“Maybe now they'll forget about Starlight Express...”
The Phantom of the Opera is a musical written by the famous composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. It is generally considered one of his greatest works after Cats and Jesus Christ Superstar. It is also considered one of the greatest pieces of musical theater because of its clichés, reprises, generally annoying characters that spend most of their stage time crying and or whining, reprises, its lack of singers that remember how to articulate anything and reprises. All very common themes explored in many if not all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals. Time for another reprise, Mr. Webber? I feel so too.
It is also currently the longest-running show in Broadway history. This just goes to show that just because everyone is doing something consistently for a very long time, does make it right. It just recently surpassed Cats, another fantastic musical.
- The Phantom of the Opera - A horribly deformed musician and neckbeard, who is directly from God. Especially when portrayed by Ramin Karimloo. It’s hard to be a horribly deformed opera singer when you look this amazing? Has the voice of angel.
- Christine - A character with little character. She sings many songs in the show and cries in all of them. She was voted most likely to give herself over willingly to a strange figure in her mirror because he says he’s an angel. In real life, she’s the sort of person you'd walk three blocks to avoid because she won’t stop telling you about her feelings about things and her problems and her fears. Seriously kids, don’t talk to strangers.
- Raoul, Viscount de Chagny - As if the villain wasn't effeminate enough, the hero is a French nobleman, fond of champagne, scented handkerchiefs and absinthe. Only appears to create a messy love triangle, and to be an overall douche. Needless to say, he doesn't cut loose with a machine gun in the third act. He’s another character that most people chalk up as “just generally really, really annoying.” These kinds of characters have become stock-characters for Mr. Webber.
- The Theater Manager - Essentially a rip-off of the Mayor from Jaws. Refuses to believe in the Phantom, in spite of the mounting evidence; including notes, eye-witness accounts and the fact that he is harmonizing with the "nonexistent" phantom. The Manager is not very bright.
- Madame Carlotta - the prima dona, or annoying woman, of the opera company. Thank god they managed to write an annoying woman into the story.
- The Chandelier A huge lighting fixture that the Phantom drops on the audience of the opera house. It's also the time machine that narrates the tale of so many years ago after being wired with parts for electricity (The "In" thing in the early 1900's). It's hard to picture "Phantom" without this important character.
- The Amazing Zandor - A vaudeville magician, who is paid a hefty salary by the Opera House in spite of the fact that they never show magic acts. The Manager wants to fire him, but Zandor hides under a blanket whenever he comes by, thereby foiling the stupid man.
- Charles de Gaulle - comic relief (but with no red nose).
The plot states that at the Opera Populaire in Paris in 1911, an auction is underway. Set pieces from the old theatre are being sold. Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, purchases a music box 'in the shape of barrel organ'. Lot 666 is then up, which is a chandelier in pieces. The auctioneer mentions that the chandelier was involved in the "strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera, a mystery never fully explained." The chandelier illuminates and slowly begins to rise to the rafters of the theatre as the opera house is restored to its original grandeur (Overture).
At the Opera Populaire, 1881, a rehearsal for Hannibal is underway. Monsieur Lefevre, the owner, announces that he has sold the theater to two new managers, Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur André. They observe two of the ballet dancers, Meg Giry and her friend, Christine Daaé, with some curiosity. André asks Carlotta, the resident diva, to sing an aria. She agrees, but in the middle of the song, a backdrop suddenly falls dangerously close to her. The company blames the accident on the Opera Ghost. Carlotta has dealt with such incidents for several years, and says that she has had too much of it. She quits, taking Piangi, the tenor, with her. The managers lament having to cancel the show, but Meg quickly suggests they consider Christine to replace Carlotta. They agree to hear her sing, and Christine starts her song ("Think of Me") tentatively, but as she impresses the entire company with her voice the scene changes to the night of the performance. Christine, now in costume as the leading lady, makes a triumphant debut.
The managers and Raoul (the new patron of the Opera House) look on from the stage box. Raoul is particularly impressed; he remembers Christine from their childhood. After the performance, Madame Giry praises Christine and castigates the ballet girls, forcing them to practice into the night. The Phantom's voice in the distance commends Christine on that night's performance. Meg sneaks away from the rehearsal to find Christine outside her dressing room. She expresses her delight in her friend's change of fortune but wonders how it came about. Christine tells Meg that the Angel of Music has been tutoring her in singing during the night and thinks he has been sent from Heaven by her father. The two discuss this mysterious teacher ("Angel of Music") until Madame Giry arrives to retrieve Meg and deliver a note from Raoul. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman performing the title song
The managers bring Raoul to Christine's dressing room. She is pleased to see him, and reminisces with him ("Little Lotte"). She tells him she has been visited by the Angel of Music, and he, impressed by the beauty of her voice, says he is sure she has, not realizing that the Angel is not just imaginary. He invites her to dinner, but she declines because the Angel of Music would be angry. When Raoul leaves, the Phantom sings to Christine about his displeasure that Raoul is trying to court her ("Angel of Music/The Mirror"). Christine pleads for his forgiveness and begs the Angel to show himself. He complies, revealing himself behind Christine's mirror. The Phantom takes Christine behind the mirror and through a series of underground tunnels to his lair ("The Phantom of the Opera"), where he entreats her to sing for him. The Phantom later serenades her ("Music of the Night") eventually showing her a life-size doll resembling Christine in a wedding gown. The doll then reaches out to grab her, and Christine faints. The Phantom, realizing that showing her the doll was too much, carries her to a bed.
