To raise funds for artists affected by the bug that we all wish would become extinct, Youtube channel The Shows Must Go On was created “bringing you showtunes, backstage access and full performances from some of the best loved musicals in history!” A new musical every Friday for free.
It began two weeks ago with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat followed by Jesus Christ Superstar. Today, April 17 (April 18 in Asia), it’s The Phantom of the Opera. The videos won’t stay on Youtube forever. The Phantom of the Opera is, due to rights restrictions, available for 24 hours in the UK and 48 hours in all other countries.
My daughter, Alex, told me that the version of The Phantom of the Opera currently streaming on Youtube is the same version that was shown in movie houses — the 25th anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Not the film adaptation with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum but a stage performance that was filmed.
Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical first opened in London’s West End in 1986. It tells the story of the rise to fame of Christine Daaé, a chorus girl and orphan of a renowned violinist. Mentored by the masked Phantom of the Opera who appears to her through a mirror, Christine is the the object of his passion and obsession.
The seemingly otherworldly relationship between the Phantom and Christine is shattered with the arrival of Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, the Opera’s new patron and Christine’s childhood friend. Jealousy, betrayal and tragedy follow.
What’s streaming on Youtube is not a full production of The Phantom of the Opera. Alex and I watched The Phantom of the Opera on stage several years ago, and it’s hard not to feel a bit underwhelmed with what I just finished watching on Youtube.
See, Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall, not a theater, unable to accommodate the size of the original production, so there were plenty of modifications. Too much reliance on LED backgrounds. The stage has no substantial moving parts. No, Raoul does not dive into any water when he goes to rescue Christine. The boat scene with the floating candelabra is there albeit set in a smaller lake.
But even with those limitations, The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall is a good watch. More than merely good, actually — once you get past the simplicity of the set and the visible microphones on the faces of the actors.
Sierra Boggess as Christine is a wonder to behold. What a fantastic actress! Haunted, haunting, innocent, sensual and outright seductive — she is all of that and more. She gives so much emotional depth to Christine. Watch her eyes, especially. In the final scene when she returns the Phantom’s ring, he sings, “Christine, I love you,” and she cries… Oh, my goodness, the expression on her face will break your heart.
If you’re a fan of musical theater, bookmark The Shows Must Go On and enjoy!