on October 11, 2011
I just got back from watching this exact performance at my local theatre, and I must admit, I am most impressed.
I was frightened that this might not be a staging at all, but more along the lines of a "concert in costume" much like the dissapointment I felt when I saw the Les Miserable's concert on Public TV.
Fear not. This production is pretty dead on to the staging that appears in the shows that I have watched live, and considering this was filmed "live" and simulcast, it is truly a sight to behold.
While this performance can't even compare to "being there" it is far removed than the sterile affair put on the screen by Joel Schumaker. Don't get me wrong. There is plenty of things I like about the movie, (like the spine tingling opening sequence, or the red hot sexuality of Point of No Return). But this by far is the most accurate "filming" I have seen of any ALW production.
Unlike Joseph, JC Superstar and CATS, which were "staged" recordings specifically for video, with all the "cuts" that go with it, This is a live filming that was simulcast live around the world on Oct 2, 2011 and ran on limited encore performances in movie theatres for the next few days. There are no "best performances" or "second chances". We get what was actually presented to the audience on Oct 2, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
Due to the height of the roof of the Royal Albert Hall and either logistics or safety concerns revolving around hurling a Chandalier from such a dizzying height, suffice it to say, the chandalier does not crash to the stage at the end of Act 1, nor does it "float" from the stage in it's glory during the overture. Instead, the tarp is removed during the overture, and fireworks accompany the chandeliers destruction at the end of Act 1. This is sure to be a bit of a disappointment to most Phantom fans, and if you need to experience a crashing chandalier, you will have to go to one of the live performances currently touring around the world. On the plus side there are quite a few shots of the show taken "throguh" the chandelier onto the stage below, which gives you the feeling that you are the phantom, spying at the action below from top of the chandelier. It's not as dramatic, but they did what they could and it's hard to fault them for something that was probably completely out of their control.
The production also makes extensive use of LED screens as backdrops much like was done in Love Never Dies. This can is be both effective and a bit disconcerting. One example is the backdrop of Andre and Fermin's office, which is setup to look like a wall with opera posters posted on it. From a distance, these work fine. However, some of the cameras are really close to the stage and causes this effect to pixelate greatly which takes away some of the suspension of disbelief.
The use of LED screens is also used to mimic Christines Mirror during her Angel of Music number in which Christine approaches the mirror with the Phantoms face singing in the upper right corner of the mirror. Towards the end, the screen simply slides away to review the Phantom walking towards her with the fog rolling at his feet.
Another different use of the screens is during "Notes" when the phantom is reading how Christine is to star in 'Il Muto, we see handwriting appearing as well as the phantom singing his instructions on how Christine is to be granted the role of the dutchess while Carlotta plays the pageboy. One cool effect that the LED screens provided was during the end of Think of Me, Christine faces the rear of the stage, and the actual applause from the live audience is projected on the rear screens giving the audience the feeling that they are behind Christine and their own reaction is the reaction of the "audience" who just watched her aria from Hannibal. It's hard to describe but a cool efect.
It's also fair to note that these "screens" were necessary given the sheer size of the arena, and in the vastness of the RAH, some consideration had to be made to those in the nosebleed seats, so we see some scenes where the Phantom is projected on the real wall so that the paying customer in the back can better see the action.
It's just that they lose much of their effectiveness when filmed.
Speaking of filming, the camera work is stunning. Thanks to HD and the extreme closeup we fully see the emotional range the Phantom shows at his love/hate relationship with Christine. Some might say we see too much as I was distracted by wrinkles in the Phantoms facial prostesis where it was peeling from his neckline. Proof positive that this was shot live.
The performances from the cast were spot on, and it's amazing how I find different parts of the musical which resonate with me depending on the production.
In the live stage productions I have seen, the "Phantom of The Opera/Music of the Night" sequence always sent shivers down my spine. The motion picture's rendition of "Past the Point of No Return" has a sexual tension and animal magnetism not experienced on any stage performance I have seen. The stand out number for me in this version clearly was "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again." This has never been a favorite number of mine until now. Sierra Boggess really sells that performance and my mouth was on the floor when it was over.
The Phantom in this production is also more believable. Ramin Karimloo brings out an anquished performance of a "monster" with the heart of an "artist". His makeup is not over the top but grotesque enough to give someone pause. My biggest beef about the motion picture is that no woman in her right mind would have rejected Gerard Butler's Phantom. Even with his "hideous" makeup he was way too pretty. A slight rash, a droopy eye and a swollen lip? Really? I've seen uglier people at Wal-Mart. But Karimloo's Phantom is sufficiently hideous. You sense the bravery it took Christine to kiss him in the final scene and that courage is not lost on the Phantom, which leads to his change of heart.