The next morning, Christine sees the Phantom bent over his organ, furiously composing ("I Remember..."). As she sneaks up behind him, her curiosity gets the better of her, and she pulls back his mask. She sees his deformity behind the mask, though the audience does not. Chasing her about the lair, he challenges her to look at his face and in the end they finally both fall to the ground. The Phantom tries to explain that he only wants to be like everyone else, and that he hopes she will learn to love him in spite of his face ("Stranger than You Dreamt It"). She returns his mask and the two have a moment of understanding before he returns her to the surface. As the Phantom and Christine sneak back into the theatre, Joseph Buquet regales the ballet girls with terrible tales of the mysterious Opera Ghost ("Magical Lasso"), warning them that the only way to protect themselves is to "keep your hand at the level of your eyes." The Phantom catches sight of them, and the ballet girls run off screaming. Madame Giry warns Buquet to exercise restraint, or the consequences will be severe.
In the managers' office, Firmin, Andre, Raoul and Carlotta are puzzled by several cryptic notes received from the "Opera Ghost" and blame each other for them. Madame Giry arrives with another note in which the Phantom tells the managers to keep Box Five free for him, to give the leading role in the opera Il Muto to Christine, and relegate Carlotta to the silent part of a pageboy. ("Notes..."). Carlotta accuses Raoul of orchestrating the whole event and claims that he has had an affair with Christine. Fearing the loss of their main soprano (and her lover, the principal tenor, Piangi) the managers promise her that she will keep her leading role ("Prima Donna").
At Il Muto that night, Carlotta indeed plays the role of the Countess; Christine is themute pageboy. Raoul decides to sit in Box Five to watch the show. The show is going well ("Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh"), until the Phantom appears on the proscenium arch. He screams that the managers did not keep box five empty. He then furiously tantalizes Carlotta and makes her voice croak like a frog. Humiliated, she flees into Piangi's arms. The show stops, and the managers announce that it will resume with Christine as the Countess. The ballet chorus is sent out to entertain the waiting crowd, but the performance is interrupted when the backdrop lifts to reveal the corpse of Joseph Buquet hanging from the rafters. In the ensuing melee, Christine finds Raoul and takes him to the roof where they will be safe from the Phantom's machinations.
On the roof, Christine tries to tell Raoul that she has seen the Phantom's face and been in his lair, but Raoul does not believe her ("Why Have You Brought Me Here?/Raoul, I've Been There"). Christine hears the Phantom, but Raoul looks around and sees no one. Raoul promises to love and protect her always ("All I Ask of You"). The two make plans to see each other after the show. After Christine and Raoul head back downstairs, The Phantom emerges, having heard the entire conversation. He is heartbroken, but his sorrow turns to rage and he vows vengeance against Raoul ("All I Ask of You (Reprise)"). Returning to the theater, he sends the mighty chandelier crashing down on the stage during the curtain call.
Everyone is in attendance at the masquerade ball ("Masquerade"). The Phantom has not shown himself for six months. Christine and Raoul are now engaged. To Raoul's dismay, Christine insists on hiding her ring, which is on a chain around her neck. The Phantom enters, dressed as the title character from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death". He announces that he has written an opera, and that he expects the managers to produce it ("Why So Silent"). He them disappears in smoke, hoping to kill some people through the harmful effects of secondhand smoking. Unfortunately no one dies. Except Christine dies about ten years later probably because she was the closest to the poofy smoke cloud.
The Phantom's opera, Don Juan Triumphant, causes chaos and arguments among the managers and actors. Christine has been granted the largest part in the opera, which angers everyone. She tells the managers she does not 'want any part in this plot' because she fears the Phantom will capture her. Raoul realizes that they can use the opera as a trap to capture the Phantom ("Notes.../Twisted Every Way"). Christine is unhappy with the idea as she does not want the Phantom dead. Tormented by the choice she must make, she flees the room.
Rehearsals begin and everyone converses, and Carlotta and Madame Giry argue about the song. Finally, Carlotta sings the song mockingly. The piano starts to play by itself, and everyone sings along mechanically, except for Christine. She visits her father's grave to try to make sense of the situation. She wishes her father were there to help her make the right decision ("Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"). The Phantom appears and sings to her, again in the guise of the Angel Of Music ("Wandering Child"). Christine easily falls under his spell again.
