Stage To Screen: Phantom of the Opera

This is a part of The Stage to Screen Blogathon, hosted by The Rosebud Cinema  and Rachel’s Theater Reviews .  For more great reviews of theater production adaptations for the screen, be sure to visit their pages!

The Phantom of the Opera

phantom

Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe

Movie Directed by Joel Schumacher

 

 “And do I dream again, for now I find…”

The Phantom of the Opera was the first CD I ever bought (back when those were a new thing…).  I listened to it on my Walkman over, and over, and over, and over again.  I sang (probably loudly, and most certainly poorly) along with the entire thing and, yes, had it memorized.  Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, those were the voices I knew.

It may have been one of the first shows I saw on stage — at least, one of the first professionally done ones.  Because I had simply imagined the staging (much like I had done with… well… every single other show I have listened to the music to), I was drawn in by the production.  The chandelier… oh, that chandelier!  From the slow rising after the opening scene to the dramatic crash onto the stage… wow.

The movie… it may have been one of the first times I approached a movie truly frightened about what I would see.  Could they do it right?  Would they capture the magic?

I don’t remember what I though the first time I saw it.  Likely, I took issue with much of it.  But watching it this time, with time having passed for it to become not so fresh and new, I know I was seeing it differently.  I also have now seen Phantom on the stage in two different theaters (I’m pretty sure… should I get worried that I have started to have trouble remembering how many times I’ve seen different shows, or where I saw them? hmm…), so have an idea of some of the different ways that it’s been staged, and adjusted to different voices behind the roles.

So… the movie.

One of the things that I liked about the movie, right away, was how they handled the opening sequence.  Obviously the chandelier rising into the air wouldn’t have the same dramatic impact on-screen as it does going up over the audience — so instead they went from black-and-white to color.  I appreciated the dramatic flair of this, a nice way to give a feel of the stage production.

One of the fun things about The Phantom of the Opera is that, when performed on stage, some of the scenes can drop that fourth-wall. It is a show about the theater, with scenes-within-scenes, so it is fun to sometimes feel you are a part of the production, like when Christine is singing “Think Of Me.”  This sense of being a part of the production is somewhat lost in the movie.

However, the movie does much to capture the drama and opulence of the show.  One of the things I love about the movie that is somewhat more limited in the stage production is the ability to explore more of the magician role that the phantom plays, and exploring more of the Phantom’s lair under the opera house, going back to the book for some original source material, like the mirror maze that Raul falls into.

There are some issues with the movie.  I have never quite settled with having Gerard Butler in the role of the Phantom.  He does not have the singing chops for the part.  It’s one of the challenges I have with a number of musicals, casting someone because they are a name rather than for their singing ability.  I can understand using a voice double — like in the role of Carlotta, which requires some real operatic ability — and I though Minnie Driver did a great job with the comedic role.  But the Phantom…

I am a pretty forgiving viewer, and for the most part I was impressed with how well Gerard Butler did with the role.  But “Music of the Night…”  Just…  not okay.  That’s the first real showcase for the Phantom, such a haunting song, and it just didn’t work.  It felt like he was cutting corners in many parts.

I also got irritated with the insistence of them speaking “Little Lotte.”  I can’t explain why this irritated me more than any of the other lines that were chosen to be spoken in the movie, but it certainly bothered me.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the movie.  It isn’t one of my favorites, not one that I will watch repeatedly, but for the rare occasion it is fun to watch.  For Phantom, though, I would probably prefer listening to the Original Soundtrack and letting my mind wander (unless I have the opportunity to see it on stage, of course!).

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7 thoughts on “Stage To Screen: Phantom of the Opera”

  1. Ugh, just like Russell Crowe in Les Mis,I will never forgive Movies for casting Gerard Butler. Who really saw “300” and was like “I bet THAT guy would be great in a musical.” My Mom and I always thought Antonia Banderas would be great casting.
    I dunno, maybe it’s because the Phantom is one of my all time favorites, but I could never bring myself to watch the movie a second time.

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    1. My computer is conspiring to never let me actually post this response. Try 3…
      I agree and think I had the same idea of Banderas for the role, was there a rumor going around at some point that he was going to be in it? He would have been an interesting choice (and I think a good one).
      I read somewhere what Butler hadn’t had any singing experience before Phantom, and I just don’t understand why you would do that. You wouldn’t put a novice singer in the role on stage, so why put them in the movie? At the very least, use a voice double.. or better yet, cast one of the multitude of stars that DO have singing experience. It’s frustrating…

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  2. Butler was spectacularly miscast in the film adaptation! I think some of the theatricality of Phantom only really works on stage (some of the mystery is lost in the transition), but I do agree that the production of the film version was spot on, and it really amped up the opulence and drama.

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