Phantom of The Opera 25th Anniversary - Royal Albert Hall

Where do I even begin? I'd been a fan of the Phantom of The Opera musical after watching the movie version back in 2004. Yes, I know quite a lot of die hard 'phans' did not enjoy it after having experienced the awesome stage production...but since I've not had the chance to catch it on stage, the movie version was the next best thing that I could catch and I had fallen in love with the whole story. I could definitely identify with the Phantom's yearning for love that is not reciprocated...but that's just me.

From then on, I'd had the privilege of watching Ramin Karimloo (who played the Phantom in "Love Never Dies" when it opened in the UK) last year at the "West End Stars in Concert" show in KL. His performance on the spectacular song "Till I Hear You Sing" just gave me goosebumps and made me ache to go and catch the musical! But, as my luck would have it, I didn't get the chance, and "Love Never Dies" didn't last long enough for me to get over there =( But I still remain a big fan of Ramin and even managed to watch him on the DVD of Les Misérables (my review here)! Recently, I've read that there is a DVD on the Phantom of The Opera for its 25th anniversary celebration, and they've cast Ramin and Sierra Boggess to play the Phantom and Christine respectively. Instantly, I thought...OMG! MUST. GO. GET. DVD! So now, here I am...having watched this a couple of times now, and still wanting to watch it again! I knew this I had to blog about coz I always can't contain myself whenever I watch something so awesome!

Unlike Les Mis' 25th anniversary which they did in concert form, they staged the performance of The Phantom of The Opera! Even so, they didn't use full stage sets...some props and projected images on the stage were used instead in the scenes, but it did not detract from the splendor of it all. For me, who had not seen the full production before, this was still AMAZING! The clever use of the images to portray the mirror, or backdrops of the scenes made it quite believable. One of the coolest ones was when the Phantom asks Christine to look in the mirror (in "Angel of Music"), and when she does, there is a camera (I suspect) that records her and the footage was projected on to the panel, along with a projection of the Phantom's face on it to show he is 'there, inside'. Same was used at the end of "Think of Me", when Christine turns away from the audience and turns toward the panels which projected footage of the audience applauding.

The scene in the Phantom's gorgeous is that?

I've read that this performance (when filmed) was also broadcast in cinemas worldwide simultaneously....not too sure how much was edited in the DVD, but I find it quite cool still. Viewers watching the DVD sure had the 'best seats' of the place. The cameras moved seamlessly to showcase not only the whole stage, but also close ups on the actors as the story moves along. And it was definitely mesmerizing to say the least!

The Phantom and Christine in "Music of The Night"

It was my first time watching Sierra Boggess perform, and I have to say she plays an excellent Christine! Not that I've got anybody else to compare to (except maybe Emmy Rossum from the movie, but I guess that doesn't really count right?), but I've heard her voice on the "Love Never Dies" soundtrack, and to put a face to the voice with her great acting was so cool. She really nailed it playing the young Christine who is hypnotized by the Phantom, falls in love Raoul, and torn between the two men who loved her so deeply. Let's not mention also her great voice...I'm no vocalist, but her soprano voice was amazing and not as irritating as some others I've heard. Makes me so want to watch her in "Love Never Dies" just to see the continuation of the story...but the DVD for that features an Australian cast, so I guess no chance of that =( Will post up my views on "Love Never Dies" soon too! *grins*

Hadley Fraser as Raoul...swoon!

Another actor I'm very surprised to see is Hadley Fraser, who played Raoul. I never really root for Raoul...partly because I find that his character is a little wimpy in the movie, and in "Love Never Dies", he was like this arrogant, snobbish alcoholic which gave me like a  'Huh?' reaction. Hadley's portrayal of Raoul though, totally made sense (and I think gave the story a better continuation between the two musicals). Since the Vimconte de Chagny is a very young aristocrat back in the day, I suppose he was a spoiled brat growing up and used to getting whatever he wants (since he had the money to do it). Hadley plays this out to the T, and it was quite a nice twist on Raoul....while being arrogant and snobbish, he still manages to make you kind of root for him a little. And it also helps that Hadley is such a looker...with his chiseled face and gorgeous eyes, one can see why Christine falls for the 'insolent, fool of fashion boy' how the Phantom puts it! *wink* I LOVED his voice rich and deep! And I also thought he looked VERY familiar...a little bit of Googling and I found out he was also in Les Mis with Ramin in the 25th anniversary DVD! He played Grantaire...Enjolras' good friend =) And they are both good friends too off cool!

