Friday, 12 July 2013

Phantom of the Opera Challenge

1. Let's start from the very beginning! When and how did you become a Phantom of the Opera fan?
I think almost everyone knows of Phantom of the Opera. I think it's one of those stories that pretty much everyone is vaguely aware of even if they're not into musicals or silent films or have never read the book. I became a Phantom fan at around Christmas time 2008 when I read Gaston Leroux's novel for the first time. I absolutely loved it and then I ended up checking out the ALW musical and some of the other adaptations.

2. Which versions of Phantom of the Opera have you read/seen/heard, etc...?

I've read:
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • Phantom by Susan Kay
  • The Angel of the Opera by Sam Siciliano
I've seen:
  • The 2004 movie
  • The Andrew Lloyd Webber stage version - I've seen it live on the West End and on the 25th anniversary tour. I've also seen the 25th anniversary concert DVD.
  • The Charles Dance miniseries and the Yeston & Kopit musical bootleg
  • The cartoon version
  • The Lon Chaney film
  • The Claude Rains film
  • Love Never Dies (the Australian cast DVD)
I've heard (in addition to the original ALW musical):
  • Love Never Dies (the London cast album)
  • The Yeston and Kopit cast recording
  • The Big Finish radio play
I've played:
  • The Mystery Legends: Phantom of the Opera computer game.
3. What's your favourite written version of Phantom?
The Leroux novel, hands down. All Phantom fans should read it. It's a brilliant book and it's still my favourite Phantom version of all. When Leroux wrote Phantom of the Opera he drew inspiration from many different elements. He drew from the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, his favourite opera Faust, Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris, his love of Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe's detective fiction, and also classical mythology (the tale of Orpheus and the underworld and the tale of Eros and Psyche). Leroux put all of these different elements together and he came up with a fantastic story and one of the best anti-heroes ever in the Phantom. Christine is also a lot more likeable in this book than she's often portrayed in the adaptations. She's a stronger character and she has much more backbone. Yes, she's rather naive and immature at the beginning but that's kind of understandable given that her father died when she was still very young and that she was then brought up by a kind but batty old lady - and Christine does mature throughout the book. I love the fact that the book is written as a detective/mystery novel because I love that genre. I also like that so much of the book is told from Raoul's POV. It's always interesting and refreshing to come back to the book and read it from Raoul's POV because most of the adaptations focus more on Erik and Christine. And finally, I love Erik's final scene with the Persian. This is the most moving scene in the entire book and only one adaptation has it! *The Big Finish version*

4. What's your favourite screen adaptation of Phantom?
My favourite screen adaptation is the NBC/Charles Dance miniseries from 1990, even though it isn't as faithful an adaptation as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and is only loosely based on Leroux's book. There's a silly, added backstory about Erik's parents in this miniseries - which I don't like at all - and for some bizarre reason Raoul is swapped with his older brother Philippe! Whaaa?! This adaptation is more "inspired by" than directly based on Leroux's book and it pretty much comes up with its own story. However, despite this adaptation's flaws, I just can't help but love it! It's my favourite Phantom adaptation after the ALW musical and it has such brilliant aspects to it. It still remains the only Phantom adaptation to be filmed on location in Paris and at the opera house itself. It's got great cinematography and great music. You actually get to hear quite a bit of Faust in it. This miniseries is one of the few non-musical adaptations where the Phantom actually sings. The Phantom's name is mentioned in this miniseries (Erik). It has a blonde Christine. It's got the best chandelier fall I've ever seen in a Phantom adaptation. It has my favourite Carlotta. It's funny, entertaining and moving. The actors are all really good. Its story isn't as great as the story in the Leroux novel but it's story is still a very good one. You can watch the whole miniseries on YouTube with this being the first part.

5. What's your favourite stage version of Phantom?
Although I'm very fond of the Yeston and Kopit musical it's got to be the Andrew Lloyd Webber version. It's my favourite adaptation of the book and my favourite musical of all time (after Les Miserables of course!) I must admit I do think the ALW stage version has a couple of minor faults. I find the prologue scene with Old Raoul pretty boring and I don't like that the musical makes a few hints that the Phantom might have genuine supernatural powers. But leaving these little niggles aside the ALW musical is wonderful! No matter how fashionable it's become to mock Andrew Lloyd Webber these days, the music that he wrote for The Phantom of the Opera is absolutely beautiful. The musical isn't the most accurate adaptation of Leroux's book but it's much more faithful than it's usually given credit for. The show is a visual feast for the eyes and it has stunning costumes and sets. And because it's a stage adaptation it gets reinvented all the time because of different actors adding their own interpretations. No two performances of Phantom of the Opera are exactly the same. I love this musical so, so much. 

