|John Owen-Jones and Hadley Fraser|
|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 THERE, ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER.
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.