Monday, September 30, 2013

"If you do not comply with our wishes in this matter, no more toffees will be forthcoming."

The title of this post is a quote from Jeeves himself, in the fourth (I think...) season of Jeeves and Wooster, and it has nothing to do with the subject of the post.  But I shall be writing a post of this sort every month, it seems, and it would get boring very fast if I titled all the posts of this sort in the same way-- "Reminder," or "Don't Forget," and all that, so I've decided to use quotes.  Quotes are fun.

Anyways, about reminders and do not forgets.  That's what this post is about-- I'm reminding all y'all that the September "I'd Like to Share" link-up happens tomorrow evening (I'm giving you some extra time-- that's what makes me so nice) and so you should submit your nominated posts ASAP (here) if you haven't already done so.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: The Wrap-Up

(no, the picture doesn't match the quote, but I just adore this dress, okay? shush.)

"Dear Andre, what a splendid party!"
"The prologue to a great new year!"
"What a night, I'm impressed!"
"Well, one does one's best..."
"Here's to US!"
~Masquerade, Phantom of the Opera

This blog party was fantastic, you guys.  We had a whopping 29 participants featuring 17 different musicals this week, and the posts just kept rolling in.  Due to a severely packed schedule this week, I haven't had time to read everyone's posts (though I did at least skim each and every one and will hopefully be back later to leave comments), but I am so, so thrilled that you all participated and had a good time.  Without further ado, let's have some links!

{Okay, well, a little bit of ado-- just want to remind you that not all of the content in all of these musicals is appropriate for all ages.  I've marked three in particular that are not suitable for a younger audience, but I would ask that you use discretion no matter what.  Also, though I've read and enjoyed most of the posts listed here-- and plan to read the others ASAP-- I cannot necessarily endorse all the content on all the blogs I've linked to, blah blah blah, disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer.  Don't sue me.  Read at your own risk.  There is no lifeguard on duty.  Have fun.}

(in which Amy inserts random Phantom pics that she didn't include in other posts)

Due to time constraints and whatnot, a few participants were only able to do the tag-- their links are as follows:

(And if I inadvertently didn't link to you, please leave a comment with your link and I'll add you straightaway!)

In conclusion, thank you all SO VERY MUCH for making this party such a success.  I've received several requests to host another one next year, and while I can't make any promises, I would love to do that... so here's to making Celebrate Musicals Week an annual thing if at all possible!  

Celebrate Musicals Week: Quote Quiz Answers

And the answers to Tuesday's quote quiz are...

Herr Zeller: I've not asked you where you and your family are going. Nor have you asked me why I am here.
Captain von Trapp: Well, apparently, we're both suffering from a deplorable lack of curiosity.
~The Sound of Music

"If that be the eyes of the law, sir, then the law is a bachelor."
~Mr. Bumble, Oliver!

Anita: More than what? She was only dancing.
Bernardo: With an American who's really a Polack.
Anita: Says the Spic.
Bernardo: You are NOT so cute.
~West Side Story

[Bernardo's little jab may very well be Anne-girl's and my favorite line from WSS-- well, this and "So take him to a social vorker! Vhich vay? Zhat vay!"  
We quote it... um, very frequently... whenever one of us does something that's supposed to be funny.  And the other person never fails to retort, "That Toooooony is!"]

"What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than-- than-- than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!"
~Lina Lamont, Singin’ in the Rain

Max Detweiler: Hold on. What's so funny?
Captain von Trapp: You are, Max. Expensive, but very funny.
~The Sound of Music

"Now what call would a woman with that strength in her have to die of influenza? And what become of her new straw hat that should have come to me? [pause] Somebody pinched it. And what I say is: them 'as pinched it, done her in."
~Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady

"How was India? I'll tell you how India was. I got up this morning and I shot an elephant in my pajamas."
~Grandpa Potts, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Mendel: She's dancing with a man!
Tevye: I can SEE that she's dancing with a man! ...And I'M going to dance with MY wife!
~Fiddler on the Roof

"As the ship lay anchored in Boston Harbor, a party of the colonists dressed as red Indians boarded the vessel, behaved very rudely, and threw all the tea overboard. This made the tea unsuitable for drinking. Even for Americans."
~Mr. Banks, Mary Poppins

"How's about some extra on a day so glad?  Our little orphan girl, she hasn't done so bad. Raised in a convent, cash to spare-- we want our share."
~Madame Thenardier, Les Miserables

[Number ten was rather a trick question, I’m afraid-- Mme. Thenardier’s line does not actually appear in the final edit of the film, though it was in the script.  My apologies for any confusion!  I meant for this question to be challenging, but not so difficult as to be befuddling.  :D]

Lady Thiang: They think you dress like that because you shaped like that.
Anna Leonowens: Well, I most certainly am NOT!
~The King and I

Truly Scrumptious: Wh-what are you going to do?
Caractacus Potts: I'm going to carry you.
Truly Scrumptious: Oh dear. Must you?
Caractacus Potts: Well, unless you'd rather ride piggyback.

~Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

And as it turns out... we have two winners! Congratulations to Anne-girl and Elizabeth Rose (who earned 23 points each), and thanks to everyone who participated!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: Phantom of the Opera (2004) Review

*in bored tones*
"He's here.  The phantom of the opera."
~Meg Giry

It has come to my attention (brought, in fact, by the kind hand of a dear friend on Gmail chat last night) that I seem to possess a knack for what is termed "snarky bash."  What is this bash of the snark variety, you may ask?  (No.  You may not ask.  But I will tell you.)  Apparently it's a talent that enables one to write humorous movie reviews making fun of movies that deserve to be made fun of.  I am still trying to figure out whether this is a good thing or not.  (One doesn't necessarily want one's stamp on the blogging world to be one of Sarcasm and Satire, you know...)  If it is a good thing, I must say it puts a lot of pressure on me.  It is always difficult to measure up to what people expect of you, you know.  

However, if people have come to my review of POTO 2004 expecting good-humored jabs at a film that fell pretty flat (in my very 'umble opinion), then they have come to the right place.  I know there are some POTO 2004 fans out there (yes, I just spelled that with an F) who may be reading this post and getting their dandruff up even now, and I just want to say from the start that it is not my intention to offend anyone, blah blah blah, you're entitled to your opinions and I'm allowed to have mine, et cetera et cetera et cetera... (I do believe the Phantom phandom is much more aggressive when it comes to Opinions and whatnot than other fandoms in general-- the Mizzers, for instance, tend to be much more accepting of others' viewpoints and ships and all that.  Just an observation.  Not that the phans are mean.  Just that they tend to be more... verbal.)

So I always swore I would never watch this movie.  I mean, my first real interest in POTO came through Ally's blog, and she is a vehement member of the POTO 2004 Disapproval Club.  So, after reading her opinions on how the filmmakers pretty much ruined the musical in their adaptation, I decided I didn't want to see it.  Ever.  Then I got more and more engrossed in POTO in general, watched the 25th Anniversary recording... um... a lot of times... and finally became a full-fledged Phan.  In the meantime, I managed to get Melody hooked on the 25th Anniversary, and it became Our Second Special Musical of sorts (our First being My Fair Lady).  She had previously seen most of POTO 2004 with her sister, before realizing that there was such a thing as the stage play (and that it was SO much better), and one day she suggested we watch it together for the fun of laughing at it.  

Now, one of my biggest issues with POTO 2004 was the objectionable content found therein (it's rated PG-13, after all) but since Melody had seen it with her sister (who knew where to skip), she too knew where to skip, so we settled down over Skype one week (a three-day process, it turned out to be) to watch POTO 2004.

And this was pretty much my reaction.

(You do not know how long this I Love Lucy fan has been waiting to use that Ricky Ricardo gif for something.  And at last my wish comes true. This has truly made my night.)

Don't get me wrong-- there definitely WERE parts I liked.  But they made up about eight percent of the movie, all told, and the remaining ninety-two percent was pure claptrap.  Entertaining claptrap, of course.  I enjoyed myself immensely while watching it.  Whether or not this was because I was "with" Melody (as "with" as one can be over Skype) is not the question at stake.

Ahem.  Down to business.

As the film began, I started to think that perhaps the bad things I'd heard of Gerard Butler's Phantom were just overreactions.  He didn't really seem that bad... the singing in "Angel of Music" wasn't horrid, and though his "Phantom of the Opera" and "Music of the Night" left a lot to be desired, he wasn't the worst performer I'd ever seen in a musical.  But then "All I Ask of You (Reprise" rolled around, and things just plunged downhill after that, and I took it all back.  Because this guy was the worst.  Phantom.  EVER.  I mean no offense to Gerard Butler himself-- I'm sure he's a great actor and all that.  But he was not the Phantom.  