6. Who is your favourite character in Phantom?
I hate to go for the boring and predictable answer but it's got to be Erik. Quite simply he's one of the greatest anti-heroes ever written. Erik is arrogant. He's selfish. He's violent. He's mentally unstable. He's even a murderer and kills at least two people. However it's amazing how Leroux managed to make Erik so sympathetic and even likeable despite all of these flaws. It's not as if anyone ever taught Erik any differently and his love and devotion to Christine is so touching. I also love Erik for his wry and sarcastic sense of humour. 
7. What are your favourite Phantom songs?
From the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical: Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, Wandering Child, Phantom of the Opera, the Overture and Music of the Night. This is a rough top five though and it's liable to change!
From the Yeston and Kopit musical: You Are Music and Home The Yeston and Kopit musical technically came before ALW's musical but it wasn't released in time. When the ALW musical became a big hit, the Y&K musical's financial backers backed out. In an attempt to cut their losses Y&K rewrote their musical as a TV miniseries and took out all the songs (see the Charles Dance version). Eventually they were able to bring out their musical but it's fairly obscure.
From the Tom Alonso version: The Love You Never Had. This is a song from a very obscure Phantom musical and its lyrics are gorgeous.
From Love Never DiesTil I Hear You Sing and Beauty Underneath.

8. What are your least favourite Phantom songs?
I HATE the No One Would Listen song from the 2004 movie! OK they didn't put in the actual movie in the end but it's still an awful song! 

9. What is your favourite costume from the ALW musical?
I love Christine's Think of Me costume from the ALW stage version! I love the combination of the red, gold and green. I also love Christine's wedding dress from the Final Lair scene.

10. Who are your favourite ALW Phantoms?
Ramin Karimloo, Earl Carpenter, John Owen Jones, Michael Crawford and Hugh Panaro.

11. Who are your favourite ALW Christines?
Sierra Boggess, Gina Beck, Katie Hall and Rebecca Caine. I feel I have to give an explanation for not mentioning Sarah Brightman. Well, I won't deny that Sarah Brightman is a great singer but I'm just not a fan of her Christine. Her voice is far too operatic-sounding for my liking and she sounds like a Carlotta to me. I really don't like what I've seen of her acting either.

12. Who are your favourite ALW Raouls?
Hadley Fraser, Steve Barton, Michael Ball, Killian Donnelly and Simon Bailey. Patrick Wilson's Raoul was also one of the few good things about the 2004 movie. 

13. What is your opinion of the 2004 movie?
I've already reviewed this film on my blog so I won't go into too much depth. Overall, this film is a very poor adaptation of the stage musical and Joel Schumacher made some really poor decisions. Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler are both completely miscast as Christine and the Phantom but they're miscast in different ways. Rossum has a pretty voice and she looks the part of Musical Christine but her acting is lifeless, wooden and bland. Gerard Butler's acting is decent but his singing, oh his singing! How on earth could Christine think the Phantom was the Angel of Music?! The Phantom's role isn't one that could be played by a competent singer, someone who's never professionally before but who could be good once they've been trained up a bit.  The Phantom of the Opera is one of the biggest musical theatre roles of all time and it requires a truly great singer! So why was Butler cast as the Phantom then? Was it because he was a big-name actor? No. Butler's a big-name now but back in 2004 virtually no-one had heard of him. No, it's very obvious that Butler was only cast because of his looks! Talk about Missing the Bloody Point! I can understand them wanting the Phantom to be sexy but it's the Phantom's voice and passion that's supposed to be sexy! His appearance is supposed to be repulsive! His face is supposed to be so deformed and distorted that it's barely a face! This brings me to the Phantom's "deformity" in this film, which is ridiculous. It makes all the lyrics that mention how hideous the Phantom's face is look stupid. We're supposed to believe that he was put on display at a freak show when it looks like his face has only got mild sunburn or a rash?! And I hate The Point of No Return scene. The Phantom makes no attempt to disguise himself and Christine obviously realises that he's singing with her right from the start. She even seems happy about it (poor Raoul). These are my biggest issues with this film.

