Monday, July 13, 2015

The Phantom of the Opera vs. Phantom

Did you know that the famous Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera isn't the only musical that used the original Gaston Leroux novel as inspiration? There are, in fact, 3 musicals about Phantom. The first was by Ken Hill and won't be discussed here since I've never seen it. The other two, as mentioned in another post, were being created around the same time. They are: 

Andrew Lloyd Webber's take
and
Maury Yeston's and Arthur Kopit's creation


But how are there so many musicals on the same topic, you ask? Or maybe you don't. I don't know. Anyway, there are some key differences in plot and characterization, not to mention musical style and score, between the two musicals. Be prepared for a loooong read haha

~~
The Phantom of the Opera is a story that is close to my heart. I've read the original novel  a good number of times (and read many multiple related novels and works). I have seen various film and TV adaptations, and obviously, the musical.

I've seen the ALW version (PotO) 18 times live and countless more through bootlegs, so I'm clearly somewhat attached. Ha.

 A Phantom production, however, has never come close to me, so Seoul was the first opportunity I've had to see it, so my first live experience was in Korean (though it was aided by the phenomenal vocals of Park Hyo Shin). 

Both of the musicals were written in the 80s, but the success of PotO on the West End halted the Broadway plans for Phantom (confusing, no?) so it was made into a mini series with Charles Dance as the Phantom in 1990. In 1991, there was a production in Texas, and since then, it has enjoyed relative success without ever setting foot on Broadway. PotO, of course, was a smash hit, and is currently the longest running show in the history of Broadway, and the second longest on the West End, behind Les Mis.


The creators of Phantom and some of its fans like to brag that they have created a much more deep and rich version of the story with their characterization of the Phantom, but in my opinion, the ALW version stays much closer to the events of the original novel, whereas Yeston and Kopit took lots of liberties with the base story. Not that this is a bad thing, because it's true there is much more development of the Phantom (on the surface), but I kind of like the mystery. If you're expecting closer to Leroux, Phantom is not it, but if you want more (moderately to severely inaccurate) info about the backstory of the Phantom, you will like it, especially if you haven't read or aren't a fan of the novel or ALW version.

~~
Let's go through some key points of the story (check out the full synopses on wikipedia if you're not sure what's going on). 


All 3, the novel and 2 musicals, begin, for the most part, with a manager change. There is already a major difference in these plot points. (the rest are not in any particular order because the events don't match up in the shows- ie Christine unmasks the Phantom in Act 1 of PotO, but she does not request this until near the end of Act 2 in Phantom).

Novel:

New managers arrive and are warned about the Opera Ghost (former managers begrudgingly dealt with the Phantom without knowing who he was).

PotO:
New managers arrive and are warned about the Opera Ghost (former managers begrudgingly dealt with the Phantom without knowing who he was).

Phantom:
New managers* arrive and are warned about the Opera Ghost (former manager is a friend of the Phantom).


*Key difference: the managers in this version are none other than Carlotta and her husband. She becomes the owner and the star. In this version, her voice isn't lovely, and she fears Christine's lovely voice. 

In both the novel and PotO, Carlotta is the star of the opera house, but is not an owner. For Christine's debut, unknown circumstances cause Carlotta not to perform and Christine takes her place (musical: "strange things" keep happening and Carlotta leaves rehearsal, leaving Christine to take her place). Jealous, she tries to steal the spotlight back from Christine later. The Phantom warns her not to perform and she does not listen, leading to the famous "frog croaking scene," which is not present in that form in Phantom. More on this later.

~~
Novel:

Christine trains at the Opera House and is in the chorus. She is suggested to the managers after mysterious circumstances prevent Carlotta from performing that day. 

PotO:
Christine is a chorus girl (dancer, not exclusively singer like in the novel) and is volunteered by her friend to perform when Carlotta leaves.

Phantom:
Christine is a young girl who sells music on the streets of Paris and is 'scouted' by Philippe (not Raoul, more on that later), who tells her to see his friend, a manager at the Opera house (pre Carlotta takeover) for voice lessons. She shows up and is relegated to costume girl for Carlotta. Her audition happens at a restaurant, where she outshines Carlotta after receiving lessons from Erik (The Bistro).

~~


Novel:
Christine and Raoul are childhood friends who listened to Christine's father play on the violin and sing. They meet again when he recognizes her during her first triumph on stage. 

PotO:
Christine and Raoul are childhood friends who listened to Christine's father play on the violin and sing. They meet again when he recognizes her during her first triumph on stage. (Think of Me/Little Lotte)

Phantom:
Christine meets Philippe on the streets while she is selling music (Melodie de Paris)  and he tells her to get lessons set up from his friend at the opera house (Carriere). No mention of an Angel of Music or Christine's father. They are not childhood sweethearts.

~~

Novel:
Christine receives private lessons in her dressing room. At first, she is under the impression that this is the Angel of Music, promised to her by her late father. She sings for 3 months with him before seeing him. She learns that his name is Erik.

