Monday, April 4, 2016

The Phantom Of the Opera Is Here Inside My Blog

Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the internet's leading provider of Persian monkeys. I'm Dave-El and I wear a mask over my butt to hide my identity.  

This weekend was all about the Phantom of the Opera here in the Fortress of Ineptitude. As was posted here on Thursday, my daughter Miranda went to New York City a couple of weeks ago and while she was there, she saw a couple of shows on Broadway including the aforementioned Phantom. 

Miranda loves music and the epic scope of Phantom's score and the passion and power of the songs really swept her away. Since then, she's been absorbing individual songs and complete soundtracks from various casts of the show. 

I am familiar with the story of the Phantom of the Opera but like lots of things in pop culture, not necessarily by direct exposure. A snippet from a movie here, a clip from a stage production there. I've heard songs from Phantom performed in various venues. I even was part of a choral performance of Broadway and movie music which included a medley from Phantom. But I've never experienced a full production from beginning to end. 

While my daughter had the advantage over me in having seen the full show in the correct order, there were things I knew that she did not. For example, the first film version of Phantom of the Opera was a silent movie starring Lon Chaney in 1925. 

Miranda was astonished by this piece of history because, how do you turn a musical into a silent movie? The Phantom of the Opera did not become the musical we know and love until the 1980's through superstar theater person Andrew Lloyd Webber. (OK, there was a prior musical version from some other dude that debuted in 1976 but I don't think we're suppose to speak of that.)  

To her credit, Miranda did know that the whole thing started with a book where the Phantom is identified as a guy named Erik. Of course, "Erik of the Opera" does not have the same thrilling panache as "Phantom of the Opera".  

Anyway, Friday we watched a production from 2011, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the show's London debut. This performance was at the Albert Hall, a venue the El family is familiar with by watching the Doctor Who Proms on DVD.  

The show was spectacular from start to finish. I marveled at the actors who have to perform some really challenging songs in an equally challenging setting but all excelled amazingly in their roles. 

In case you're not familiar with the story, here's a brief synopsis. There's a dude stalking an opera house in Paris where he is guiding and teaching a young singer named Christine. But this is a most mysterious dude, this Phantom of the Opera (hey, that's the name of the musical), a masked man who keeps to the shadows. Apparently he has a really bad acne problem. But he can really rock a cape. 

He also has a boat.

Anyway, in addition to helping Christine develop her considerable talents as a singer, he is also in love with her because, well, you know, men. I mean, am I right? 

"I love the way you sing!"
"I love the way you've taught me to sing!"
"And I love... you!"
"And I love...Wait! What now?" 

Meanwhile there's a guy named Raoul who does not have an acne problem but also does not have a cape. He too loves Christine and finds himself in competition with the mysterious Phantom. 

The Phantom: "Christine, my love, stay with me here in the dark and damp labyrinth beneath the opera house!" 
Raoul: "Christine, my love, come with me for the exact opposite of dark and damp labyrinths!"  

Christine is torn because, geez, Raoul will not keep her where its dark and damp but the Phantom is a masked man in a cape, damn!  

Eventually, Christine picks fresh air and sunshine which pisses off the Phantom and you can guess what goes down from there but its still dramatic and moving as all get out. Really, this is a great production.  

On Sunday, we watched a movie version of Webber's musical. This came out in 2004. It's an OK version of the play. It does what movies are supposed to do by opening up scenes and settings in ways that cannot be done on a stage. The opening bit where the story transitions from the auction in 1919 to the opera house in its full all color glory in 1870 is an amazing achievement. 

But the immediacy and intimacy that comes from watching a live performance is lost. And most of Phantom's power comes from that direct connection between performer and audience, watching as real live people take on the personas of those twisted and frustrated by their respective fates. 

In between the play and the movie, I spent most of the weekend torturing my daughter with variations of the Phantom of the Opera main theme. For example: 

"The Phantom of the ice cream is there in my cone!" 

"The Phantom of the laundry is there in my dryer!" 
"The Phantom of the chicken is there in my coop!" 

You know, stuff like that. 

But in all seriousness, thanks to Miranda for sharing in this way part of the magic of her trip to New York. 


And thus ends the journey of today's post. Tomorrow, another post. About what? Come back tomorrow and find out. We'll both be surprised because right now, I have no idea. 

Until then, remember to be good to one another.

Counting Down To Infinity