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By MARK TURNER
It's hard to believe that it's actually been 25 years since PHANTOM OF THE OPERA the musical was first performed. It remains fresh for the thousands who see it performed to this day. I was fortunate enough to see it performed live in both Chicago and Cleveland and it still gives me chills to think of the opening.
When I heard about THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 25TH ANNIVERSARY PERFORMANCE LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL I was anxious to see how it would come out. It is amazing and a true treat for those who may have never seen it performed live.
If you've never seen the stage performance (and by all means you should) or the movie version (good but doesn't nearly equal a live performance) then you need to watch this. While the Royal Albert Hall wasn't set up for stage performances the crew involved here does a stupendous job mixing the stage performance, live orchestra and video screens to bring it to life.
The story itself (for those who've missed it so far) involves a young woman named Christine Daae (Sierra Boggess), a member of the chorus in the French Opera House, who has caught the eye of the mysterious Phantom (Ramin Karimloo). He's coached her and sets about to replace the Opera's reining diva with his protégé. Mishaps continue to occur until Christine is finally recognized by the new owners as well as their financial backer, Raoul (Hadley Fraser). It seems that he and Christine grew up together and were once in love.
The Phantom continues his training of Christine in his underground labyrinth beneath the Opera house in a dwelling he's formed in the sewer system of the Paris. Here he composes songs meant just for her as well as teaching her how to perform. It's obvious he love her deeply but hides not just his emotions but his face behind a half mask due to scarring that took place some time ago.
Raoul and Christine are joined together in love much to the displeasure of the Phantom who seeks to possess Christine body and soul. As he manipulates everything about the Opera house to bring her to stardom, a final confrontation between the two men for the love of Christine is imminent. She will have to make a decision between her long lost love and the man who inspires her music with his own.
Instead of the scary and horrific monster we've been witness to for so many years when it came to the Phantom we are now presented with a deformed innocent who was tortured and ridiculed most of his life wanting nothing more than to be loved. This Phantom is the most sympathetic character in the film even though he murders, kidnaps and threatens to get his way. His longing for love, not lust, when it comes to Christine is sad and at moments you find yourself rooting for him instead of Raoul.
The story would be enough to make this interesting but the music that goes with it only enhances the whole. Songs like "The Phantom of the Opera", "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" and "Music of the Night" are tunes that will remain in your memory long after witnessing this piece.
As if it wasn't enough to see a near perfect performance of the musical once the entire cast takes its bow Webber himself takes the stage. He thanks so many for their help through the year and then introduces the original crew and then the cast from that first London performance including Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. Brightman then performs "The Phantom of the Opera" with five of the actors that have done so in the past 25 years. These same men then perform "Music of the Night". It is an amazing thing to watch and enjoy.
If you've never seen this musical then this is the way to do so short of finding it playing live. Not only is it a wonderful 25th anniversary present, it's a brilliant musical as well and the package put together to celebrate is one worth adding to your collection.
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