“No one ever sees the Angel; but he is heard by those who are meant to hear him.” ~ Phantom of The Opera
35 Years on Broadway
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of celebrating Phantom’s 35th anniversary on the Great White Way. As I sat down to write about it, I realized I have never written a review about Phantom. Ever. And it is a show that I have seen multiple times. Not only that, but as it celebrated its anniversary on January 26, it officially became the longest running show on Broadway. I knew I had to rectify that and give my review and albite controversial opnions of this classic. As the longest running show, it has been a staple not just on Broadway, but subsequently the West End and the theatre community as a whole with touring performances for decades. It is a show that has bridged the gap of being a classical musical, with being somewhat modern and edgy. And yet, you could argue, the story line is not at all modern.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera is based on the book by Gaston Leroux and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It begins with an auction in Paris, which includes the famous Opera chandelier, and then segue’s into the story of a rising star, Christina Daaé, who has become the obsession of a masked Phantom, who haunts the Paris Opera House, not only creating mischief and mayhem to get his way, but also murder. Born with a facial disfigurement, he hides behind the shadows and a mask, mentoring Christine, and manipulating those who run the opera, to get her into the starring role.
I am a firm believer in just addressing the problematic which is what I am going to do. While Phantom, in a manner, has survived the pandemic, you can’t deny that the storyline is perhaps antiquated. This is probably a very unpopular opinion, but despite the awards it has won and the longevity of it, much like Dear Evan Hansen, Phantom of the Opera’s storyline is incredibly problematic, ESPECIALLY when it comes to women and how they are portrayed.
Originally, when it debuted, it was hyped as this great love story between Christine and the Phantom. Star crossed lovers so to speak. Yet, in today’s modern post #MeToo world, the Phantom would in fact be a much older, crazed, stalker, and murderer. We all would be telling Christine to run and to get a restraining order, not encouraging and even forcing her to perform to protect the opera. There is also the other matter that because he is disfigured he can’t live a normal life has to be bitter about it. Now, I do understand this musical is based in the late 1800’s and times were very, VERY different, and the Phantom would have been shunned, BUT I am not a fan of glamorizing toxic behavior which is what I feel Phantom does.
This, isn’t to say I don’t enjoy Phantom. In fact, as I have gotten older I actually have come to like it more and more. Though for full disclosure, it does help when you have friends in a show and I know some of the ensemble and swings. The Phantom of the Opera’s production is truly one of the most grandiose shows I have ever seen on Broadway. From the elaborate sets, the orchestra, the huge ensemble, and of course the absolutely stunning costumes, it truly embodies what a Broadway musical is, a show and it entertains. The opening scene in act II, The Masquerade, is absolutely breathtaking, and the talent of this cast is mind-blowing. In many ways you could describe Phantom as an opera vocally, but the actors and actresses also have to dance, and not just steps, but actual classics ballet training. They also have to act which they do superbly. I have seen multiple Christines, Phantoms, and Raouls, and they have all had impeccable chemistry and timing.
Yes, there ARE issues with Phantom, as I mentioned above, but you can not deny what this show has done for Broadway and theatre as a whole. It bridged the gap between old school musicals and composers and helped to bring Broadway into the 21st century. Admittedly when it closes in April, I will be sad to see this show go, and while there are rumors it might reopen (much like the West End Production did) at a later date, anything less than the original would be a travesty. Perhaps, it is time to say adieu to Phantom, but with that we also say merci for all yo have done for Broadway.
Have you seen Phantom? What are your thoughts on the show?