One suprising highlight was the role of Carlotta. In all the past performances, Carlotta was portrayed in Caricature. Nowehre is this more apparant than in Minnie Drivers over the top performance in the film. Here, Carlotta is almost a sympathetic character. She clearly fears not only the Phantom, but also the rise of this "precious little Ingenue". She clearly see's Christine as a threat to her dominance at the Opera and we see a true human side to her as portrayed by her fear when the piano starts playing by itself during the rehersal for Don Juan Triumphant. In the past Carlotta had always been a throwaway part, but in this performance it is done with an authenticity that I have never before seen.
Overall, the show is brilliant and I am ecstatic that it will be coming to DVD/Blu-Ray. Unfortunately Phantom is no longer touring in North America, so my chances to see it live require a trip to New York, or Las Vegas to see the "truncated" version. And if my children never have the opportunity to see it live, at least they can appreciate this version. While it is nowhere close to experiencing Phantom for yourself, it is definitely more authentic than the movie, and slight staging differences aside, is as accurate a staging of the original show as could be done in the venue that it was pressented.
One final bonus is the appearance on stage of the surviving Orignal London Cast including Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. Unfortunately Michael does no singing, but we do get two numbers with Sarah and four previous phantoms. The Phantoms are outstanding, but clearly Sarah's voice lacks the punch it had 25 years ago. This is not a criticism but just a fact of growing older. It was still nice to see the original production team on stage.
While it seems I have levied quite a few criticisms in this review, it is simply there to let you know what you are getting before you buy. The performance was outstanding and much more accurate to the original show than the movie. If you are a fan of the original show, you will find plenty to like here. If you are a fan of the movie, you will see different nuances than was presented by the film.
Anyway, however you look at it. At it's core, it is still Phantom, and a mighty fine one at that. A must buy for anyone who loves this show, and anyone who has yet to see it performed on stage.
For the 25th anniversary of Phantom Andrew and Cameron did a fully staged concert version of pretty much the whole show at London's Royal Albert Hall complete with minor set piece and fully costumed with a cast and orchestra of over 200. (More complete then the movie just a like cut here or there NOTHING to really get excited over.) This version is nothing short of incredible. Now fans of Sarah and Michael DON'T KILL ME, please. I saw this in the theater for the live broadcast and was amazed by the performances in this. Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess, who co-starred in the "Phantom" sequel "Love Never Dies" in London, reunited for the special production and with amazing chemistry. Having grown up on the OLC recording and owning about a half a dozen others I've never grown to really like the piece outside of the original cast. Maybe it's nostalgia for it or just the way others have sung it but this time I was blown away. Never in my life have I cried at this show until now. Ramin's Music of the Night was like hearing the song for the first time all over again and Sierra's high notes are flawless and clearer then ever Sarah did back in her early days. The odd standout performance for me was of all things Kiera Duffy as 'Carlotta'. She brought a fullness and venerability to the role I never ever thought about and her look go absolute terror during the rehearsals for The Phantom's opera still sticks out in my mind as genius. The performances in this alone make this for me THE version of phantom. Visually one should know off the bat that the chandler does not crash down... it is after all just a concert. The staging is mostly done with LED screens which, while not MY preferred thing, are alright. Small set piece are brought on and off and the costumes are all here in their glory. While I hope the LES screens don't make their way into the regular staging they did help to set the mood for the night, but it was hands down the cast and orchestra that makes this astounding. At the end there is the usual speeches and bringing out of the old cast and Michael and Sarah are there and while Michel doesn't sing Sarah does. She sounded eh.. ok... I wish she would get over her whole singing-with-my-arms-in-front-of-me thing but it was nice as she was backed by four past phantoms. That all is just sprinkles and dusting on what I hope will be looked back as one of the finest performances of this show ever done.
on October 6, 2011
The DVD will contained the live streaming held on October 2, 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall. I had the privilege of seeing it in the theater in the U.S. on 10/2/11 and once again on 10/5/11 as a rebroadcasted Encore performance. I'm so excited that I'll be able to watch it again and again. The taping of the show and cinematography were spectacular. You by no means feel like you are in a seat in the audience watching it from may rows in front of the stage. No, you are up close, on stage, beholding closeups of the various performers play their iconic roles to perfection. You see the costumes like you've never seen them before, the rage and hurt in the Phantom's eyes, the conflict and yearning of Christine for two men. The performances of Ramin Karimloo (Phantom), Sierra Boggess (Christine), and Hadley Fraser (Raoul) are nothing less than brilliant, as well as the rest of the cast. If you love Phantom on stage, you'll love this DVD. The after performance reprisals of the Phantom of the Opera and the Music of the Night with legends such as Sarah Brightman, Anthony Warlow, John Owen Jones, and Colm Wilkinson will move you to tears, plus the appearance of Michael Crawford, Andrew Lloyd Webber (of course), Cameron Mackintosh, and Charles Hart. This DVD is a Phantom keepsake indeed.