The agonized face of the the heck Ramin still manages to look handsome in all that makeup I have no idea!

Of course, this review would not be complete without me gushing about Ramin's performance! *grins* While I've quite enjoyed Gerard Butler's turn as the Phantom in the movie (he makes a great Don Juan! =P), I have to say Ramin's portrayal really embodies the tortured genius and artist but also evil in certain ways that is the Phantom. One can really see it with his little gestures; his ever twitching fingers (a 'habit' of his Phantom, or maybe it's like his clicks?), his cringe and turning away when Christine looks at or wants to touch him, the maniacal laugh when he killed, his shaking hands before Christine grabbed his during "Past The Point of No Return", the tears he shed when he knows Christine doesn't love him the way he loves her...I could go on and on. I've watched this twice so far, and he has never failed to bring me to tears each time. 

My favorite scene was the final Lair...the trio singing together when the Phantom makes Christine choose between him and Raoul is just amazing to watch, and when Christine makes her choice...the look in  his eyes when she kissed him! So heartbreaking towards the end....*sigh* It's hard to write down how I felt when I watch it. I guess one has to watch it to see what was it that makes Ramin such a formidable Phantom. Yes...every one has their favorite Phantom actor. For me, it's Ramin....LOVE LOVE his voice (such emotion! Even without watching him, you can just hear it when he sings...but couple that with his acting, OMG)! It's really great that I could catch his performances on DVDs coz I don't know when I'll be able to catch him in the West End. Now after the DVDs, I'm even more determined to go to the West End and watch him live!

When the last note had been sung, there were a few more surprises. Andrew Lloyd Webber came out on stage and gave a little speech. What's an anniversary celebration without bringing the original cast out on stage too right? Like in Les Mis, the surviving cast took their bows to a rousing and rapturous applause by the audience. Even the original Phantom, Michael Crawford, and the original Christine, Sarah Brightman made an appearance! 

When Sir Andrew said that Sarah had agreed to sing for the audience, I was so hoping that Michael Crawford would sing too....I've heard about how great he was, but never gotten to watch him (Thanks to the Internet though, Youtube is awesome! I didn't manage to watch whole performances, but whatever songs he sang was so cool! He didn't have the deep voice that I've always associated the Phantom with, but his emotion was so clear in whatever he sings). But too bad, he didn't sing...instead, there were 4 other leading men (who I assumed also played the Phantom before) who accompanied Sarah in the number; namely Colm Wilkinson (OMG! I LOVED him in the Les Mis' finale...that voice!), John Owen-Jones (also another great voice! I hear he plays the current Phantom now), Anthony Warlow and Peter Jöback. Later, Ramin joined in too...and it was great! 

I've not really heard Sarah Brightman sing before, but I kinda felt that her voice was a in the sense that it didn't have the power like Sierra injected into the number =/ And that kinda threw me off a bit seeing how the songs that Christine sang were especially written FOR Sarah at the time. Weird, I know but I guess not everyone is on their game all the time right? It was still a great performance though, and I can't rave about it more without being too teenybopper (which at this point, I kind of am! LOL!). Now, to be a complete adult and start saving to go and watch a West End production live...hopefully I could catch either Ramin Karimloo, Colm Wilkinson, John Owen-Jones or Hadley Fraser. You know what would be the best scenario? All of them together in one production! O.O" Now THAT would be epic *grins*

Credits for DVD stills: Glasgow Theatre Blog & The Ugly Bug Ball
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