Friday, September 27, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: Raoul vs. the Phantom

John Owen-Jones and Hadley Fraser
Hooooo boy.  Here we go.  This, laaaaaaaaaadieeeeeeeez and gentlemen, is the Ballet from Act-- er, I mean, it's my take on Which Is the Good Guy in Phantom of the Opera.  I realize I am treading on extremely thin ice here, as there are several passionate Team Phantom phangirls reading this blog (yep, Caroline L., I'm lookin' at you) and I am ready and willing to hash it all out in the comments.... but let me say my say first, okay?  Thanks.

Have no idea which Raoul and Phantom these are-- all I know is that the picture
is from the Broadway run.

I struggled a little bit in coming up with a title for this post, to be honest... I couldn't decide whether to call it "Raoul vs. Erik" or "Raoul vs. Phantom" or "Why I'm Team Raoul" or "Defending Vicomte de Chagny" or possibly even "In My Opinion, Pigs Do Not Belong In Houses", but that last one is just because I like to be random sometimes.   But whatever the title, you get the idea-- this post is about the rivalry between the Phantom and Raoul that's been going on since the beginning of time and dividing phangirls into two fiercely feuding camps.  DUHN! Duhn duhn duhn duhn duhn!

I think I'm actually going to start with Erik in my wild ramblings, even though Raoul is going to end up being the focus of the post.  Basically, my opinion on Erik is this: I pity him deeply and really wish he could have found love, but ultimately he went about things in a very wrong way, and he and Christine do not belong together.  

Yes, I realize that from childhood the Phantom never knew love.  I know that his obsession with Christine was his way of trying to reach out and connect with another human soul.  I understand that he truly did love Christine and that his sacrifice in ultimately letting her go, though not erasing the serious wrongs he committed, was a beautiful thing.  But the key here is that he has so many more problems beside his face.

Christine's line in "Final Lair" is absolutely true-- and like most lines in that song, it always gives me the shivers.  "This haunted face holds no horror for me now... It's in your soul that the true distortion lies."  The Phantom's problem isn't with his disfigurement.  No, the problem is with what he's allowed his disfigurement to make him.  He's become so obsessed with the idea that no one loves him and no one will ever really care for him that he believes anyone who stands remotely in his way is just out to get him.  So what does he do?  He murders people who get in his way.  First Buquet, then Piangi, and finally (almost) Raoul.  

And this is not okay.

This is Earl Carpenter-- am I the only one who
has a terrible time telling all the Phantoms apart? I mean,
seriously, that mask makes it TOUGH.
I think a lot of Erik phans get so caught up in feeling sorry for him and all his problems (which I'm not trying to downplay here) that they forget about the horrible things he did.  The guy has a lot of issues but he is not certifiably insane-- he murdered Buquet and Piangi in cold blood.  I read a post once in which someone was defending Erik by saying that Buquet and Piangi were both jerks who deserved to die.  Um... okay... but even if they were (and I hardly would call Piangi a jerk, though Buquet could be classified as Super Annoying), that is NOT an excuse to kill them.  If it's okay for the Phantom to just kill anyone who's messing up his story, then what's going to stop him from strangling Andre and Firmin if they don't pay him on time? How about the dude who delivers his groceries, if he drops the eggs or something?  How about Madame Giry if she looks at him funny?  Where would it stop?

As for Erik and Christine together... well, I can't deny that Ramin and Sierra's chemistry in the 25th Anniversary show is electric.  They really do seem to belong together at times.  Yet I stand firm in my belief that Christine and Erik never could have been happy together.  Yes, he exerts a certain enchantment (or whatever it is) over her, but he's also manipulative, controlling and unhealthily obsessed.  She, on the other hand, is mesmerized by his voice at times, but she's also terrified of him.  When she's not confused and thinking he's the ghost of her dead father, that is.  I don't know about you, but in my mind Crazy Stalking Habits and Complicated Daddy Issues do not a beautiful romance make.

But! you scream.  But, but, but!  THE PHANTOM JUST NEEDS SOMEBODY TO LOOO-OOOOOVE!  

...Oh, great, now that song's stuck in my head.  LOOK WHAT YOU DID.  

