuckled under his breath. Loved it. Plus his doll throw was terrifying. Thought it was gonna break or something!

When Christine kisses him the second time, he kind of pulls away quite shocked and bewildered, and when he falls to his knees after they leave, the monkey music box scares him and he gets startled. He looks so expectantly hopeful when Christine comes back that you can see the despair when she gives him the ring. He at first will not take it, then falls to his knees and tries to give it back to her. It was so pitiful and moving. You could literally hear people sniffling all over the theatre.

In his interpretation I saw the realization dawn on the Phantom that he needed to let Christine go, and that his life and love weren’t the best for her as he pulled away bewildered from the kiss and looked back and forth at Raoul and Christine- JOJ and Hugh show it through the kiss- they both did this wonderful thing where at the very end of the second kiss they drop their hands resignedly. It was really poignant, like he knew what he had to do, that this could never be. It made me think of a really nice quote from Susan Kay:
" It was finished then, of course...that kiss ended everything. The moment I knew she was mine - - truly mine - - I knew I could not kill that wretched boy."  And though he hopes with all of his heart that she has come back to stay, I like to think that deep inside he knows it’s best for her. They both knew that it was for the best, even though Christine is sad to leave him as well.

(Unfortunately Earl is the fastest make-remover ever and was out of the stage door just as I got there, so I didn’t get to meet him as I wasn’t willing to run down the street…again… to catch him since I wanted to see Killian and Sofia).

Seeing the show in its original form made me appreciate the UK tour a bit more in some ways, but seeing the two together also helped me realize a lot. I love the original and am very attached, but it was interesting to see another interpretation. Originally, Cameron Macintosh (who was, coincidentally like 5 feet away from me at the stage door talking to the crew) only wanted replica productions of the show. The idea was to let people all over the world see what the show looks like in London or NYC. Well, that changed with the Hungarian and Polish productions, and I have to say I’m not a huge fan of all of those changes. The UK tour still keeps some of the flavor of Maria’s designs with the costumes (well, Christine’s costumes, which remain largely the same- others are modified or altered) and it isn’t completely different like the other 2 non replicas. I would still say that I prefer the original, though the tour has some changes that I really liked. At this point, they’re the same in plot and music, but diverge so much on design that it’s almost like comparing apples and oranges. Like I did with the 2004 movie, I’m going to have to treat them as separate entertainment entities and not go crazy comparing every detail- they’re not the same and they aren’t meant to be.

Like LND, the tour reminded me of everything that was fantastic and brilliant about the original and renewed my love for it even more. I think the tour is wonderful for people far away from London or those who are not super attached, but personally I like seeing the same design over and over again, because I like seeing what actors do in the confines of a 25 year old role- Every actor I’ve seen plays their role differently and I think it is amazing to see how different the Phantom or Raoul or Christine can be portrayed using the same blocking. When you change the tour blocking, this is some way changes the characters; it gives them different ways to move, choices to make. Maybe if the tour was around for years and years (and I got to see it multiple times) I would enjoy seeing the different tour interpretations as well. I would love to see it again soon, though I probably won't have the chance. Here's to hoping some bootlegs come out!

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