on October 14, 2011
I was lucky enough to see this live in the US on October 2nd and like my fellow reviewers, it was "PHANTASTIC"! I have seen the show twice before and loved it and have always loved the beautiful music. Andrew Lloyd Webber did a great job with this (along with Cameron Mackintosh) production. Ramin and Sierra shone as the Phantom and Christine. I'm not going to lie -- I wan't sure about Sierra at first since I had never heard her sing before, but she's amazing. And Ramin...my goodness! I saw him as Enjorlas in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables as well and he was so powerful there. I knew he'd make the perfect Phantom.
What I really loved about this was you truly felt like you were not only there at the Royal Albert Hall, but that you had a front row seat (better than a front row seat even). The close-ups are amazing. And this was not in a concert style format like Les Mis was last year. It was the entire show (nothing left out!!) with the actors actually acting, not just standing at a microphone singing.
The end of the show was just...I still, after two weeks of seeing it cannot even begin to explain the ending/encore. Of course ALW came out and gave a speech and then introduced the original London cast minus Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. I was a little bummed but of course, he announced them after the cast had come out. So great to see both of them and I must say Michael looks as good now as he did in 1986!!! And Sarah...wow. She sings 'Phantom of the Opera' as four past Phantoms (including Colm Wilkinson, John Owen Jones and Anthony Warlow...there was one more but I forgot his name) came out and sang with her. It was great! But that wasn't it. The four Phantoms (plus Ramin) sang the most beautiful version of Music of the Night. I got goosebumps. It was just gorgeous! I wish that Michael Crawford had sung as well, but I'm guessing he had a good reason.
This is definitely a DVD worth buying and watching over and over again. I know I will!
on April 15, 2012
I have never been a person that has been overly found of musicals. I'll tell you this up front. Basically, I could always just take 'em or leave 'em.
Make no mistake, I am not immune to the 'songs in my head' phenomena. Thankfully, for me, this problem has always been fairly rare. And when it did occur, it never persisted for too long. That is, at least it used to be this way. Until I experienced not the 'songs in my head' problem, but rather the 'entire frickin' libretto in my exploding brain' problem. Two very different things.
It all started innocently enough. Some years ago a "friend" (I now use that term loosely, as the plot was diabolical and doubtlessly premeditated. We shall call her "Joyce".) stated that she had purchased tickets that she was to be unable to use to attend a touring company production of a play that was stopping in Sacramento (California) a city 100 or so miles away from where we both live. It was a show that I had heard of vaguely - one that I really had no interest in seeing - a musical (wouldn't you just know it?) titled "Phantom-of-the-something-or-other".
I didn't want to go. Too far. Too much trouble. Too much to do. Not interested.
My friend persisted, and as time for the performance drew near I desperately cast about for some acceptable and reasonable excuse that would allow me to gracefully bow out. There were none forthcoming. So, on the appointed day, I somewhat reluctantly drove off to the production with low expectations, knowing the show was long, and hoping that I would not fall asleep whilst it was onstage.
After arriving at the venue, and finding my seat, soon the the rock-opera music began to pound, the chandelier began to flash and my eardrums began to thrum. With alarm, I could begin to feel the persistent tendrils of music seeking purchase in my cranium, and I found myself limp in my seat, unable to fight them off. I began to suspect that I was surely doomed.
But not quite yet: after the overture, a brief reprieve.
This traveling production was presented in the Sacramento Convention Center. As it's name implies, it is not a theatre, but - you guessed it - a convention center auditorium. On the day that I was there (I can't speak for other days when things might have been different) the acoustics were. . . less than spectacular [i. e., incredibly bad] and the show appeared to be poorly miked (or mic'ed, as you prefer). The result was that I could hear the music fairly well - but I could not understand a single solitary word that was either spoken or sung. I could see that the mouths of the distant performers were opening and closing, but all I could hear was muffled gibberish.
But still, somehow, this phantom thing reached right out to this non-musical-lover and grabbed me tightly by the throat, gave me a quick shake, and would not let me go. I could hardly breathe. I was completely gobsmacked, even though I had pretty much no idea what the thing was about, due to my complete inability to understand any of the words.