In all seriousness, though, I do wish the Phantom could have found someone to love him.  His heartbreak in "Final Lair" (especially the way Michael Crawford does it) has this funny habit of draining my tear ducts.  I mean, just listen to this.  (There's a bootleg video version, too, but I prefer this one as the audio is much clearer-- plus this was Michael Crawford's last performance as the Phantom and as such it's even more moving than usual.  I'm not a huge fan of Dale Kristien's voice, but Reece Holland is pretty good as Raoul and MC makes up for any deficiences, like, a billion times over.)

Good gracious, the way he sobs at the end.  Gah.  I'm in danger of sobbing, too, but I really want to get this post done, so I will conquer myself and think of something Funny instead.  *thinks* I know-- Hugh Jackman's version of "Bring Him Home."  That will cheer me up and make me laugh.

*ducks Ally's flying tomatoes and hastily says More Nice Things about Michael Crawford*

THAT VOICE!  He's awesome! Seriously vying for Best Phantom Ever in my mind!  (Don't worry, Ramin, I still love you!)  There. 

No, I don't think Erik and Christine belonged together.  But does that mean I don't bawl unashamedly during that last "I love you... I love you"?  Um, no.  I still feel terrible that he was left there, all alone, while Christine and Raoul went to Red Robin without him sailed away in his boat to share one love, one lifetime.  I still wish desperately that there could have been some way to make him happy.  

In the end, I don't fully agree with the sentiment in the POTO-confession above.  Yes, I agree that Erik is unstable and violent.  But I also think he really IS a gentle, misunderstood soul.  You can be both, you know.  The unstable and violent side of him, unfortunately, triumphed-- and his dreams, his desires for love, his castle on a cloud came tumbling down because of it.

And the romantic, melodramatic, Marianne-Dashwood-esque part of me gets a real thrill out of the ending.  I can't help it.  It's so tragically beautiful (er, beautifully tragic).  On a side note-- anyone else think Marianne Dashwood would be a huge Phan if she had the chance to experience the musical?  It's right up her alley.  
Killian Donnelly as Raoul-- I've only listened to bootlegs of
his performance, but I LOVE what I've heard.

Okay, so... now let's get to Raoul.  As I stated before, I am unashamedly a Raoul fan.  Though I don't like the way the phrase smacks of the Twilight fandom (gag), I do consider myself on Team Raoul.  And it really, really annoys me when people poke fun at him just to make the Phantom appear better by comparison.

Of course, when people poke fun at him just for the sake of having fun, that doesn't bother me in the least, because (cough cough), I tend to do the same thing myself at times...

Anyways.  Back on track.

Hadley Fraser's Raoul is definitely my favorite of all time (though Killian Donnelly's portrayal ranks pretty high too.)  I love the exuberance and puppy-dog energy he brings to the role, because it shows the audience how young Raoul still is.  If Christine's 21, as I believe the book says she is (nope, still haven't read it, but it's on my list for this fall!) then Raoul's probably only 22 or 23, since they were children together in the dear dead days gone by never to be spoken of.  He's still a kid at heart sometimes, and though he's a rich and successful Vicomte (what exactly is a Vicomte/viscount, and what do they do all day long?) patronizing the Opera Populaire, he hasn't forgotten the little girl he used to play with.  In fact, he falls in love with her once they're reunited.  

And that seems to be where a lot of phans get their feathers in a flurry.  What right has Raoul to fall in love with Christine?  What does he need from her?  He's rich and influential and has every material thing he could want-- can't he go pursue some other woman and let Christine be with Erik, who totally NEEDS her?

Ramin Karimloo as Raoul with Katie Knight-Adams as Christine

News flash here.  Rich and famous people who have everything heart could wish need love, too.  If Raoul met Christine again, went "ho-hum, she turned out really cute, let's go to dinner but that's it because I don't want commitment in a relationship right now," everyone would hate him for using Christine like that. And Raoul doesn't do that.  He falls in love with Christine for who she is.  Sure, they have mutual memories and he likes the way she sings, but his love for her is so much more than that.  He wants to be with her because he loves her, not just her voice.  (And I'm totally not implying here that all the Phantom likes about Christine is her voice.  I do think that's a big part of it, but not the only attraction.)  