For starters, he just didn't sing properly.  I don't mean that he couldn't sing at all.  He could.  In fact, his "Music of the Night," while not to my taste, was not wounding to the ear.  His singing actually rather reminded me of Russell Crowe's in Les Mis-- rough and raspy around the edges and all right if you like that sort of thing, but certainly not the polished perfection that his character is supposed to be able to pull off.   I can kind of understand not casting a great singer (but a superb actor) as Javert, but the Phantom???? SERIOUSLY?  The Phantom is ALL ABOUT singing.  I mean, hello.  The guy's whole attraction for Christine lies in his VOICE.   Therefore, he needs to sound like a burst of light from heaven itself, not a muppet rasping into a garbage can.  He is her angel of music, not her Oscar the Grouch.

Besides which, his Phantom was just TOO creepy and stalker-ish.  I know the Phantom is supposed to be kind of creepy, but this was overdoing it.  The whole film in general was overly sensual and ickyful... as a (hopefully) mature eighteen-year-old, I didn't feel damaged by watching it or anything (especially considering that we skipped through several bits) but I would definitely not recommend this film to younger viewers.  

Well, actually, I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone at all.  Spoiler alert: that's kind of the message of this review.  In case you hadn't caught on yet.

As for Emmy Rossum as Miss Christine Daae... it's true, her voice is good.  She should know though, should she wish to excel, she has MUCH still to learn.  (Heeeeehee.  Sorry.  Couldn't resist.)  

To be honest, I think as an actress Emmy Rossum gives the strongest performance in the movie.  She really does have the potential to be good (er, did-- she's pretty successful now, nine years later, I believe) but she just wasn't quite right for the role at that time.  Her biggest flaw is being too young for the part (which totally isn't HER fault, of course, but the directors could easily have cast someone else).  At sixteen (while they were filming, anyway) she was at least five years younger than Christine is supposed to be, and quite frankly she makes the Phantom (and Raoul, for that matter) look like creepy pedophiles.  Gross.

Her voice, too, strikes me as being much too young and undeveloped.  She has a very pretty, crystalline quality to her singing (kind of reminiscent of Younger Sarah Brightman without the vibrato and scooping) but she doesn't sound rich and operatic enough to be a convincing Christine.  Sierra Boggess and Gina Beck do the best job of singing the way *I* think Christine ought to sound-- a maturing opera voice.  Though POTO is NOT an opera (you wouldn't believe how many people actually think it is...), it does revolve around opera, and Christine is an opera singer.  She's Adelina Patti, not Taylor Swift.

Oh, and you will find full-on pictures of Christine to be few and far between in this post, unfortunately, because one of my biggest issues with Emmy's Christine is her SEVERE lack of modesty.  Sheeeeeeeesh.  Some of her dresses make Marguerite's in TSP look like those of a Victorian spinster.

My thoughts on Patrick Wilson as Raoul-- UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH.  

Folks, if Steve Barton lit the flame of the idea that Raoul is an air-headed wimp with no personality, then Patrick Wilson took that flame, blew on it, fanned it and doused it with Pointless Acts of Idiotic Bravado juice.  (It's like gasoline, only more potent.)  His Raoul seriously had me in stitches.  The chin-length hair and general dandified appearance were bad enough ("insolent boy, the slave of fashion!" made total sense here) but his severe lack of facial expressions and random running-around-snowy-graveyards-with-a-sword and doing-Tarzan-leaps-into-a-flaming-orchestra pit were just the icing and chocolate chips on the cake.  (If the cake was made of Bad Characterization Decisions batter with a custard filling of This Guy Needs a Shampoo Pronto, that is.)  

His voice, however, though not particularly strange and spirit-filling, had a sweet sound, and I really can't complain about his "All I Ask of You" except to point out that it seemed really... flat.  Vocally it was fine.  Emotionally it was blah.  His Raoul just didn't seem to have much of a personality in general, except at spontaneous and unexpected moments in which he burst forth with a sudden flare of I Must Assert My Male Dominance and Smash Things With Anger.  Which is totally not the way Raoul is supposed to be.  

The rather blurry subtitle reads "The only character with a
French accent... in a French story!"

Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry is kind of weird.  I mean, I know Madame Giry's supposed to be a little Strange and Mysterious.  But this Mme. wasn't really Strange or Mysterious at all, or even slightly Spooky like Liz Robertson in the RAH version.  She was just kind of an oddball.  Popping up in random places to give Warnings about the Phantom and looking at people as if she were putting a spell on them or something.  And her French accent was just as out of place as Sacha Baron Cohen's in Les Mis.  Either everyone should be French or no one should be French.  You try my patience.  Make your choice.  

As for her daughter... well, Jennifer Ellison's Meg was completely bland and uninteresting.  Meg is supposed to prance around shrieking that the Phantom of the Opera is here, not whisper it in a blase manner that you half expect to be followed up with, "by the way, what's for lunch?"  We don't get any sense of her closeness to Christine and desire for Christine to be safe, because we don't get any sense of her character at all.  Not to mention, she rivaled Christine as far as low-necked costumes went.  (Which is why her picture is from Il Muto, because it's the only halfway decent one I could find.  Notice I say halfway.)  

Minnie Driver, while not my favorite Carlotta, was pretty hilarious.  Her singing during the movie is all dubbed, but her real voice can be heard in "Learn to be Lonely" during the credits.  She was very over-the-top and self-centered, which is great for Carlotta, but I felt her portrayal was a little too childish to be accurate.  Carlotta is a successful middle-aged diva who's willing to scream and storm when she doesn't get her way, but she isn't a two-year-old pouting and throwing tantrums.  (Yes, there's a difference.)

Ciaran Hinds and Simon Callow played Firmin and Andre, respectively.  Though it was pretty hysterical to see Captain Wentworth pomping about (it's the verb form of "pompous," you know) with a handlebar mustache in a purple Lord Fauntleroy getup, Simon Callow (whom I keep wanting to call Simon Cowell) was incredibly boring.  Well, his mustache was cool, but that was it.  Gareth Snook and Barry James are just the best managers ever, world without end, amen, and no one can match them.

Also, Firmin's masquerade costume (see above) was ridiculous.  The stupid kind, not the funny kind. ...Well, okay, it was a little funny.  

I'm not going to touch on every song here, but I will say that "Hannibal" was beyond awful (if you thought the costumes in the stage version were a bit risque, you should see the movie ones-- no, actually you shouldn't) and that "Think of Me," while very nice, was not particularly memorable.  Christine's dress, however (despite its less-than-ideal neckline) was GORGEOUS.  So much prettier than the circus tent from the stage version, even though it looks completely out of place in a musical that supposedly takes place in ancient Alexandria.   This gown was based on one worn by Empress Elisabeth of Austria (the two are side-by-side in the picture above) and I honestly can't decide which I like better.  (I'd raise the neck and shoulders on both, of course, if I were making replicas.  Which I'd love to do someday if I can acquire the funds and skills.)

"Come with me to my Lair, Christine, and I will teach you the
proper way to toast a marshmallow."
I'd like to be able to say something nice about "The Phantom of the Opera" (nah, just kidding, I don't really) but I'm afraid it was just really, really dumb.  It was like a bad horror movie-- trying way too hard to be spooky and chilling ("ooh, look, Phantom's Lair!  It's DARK and SCARY down here!") and succeeding only in being cringeworthy.  Not that I've actually ever seen a bad horror movie-- or any horror movie at all, for that matter.  Unless you count this one.


Christine's costume, too, annoyed me no end.  She was basically wearing a corset and drawers under the dressing gown.  *facepalm*  The dressing gown is supposed to go OVER your COSTUME to keep it CLEAN, peeps.  It's not a BATHROBE.  And her hair was just crazy in this sequence.  I did not like it at all.  (I didn't dislike it throughout the whole movie, though.  During "Masquerade" it was quite pretty.)  And the amount of eye makeup she had on would terrify a raccoon.  Yikes.

Plus, what was up with the random horse?  Does the Phantom just have a convenient horse stowed away in his lake for this opportune moment?  Or is it his special pet, and if so why doesn't it appear again?  Does it have a name?  Who feeds it and takes care of it?  Does Madame Giry have to do it?  Why does she have to do everything?  Has the horse ever bitten her, and if so, did the Phantom apologize to Mme. or did he bite the horse back to teach it a lesson?

So.  Many. Questions.

"Music of the Night" was so blah-slash-touchy-feely that it made me summarily uncomfortable and therefore we will skip over it and move right on to... Il Muto!