I think when my friend asked me afterward how I had liked it, I just stared at her with a glazed expression. I knew that something strange and wonderful had just happened to me, but I could not for the life of me figure out exactly what it was.
I had absolutely no idea "how I had liked it".
I soon found out, however. A quick trip onto the internet revealed the complete libretto, and a quick trip to the music store revealed the original cast recording, and with reading and listening the story became startlingly clear. Within a few weeks I drove to San Francisco to see the resident theatre company of "Phantom" that was then there. Twice. And I continued to play the CD incessantly.
My brain began to swell, and from time to time gray matter would begin to drip out of my ears. The entire libretto, stuck unmovable in the depths of my skull, played on and on and on. And on. I thought I might go mad. Perhaps I did go mad for a time. Mercifully, after some years (!) it began to quiet, and not too long after that finally it was gone.
Freedom at last. Or so I hoped.
Fast forward to October 2011. I happened to be at my local movie theatre taking in the latest drivel when an ad briefly appeared advertising "Phantom". I felt only a minor tickle of interest, supposing it to be some quickie cheesefest, and thought to check it out on the internet when I returned home. But by the time the drivel had ended, I had totally forgotten about "Phantom".
My bad. And my regret.
Fast forward to March of 2012. Surfing around for something to DVR one weekend afternoon, I noticed that "Phantom" was to be presented on my local PBS station. PBS??? Phantom??? My lip curled in a sneer. I certainly didn't need to watch THAT ever again. For some reason I decided to DVR it anyway, sure I would never actually watch it. Three hours long? Good grief. Not for me.
Late that evening, wishing for a brief bit of escape before heading for bed, I decided to turn it on. Just for a few minutes, you understand. After all, it was late, I had to get up early the next morning, it couldn't possibly be any good, I just needed to unwind for a few minutes. Smile condescendingly, maybe, at the ridiculousness of it all.
And for the next three hours I was totally and completely lost.
I have read other reviews that I would like to briefly rebut, before I go on.
Basically these other reviewers state that POTO_25 is "pretty good, but can never match a live performance". To that I say, with all due respect: "Sir! You are very much mistaken!" My three experiences with live POTO were nowhere near the quality of POTO_25. NOT EVEN CLOSE.
The Sacramento performance was as described above. Flawed, yet the brilliance of the piece still shone through. On my first visit to POTO at the Curran theatre in San Francisco, they announced that "Christine" was ill, and that an actress had been flown in from Los Angeles for that evenings performance. Well, that particular "Christine" was just fine - unfortunately, the rest of the cast, particularly the Phantom, sounded like they all had a very bad, sniffly colds. On my second visit to the Curran, the Phantom was suddenly a low baritone, that would fudge on the tenor notes. I do not say that these performances were bad, because they were not. They were good. However, they were somewhat less than wonderful. And no where close to amazing.
Which brings me, finally, again, to the amazement that is POTO_25.
After seeing the show previously several times, I knew what to look for as POTO_25 began. The point that will tell me whether this will be a great and amazing performance, or merely a good and serviceable one. For me, that point is when I first hear the Phantom's voice, immediately after Christine's "Think of Me" triumph. We hear the Phantom softly calling her name. I have heard this calling when I could not understand the words. I have heard this calling when the Phantom had the sniffles. I have heard this calling when the Phantom was a low baritone, and should have been a tenor.
I had never heard it the way I imagined it could - and should - be sung. Until that moment. I sat straight up on the couch and threw my clock right out the window: O. M. G.
This is a musical whose implausible story is hung on the thinnest of gossamer threads. The amazing thing is not that it works - and in the case of POTO_25 it works overwhelmingly and brilliantly well - but that it works at all. With this show, as it comes to show time, all of the elements are in place: the costumes, the sets, the music, the effects.
It only remains for the actors to give it life.
And they do here flawlessly.
Wendy Ferguson (Carlotta):
What a revelation. The previous Carlotta's I had seen had all seemed to be thrown in as some kind of a diversion, to make time as the other characters were introduced. I am watching this and suddenly I'm thinking: What the. . .? Is Carlotta making eyes at the male ballet dancer? Indeed she was!
And her voice. Oh my. Like no Carlotta I have ever heard. And the wonderful characterization continues throughout the the show. What before had always seemed to me to be a throw-away part, is now a full-blooded and critical member of the ensemble. She is funny. She is poignant. She is brave. She makes one care about what happens to her. All with wonderful acting and amazing vocals.