One thing that particularly stood out to me as I listened to the 25th Anniversary recording (for the kajilliumpteenth time), in preparation for this post, was the way Raoul and the Phantom address Christine.  The Phantom constantly calls her his "angel of music," and though he does use her name on occasion, for the most part when speaking to her he calls her his angel.  Raoul, on the other hand, calls her nothing but Christine.  We could go into a long discourse about the Symbolism of this, and how Raoul sees her as a person while the Phantom sees her as the embodiment of the voice he's created and fallen in love with (whoa, serious My Fair Lady vibes there) but I don't feel like starting an argument so I'll leave it at that and continue with Key Phrases.  The Phantom, along with calling Christine his angel, repeatedly begs and commands her to sing for him.  "Sing for me! Sing! You alone can make my song take flight."  Raoul, in direct contrast, spends a lot of his time reassuring Christine.  "I'm here, with you beside you, to guard you and to guide you.  Christine, Christine, you don't have to... they can't make you..."

Again, I'm not saying that the Phantom merely sees Christine as an object, but I AM saying that Raoul is much more focused on comforting Christine and making her feel safe than forcing her to carry out his own agenda.  Despite the fact that he's a bit bossy sometimes.  However, I personally think that "You must change.  I must get my hat.  Two minutes," is a lot less dictatorial than "Start a new life with me, buy his freedom with your love, REFUSE ME AND YOU SEND YOUR LOVER TO HIS DEATH."  Just sayin'.

I interrupt this rather Heavy and Deep and Thought-provoking program to add that though the Phantom can be quite wittily snarky in his notes, Raoul has a great sense of humor.  Which is a very important characteristic in a guy.  I mean, hello, one of the things that woke Anne Shirley up to the fact that Roy Gardner wasn't right for her was the way he never laughed at a good joke-- whereas Gilbert would have been in stitches.   And no, Raoul never actually sings into a shower head during the show-- that's just Killian Donnelly goofing off in costume backstage-- but he can be pretty hilarious at times.  Hadley Fraser's facial expressions during "Notes," for example, are priceless.  "Of COURSE not."

As for Raoul's plan to kill the Phantom if he showed up during Don Juan Triumphant... okay, well, here's where I disapprove.  It isn't Raoul's prerogative to get rid of the Phantom, no matter what he's done.  Two wrongs don't make a right.  While calling the police and ensnaring their clever friend by arresting him and putting him on trial for what he did would have been just and right (from a legal standpoint, anyway), shooting to kill was not.  I realize Raoul didn't physically make an attempt to kill Erik, but he put the plot in motion, and though I don't blame him in the least for getting fed up with the whole thing and wanting to put an end to it once and for all, I can't condone the measures he took.

That said, Hadley Fraser's "SO! IT IS TO BE WAR BETWEEN US!" is pretty awesome.

And this all brings us to... FINAL LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIR.  (Can you tell yet what my favorite part of POTO is? :D)

While Erik's part in "Final Lair," is terrifyingly heartrending, Raoul's part shouldn't be passed over.  When you stop and think about what he was doing there, I think it must be practically impossible to brush him aside as a "wimp."  (Patrick Wilson's version excepted, of course.  Yuck.)  As the POTO-confession says, he faced a homicidal maniac to save Christine.  Um, hello?  THIS MAN IS BRAVE AND HONEST AND LOVING AND WONDERFUL.  If you're in any doubt as to whether he really has feelings for Christine, look no further than "Final Lair."  "I love her!  Does that mean nothing? I LOVE HER! Show some compassion!"

I mean, seriously, just listen to any of his lines during all that singing-over-each-other. "Christine, forgive me, please forgive me.  I did it all for you and all for nothing.  Say you love him and my life is over... for pity's sake, Christine, say no! Don't throw your life away for my sake!"  

Michael Ball in "Final Lair"

And when Christine finally does kiss the Phantom and ends up freeing Raoul thereby, the look on his face (at least in the 25th anniversary version) is enough to break anyone's heart.  "I fought so hard to free you..."  It's not because his girlfriend is kissing some other dude-- it's that he thinks she's chosen to sacrifice herself so he can live.

