Customer Reviews: The Phantom of the Opera (Original 1986 London Cast)
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on July 20, 2003
"The Phantom of the Opera" is simply the best musical ever made. Sure, it has quite a bit of material lifted from Italian opera, but as an opera fan, I can appreciate that, and it enhances the score. No other musical equals this musically...from the complicated harmonies of "Notes" and "Wandering Child" to the vocally stunning "Phantom of the Opera" and "Music of the Night." The lyrics are beautiful, the story simultaneously eerie, mysterious, touching, and deep. The only musical that comes close is Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story." Neither Lord Lloyd Webber, Michael Crawford, nor Sarah Brightman have ever equaled their work here. It is a "love it or hate it" musical, definitely, but any lover of romance, mystery and great music will appreciate this show.
The original cast was also probably the greatest musical cast ever put together in one place. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman give the performances of their lifetimes...and ours. They have real, legitimate voices, not those awful Streisand/Minelli belts that cover Broadway today. While both are flawed performers in general, each found their best role in this show.
As for Crawford, he is the definitive Phantom. No one else's dramatic interpretation is anywhere close to his. He did it first, and he did it best. His beautiful tenor voice just takes the material and soars with it...from the eerie "Wandering Child" to the powerful title song to the seductive and incomparable "Music of the Night." Anyone who doesn't weep at the heartbreaking finale ("It's over now, the music of the night...") must have a heart of a stone, or a Broadway critic. Michael Crawford is the Phantom, and that is all there is to it. I have never seen anyone become a role the way he did in this show.
Sarah Brightman is not quite as good, but she is still vocally the best Christine. This material was unmistakably written for her, and her clear, bright, silvery soprano and enormous range makes every note dramatic and perfect. While some say her voice is too thin and weak for opera and pop, her current musical directions, her voice manages to fly above the music here without being overpowered. Since Christine's role does not require much dramatic range, her limited acting skills don't hamper the material, and she manages to make her one solo character song, "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," sufficiently poignant, even though it is musically the weakest song in the show.
The supporting cast is mainly strong, and any weakness here comes more from underwritten roles than lack of skill. Meg is always cast to make Christine sound good, so her voice must be a little weak. Raoul is such a boring, one-dimensional character that no actor, no matter how talented, can do much with the role. That aside, Steve Barton has a rich, gentle, and satisfying baritone that sounds good in his duets with Christine. Rosemary Ashe's Carlotta is actually cast for her own merits in this older CD, not to make Christine look good, as in the current Broadway produciton...she has by far a good enough voice to be a believable opera diva, and she has good comic timing.
I was shocked that Amazon critics, who gave favorable reviews to "Hairspray" and "Annie" of all musicals, felt the need to demean this beautiful show, definitely Lloyd Webber's best effort. Just goes to show how much quality Broadway has lost since the start of shows like "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables." Go with the customer reviews and buy the full version, not the highlights. It's worth it. Trust me.
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on August 10, 2006
This CD set just blows me away. It even has stage directions in the liner notes, and PHANTASTIC (:-) ) pictures. The sounds you hear is like watching the performance with your eyes closed. I LOVE IT! If you want a phantom CD, get this one first. I got the highlights first, but it didn't have the lyrics, but this one does. So, i HIGHLY reccomend this CD. :-) Hope this helps!
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on February 11, 2005
"The phantom may have been ugly, but listening to this disc, you would think he's prettier than Christine."

That's one of the main points of the music, D. Hu. I'll excuse your ignorance assuming that you had only gotten into the phantom because of the movie, but the Phantom's voice should be the greatest voice...not gruff.

First of all, Crawford's voice is not girly...he's a true tenor. Not only is that not girly at all, singing true tenor at his level is a rarity among singers. Next, the character of the phantom is all about "beauty on the inside" regardless of how the outside appears. Crawford's Phantom's hideous face yet gorgeous voice makes a perfect balance. The character of the Phantom was a musical genious, however he was shunned because of his looks...not because his voice was rough.