Hadley Fraser (Raoul):
A very different - and welcome - take on the part. In previous "Phantoms" Raoul has always seemed to be a bit of a wishy-washy rich boy, with no real backbone. It never really made sense to me that he falls so instantly in love with Christine.
Here he doesn't.
Mr. Fraser is telling here a different tale with his acting, maybe not so in love - but worried about his investment. Watching his facial expressions (and it is glorious to be able to actually see facial expressions!) one notices that he is carefully calculating. He does not believe - at first - Christine's assertions about her "Angel of Music".
And when she later professes her love for him on the roof of the opera, he seems a bit surprised and even taken aback. And seems not to be really in love with her at all - but only leading her on in order to get her back inside to the paused performance.
After all, he would likely lose his investment in the Opera Populaire should she not return to the performance, and need to refund all of those tickets. This Raoul is a strong, assertive and calculating man - not a sniveling love-struck boy. I like him! Wonderful and absorbing tenor vocals.
Sierra Boggess (Christine):
What can one say of perfection? Her bravura performance takes ones breath away. I have never heard this part so well sung before, nor have I ever seen it so well acted, even sitting in the 5th row at the Curran. Frightened, happy, despairing. Soprano vocals unmatched, and unmatchable. Bravo Ms. Boggess!
Ramin Karimloo (The Phantom):
Well, here we finally come to the crux of it. The make-or-break performance of the show. So let me state this up front, without wasting any more time: I have never heard - nor seen acted - a better Phantom, nor do I ever expect to hear - or see acted - one at this level of performance art ever again in my lifetime.
The casting of Mr. Karimloo in this part puts a whole different take on the story. When he first comes onstage, after his offstage vocals, I was very surprised. I mean, what's this, a young guy? He is intense, virile, commanding - and seems unstoppable. And yet, at the proper times, he is also soft, retiring, poignant, and despairing.
When he is onstage, there is no one else there. His youth and vitality completely commands and changes the love triangle of the show. Always before, the Phantom has generally been played by an older man - that is, a man much older than is Christine. An older man moves differently and reacts differently. It is always supposed that a young man (in this case Raoul) will always win the love of the beautiful young woman over the affections of this older man.
This time we are not so sure. With a young Phantom, and particularly with *this* young Phantom, we realize that he really does have a chance with her. This adds a dramatic tension that has, until now, been missing.
As I have written above, I have seen this show more than once, but at the end of POTO_25 Mr. Karimloo's Phantom so had me in his grip, and so understanding of his loss, that in the final scene I dissolved into tears. This had never happened to me before when viewing this show.
Vocally, from the lowest baritone notes to the highest tenor, Mr. Karimloo navigates this torturous score with ease, elegance and confidence. Just when one thinks he can't possibly stretch out a high note or a low note one second longer (even he must finally run out of breath!), he ends with a sweet and extended vibrato.
My only complaint is that when he was singing the video would often cut to a reaction shot of Christine. I didn't want to watch Christine. I only wanted to look at him.
I can't wait to hear what this man does next.
BRAVO Mr. Karimloo!!!!
[Sidebar: as I don't follow theatre in general, and musical theatre in particular, Mr. Karimloo's name was unfamiliar to me. In the interest of fairness, I decided to Google him, and found a few YouTube interviews. What I discovered was a very handsome young man, extremely soft-spoken, polite and self-effacing. Where was the big ego? Where was the big voice? There obviously is some mistake here. Ramin: call me and let's discuss.] ;-)
To conclude, I will say that this will without doubt prove to be the definitive version of "Phantom of the Opera" for years to come. If you want to watch "Phantom", you really can't do better than this. It is an asset to any DVD/Blu Ray collection, and a "must have" for those who love Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece.
So, you may be asking, is it over for me now, the Music of the Night? No. I don't think it will ever be over again. At least not for me.
There is no more hope of summertime.
Because the Phantom of the Opera is HERE: inside my mind.
And the music plays on, and on.
And on. . .
May God have mercy on my soul.
on March 10, 2012
The 25th anniversary DVD/Blu-Ray of Phantom of the Opera (POTO):
1) Is it worth your time and money? YES!!!
2) Is it comparable to other POTO productions? BETTER!!! (Once in a lifetime event)
3) Is the talent of the lead singers on par with other POTO theater shows? YES & AMAZINGLY SO!!! (Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom & Sierra Boggess as Christine have teamed before in "Love Never Dies" (sequel to POTO) in Vegas and NY. The chemistry between them sizzles like hot grease in this 25th anniversary masterpiece. Ramin has played the Phantom and Sierra has played Christine opposite other actors as well.)
