That's right...I'm talking to you!
Rejoice and be merry for the ultimate phan experience has finally arrived! I'm speaking of course of the just recently released DVD of a live performance of none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber's, Phantom of the Opera!
Released in honor of the 25th anniversary of this musical juggernaut, this live-taped production of Webber's ultimate masterpiece takes what Cameron Mackintosh did with Les Miserables: The Dream Cast in Concert to the next and decidedly more awesome level.
Now, I'm not just saying that because I'm a die-hard phan (seriously...if there was such a thing, I'd have a PhD in all things Phantom of the Opera (just don't you dare mention the atrocities that are Phantom of the Paradise or Dario Argento's Phantom of the Opera in front of me, because I swear, I will frakking cut you)), but because as someone who has seen both live recordings, I can see the very obvious differences between the two production-wise. Don't get me wrong, Les Miserables: The Dream Cast in Concert was an excellent production in its own right (I mean, come on...the music is phenomenal all on its own, but once you add in all of those voices from all of the casts, it just becomes all that more amazing), but it was predominantly just that...a concert. Costumes were used for the key characters (the chorus members simply wore black, Les Miserables shirts), and there was some scenery and prop usage, but for the most part, the performers would walk up to a microphone when it was their turn to sing and then sing either their song or their part of the ensemble. Once they were finished, they would either go sit back down or leave the stage if they no longer appeared within the Act.
With this 25th anniversary release of Phantom of the Opera, things could not be more different.
Unlike the Les Miserables concert, this is an actual stage performance done with full costumes (even for the ensemble) and full choreography--including all of the elaborate dance scenes that are included throughout the perfirmance. While full sets were not used (no doubt because of the sheer size of the ensemble cast in this particular production did not allow for the space (I kid you not, in a normal stage production the entire casts consists of about 40 people or so, but here they used well over 100!)), all of the important props were used (such as the scaffolding with which the Phantom leads Christine to his lair, the gondola, the pipe organ, as well as others), and the production team employed the use of a digital backdrop that changes with the scenes.
That's right, all you techie nerds out there, you heard me...a digital backdrop is used for all the different scenes. Now, all of you phans out there, don't go getting your knickers into a twist. Being the phanatic that I am, I would be the first to trash the digital backdrop if it in any way, shape or form did anything to harm my all-time favorite musical.
But it didn't.
The digital background is actually very ingenious and it was done all for you--to ensure that the changes between the scenes were as seamless (and it is seamless) as possible so as not to take you out of the story.
And let me tell you something...with the way this production was done, you actually feel like you're in the middle of all the action. Facial expressions and raw emotion that you could never truly see during a stage production are now so very visible and crystal clear that they serve to enhance the overall experience.
In fact, if you can either never get tickets when a touring company of Phantom of the Opera comes to your town (because believe me, those tickets sell out QUICK!) or you've always wanted to see it but simply could not afford to spend the money on the tickets (I will be the first to admit how pricey the tickets for good seats can be), or you have seen it performed live on stage but could only afford tickets in the nosebleed section, then this DVD is the next best thing to actually seeing the show performed live. Unlike the Andrew Lloyd Webber film (which aside from the lack of deformity on the Phantom's face, I absolutely adored) that was based off of his musical, this particular production is the actual musical without all of the extra scenes that were included because the writers and producers were not bound to the time limits of a stage production.
The casting was excellent, and I could find no complaints about any of the actors because their voices were truly wonderful and amazing. The costumes were in their full, sublime glory, and of course the music captured me from the first chord all the way to the last. My only real complaint was that the chandelier did not drop, but it's not enough of a complaint for me to never watch this performance again.
And holy frak, did I let loose with a HUGE phangirl squeal when none other than Michael Crawford, the Phantom from the original London cast, walked onto the stage at the end of the show.
My overall rating for this DVD is a big, fat 10 out of 10. Whether you're a die-hard phan like me, or a Phantom of the Opera virgin who's looking to dip your toe in the water, this DVD is either an excellent addition to your collection, or an excellent way to ease your way into the fandom.
Buy your copy today!
Have you hugged your nerd today? ;)