This recording is the greatest. The characters are cast for who ALW intended them to be. Webber didn't want colm wilkinson or whoever as the Phantom, he wanted Crawford, and Crawford shined. His music of the night reprisal at the end of disk one, and his masquerade reprisal at the end of disk two both bring tears to the eyes of anyone with an ear for music or a heart for love. Steve Barton should have gotten more songs. His voice in "All I Ask of You," "Down Once More," and even his short stint in "Think of me" was soft and soothing. Brightman? All I can say is: High E...amazing...

Now on to the two best songs, in the order that they appeared.

"Music of the Night"

Perhaps the most haunting tune i've ever heard, this song showcases Crawford's beautiful voice and amazing emotion with amazing lyrics.

"Down One More/Track Down This Murderer"

The stunning conclusion to the show is an astonishing achievement for not only Crawford, Brightman, and Barton, but for Lloyd Webber himself. The singing is superb, the lyrics inspired, and the emotion free-flowing.

All in all, this recording gets a 5/5, setting the standard for all other recordings to aim for. The only downfall is that the Original London Cast sets the bar so high, no other recording can reach it.
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on October 3, 2010
It simply does not get any better than the original London Cast Recording of the Phantom of the Opera. I have been listening to this show since I was five years old, and today I love it as much as I did then. Even before I saw this show live, I felt as if I had after enjoying this CD set. Since that time I have seen and heard many musicals, and nothing has captured the excitement, the wonder, the magic, or the mystery quite like The Phantom of the Opera. It is a show beyond compare, one that draws you in and takes you on a journey into the imagination. I don't believe that there will ever be anything like it again.

To say that "Phantom" is a musical made in heaven or that it is a masterpiece of our age is never an overstatement. The stars seemed aligned perfectly (pun intended) at the time of this endeavor, with every detail, even the most minute, finessed to the highest degree of theatrical and musical excellency.

Andrew Lloyd Webber truly outdid himself, both in style and composition. While many of his previous and consequent works feel dated and sound so time specific, "Phantom" is astoundingly timeless. The romantic lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe are descriptive and haunting, and coupled with Lloyd Webber's amazing score makes for a musical that refuses to be forgotten. It seems safe to say that it appears that nothing will ever surpass it in its beauty, majesty, romanticism and piognancy, even something written by Mr. Webber himself!

I am an obsessive listener of this show and barely let a day pass without listening to at least part of it--yet I never grow tired of it. The music is memorable and timeless, and the singers perfect and lovely every moment. The score is lush and thrilling, and gives me goosebumps every time.

Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine are simply incomparable in their roles as the two principal characters. They both have the most angelic voices I have ever heard, voices that are like no one else on earth. To me, they are two of the most talented performers of our century, and to have them perform together on one album is just a combination made in heaven.

Michael Crawford will always be THE Phantom for me. His haunting tenor is so sweet and light it's like listening to an angel. It is impossible not to be moved every time, his voice is just so beautiful. I don't think it is physically possible for sour notes to ever fall from his silvery throat. He sings so smoothly and evenly and with such grace that at times his voice could easily be mistaken for a woman's, yet it still remains undeniably masculine. He can make even the fiercest passage sound beautiful. His skill in sustaining notes never fails to amaze me, and makes me wonder why this man never was given more parts in theatre that showcased this marvelous talent quite so well. Truly, he has a divine gift for music, and this uniqueness and adaptability makes him one of my all-time favorite singers, not to mention the perfect choice to play the title character. Anyone who says he isn't emotive enough as an actor should listen to more of his work on this album. He completely becomes the Phantom; he doesn't just play him. He makes the Phantom a real person, not just a man on a stage. His total embodiment of the disfigured genius results in a deep-set passion that is instantaneously noticable in all of the Phantom's vocal moments, whether booming with rage or soft and romantic with ardor. He brings a real life and feeling to a character who otherwise could come off as little more than a hideous madman luring an innocent prima donna to her doom.

Sarah Brightman on the other hand is equally as unique. Her soprano is so crystalline and pure it's hard to believe she's actually human. Her range gets into some problematically high notes with ease but is never shrieky. Her voice is one that strums the heartstrings, and her passion is equal to that of her male vocal partner.

Together, their chemistry is amazing. You can feel the electricity between them as they sing, especially noticeable on "The Point of No Return". Their unique connection is one that I have yet to hear in any current companies of the show.