4) Is the 25th anniversary production unique? YES & EXTRAORDINARY!!! (It was beamed around the world. As seen on your TV, you have the best seat in the house, with camera angles and zooms bringing the spectacular scenes and actors' faces up close and personal for your enjoyment.)
Sierra Boggess is THE Christine everyone has been waiting and hoping for. What does she bring to the theater? Well, for one thing, the selection by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh for this 25th Anniversary production of POTO in this coveted role, for they insisted on the BEST Phantom cast. That in itself speaks volumes about her fantastic talent, both as an actress and a beautifully gifted soprano. She has honed her skills as Christine on numerous stages, growing and improving her portrayal of this character with every performance -- Sierra IS Christine.
Besides the aforementioned lead in "Love Never Dies" with Ramin, and lead as Christine in Vegas "POTO" stage productions, she has had other experiences on Broadway as well, including the lead role as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid" (she looks just like Ariel's cartoon character, by the way, which is a huge plus). After the recent "Master Class" she was selected to star as female lead in a Broadway adaptation of "Rebecca." Do you see the point I'm making? Folks, Sierra began her Broadway career in 2006 right out of college; in only 6 years she has risen to be the female lead in various wildly popular Broadway musicals. Just look where she's been already and imagine where she's going! I would love to see her as the lead in a filmed theater production of "The Sound of Music."
Sierra has a full array of talent. Her infectious personality, natural acting abilities, facial expressions, appropriate emotions, gloriously clear and strong voice, and charming beauty all lend themselves extremely well to this masterful production. She works hard to develop and maintain every aspect of herself as an actress and as a singer which clearly shines through during her outstanding performances on this DVD/Blu-Ray. Watching various online videos of Sierra, she seems vibrant, witty, silly, down to earth, and endearing; however, at the snap of fingers she is instantly "in character" and it's sometimes difficult to equate her "real" self with the "character" she's playing -- her transformation is that incredible. I can think of no better inspiration for young females aspiring to perform on stage or film.
When Sierra is taken down to the labyrinth by the Phantom and told to sing while she is in his controlling power, I was mesmerized by her vocals. Her voice resonates on stage seemingly without effort. Her unbridled passion she brings to every scene is striking, even when she is doing nothing but standing there in her radiant beauty, being seduced by the Phantom as he controls her mind. Sierra is so focused and in tune with the emotional charge Ramin (Phantom) creates that her eyes brim with tears, rolling down her cheeks to add her own emotional, albeit silent, "punch" to the scene.
She puts every ounce of energy into everything she does, meaning that every frame with her in it is a jewel. Sierra's rendition of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" at the gravesite of her father will most likely bring you to tears. Just relax and let your emotions flow with hers. The way she sings this song is epic and unforgettable, better than anyone else has sung it, in my humble opinion. The applause she receives brings down the hall and clearly demonstrates the audience's appreciation of such dynamic talent. You will be moved in your own way, whether by tearing up, crying, getting gooseflesh, having your neck hairs tingled, or all of these things. This song by Sierra, by itself, is worth the purchase price of this most pleasurable product.
The phantastic performances of Ramin Karimloo (Phantom) and Sierra Boggess (Christine) are AWESOME (remember, they are two of the best hand-picked POTO performers in the world for this 25th anniversary extravaganza). The scenes are splendid, the colorful and varied costumes of the entire cast are great, the up close & personal camera work is fantastic, and the orchestra is outstanding. If you have a 5.1 or better home theater system, then crank up the volume for a total audio feast. You owe it to yourself to watch this DVD/Blu-Ray over and over again, whether you're a seasoned POTO fan or not. This is a once in a lifetime chance to see and hear POTO in all its glory. You will not be disappointed. Well beyond the point of being good, satisfying, great, or even outstanding, this unique DVD/Blu-Ray production is in a class all by itself, and will stand the test of time. It is worth every penny and has excellent replay value for years to come.
