Saturday, February 21, 2009

Play review: Phantom of the Opera,

The Phantom of the Opera is a decent play filled with pretty good songs. It's a little cheesy and 80s, especially the original London Cast recording with all the electric guitars, but I feel it holds up pretty well. But it's an interesting story in that it tackles a number of important themes, namely:

1. The struggle between the lower class in France versus the upper crust
2. The capacity for music to bind different people together
3. The superiority of attractive people.

Because at its heart, the entire point of The Phantom of the Opera is, when confronted with a romantic choice between a nerdy guy and an attractive and wealthy guy, go with the attractive guy.

In the 1800s in the Paris opera house, lots of plays are being presented. The star is the primadonna 'Carlotta,' who sings with a lot of trills and is a super pain to everyone around her because she's super famous despite being repellant.

Meanwhile, chorus girl Christine Daie (sp?) is receiving vocal lessons from a disembodied voice who turns out to be the Phantom of the Opera. Also there is Raoul, dashing adventurer with adventure hair. He likes Christine too, and apparently they were childhood friends? I think? There's a song.

Anyway, the Phantom makes his move one day and brings Christine down to his groovy sewer lair while singing about himself and how cool he is. Christine's kind of in a trance but she wakes up eventually and is grossed out by the Phantom when she unmasks him and finds out he has waffle iron face apparently. But he has a good voice (except in the movie version when he's Gerrard Butler) and treats her like a goddess, so she doesn't write him off just yet.

The Phantom decides he needs to step it up, wooing-wise, and he starts to make contact with the opera staff, demanding that Christine be given lead roles in plays and Carlotta be fired and then killed. This is stupid to opera house owners Firmin and Andre, who are the foppish 'comic relief.' They have a few really unnecessary songs, the worst of which is 'Prima Donna' which they sing to Carlotta about how great she is. It doesn't move the plot forward-it just takes up time.

Meanwhile, Raoul takes Christine cruising in his buggy and probably is using leave-in conditioner, so she falls in love with him and accepts his marriage proposal. However, she knows this will really tick the Phantom off, who has shown that he's obsessed with her to the point of overdoing it a bit, so she makes it secret. "Why is it secret?" says Raoul. "I'm Raoul, after all. I mean, look at me."

The Phantom crashes a big party at the opera house while dressed as a skeleton, and he announces he's written kind of a crappy play called "Don Juan Triumphant" or something. Christine is the lead role and they'd better put it on or else. Is this when he cuts the chandelier down? I think it is. He also might have killed a random guy with his 'punjab lasso.' But it's all for drama chick Christine. Would you do any different?

So Firmin and Andre and Raoul decide to do the play but only as a trap so they can capture and kill the Phantom. Why Raoul doesn't use his considerable wealth to just take Christine and move to Canada, I'm not sure. But so they put on the play and the Phantom arrives in it as Don Juan, and it turns out he's the one setting the trap for her. He takes her back down to his sewer apartment again while they sing the very good 'Past the Point of No Return,' which is the best song in the play.

Raoul and Christine's chorus girl friend, who in the movie by this point is wearing black leather adventure pants, head down to find her. Why Raoul wouldn't just give up on drama chick Christine, who clearly has way too much baggage, and just focus on the hot blonde chorus girl friend who seems like a very nice girl, is anyone's guess. But they get there and the Phantom puts a noose on Raoul. But Christine begs for his life so the Phantom says 'fine, screw it' and he disappears on his chair and leaves behind his mask and/or a rose for Christine.

The Phantom liked Christine for her voice and her talent and personality long before he ever met her face-to-face. Meanwhile, Raoul liked her based on her being a skimpily dressed French chorus girl. Life with shsllow Raoul will undoubtably be really boring and stupid, whereas life with the Phantom would have been a non-stop adventure of living in cool caves with candles and singing cool songs like "Point of No Return." Looks triumph over personality, and the hot guy comes out the winner. Yay.


Hillary said...

The original 30s silent movie has a horrible ending. The mob essentially chases the Phantom out of the sewers and kill him. It's hideous.

But just as we discussed "Les Mis," the moral of every story is that the hot guy/girl, always wins. It doesn't matter how funny, kind, or flattering you are to the one you are pursuing, or how many cool songs you write for them, the upper class, wealthy one always wins.

Personally, I will take the funny guy over the jock or pretty boy everyday.

Hillary said...

The only time this scenario doesn't ring true is in the "Uptiwn Girl" video. At the end of the day, Christie Brinkley goes home with Billy Joel, a downtown man.