But then the Phantom makes a sacrifice of his own, and Raoul and Christine are able to leave together and share each day, each night, each morning.  AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER AND THAT IS THE END OF THE STORY.


So that's my take on Raoul vs. Phantom.  I feel terrible for the Phantom and his sad ending, but all in all Raoul is the real hero of the piece.  Your thoughts?

Also... I had intentions to post a dream cast for the production of POTO that I'm going to see in the spring (yep, the Broadway tour!!!! SO HYPED), since the cast list hasn't been announced yet, but to be honest I really only have two ideal choices.  And those choices are for... the Phantom and Raoul.  Big surprise.

I really want to see James Barbour play the Phantom.  He has one of the most gorgeous voices EVER and I think he'd really do justice to the part.

As for Raoul?  This is going to come as a real shock to some of you... but I desperately want to see Aaron Tveit play the part.

I mean, seriously.  If he played the Vicomte de Chagny on stage, the whole debate over which hero is better would cease to exist.  Fact.


Indigo Montoya said...

*sings* Where in the world has this post been hiding? Really it is perfect!

What else can I say?! : D

Quinlyn said...

Aaron Tveit as Raoul.

Melody said...

*scrolls... and scrolls...*
Wow, this is a long post. Okay. Haha.

"In My Opinion, Pigs Do Not Belong In Houses" would totally be the opening to a bashing of fakeP&P.

Ha, I don't even pity the phantom as much as you do. It's just hard to pity pshyco cold-blooded murderers. *shudders* If you pity them too much you might end up dead. :P

Haha yes, it IS really hard to tell the Phantoms apart...

They're both jerks and they deserve to die? O_O Grieeefies. They're not enough of jerks, haha. I mean, some really evil horrible people in the world you can't help thinking that about them sometimes *cough cough* but really, they were not that bad, and Piangi wasn't even annoying really... o.O
Wow. Anyways.

If he drops the eggs or something... haha, okay, that made me snicker, but it's true. Good point you have. *pats on back*

Whatever, I guess I don't notice what people call "chemistry" as much as they do, but I think it was better between Christine and Raoul even in 25th. :D

What song is stuck in your head? :P

Wow, that version is quite dramatic and touching... but there's still some quality of MC's voice that I don't quite like but I can't really explain whyyy. :P A certain... pitch... or something... Ramin is definitely better. :P

Went to Red Robin... bahahahhaha. ;D

Ehhh... no, I don't think his soul is gentle, actually. :P

YES, Marianne would love POTO (and Les Mis :P) buuut she wouldn't call herself a phan. She hates popular cliches, you know. I can picture her getting upset for being called that. ;)

Yes, the book! But don't read it withouuuut meee.... ;)

Ha, yeah, the Phantom does have a weird obsession with her voice... do you ever wonder how that all started? I mean, did he hear her sing one day and randomly thought that he wanted to teach her? o.O

Yeah, and the bit about getting his hate was said in a teasing tone, too, which is not the same as commanding. :P

Weeeell... I don't think I disapprove of Raoul as much as you do. The Phantom was a veryvery dangerous person and he's so elusive that catching him probably wouldn't be the end of the story, you know? The only safe thing to do looking at it from that standpoint would be to kill him. Thinking how many other people may end up dead if he isn't.
Just sayin' another way of looking at it. :D

But then, that touches a topic I don't think we agree on anyways and as you know I prefer not to get into those. Ahem. :P

SNIFFFFLE about Final Lair. Agh. Come on, peeps, the ending wouldn't be half as awesome without Raoul. Duhhhhh.

That's Michael Ball? o.O It doesn't look like him... but then, I haven't seen much of him. :P

Now, as far as it not being because his girlfriend is kissing some other dude-- ha, ha, not with that shallowness. However, I think that the fact that she was going to the Phantom and not Raoul did have something to do with some of his emotions at the time. I mean, it wouldn't be pleasant. The Phantom was none to pleased when Raoul was kissing HER. :P

Yeah, I'm still not convinced that she'd actually Made A Choice right then. He said to make her choice, but I don't know if she did. :P Like I said, I don't think that would have been the way she would choose to agree, haha. There's nothing definite and "I'm-going-to-stay-with-you" in it.