At one time I thought the original Christine, Sarah Brightman, as great as she is, was incomparable. Not taking anything away from Sarah, I now feel that Sierra Boggess has just raised the bar much higher and is well deserving of all her accolades as the new Christine on the world stage. Her emotional renderings made me tear up and quietly sob at times, and I freely admit being so deeply moved by this delightful and amazingly talented "Angel of Music." Well done, Sierra!!!
on October 6, 2011
I saw this live on Oct 2 and it was stunning. The set design was brilliant and the acting was supurb. I adore Sierra and Ramin as Christine and the Phantom. They're the best since Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. I was disappointed that Michael Crawford didn't sing with Sarah Brightman. It would've made it that much more special. This is a spectacular musical and a timeless story that will live on long after we're all gone.
on November 6, 2011
I just returned from a cinema screening of this performance, and by God, i dare say that this staging moved me more than many live musicals i've ever watched. As someone once rightly put it, Ramin Karimloo as Phantom is indeed a force of nature. His performance had me sobbing in my seat; every word, every breath, every note from this man was pure magic and pure emotion. I have not and will not ever see a better Phantom. I was lucky enough to see him in Love Never Dies at London's Adelphi Theatre and he is electrifying in both shows. Sierra Boggess, sounding equally strong and gorgeous in her lowest and highest registers, is also the best Christine i've ever seen - a perfect fit for the character in looks and voice and personality. Both invested so much emotion into their performances that you can clearly see Sierra tearing during "Music of the Night". Of course, i cannot leave out Hadley Fraser as Raoul. This is a character that i've often seen portrayed either by actors who look a little too old or those who make Raoul appear a little too naive/innocent. To me, Raoul is a subtly intelligent character with a hint of arrogance, and who is fierce, and even reckless, when provoked, and Hadley Fraser nailed it in his singing and acting. Special mention goes to Keira Duffy as Carlotta, who was suitably and comically snide without over-acting.
Even though i didn't watch this live, the performances were so spectacular that their brilliance still shone through, with the help of pretty good cinematography/camera-work. I really felt like i could've been right there in Royal Albert Hall. I felt that the significance in the feeling and meaning of the story was preserved, as the cameras certainly were not shy about going up close and personal with the actors on stage. Granted you will see things that might not be obvious if you were in the audience, e.g., a few incidences of obvious sweating, maybe even leading to running make-up, but to me, that didn't take anything away from this performance at all.
This DVD would be a worthwhile investment, an example of the best in arts and culture preserved for your keeping. I'm definitely getting myself one!
on March 4, 2012
So, I just bought this DVD yesterday after I had heard so much about it. I am a big Phantom of the Opera fan, so I just decided to give it a try. As soon as it was over, there was just one word in my head: WOW!
I had long preferred the 2004 film adaptation before I saw this, but now I think this is my new favorite adaptation. In short, it is pretty much the whole show being played at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate its 25th anniversary. There were a few modifications (for the better) to the set and production designs that added a more dramatic and realistic effect to the show, i.e., a digital screen used for elaborate backgrounds and a few special effects. So, here is a list of my pros and a few cons to the DVD.
1. The cast! I don't think you could ask for a better cast. Ramin Karimloo (Phantom) and Sierra Boggess (Christine) have an incredible chemistry together that's impossible to describe. (If you saw or heard the soundtrack to the original London "Love Never Dies", you'd know what I'm talking about) Karimloo creates a perfect, unique blend of the traditional "choir-boy" voice of the Phantom and a bit of a modern rock-and-roll personality to the character. In other words, he is a mix of Michael Crawford and a bit of Gerard Butler from the movie. His "Music of the Night" was unlike any other version of the song I've ever heard. He controls his emotions incredibly well (he knows when to sound more sad and dismayed, and more angry when appropirate) Sierra Boggess plays Christine ten times better than Sarah Brightman could ever have done. She possesses the voice that's perfect for a character like her, and her acting makes Christine a very naive, innocent rising opera star, something that Sarah Brightman lacked during her tenure as Christine.
2. The sets: The sets were fantastic. Picture the typical sets and designs for the normal New York and London productions. Now picture a more elaborate, modern, realistic version of those sets. I think the biggest example of this is the roof of the opera house at the end of Act I. In the normal productions, you only see the dome in the roof of the building in the background and a starlit backdrop. In this one, they use a digital screen to create more realistic backgrounds. So, during the rooftop scene, you see a full background of the roof of the opera house, complete with statues and gargoyles, a view of Paris beyond the house, and even a moonlit sky. They even went through the trouble to put together a staged audience just for the show. You can see extras filling the box seats, and there is even a miniature audience revealed behind the stage at the end of "Think of Me."