14. What is your opinion of Love Never Dies?
I've talked about Love Never Dies before on this blog. I can't deny that the musical has some good points. The sets are gorgeous and amazing. Most of the music is pretty good and I can't help but love the Till I Hear You Sing and Beauty Underneath songs. I love some of the performers who have been in the musical: Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, Tam Mutu, David Thaxton and Anna O'Byrne. But Love Never Dies makes an absolute mockery of the original musical's beautiful, heart-wrenching ending and poor Gaston Leroux must be turning in his grave. Everyone acts completely out of character in this musical, especially Raoul and Meg. Raoul is turned into an abusive, alcoholic gambler just so we won't feel sorry for him when it turns out that Christine slept with the Phantom on the night before their wedding. Meg is now obsessed with the Phantom and is an attention-seeking stripper. Whatever happened to Meg's promising ballet career?! There's barely any plot or drama in the musical and it really makes me laugh that the Phantom seem to think that Gustave is his son simply because Gustave is musical. Er, couldn't that be because Gustave's grandfather was a famous violinist and his mother an opera singer?! As a sequel to Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies is a complete failure and it seems ALW has no understanding of the original musical despite writing it. The ending to the original musical is perfect: the Phantom gives Christine up, despite being in love with her, so she can live happily ever after with Raoul. It's not a cliffhanger. It doesn't require a sequel that has the Phantom ignoring what happened in the Final Lair scene and still ruthlessly pursuing Christine anyway. I feel that LND was written to satisfy the desires of the E/C shippers.

15. What is your opinion of the 25th anniversary concert?
I absolutely love it! Again, I've already reviwed this concert so I won't go into too much depth. Basically, this concert is a far better introduction to the musical than the 2004 movie! It's almost fully-staged and there are actual sets despite it being a concert. It's also full of emotion and the cast is fantastic. Ramin Karimloo is fantastic. Sierra Boggess is fantastic. Hadley Fraser is fantastic. Yes, I love Hadley Fraser's Raoul! I completely disagree with the Hadley Fraser Raoul haters who say that he was influenced by Love Never Dies' Raoul. I didn't see any of LND Raoul in him and his Raoul is never silly or foppish either. Fraser's Raoul is very strong and I actually think that his Raoul is one of the most Leroux-ish I've ever seen, in that he's a little bit brusque and is so desperate to protect Christine that it's admirable and a character flaw at the same time. I think that Fraser managed a brilliant combination of Leroux's Raoul and ALW'S Raoul. Also his All I Ask of You with Sierra Boggess is adorable, he's a great singer, and I love that his Raoul actually tries to confront the Phantom after almost being murdered by him. I also have much love for Barry James and Gareth Snook's managers who crack me up. The only thing that bothers me about the 25th anniversary concert is that some of the technical stuff is a bit ropey: some of the projections look a bit silly and the chandelier doesn't come down. But that's another very small niggle. The 25th anniversary concert is awesome! 

16. Do you like or dislike Raoul?
Like! Raoul gets a terrible rap! He's kind, handsome and dashing and he appreciates Christine's talent and truly loves her. They were childhood sweethearts! Yes he isn't as interesting and sympathetic as Erik but he's still far better husband material. And yes he doesn't believe Christine when she tells him about the Angel of Music but then most men wouldn't! The overwhelming majority of men would think that their girlfriend had completely lost her mind!

17. Do you read or write Phantom fanfiction?
No because most of the Phantom fanfiction that I've seen ships Erik with Christine or Meg and I have no interest in reading these kinds of stories.

18. Should Christine have stayed with the Phantom? Would you?
No and no! Erik has far too many mental health issues to make a good husband! As much as I feel sorry for Erik, Christine definitely made the right choice. It really bothers me when fans attack Christine for being "shallow" for rejecting him. Erik lied to Christine and manipulated her. He killed people. In the book he sleeps in a coffin and talks about himself in the third person. That's hardly sane is it?! Also, Christine met and loved Raoul before she even met Erik. The Phantom's letting Christine go at the end is a beautiful, unselfish gesture but it still doesn't make up for everything that he did or mean that Christine should now stay with him. I wouldn't have stayed with the Phantom but then again I can't sing so he wouldn't have wanted me anyway.

19. Which Phantom adaptation has the best deformity? 
The deformity from the classic silent film. Even after 80 years, Lon Chaney's self-designed make-up has never been improved upon. This is quite sad actually given that we have better make-up now and even CGI. 