PotO:
Christine receives private lessons in her dressing room. At first, she is under the impression that this is the Angel of Music, promised to her by her late father. It is unknown how long she received these lessons. The Phantom never reveals a name to her. He takes her to his lair here early in the show (Angel of Music/The Phantom of the Opera)

Phantom:
Christine is singing in the auditorium while she works, and Erik cannot resist introducing himself to her and offering her voice lessons if she promises to keep his identity anonymous and to never look at his face. (home)




~~

Novel:

Masquerade happens and and the Phantom appears as Red Death. He says nothing to Christine really during this time, just scares her and stalks her a bit, since she came with Raoul, and then after the ball, Christine leaves her dressing room to go to his lair as Raoul looks on, aghast. 

PotO:
Masquerade happens, Christine and Raoul are secretly engaged and the Phantom appears as Red Death with an opera that he demands be performed. He also gets mad at Christine during this time. Beginning of Act 2.




Phantom:
No Masquerade ball.


~~

Novel:
The new managers do not heed Erik's warnings, and so he drops the chandelier to show his anger. The famous croak scene takes place here. This is also the night Christine disappears and goes to his lair the first time. 

PotO:
The managers do not heed the Phantom's warnings, and he also overhears Christine and Raoul confess their love and in anger, drops the chandelier and disappears for 3 or so months depending on the version. (End of Act 1)

Phantom:
Carlotta gives Christine a drink to make her voice falter during the her debut. In order to distract everyone at prevent embarrassment, Erik drops the chandelier and grabs Christine. He brings her to his lair for the first time and promises to protect her and keep her from the evil people above. (End of Act 1 beginning of Act 2)

~~

Novel:
When Christine is first in the lair, she is practicing with Erik and removes his mask out of curiosity. He is incensed with anger. Christine does not return to the opera for a fortnight.

PotO:
Christine wakes up after her first night in the lair. The Phantom is distracted with his music and Christine sneaks up with him and snatches the mask. He takes her back that day.



Phantom:
After bringing her down after the disaster, Erik and Christine spend time together, when Christine asks him if she can see his face. He refuses, saying it's too horrible. She promises she can withstand it because of love, but is horrified when she sees his face and flees. Erik is enraged and depressed. (My True Love)




~~~

Novel:
Erik's true parentage is never revealed. He mentions that he came across his name by accident, and that his father never saw his face. His mother gave him a mask as his first present. It is unknown exactly what happened, but he traveled extensively (particularly in Persia), learning many tricks, before settling under the Opera House. 

PotO:
The Phantom only mentions that a mask was his first present, and his parents are never revealed. Madame Giry reveals that she saw him in a freak show and that he was a genius. He escaped and it was assumed he died, but he actually found refuge under the Opera House.

Phantom:
In this version, the old manager, Carriere, reveals to Christine that he is Erik's father and has been trying to protect him all of this time. Erik was also aware of this the entire time. Erik is a gifted singer, but other talents are unknown/not mentioned.  In the musical, his mother loves him very much and protects him from seeing his face and being scared of himself, but she dies when he is young. Erik sees his face in a puddle and is terrified.  Christine apparently resembles Erik's mother, both in face and voice.

*Major difference here being that Erik was raised for part of his life with love.  He has not traveled extensively outside of Paris,apparently.

~~

Novel:
After hearing of Raoul and Christine's plans to flee, Erik kidnaps her in the middle of a performance. One second, the lights go off, and the next, when they come back, Christine is no longer there. Raoul is led to help her by the Persian, a man who knows about Erik's past. Erik threatens to kill everyone if Christine won't marry him. She concedes and kisses him on the forehead, and he releases her and everyone because of her sacrifice. He dies at the end of the novel.

PotO:
The Phantom appears on stage during a performance of his own opera that was meant to trap him after he kills Piangi, the lead. He disappears with Christine to his lair. Raoul is led to help her by Madame Giry, who knows of the Phantom's existence. The Phantom threatens to kill Raoul if Christine will not marry him. She kisses him, and realizing he must let her go, sends her off with Raoul and disappears. 

Phantom:
Desperate to find Christine after she flees, Erik, wanted for the murder of Carlotta (whom he murdered as revenge for Christine's debut debacle), is surrounded. He pleads with the old manager, Carriere, to help him, convinced that he will be on display as a freak. "You promised!" he shouts, and Carriere shoots him to prevent him from being caught alive. As he dies, Christine removes his mask and looks on his face without fear. He dies with Christine and Carriere around him.

~~~~


The characters are quite different. In the novel and PotO, the Phantom appears and disappears like a ghost, throws his voice and appears to make Carlotta croak by magic. Some of these things carry over to PotO. While he uses some of these tricks in Phantom, he is much more humanized and less mysterious, and has not traveled the world extensively as he has in other incarnations. Because he's on stage much more, there's more of an attachment to his humanity, perhaps.  He has a lovely voice, but other facets of his genius, such as composer, conjurer, architect, etc, are missing.



He is in some ways more vicious in this version, what with electrocuting Carlotta out of anger (instead of Piangi's death in PotO, where the Phantom takes his place during The Point of No Return). But he's also much more childish and petty, pulling pranks like putting rats in the food during a birthday party scene in a show, or putting bugs in Carlotta's wig. He drops the chandelier to distract so he can save Christine from embarrassment, not out of complete anger or spite.