Anyways. But in all points besides the one stated above, I agree with you. :D

Kathryn said...

I completely agree with you. I have always liked Raoul better than the Phantom, mostly because he does not go around murdering people and hypnotizing girls. An excellent post!

Caroline L. said...

*happy dance* I'm famous! I'm famous! Miss Dashwood mentioned me on her blog! *whoop whoop*

I think that the phantom (in the broadway poster) is Hugh Panero and the Raoul is most definitely Kyle Barisich. They are both really good. Yes, I watch a lot of bootlegs. ;]

LOL! Cheering yourself up with thoughts of Hugh's BHH. Hahahaha... *chuckles for a long time*

RED ROBIN! YUM! That is already a commonplace saying with me.

Yes, I don't poke fun at Raoul just to make the phantom look better. No. I poke fun at him b/c he is so poke-funable. *evil giggling ensues* If typing was as space and energy efficient as talking, I would have many Raoul jokes to share! Hee hee!

Oh! Well, I highly do recommend the book. It isn't the most well-written (although maybe my translation just wasn't that great), but the message is incredibly powerful.

*is now thinking of Dora Finching and her hilariosity* Hahahaha!

Ah. Raoul's love. THERE'S a topic on which I have much to spew. Of course, the theories are easily subject to change, depending on what actor is performing and how he interprets the role. But I have never sensed true love in Raoul towards Christine. Long-time friendship and comraderie, yes. Infatuation and smitten-ness, yes. But not the understanding and selflessness that a love of a lifetime must be based on. Here I disagree with you entirely.

They really have very little in common at this point in their lives. He wants it to be like it used to (only now romantic), while her interests and problems have changed ("things have changed, Raoul!"). I think this for several reasons, the biggie being that he NEVER seems to listen to what Christine actually says the whole show. She says no to dinner, but he goes and gets his hat anyway. She gets scared and tells him about the phantom and he's all "nah, no such thing. Now will you marry me?" What especially gets me is when she refuses to sing in the Phantom's Opera but he still wants to go with what he wants to do.

So, it's not that he's conciously using her, I think he really does believe he is in love (I am agog! I am agast!) but that it is really an immature infatuation. So for me, Raoul is not right for Christine in the first place, regardless of the extistence of the Phantom. He's a nice guy and all, but a nice guy doesn't necessarily mean the right guy. Especially when contrasted with a wrong guy (now we are including the phantom)- that still doesn't make A good guy THE right choice.

OH! Picture of Killian singing into the showerhead reminds me!!! Have you ever seen the John vs. Killian videos??? When John Owen-Jones and Killian Donnely were playing Erik and Raoul together, they made a short series of Youtube videos, pitting themselves against eachother in weird contests. O my word! They are so funny! In one, they had to eat as many crackers as possibly in a minute and they sing "24601" at the end, no matter what was in their mouths! Seriously funny stuff!

Well, I must go (they'll wonder where I am...). But I'll be back soon to finish my commentary. What? You actually thought I was done? HA!

Clara Dawn said...

My question is... Have you seen/heard of Love Never Dies? Interestingly enough, it is the sequel to PoTO written by ALW himself. Definitely not as good as the original, although I do enjoy the music....but you might be interested.

Alexandra said...

*cracks knuckles* I am here! Actually, I don't crack my's one of my WORST pet peeves. But anyway.

Let me begin by saying that I used to be a huuuuuge Team Phantom. Not necessarily that they should end up together, but that I didn't like Raoul. That has changed a bit. :)

Okay, so I totally agree with just can't look past his murders. That used to be my problem...I'd be like, he just needs LOVE and my brothers are like, he murders! And I'm like, lalalalala, I'm not listening...

Whether he's insane is technically up to the player...I think it's Hugh Panero who plays like he's a bit cracked, which is an interesting play on it (even though I don't necessarily like it).

ALSO. If you take Ramin's Asperger's portrayal, then of the symptoms is having huuuuuuge anger bursts when something doesn't go the way it's supposed to, which makes sense with the Phantom's actions and would soften (although still not pardon) his actions. Just a thought.