3. The more modernized, improved theme: I think the best example here would be "Masquerade" in the beginning of the second act. Because this is such a big production, there are at least 100 other cast members than the typical everyday production. Therefore, they were able to fill the stage during the masquerade scene with living, breathing actors and not with mannequins. Also, the Phantom's Red Death costume looks like a slightly new and different design, as does his original outfit and mask. I also like how they altered some of the music to sound more like the music and score from the movie, especially the title song. The title song is a bit more of a rock piece than the traditional song from the beginning. (Listen to the title song on the 25th anniversary soundtrack and the original cast recording and you'll see what I mean). The overture also sounds more of a rock piece than is traditional. Let's not forget that they actually showed the Phantom killing Buquet here instead of just showing flashes of the Phantom's silhouette behind the curtain during that part of the show
1. Raoul and the managers: Seriously, Raoul was one of the few characters I didn't enjoy that much. Raoul is supposed to be a handsome, charming aristocractic gentleman, and yet just as innocent and naive as Christine. In this show, Raoul is those things in some parts, but in most of the show, Hadley Fraser plays him like an arrogant, pompous jerk. Take the "Notes" scene, for example. In that entire scene, he has a "bow down and tremble before me" attitude, which really got on my nerves. Also, instead of seeming sympathetic and understanding at Christine's descriptions of the horrors of the Phantom on the rooftop scene (right before "All I Ask of You"), he seems impatient and inattentive, with a "please, give me a break" attitude. So, Raoul was one of the characters that could have been improved. And the managers needed work, too. All in all, I found the managers just plain annoying. They were just way too sarcastic and over-dramatic most of the time, and they said or shouted their lines a lot more than sang them when appropriate.
2. The chandelier: I think this is one everyone had a problem about. The chandelier look amazing, much better and bigger than the chandelier from the original show. They altered it to fit the mood of the Royal Albert Hall. That being the case, instead of crashing it at the end of the first act, it just sparks and explodes in places for a few seconds. And then, in the "masquerade" scene, the Phantom sings, "remember, there are worse things than a shattered chandelier", even though the chandelier never crashed, so that line seems completely irrelevant in this show. That was one thing I was disappointed with.
3. The grand finale: Let's face it, the grand finale was redundant and a bit over-the-top and cheesy. It was nice that they introduced ALW himself, members of the original London cast and team, including Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford to pay homage to the show. But having the Five Phantoms and Brightman singing the title song and "Music of the Night", along with the rest of the cast (old and new) and creative team was WAY too corny and redundant. Bottom line, if they really wanted to put the finale in this DVD, they should have separated it from the actual presentation and put it in the special features instead. The presentation itself should have ended with the curtain call.
Bottom line, this is a fantastic DVD and a superlative performance. Couldn't have been happier with the casting, set designs, and the overall tribute to the production. The broadcast shooting was beyond incredible as well. You never would have guessed that this was a professionally-filmed stage production; you would think this is an actual movie instead. If you're afraid that this is going to be shot like a home camera movie, where you can only see what the shooter sees from the audience seating, you're wrong. This entire show will blow you out of the water! This is a must buy!
In early October, 2011, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" was performed live at the Royal Albert Hall in London and broadcast live to theaters around the world. There were three performances: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Sunday's was widely considered the best, as the earlier performances suffered from various glitches and flaws. This DVD appears to be Sunday's performance--but it's been edited so that the few flaws that existed are minimized. Consider it the best of the best!
The one element that bugged me the most is now gone. When Christine takes her bow at the end of "Think of Me" the cameras turn around and project a view of the audience onto the backdrops, so that Christine appears to have a real audience to bow to. On Sunday's performance, an usher was seating someone right at that moment. Bad timing! Guests in obviously modern clothing could be seen, pulling the viewers out of the moment. But in the DVD, that scene was replaced with a different version, where there are no ushers in sight and everyone is seated and applauding for Christine. Much better! The other edits were subtle and hard to spot, but it made for a smoother overall production.
For those who haven't seen "The Phantom of the Opera", the story is classic: a love triangle between The Phantom, Christine, and Raoul. The Phantom has secretly been teaching Christine to sing. In the process, he falls in love with her. When she achieves success, she catches the eye of Raoul, her childhood sweetheart. The two become involved, much to the Phantom's dismay. In some versions, it's clear that Christine loves Raoul wholeheartedly and wants nothing to do with the Phantom. But in this version, Christine appears to be torn. I won't spoil the ending, but suffice to say, I haven't seen the show yet where I didn't cry at the end.
The music is spectacular and moving. The sets are minimal, but effective. The costumes are gorgeous! And the actors were well-chosen. Ramin Karimloo is the best Phantom I've ever seen. He and Sierra Boggess have fantastic chemistry! And they should, for it's not their first time in the roles. Ramin played the Phantom in London, and Sierra played Christine in Las Vegas. They also played the Phantom and Christine together in the sequel, "Love Never Dies". Their voices are superb. Hadley Fraser was perfect as Raoul, too. Boyish and innocent, yet strong and protective of Christine.
Nothing can beat watching the show live. But this DVD is the next best thing.