The other singers on the album shine, and make for a solid and complimentary cast behind the two outstanding principals.

I read Gaston Leroux's book after hearing the score, but I was happy to find how faithful the adaptation was in the story's leap from page to stage. The feeling is creepy and mysterious, and the enigma of the Phantom still remains long after we have seen him with our own eyes and have concluded that he is flesh and blood. There is romance, jealousy, drama, and murder, but the core moral is good one: beauty is not always on the surface, and even the ugliest deserve to be loved.

Although I love every single track of this show, I want to highlight some of the numbers that are especially meaningful to me.

One taste of the "Overture" and you know instantly that found your way into the Phantom's world. The unmistakable chords signal the power and majesty to come with no hint of any respite from the darkness and villany, but, despite the ominous foreshadowing, the light is to come through.

"Think of Me" is begun softly but builds into a roaring crescendo. The first introduction of Christine is done gently but powerfully; The final cadenza at the finale is perfection and soars to a lovely, operatic close.

"Angel of Music", which begins as a light back-and-forth conversation between Christine and Meg grows into a stirring confrontation with the Phantom himself is undoubtedly one of my favorite moments from the show. The simple, sprightly tune is easy enough to whistle, yet is one of the most lyrical melodies Webber has ever composed.

From there, the music takes a turn to the more rock-inspired. The title song has a steady, compelling beat without being too out-of-place in the world of 1880's Paris. Crawford and Brightman's voices are perfectly blended, and they totally embody their roles as pupil and music-master. Their voices are fresh and passionate and never demure. They hold nothing back and are yet not overbearing. The Phantom's "sing for me...", hissed passionately toward the closing chord of Christine's high note, always makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

"Music of the Night" is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and without a doubt top on my list of favorites. Although it was originally meant for for a woman to sing in another of ALW's shows, the decision of putting it in the masterful hands of Mr. Crawford just brings it to a whole new level. He takes on each passage with an effortless grace and brings the full majesty and loveliness of the piece to the forefront. One can believe they have truly found paradise when they hear him sing those immortal words, "You alone can make my song take flight. Help me make the music of the night." He really makes it his song and his alone--It couldn't have sounded better if it had been written especially for him.

"Prima Donna" is a humorous if brief diversion from the ever-present darkness of the Phantom. It is reminiscent of a Gilbert and Sullivan banter-song, but is brought back to reality by the Phantom's booming warning during the final chords.

"All I Ask of You" is a fittingly romantic duet between the two young lovers. The lyrics are simple and sweet, and convey the proper emotions without being sappy. In other words, it feels like a true love song. The reprise is even more affecting, and brings the first act to a literally crashing close.

The "Entr'acte" is one of the best I've heard in any musical or opera. It showcases some well-orchestrated instrumentals of the principal themes from the show in a beautiful arrangement.

"Masquerade" is a unique tune that is difficult to describe or compare, but is one of the most hummable. It is bright and colorful, but, as always, the Phantom is always looming over, and the jaunty thread soon turns ominous as he begins to descend the grand staircase, dressed in the guise of the Masque of the Red Death. You can feel every step he takes as the strings pluck darkly over his descent, finally culminating in a flaring cresendo of anger and fear.

Christine's lament in the graveyard during "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" is one of sweetness and longing, and is done very well by Sarah Brightman. Though I like the revised version (where the final line of the song is repeated), there is nothing I can find that flaws her performance here.

Perhaps it is the reintroduction of "Angel of Music", but the "Wandering Child" track gets me every time. The way it builds from a gentle beckoning to a powerful, almost hopeful love-duet before Raoul intervenes to save the day is strangely moving.

"The Point of No Return" is perhaps the most passionate of all the pieces. Done as an opera-within-an-opera, the romantic tension only builds with each bar, ending with the Phantom's longing solo reprise of "All I Ask Of You". Crawford's stealthy seductiveness and Brightman's eager vivaciousness couple together to create a highly charged atmosphere. You really feel as if she is really prepared to give herself up to Don Juan/The Phantom's advances.