(Oh, but first I should say that "Notes" was rather a flop and that "Prima Donna" is unmemorable and indeed should probably be fast-forwarded, as there's a rather unsavory bit involving a crew member showing the audience what he thinks of Carlotta's behavior.)

"Il Muto," I must say, was pretty doggone funny.  Not as good as the 25th Anniversary one, of course, but then what is.  Carlotta's "Your part is silent.  Leetle toad," cracked Melody and me up into a bunch of giggling little pieces, and the little vignette of the Phantom tinkering with Carlotta's throat spray made her croaking later on a lot more believable.  (I'm not sure, however, if I don't just prefer it all to be a mystery-never-fully-explained.)

One thing I definitely think could have been left out was the scene in which Erik kills Buquet-- we totally did not need to see him being chased, terrified, through the rafters and finally strangled.  Yick.

 After the phenomenal performance Hadley Fraser and Sierra Boggess gave during 25th, pretty much any version of "All I Ask of You" will pale in comparison.  The one in the movie turned white as a sheet and threw up over the railing on the roof.  It was really gross.  So is the amount of nuzzling and caressing and what have you in this song.  I realize they were probably trying to be cute, but it came across like two high schoolers slurping at each other's faces in public.  Like I said.  Gross.  The singing wasn't half bad, and the little spin at the end was sweet (I'm a sucker for spins, as I said in my 25th anniversary review) but all in all this version of the song was flatter than a saxophonist's B.  (Yes, I used Wikipedia in order to make that joke.  Don't judge me.)

And the Phantom and his rose crouching behind that statue...  I think this was supposed to be sad, but there was too much snot mixed with tears for it to be sad.  It was, again, gross.  So was Gerard Butler's pathetic attempt at the "all that the Phantom asked of you" line.  This is where the singing really began to go downhill.

 Well, except for "Masquerade."  Because "Masquerade" is always epic no matter what.  I adore this song, and this version was really quite fun.  I loved seeing all the ballgowns and choreographed dancing-with-fans-- it felt much more authentic for the time period than the boisterious Mardi Gras of the stage version.  (Not that I don't love the stage version.)  This song always makes me feel happy and dance-ful, and this version was no exception.

I do think Raoul and Christine are kind of cute in this scene, though I don't understand why their little duet about the engagement had to be spoken.  It sounds stupid when it's spoken.  As for their costumes, Raoul's outfit is nothing spectacular, and his hair is laughable in this scene, but Christine's dress... sigh, I've been drooling over it since I first saw a picture on Ally's blog.  

I mean, seriously, LOOK at that SKIRT.  Wow.

The Phantom's entrance is anticlimactic somehow, and his Red Death costume (if indeed it's supposed to even BE the Red Death) is unimpressive.  I don't like how Raoul just runs off to desert Christine as soon as things start looking ugly (yes, I realize he was going to get his sword, but still... something could have happened to her while he was gone.  Duh).  As for Madame Giry's flashback immediately following, I like how it gives us some of the Phantom's backstory, but it seems really abrupt.  You don't even realize until she's done that she was talking to Raoul the whole time-- it sounds like she's just randomly reminiscing about Stuff, and if you didn't know the story you might be sitting there thinking, "who is this strange woman again?"

 "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"... hoooooo boy.  There are so many things wrong with this number.  Let's just a list a few.

~Christine leaving wherever-it-is at, like, five in the morning to go to who-knows-where, completely oblivious to the fact that the Phantom is driving her.  Whaaaaaaaaa?  How'd he know she was planning to go for a graveyard stroll?  Was he watching her through the mirror again? THAT'S JUST CREEPY.

~Raoul randomly waking up and seeing Christine leaving at, like, five in the morning for who-knows-where.  Naturally, he follows her at a full gallop on a white horse.  HERO SYMBOLISM.  Yeah, thanks, I don't need it shoved in my face like that. Plus, there's snow on the ground.  What is up with the open shirt?  Who wants to see that?  (Don't answer that question if your answer is going to annoy me.)

~Speaking of strange choices in clothing, what's up with Christine's dress?  Girl, do you even know that a neckline and a waistband are two different things?  What's the point of even wearing a cloak if half your upper body is still exposed to The Elements?  You should take some of the bottom of your dress and hang it around your neck where it can do some good.  Just a suggestion.

~Why, exactly, does Christine's father have the biggest monument in the cemetery?  If he were a rich and famous violinist as his crypt seems to suggest, why on earth was his daughter struggling along as a chorus girl taking free music lessons?

~WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR A RANDOM SWORD FIGHT?????  Sword fights are all well and good, but trying to pretend that Raoul is Sir Percy or Inigo Montoya is just not gonna fly, folks.

~Okay, fine, Christine getting Raoul to spare the Phantom's life is a nice touch, I guess, but did it strike no one else that his "now let it be war upon you BOTH" makes absolutely NO sense after that?  If she just saved his life, why would he suddenly be all, "thanks, but no thanks, I'M GOING TO MURDER YOUUUUUUUUUU"?

 Yeah.... I really don't like this movie.

We skipped "Point of No Return."  For obvious reasons.  Up until the moment when she pulls his mask off, of course.  That part is kind of important.

Or it would be if the disfigurement actually made him look, y'know, deformed.  Instead, as several people have put it, he looks like he got a bad sunburn or something.  It's really rather pathetic.  And not in a good way.

I'm still not sure what to think about the chandelier crash happening when it did.  On the one hand, it's really, really cool to see it actually plunge down and crash and set everything on fire.  (Not that I'm a pyromaniac or anything, but let's face it, Big Disasters in films can be fascinating.)  And it does make the sequence leading up to "Final Lair" very dramatic.  But I'm a stickler for Staying True to the Original, and as such I think I really prefer the way it happens in the stage version (at the end of Act One).

You probably know by now that I judge a POTO performance based majorly on how well they do "Final Lair." And this one is the worst ever.  From Raoul's whining and flailing around and his stringy hair flopping about (shallow complaint, I know, but it's so ugly) to Christine's sappy melodramatic "don't make me choooooooose" faces to the Phantom's prancing around with his ropes and maniacal laughter that somehow wasn't really scary at all... yeah, it was a flop.  A major, major flop.  The lines that are supposed to be sung in such a heartfelt way were either spoken or just kind of tossed out without much feeling.  And though The Kiss wasn't all that bad, all I could think of was, "She's SIXTEEN, for Pete's sake!  SIX!  TEEN!  THIS IS CREEPY AND GROSS!"

Which is why it's so difficult for me to admit that, um, I... cried at the end.


And then that rose on the gravestone?  That single red rose?  And the look on Old Raoul's face (still Patrick Wilson, by the way, under all that makeup) when he saw it and realized he wasn't the only one visiting Christine's grave?  Yup, I lost it again there, too.  And I really didn't want to.  Because I tend to cry over movies I love, y'know?  And I didn't love this movie.  At all.  I may have enjoyed the entertainment it gave me and the opportunity it presented to watch something with my Tween, but all in all it was a Miss-Dashwood-office bomb.

Yet I still cried at the end.  I'm not really sure why.  I think perhaps it had something to do with the way the story still "got" me, deep down inside, despite the lousy casting and less-than-perfect singing and ridiculously unnecessary elements that totally didn't need to be there.  It's still a tragically beautiful romance, and even a bad film can't kill that.

Don't get me started on musical-sequels, though.  Because they are another story altogether.  
...Though I may just have to watch Love Never Dies one of these days, if only to bring you your recommended daily dose of Snarky Bash.

In conclusion, I think Mary Poppins can best express what I thought of POTO 2004.

That woman is just practically perfect in every way, y'know?

And to end this review on a happy note, here's a gif of Aaron Tveit being a bunny.  Because a gif like that makes any post a good one.  Even if it's a post about the worst adaptation of POTO ever.  Because bunnies just make the world a happier place.

Celebrate Musicals Week: Jane Eyre Dream Cast

Did you guys know there's a Broadway musical based on one of my favorite novels?  
"Well, yes, Amy, you ramble on about Les Mis in, like, every other post on this blog... "

No, no, this isn't about Les Mis.  I'm talking about Jane Eyre: The Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2000 and sadly hasn't been revived since then.  It's a real pity, because it's a fantastic show (get thee to the cast album with all possible speed), but my Bestie Dearest (that's Melody) and I have come up with a solution for this void in our lives.  We've created a dream cast for a movie version of the musical (don't get your hopes up, this is all just for fun-- as far as we know there are no JE musical films in the works), and you can read all about it here on Melody's blog.

And since this post is so very short, I'll finish it off with a random gif of Ramin Karimloo doing an eyebrow thing, because it is entertaining and because Ramin Karimloo figures muchly in the post we wrote.  Go read it.

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.