I’ve never been a big Broadway fan, mostly because it was always a little too fussy for me, and since the 1950s professional stage acting has morphed into something unnatural and, frankly, kind of yucky to watch. Of course, I love show tunes, as I think most vintage fans probably do. But the method of delivery on stage is so often wooden and mechanical that I’d rather listen to the soundtrack than view the performance. Not so for The Phantom of the Opera as performed at Royal Albert Hall for the 25th anniversary.
Phantom is, generally, messed up (it seems to be impossible to get it right). The 2004 film is a great example of that. But what’s wrong with the film, in my mind at least, is set right in this particular performance. I don’t hate Christine Daae (Sierra Boggess) for once, that’s new, and I can’t imagine they could have done better than casting Hadley Fraser for Raoul (I seem to not be alone in thinking that). Here’s an example of the film vs. the 25th Anniversary performance of the musical, my favorite song from the the whole blasted thing, “All I Ask of You”:
The Phantom of the Opera (2004), benefiting from fantastic sets/costumes and arrangements, but severely lacking in feeling. This is one of the biggest, most beloved songs from Phantom, and I think they really blew it when it comes to the performance. I’m not sure if it’s the direction, the casting, or the pace but there’s definitely something missing.
Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall (2011), also benefits from a great sets and costumes, but a lot more feeling and better pacing to the song. Plus, a Christine that I don’t want to strangle! 😉 Sierra doesn’t have the pipes that Sarah Brightman does, but then again she’s not taken to walking towards the camera and staring at it, moon eyed, like she’s in Dark Shadows, either.
Phantom of the Opera (1986), probably the best known stage version of this song with Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton (the album version with Cliff Richard follows, just to be thorough!)
As I think is probably obvious, the one I’m fawning over is the 2011 performance at Royal Albert Hall. The best part of the whole thing is that the acting, while still stage acting (a bit over the top for the benefit of the cheap seats), is far more believable than it normally is. And it’s so reminiscent of the film acting you might see in the 20s or 30s, sort of a hesitant but intense way they move and emote. If you want to catch it, and are in the States, it’s available for streaming on Netflix!