He also has a lot of masks, some as
outlandish as this one. He has glittery
ones too! 

It's interesting that his relationship with Christine really starts without much pretense. He's quite honest with her. Her voice is beautiful but untrained, and he can help. 

Because of this, an actual romance develops more naturally between Erik and Christine, and they even have a nice duet together (You are Music). In both the novel and PotO, it's up to your interpretation of how much she loved the Phantom. In the musical, it's more towards romance, but in the novel, it's almost completely admiration and then genuine terror.

In Phantom, Erik remarks that he does not like killing, and he's got a much less menacing personality, which may be owning to his loving childhood. This makes the character much more sympathetic in some ways, and may be the reason that critics like this more fleshed out version of the character.


A major difference between the two shows is that in Phantom, we never see Erik's face. He is always facing away from the audience when it is shown, so it's a mystery as to how bad his face is. In PotO,  we see it for a good portion of time, but it's only half of his face that's deformed, not the whole thing like in the novel. Interesting stuff, this interpretation business. 
~~

Raoul is a dashing if naive gentleman, but his role as Philippe is greatly reduced to just admiring Christine and then frantically searching for her for the second act. He is not involved in her Erik redemption moments and is relegated to a much smaller role, which allows us to focus much more on Erik and Christine. In the novel and PotO, I don't want Christine to end up with the Phantom, since he's a psycho, but in Phantom, Erik's much less so, which makes the triangle harder. We don't get to know the Raoul/Philippe character that well, besides him being adorably dopey (but not attempting to be heroic like in the other two).  I enjoy Raoul's development and his relationship with Christine much more in PotO than in Phantom.

I actually kinda of was rooting more for Erik in Phantom, even though I know the ending. All I Ask of You is a much more romantic song than Who Could Ever Have Dreamed Up You?, which they changed in the Korean version to a new song called "Christine".


~~
Christine Daae is an interesting character. Often weakened in the ALW musical, she's got quite a backbone and spunk in the original novel, crossed with a bit of frantic madness.  She has a lot of agency and is pretty independent, even though she does seem to vaguely believe in the Angel of Music at first. 



I had one major problem with her in Phantom, and that's that her unmasking Erik was not a surprise, and I hated the way she reacted to it. She sings a song about how a mother's love allowed her to look at his face, so shouldn't she be able to as well, since she loves him?  Her betrayal is exponentially worse, because Erik fights for a good time and continually refuses her request, before putting all of his trust in her and showing himself. And she screams in horror, his worst fear. And to make matters worse, she essentially gets him caught and killed, because he exposes himself looking for her.. sigh... Tragic consequences...

Quite frankly, in any case, the guy is wearing a mask. You have to assume he's not wearing it for fun, so I don't really know what any of the incarnations were expecting, but for me, the betrayal is the worst in Phantom, where their relationship is the most natural and developed. It is based on no deception, as there is no Angel of Music pretense.

~~



Overall, it was a great show, and I generally just thought of it as a different adaptation, as one should. Both are incredibly enjoyable musicals, though of course I tend to gravitate much more strongly to the ALW version.

PotO gets a lot of heat for being more overblown and outlandish with special effects, but I think it kept the core story more at heart. While it's nice to give Erik a background, if it doesn't quite fit with the character or the source material (in which Erik is incredibly mysterious and we only receive secondhand accounts of), I'd be hard pressed to call this the 'real Phantom' as the ads do. Some of the character combinations work well, like Carlotta being the new manager, but some things, like Carriere being Erik's father, seem much more melodramatic, especially when you combine it with the "Christine looks and sounds like his mother" bit. And when the dad thinks he's been good at covering up the fatherhood thing this whole time... Clearly not.


Musically, both were wonderful, but I find Webber better at creating earworms. Not only is the title song super recognizable, but so many other songs from PotO are widely loved and used. I can only recall maybe 3 songs from Phantom that I really remember and want to consistently listen to. I'm sure that would change with repeated viewings, but I still prefer the mega musical I guess. 

To me, Phantom is a great musical, but it definitely leaves out some of my favorite scenes from the novel, which ALW's version usually included in some form. Some of these include the graveyard scene, dramatic mirror scene, masquerade, dramatic overhearing of Raoul/Christine's confession, the overall menace and ghostliness of the Phantom, the descent to the lair (still one of the best scenes in musical theater, period), the snap in the Phantom's sanity... I could go on.

Phantom, to me, is saved by a heart wrenching story (despite the liberties taken with the story from the novel), and so it is easy to get emotionally invested in it all, because the story is accompanied by beautiful music. When sung by someone amazing... wow. I could barely breathe/contain myself when the glorious voice of Park Hyo Shin was filling my ears. Overall, seeing both shows is a completely different experience for me, having seen one multiple times and one only once. If either ever comes to your area, you will not be disappointed by them. 


Do you like a more mysterious story, or a more fleshed out backstory?
Have you ever seen Phantom? What are your thoughts compared to The Phantom of the Opera?




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