Saturday, 22 October 2011

Phantom (Yeston and Kopit version)

After my recent Love Never Dies rant I thought I'd do a more positive Phantomy review! This time I'm reviewing the Yeston and Kopit musical, its full title being Phantom: the American Musical Sensation. Erm, why? Why an American Musical? It isn't even set in America! The Andrew Lloyd Webber version isn't called Phantom of the Opera: an English Musical because Andrew Lloyd Webber is English. Les Mis isn't called Les Miserables: a French Musical because Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil are French. So, yeah, I don't know why they did that : S

The Y&K musical was written at around the same time as the ALW version but it wasn't released in time. As soon as the ALW version became a smash-hit the investors of the Y&K version got cold feet and withdrew so the project got cancelled. In an attempt to cut their losses Yeston and Kopit then took all of the songs out of their show and re-wrote it as a television miniseries, which became the much-loved Charles Dance version. They then earned enough money through that to eventually bring out their musical a few years later but it never made it to Broadway.

 I've already reviewed the Charles Dance version if anyone would like to check my review out and find out more about it. If you have already seen the miniseries though then you'll already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this musical. It has pretty much the same plot as the miniseries - with Erik being raised beneath the opera manager by Gerard Carriere, his father and the former manager of the opera house. As a result this show doesn't bear all that much resemblance to Gaston Leroux's novel or the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which takes a few liberties with the book but sticks to its main plot-points and is a mostly faithful adaptation. The Y&K musical is more light-hearted than Leroux's novel and the ALW musical. It also leaves out the Angel of Music and any mentions of Christine's father.

The dialogue in the musical is almost word-for-word the same as the Charles Dance version. Having said that, every now and again there are some interesting differences between the Charles Dance version and this musical. To list some of these differences...
  • They don't use any music from the opera Faust in this musical, instead they use something called The Faerie Queen. Or is it The Fairy Queen?
  • The chandelier crash happens in both the Charles Dance version and this musical but it's far more exciting and dramatic in the Dance version.
  • In the Charles Dance version there was a flashback about Erik's parents and his birth. In this musical the subplot about Erik's parents and birth is told through a ballet sequence.
  • In the Charles Dance version there was a scene where Erik took Christine for a picnic in his lair. He takes her to a room that he's filled with trees and stuffed animals. This scene is very weird and bizarre : S The musical has this scene as well but, instead of Erik planting trees and putting in stuffed animals, he's simply painted the walls to look like a forest glade. This is a lot more believable than the forest glade in the Charles Dance version.
  • At the end of the picnic scene in the Charles Dance version, Erik took off his mask (after much pleading and begging from Christine) only for Christine to faint when she saw Erik's face. When Erik takes off his mask in the musical, Christine runs away and is clearly trying not to vomit! Poor Erik!
  • My favourite change from the Charles Dance version though is the scene in which Erik gets his revenge on Carlotta for giving Christine that drink which ruined her debut. In the Charles Dance version Erik gets his revenge on her by tipping a box of rats on her. But in this version he does something much nastier! He electrocutes her! Yep, he fries her vocal chords! : D
There's no official DVD recording of this musical apart from a weird Japanese cross-dressing version which I haven't seen and, to be honest, don't really want to see. Thankfully though I have this musical's cast recording and I've seen a bootleg of the show on YouTube. A very kind YouTube user called "PhantomoftheOperaOG" has uploaded this musical on the site. You just need to search for Yeston/Kopit "Phantom". I'd definitely recommend checking it out because it's very hard to get a hold of this musical otherwise.

I don't think the songs in this musical are as good as the songs in the ALW musical but they're very well-written none the less. My favourite song in the show by far is You Are Music. It's an absolutely beautiful song and has some really heartfelt and touching lyrics: "You are music, beautiful music, and you are light to me." You can hear the song below (the images are from the 2004 movie though).

Other great songs in the musical are Where in the World, Home and My Mother Bore Me (the latter is based on the William Blake poem The Little Black Boy). Melodie de Paris is also a pretty tune. You Are My Own, the song where Carriere reveals that he's Erik's father, I actually quite like too. I must admit that I really didn't like the subplot about Erik's birth and father in the Charles Dance version, but since you get a really good and touching song out of it in this version I'm more forgiving. The overture for this musical rips off the overture from Sweeney Todd though as you can hear below:

One or two of the songs in this musical are a bit meh too and have poor lyrics. Take these lyrics for example:

Phantom, the opera's been invaded by a Phantom
Phantom, the opera's been invaded by a Phantom (a Phantom)
the opera's been invaded by a ghooo-ooo-st
By a ghost! By a ghost! By a ghost! By a ghost!

Oh, come on! Couldn't they have come up with better lyrics than that?! I bet it took them a really long time to come up with those lyrics! *sarcasm alert * There's also a song that rhymes "leading role" with "toilet bowl". Eew!

The Phantom in this musical is played by Richard White. Now if you've seen the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast then it's likely that his voice will sound very familiar to you. For good reason. Richard White played Gaston in that film. He's a magnificent baritone and makes for a surprisingly excellent Phantom. I love his voice! His interpretation of the character is quite different to Charles Dance's take on the character too. His Phantom is edgier, more menacing and more mentally unstable. He's a lot more badass too. I would have loved to have seen him perform as the Phantom live. Unfortunately I'm not so keen on either Glory Crampton (who plays Christine on the official cast recording) or Lauren Hathaway (who plays Christine on the bootleg). Both of their voices sound rather shrill. One of my very favourite Broadway singers though is the awesome Kristin Chenoweth. She played Christine Daae in this musical early on in her career and you can hear her below:

Even on this poor quality recording you can still hear how good her voice is!

And as for the character of Philippe in this musical, well, if you think he's annoying in the Charles Dance version then you should be warned that he's a million times worse in this! I didn't actually mind Philippe in the Charles Dance version but I could have given him a good slap in this! He's smarmy and arrogant and he uses silly big words! Like when he says to Christine "You made the night effervescent... it was beyond incandescent". I mean, come on! What self-respecting bloke would use these words when trying to pull someone?! Oh, you're ever so effervescent!

On the whole though I think this musical is really good and I can't help but love it. Yes, some of the plot changes from the book are silly and nonsensical (like the Charles Dance version) and the songs aren't as good as the ones that ALW wrote in his musical. But most of the songs are very good, Richard White is a great singer, and it does make for an interesting (and even refreshing) alternative to the ALW version. You actually get to see Erik and Christine meet and it's really nice that we actually get to hear Erik giving Christine a singing lesson in this show. There's also a lot more dialogue in this musical than in the ALW version (which is almost entirely sung-through) and it feels like a play at times. My feelings on the Charles Dance and the Y&K musical are pretty much the same: despite their many, many, flaws I really do love them both.

Rating: 4.5/5

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