20. Is there anyone who hasn't been in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera that you'd like to be in it?
Yes! I think Hadley Fraser would make for an awesome baritone Phantom. OK, so he was in the 25th anniversary concert but he's never been in the actual stage-show at Her Majesty's Theatre so I'm putting him in my list! I think Aaron Tveit should play the Phantom. I think he's still a bit too young for the role now but just give him five more years or so and he'll be perfect! Norm Lewis wants to be the first black actor to play the Phantom and I think they should let him do it. If he can play Javert then I don't see any reason why he can't play the Phantom. Tam Mutu has only played the Phantom in Love Never Dies and I think he deserves to play the Phantom in the original and vastly superior musical. I think Alfie Boe could be an intriguing choice to play the Phantom with his operatic background and he has already covered Music of the Night. He would really need to up his game when it comes to the acting though. I really want Kristin Chenoweth to play Carlotta. She's a terrific comedy actress and a fantastic soprano so she'd make for an awesome Carlotta! *Trivia: Chenoweth has actually been in Phantom before. She played Christine in the Yeston and Kopit musical* I'd really like Laura Osnes to play Christine. I've been listening to the Cinderella musical recently and she has a beautiful soprano. And finally, I will always mourn the fact that Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman never got to play Christine and the Phantom in the 2004 movie. Anne Hathaway was actually ALW's first choice to play Christine and she really wanted the role. But sadly she was forced to pull out of the project because it clashed with filming The Princess Diaries 2. Hugh Jackman was interested in playing the Phantom but because he was filming Van Helsing he never got the chance to audition for the role. I don't think the 2004 movie would have been a great movie even with these two in it but it would have been far more enjoyable!

21. Are there any Phantom adaptations that you'd like to be made?

  • Yes, there are three. Firstly I really want the BBC to do a Leroux-faithful miniseries (perhaps it could be partly based on the Big Finish radio drama?) There are plenty of Phantom films out there but none of them are very Leroux-accurate and it's been over 20 years since the story was adapted for television. Also, the BBC usually do period dramas extremely well I'd want this miniseries to be at least 3-4 hours long, I'd want it to filmed on location in Paris, and I'd want a blonde Christine. I'd also want Philippe, Madame Valerius, the Persian, Cesar the horse and the stable manager, the Phantom's house lair, the grasshopper and the scorpion, the dynamite barrels... please make this happen, BBC!
  • Secondly, I'd really like a remake of the 2004 movie in about 10 years time. I'm not as desperate for this now that I can watch the 25th anniversary concert whenever I want but the stage version still deserves a better screen adaptation, one that fixes all of the 2004 movie's flaws. 
  • Thirdly, I'd quite like Disney to do an animated film adaptation of Phantom. Yes, I know what you're thinking but hear me out! Disney have already tackled two other films with similar themes to Phantom Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And these films are brilliant! And if Disney made Phantom they'd be loads of Phantom merchandise that we could get our hands on!

22. What would your dream cast be for a Leroux or Kay-based film?
OK, I've already mentioned that I'd like the BBC to do a Leroux-faithful miniseries. I don't have a full cast in mind but I know I'd love Ramin Karimloo to play the Persian. I know he hasn't got much screen acting experience but Samantha Barks didn't have any screen acting experience before the Les Mis film and she was still fantastic in that. I definitely think Karimloo is a good enough actor to do screen acting and he's actually Iranian by birth - perfect! My top choices to play Erik are Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch. They would be amazing Phantoms. I also think that Dan Stevens could be a brilliant choice to play Raoul. 

23. What is your favourite thing about Phantom of the Opera?
Well, I love Erik and he's a fascinating character. And I love the story. I love its gothic atmosphere and that it contains mystery and horror and romance. And I love that music plays such a vital role in the story.

24. What has been your experience of "phandom"?
It's been pretty positive. All of the fans that I've actually spoken to online have been really nice. I'm glad to be a part of it. I wish the phandom wasn't so ALW focused though. I wish the book and the other adaptations would get more recognition. And I do wish that there weren't so many Gerik lovers out there who don't understand that the Phantom isn't supposed to be hot.

24. If you could play anyone in Phantom who would it be?

24. And finally, can you recommend any Phantom of the Opera YouTube videos?

Yes, this video because it's the Phantom vs Raoul battle you always wanted to see. You just didn't know you wanted to!

I also love this video because it's a scarily accurate and hilarious fan video. If you ever wanted to show someone what being a Phantom fan is actually like then this video would be the perfect way to show them.

I also love the Phantom Reviewer. He's basically the reason why I've watched so many Phantom adaptations. When I first started watching his videos the only Phantom adaptation I'd seen was the ALW version but through him I found out about lots of others. His reviews are extremely insightful and laugh-out-loud hilarious. I love how sarcastic he is! My favourite reviews of his are his Dario Argento review, his Phantom of Manhattan review, his Angel of Music, his David Staller and his David Copperfield review. They're hysterical. If you want to watch his stuff then type "Phantom Reviews" into YouTube. He also has a bliptv account and his own website on proboards. You can just google it and it will all come up. Annie Meyer's website is a goldmine for Phantom information as well. 

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