The "Finale" is as spectacular as any in a grand opera. The weaving of leitmotifs is a nostalgic nod to every previous moment that came before it, and creates a tension between the three main characters that makes a worthy climax to the rest of the show. The final repetition of Music of the Night always brings tears to my eyes, the Phantom's last line is so touching. "....It's over now, the music of the night."

In conclusion, The Phantom of the Opera paints a vivid picture in your mind with its superb score, stirring lyrics, wonderful cast, and a compelling story that keeps you hanging on, breathlessly, until the very last moment. Forget any other recording; buy this one. Classics never go out of style, and I don't see this one vanishing into oblivion any time soon. You do have to have the proper imagination to appreciate this story--Some people, I know, find that Phantom is not their cup of tea--but you can't possibly please everybody. Speaking for myself, I am totally satisfied. It excites my imagination to no end with its thrilling story, superb cast, and soaring music. It is a timeless tale with timeless music that will never grow old, and I encourage those who have yet to discover it to take a listen.
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HALL OF FAMEon December 6, 2001
"The Phantom of the Opera" is not a perfect musical, although the only serious flaw turns out to be the "title" song. Written first, the song "The Phantom of the Opera" was a rock tune with a music video designed to get investors excited about the in progress Andrew Lloyd Webber musical extravaganza. By the time the show was finished, the rock opera idea was abandoned in favor of something decidedly more operatic. I always thought one of the reasons "Phantom" was so great was that Lloyd Webber lifted the best songs from the other show he was working on, "Aspects of Love." I had the opportunity to see Michael Crawford perform the role in Los Angeles, and it is sad to think that he will join the long list of legendary Broadway performers who were replaced when the musical was turned into a Hollywood movie (think of Richard Kiley replaced by Peter O'Toole in "Man of La Mancha" to know how bad such things can get in this world). Enough has been said about the music, from the thundering organ of the Phantom's "theme" to the diminishing minor chords at the end of "The Music of the Night," but I think more credit needs to go to Richard Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber for the Book. There have been numerous versions of the Gaston Leroux novel, but Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber manage to turn it into a tragic romance. In the original novel Christine breaks the hold of Eric the Phantom by kissing him on the forehead, a small act of tenderness that is beyond anything he has ever known in his tortured life. This musical version of "Phantom" ups the ante considerably. My biggest complaint against the original CD edition of this musical, besides the fact that each disc was a single track, was the lack of a libretto, because it was not until I could get my hands of one and find out what was happening in the climatic scene near the end of Act II where the Phantom demands Christine choose between loving him or death for Raoul that I understood the stories of people leaving the theater weeping. This dramatic ending is set up perfectly in the first act when Christine unmasks the Phantom as he plays his organ. This scene has been famous ever since the Lon Chaney silent version, but they play it differently here. The audience does not see the Phantom's scarred visage at this point, only Christine, who cannot help but be touched by the pain in his voice. When she gives him back his mask, that is when this "Phantom" becomes an epic romance about a most horribly doomed love triangle. Finally, I want to add that one of my favorite little musical bits in the brief trio between the Phantom, Christine and Raoul in the "Wandering Child" segment, especially since it was reduced to a duo in the production I saw. I fully understand that is a hot/cold musical when it comes to personal tastes and since seeing it on stage was everything I dreamed it could be (I pretty much cried throughout the entire thing), I would have to admit to running hot in favor of this one.
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on November 29, 1999
Where do I even begin! This musical is so powerful, so beautiful that I can hardly know how to describe it. I only hope I can do it justice! Sarah Brightman is beautiful as Christine; her voice is clear as glass and perfect on every note. Her transition from shy chorus girl in the beginning to a powerful soprano, well trained by the Phantom is evident and perfect. Michael Crawford as the Phantom is the perfect blend between power, hoplessness, and seduction. His voice seduces you to the inner recesses of the Phantom's mind and entraps you there. I have never been so moved by any other musical; this one is the best. Some songs invite you to recall your own memories--"Think of Me Fondly"--perhaps of a long-lost love? Others call you to relax or seduce you with their haunting melodies--"The Music of the Night", "The Point of No Return." And yet others encourage you to cheer up, sing along, and think of all the good in life--"Masquerade," for example. I highly recommend this CD to anyone.
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on June 9, 2005
I first purchased this cd in 1988, shortly before seeing the show on Broadway. At first, only a couple of songs stood out, but after seeing the amazing production (Michael Crawford's performance was "jaw-dropping") & repeated listenings, I fell in love with the score.