HOWEVER. No matter how much he totally loves her and needs someone's love, they're just not right together, for all the reasons you mentioned. She is an angel on a pedestal for him. She could never just be herself the way she needs to. People kinda forget about her in this equation...what's good for HER?! :)

And yes, I do believe there was a definitely gentle side to him, even in the novel (DO READ IT. It adds so much to the story).

As much as I do agree that she's better with Raoul, I do have to agree with a lot of Caroline's arguments. Of course, a lot of it depends on the actor who portrays Raoul, but there are definitely certain versions where love does *not* come across. I do agree too that at first Raoul does seem a bit like, okay, we're kids again! Now, I think depending on the actor, that deepens through the play, and there's no denying at ALL by the end that he's willing to sacrifice himself for her, but it *is* true.

Ultimately, the beauty of POTO is the complexity of the title character. He is on the one hand an antagonist, and on the other hand someone who just needs love. Both are true.

I would have to say, though, that there was *something* at the end...I think she did love him just a little. This new theory has kind of evolved on me lately. I had always maintained that she only pitied him, buuuuuut I'm beginning to rethink that. Not full-on, *real* love, but something was happening there at the end. Just sayin'.

Alexandra said...

Also, you know my thoughts on the casting. Mucho, mucho awesomeo. That is all. Also IDK about her range, but Laura Osnes would make a lovely Christine. LOL, then they would be my dream TSP cast. Hahahaaaa.

Katelyn said...

Aaron as Raoul? Yup, Team Raoul wins hands down!!!! He'd be perfect. Where can I go to check out show dates and locations?

All in all, a perfect post on the two lead males in POTO. 5 stars across the board.

Beth Claire said...

I completely agree.
Raoul is wonderful, and Christine and him live happily ever after, no matter what Mr Webber says.
James Barbour would be amazing! I love his voice. Although, I haven't heard much of his falsetto, which is one of my favourite parts of the Phantom role.
Aaron Tveit as Raoul? Hmmm, I can't picture it. Although I'm sure he'd be brilliant! He does have a rather contemporary voice, that being said his Les Mis voice is quite different to anything else I've heard him sing, so I reckon he could do it. If he did play the part he should wear his Enjo wig, just because.
Do you have any links to Ramin Raoul? I'd love to see that!
Beth xxx

Lady Éowyn said...

I have only read the book (and yes, I am an unreasonable romantic :)), but I really thing Christine and the Phantom would of been happy together. I mean, the story is crazy enough as it is-why, why, not finish it with a fairy-tale ending???

Lady Eowyn

Maribeth B said...

Bless this post!! When I saw the play on Monday I went into it 100% on Team Raoul, but I ended it practically swooning over him, he was so heroic and wonderful. The Epitome of Noble Manhood.

Disclaimer: This does not take away from the fact that I'm a big fan of Ramin Karimloo, too, and I'm fully capable of feeling bad for the Phantom at the end of the Final Lair. I sometimes rewind many times over Ramin's last "You alone can make my soul take flight!" simply because it gives me the shivers :D

Aaron Tveit as Raoul!! I LOVE IT! This would cure the anti-Raoul armies forever and ever, world without end amen.

Caroline L. said...

EOWYN! Thank you! I was REALLY starting to feel over-Raouled around here.

cyncyn_cung said...

Hello. I realized this post was from almost 2 years ago but I just. Stumbled upon it now, I just want to say that I loved reading your posts. I do want to recommend you have a listen the Canadian cast recording of phantom. It has Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom whom I personally think is the BEST phantom ever and I am speaking from experience as I have personally seen the live production 6 times!!! You have to give it a listen!! You can find it in Spotify. Have a great day!!

cyncyncung said...

Hi there. I realized I'm writing this a little late but I just stumbled upon your blog not too long ago and have enjoyed it tremendously. I just wanted to suggest that you listen to the Canadian Cast Recording of the Phantom of the Opera as it has Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom. IMHO I think he is the best Phantom ever!! :) I have seen the live production 6 times with different people and I think no one compares to him! You really have to give it a try. You can find it on Spotify. Thanks and have a great day! :)