Raoul enters the scene and brings Christine back to reality. The two men verbally spar ("Bravo Monsieur"), while the Phantom shoots fireballs down at Raoul, but Christine begs Raoul to run away with her. Enraged, the Phantom declares that they are both his enemies now and the Graveyard disappears in flames. Raoul and the police go over instructions to trap the Phantom. Raoul instructs a marksman hiding in the orchestra pit to kill the Phantom, and the police set out to bar all of the exits. The voice of the Phantom is heard, taunting them. He appears in Box Five but vanishes as the marksman fires. Raoul rounds on him, but the Phantom interrupts, insisting they show the play as usual ("Don Juan"). Christine appears on stage to sing ("Point of No Return"). Don Juan appears onstage, with his face covered. During her duet with "Don Juan", Christine realizes she is singing with the Phantom instead of Piangi. The Phantom gives her a ring and expresses his love. Christine whips off his mask to reveal his deformed face to everyone. Before the police can intervene, the Phantom drags Christine offstage. Carlotta cries out in horror as Piangi is discovered dead, and a mob sets out to track down the Phantom. Madame Giry locates Raoul to take him to the bridge above the lake, and tells him where to find the Phantom. She warns him of the Punjab lasso, telling him to keep "your hand at the level of your eyes". Raoul asks that she come with him, but Madame Giry insists that it is too dangerous. Steve Barton and Sarah Brightman in the final scene
Down in the lair, the Phantom has forced Christine to put on the wedding dress ("Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer"). Christine asks if he is going to kill her, whereupon he assures her that he would not, and that his face is the reason that she will not love him. Christine declares that she is not afraid of his face, but his soul. Raoul arrives, pleading to the Phantom to release Christine. The Phantom admits him to the lair and snares him in the Punjab lasso. The Phantom offers Christine an ultimatum: either he will kill Raoul and let Christine go, or she will stay with him and Raoul can go free.
The Phantom insists that she must choose. Christine sadly tells the Phantom that he deceived her. Raoul apologizes and expresses his love for Christine, telling her that as long as she is safe from the Phantom it doesn't matter what happens to him. Finally, Christine makes her choice and kisses the Phantom. Stunned by the kiss, which is the first real human love he has ever felt, he sets Raoul free and releases Christine. He asks them both to keep his existence a secret.
Raoul leaves, but Christine wants to return the Phantom's ring. The Phantom declares his love for her, and she forces herself to turn away. She and Raoul leave in the Phantom's boat, singing to each other. The Phantom sobs in the wedding veil Christine has left behind. As the mob approaches, he sits down in his throne and pulls his cape around him. Meg slips through the bars in the gate and searches for Christine. She notices the throne and cautiously walks over to it. When she pulls back the cape, she finds that the Phantom has vanished and all that remains is his mask. Meg picks up the mask and holds it aloft as a single light shining on the mask fades into darkness.
A general criticism revolved around the plot, which doesn't seem to appeal to certain demographics. Notable critics such as that group of annoying teenagers that sit behind you generally said, "This fucking sucks!" This criticism has be regarded universally as very accurate, but only for the culturally challenged. One critic in particular stated, "I didn't even want to see this fucking show. My parents dragged me to it." This comment, was generally agreed upon by most critics as well. However, it has the power to make theater obsessed fangirls horny.
However, many praised Andrew Lloyd Webber for his complex score. In particular, the title song, The Phantom of the Opera, was widely-hailed as the most memorable and complex pieces of its time. "Mr. Webber has made a masterpiece. His ingenious idea to go up and down the keyboard on an organ several times was absolutely fantastic!" said notable Pink Floyd writer Roger Waters. Waters later paid tribute to Webber in the song "It's A Miracle" where he thanked the brilliant composer for plagiarizing Pink Floyd's "Echoes". The Phantom's voice has also been hailed in high regard, being referred to as, "sex for the ears", both lyrical, and amazing.
The book was also credited as being "not-cliched at all" and also "filled with vibrant characters that make you glad you're not as whiny or annoying as them." In addition the set was hailed as marvelous which just goes to show that if your show isn't all that great, at least you can hide all your plot-holes and overacting behind that really bright banister and all those candelabras and people will still be impressed by your production.
- Silent Film A silent movie version of the film was made in the early part of the 20th Century. However, it was not well received as many people found that the "musical aspect" of it was lost with the fact that it had no music or singing.
- Film A film was made of the musical in 2004 and opened mixed reviews. Andrew Lloyd Webber was particularly upset by it stating, "The completely ruined the musical. The plot was totally coherent and the characters weren't half as annoying as I intended them to be! And what was up with Carlotta? Was she enunciating? Who told her that was a good character choice? Enunciation. Bah!" A notable New York Times film critic stated, "I felt like it was two and a half hours I could have put to better use." Most critics agreed with this statement as the "holy-shit-this-is-a-waste-of-my-time-and-money" can be directly traced back to the original musical. It did however feature Gerard Butler as the Phantom, a combination of people that almost blew the cast's mind. Some are still dazed by the sheer "sexy" of the performance. The only people who feel this way, however, are the lovely ladies from Les Misérables. And I guess Joel Schumacher.
- School Edition A schools version is in the process of being developed for possible initial license release in the USA and Canada
- The Original Novel by Gaston Leroux did not do well with critics either. Their main criticism being that, "Isn't this a musical?" Take it from the people who we stuff in dark, candle-lit rooms to read the book. It sucks, and has even less plot then the movie.