The orchestrations are powerful & many songs really stick with you, especially:

Overture [sounds great cranked up]
Angel Of Music
The Phantom Of The Opera [The Phantom & Christine's great duet]
The Music Of The Night [The Phantom's big song]
All I Ask Of You [Christine & Raoul's duet - though a bit tired]
The Point Of Know Return

Beautiful from beginning to end & MUCH better than the film's soundtrack. Webber's masterpiece!
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on July 20, 1998
I have worn out my first CDs of the Phantom, and I'm on my second set. This is unquestionably the most provocative music and love story ever written! I love the witty humor of the script, also. One of my favorite parts is the Phantom's wicked little snicker when he hears Carlotta get a "toad" in her throat during her performance! You've just gotta hear it! It tells such a wonderfully exciting story that I must listen to it at least every other day. And, once I start listening to Disk 1, I can't turn it off until the end of Disk 2! It's truly an experience everyone should have at least once in their life. But I have to warn you ... once you've heard this music, you won't be able to do without it ever again! Michael Crawford as the Phantom is truly a star! Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton are brilliant! The other cast members are also great! I'd give it more stars if I could! And fyi...I'm not a person to take time out to write reviews; this is my fi! rst.
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on May 22, 2005
Back in January 2004, I was at a friends' house and she was on the internet and I walked into the room that she was in and I heard this incredible orchestral music playing and it turned out to be The Overture from this Phantom CD and I totally loved it!!! I loved how it had this organ and then she played The Phantom Of The Opera and I knew at that moment that I had to get the whole CD of The Phantom Of The Opera.

After I got the whole Original Cast Recording, I listened to it all but my favorites were and still are The Overture and The Phantom Of The Opera! I just totally love the organ and in The Phantom Of The Opera, I love the singing and that orchestral part that plays after the very first time Sarah Brightman/Christine sings "The Phantom Of The Opera is there, inside my mind" and there is that very short break before the Phantom/Michael Crawford starts singing for the very first time in that song, it's so awesome!! Sarah Brightman sounded like a real Opera singer and I am surprised she never became one. Michael Crawford has such a powerful voice and I love that part when he sings "She is singing to bring down the chandelier!" I just love that part!

The whole CD is amazing and The Phantom Of The Opera is now my all time favorite musical because of the Operatic and Orchestral music that plays! This 2 disc version of The Original Cast Recording comes with the Libretto which has all the dialog and lyrics to everything, even some stuff that wasn't included on the CD but stuff that you would hear in the real production on Broadway. This is a wonderful CD and recommend it to anyone who likes orchestral or musicals!
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on December 26, 2004
The Phantom of the Opera is the most popular musical of all time. It has grossed more money than any other stage play - or movie, for that matter! Yet, it is constantly under attack from the critics. Why is this? Well, the answer is quite simple - they have bad taste. Drama critics are not music critics, and music itself is a nebulous area. Most of the criticism of the music has been nonsensical. For instance, many critics have written (in the same review!) that there are no catchy songs in the piece, but they can't get those songs out of their heads. Andrew Lloyd Weber is usually criticized in one of two ways: either that all of his stuff sounds alike, or that all of his stuff sounds like something else. The problem is that these two criticisms are mutually exclusive - they cancel each other out. Another nagging problem is that critics are usually power-mongers - they need to believe that they have influence on which shows succeed and which shows fail. They hate Lloyd Weber because his success mocks their power.

The Phantom of the Opera is one of the best musicals of all time. It is actually an opera - sung almost completely throughout. I have examined the sheet music and it is wonderfully rich and complex. Every song is a gem. The Original London Cast Recording is - by far - the best one to own. We may not have Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the movie, but we do have an almost complete performance by them on disc. Those of us fortunate enough to have seen Crawford's performance know why he is the best Phantom (poor Gerard Butler pales by comparison).
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