BluRay Review: The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall

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Musicals are a love-it or hate-it affair.  I really don’t know too many folks who are just “in the middle” with musicals. I, for one, totally enjoy a good musical, and was totally pumped when I learned that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage leviathan The Phantom of the Opera would be getting a 25th Anniversary Concert extravaganza, performed and filmed live at the Royal Albert Hall.  Not only does this offer a chance for the COMPLETE libretto to be performed, but the whole affair was staged with sets, costumes, and a complete chorus – this is not a concert experience, but a comprehensive, staged performance.  The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall is the ultimate Phantom viewing experience.

 

Those familiar with Lloyd Webber’s theatrical titan may be skeptical at first; Phantom live is a HUGE experience, with multiple set pieces, detailed production design that adds volume to the show, and an end-of-act set piece which features the chandelier crashing to the stage.  Would these ingredients make their way to the Royal Albert Hall, a venue with little wing-space for actors and sets, or would the whole experience be abbreviated and rushed, much like the awkward film adaptation by Joel Schumacher?

 

Rest assured, Phantom fans. Most of the spectacle of The Phantom of the Opera remains intact, greatly assisted by a huge LCD screen on the back of the stage. This screen allows for the expansion of the set by featuring images that create a sense of depth and space that simply wouldn’t be possible – the Royal Albert Hall is big, but the amount of room needed for the original Phantom sets trumps the available stage area.  The chandelier crash, unfortunately, is the only aspect of this transition that falters; instead of crashing down to the stage floor, it sparks and seems to explode, but nothing more.  This is a tiny loss, however, compared to the fact that the whole stage experience of Phantom is preserved for audiences to come on DVD and BluRay.

 

The performances of this version of Phantom are also among the high-points of this package.  As the titular menace, Ramin Karimloo brings the tortured villainy of the Phantom to life, adding just as much empathetic sadness to the performance as sadism.  This is how you cast the musical, foks – you don’t go for a pretty boy who can’t hit the high-notes (again, I’m looking at you, Joel Schumacher).  Karimloo, like much of this Phantom cast, originated the role of the Phantom in the show’s sequel, Love Never Dies (also coming to DVD and BluRay in a similar release), but is playing the role in THIS show for the first time. As the Phantom’s obsession, Christine, Sierra Boggess delivers a stunning vocal performance, although some of her pronunciation (especially during the more “talky” songs) leads me to think that English may not be her first language; however, this isn’t distracting, and her singing prowess more than makes up for the odd inflections.  Hadley Fraser, as Raoul, makes the most of a fairly thankless role (Raoul will NEVER be as interesting as the Phantom) – his performance is probably the most well-rounded of the cast. Filling out the cast are Barry James and Gareth Snook as theatre-owners Firmin and Andre, and Wendy Ferguson as ousted soprano Carlotta.  These three performers nearly steal the show from the leads, and bring life into some of the lighter numbers of the show.

 

phantomblurayThe BluRay presentation is absolutely amazing. I’m not going to get into the technical issues very much, but I will say that this is one of the most vibrantly stunning visual presentations of a live theatrical performance that I’ve ever seen. While you could argue that the presentation is almost TOO GOOD (imperfections in the Phantom’s amazingly grotesque make-up can be seen, some of the scenery trickery is apparent, and microphones are visible EVERYWHERE), the image quality is breathtaking. This is live theatre, folks, and “seeing the seams” in the show is part of the fun. Extras on the BluRay are limited to a brief-but-enjoyable behind the scenes featurette and a preview for the upcoming sequel, Love Never Dies.

 

For musical fans, and fans of The Phantom of the Opera, this is a no-brainer. Lloyd Webber’s musical, while relying a bit heavily on the works of Puccini and favoring the romance over the horror, is still an amazing work of musical theatre; it’s a great pairing of a gothic-horror romance with a sweeping score and brilliant visuals.  For audiences who can’t get to the theatre, or want to experience the magic and the mystery over and over again, The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall is a highly recommended addition to your home video vaults.

 

Rating: 5/5 ★★★★★ 

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About Nathan_E

Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.

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