(Copyright © 2007 The Really Useful Group Limited.)
(What is Content Advisory?)
There are 4 instances of D*** and its variations as swearing (and several more meant literally); 2 instances of H*** as swearing (and several more meant literally); and— while nothing is particularly shown— there is also some relationally immoral behavior in 2 ‘plays’ the characters ‘present’.
First, a word of warning to those who might be thinking of reading the novel or seeing the movie first, to ‘know what to expect’… In truth, the novel and play versions are so different, we would really recommend that you refrain from reading the novel at all, at least until after seeing the play. As for the movie version, the filmmakers mixed the book and play a little and there isn’t so much mystique, so we would still recommend seeing the play first.
Now, you may be wondering why the play is the best version; after all, the three mediums should be quite similar, in story at least. Unfortunately, however, they’re not. So, before we continue with our review of the play itself, we’d like to explain the difference by giving you a personal story from one of our reviewers:
“My first introduction to The Phantom Of The Opera was the play, and I’m really glad it was. I was pretty young, probably only 9 or 10 years old, so of course a few of the subtleties went over my head at the time. But even with that, and even with the dark elements, I loved it! It made such an amazing impression on me.
For Christmas that year I received the original cast soundtrack, and through that I was able to ‘see’ it over and over again. Well, fast-forward to the summer of 2004— as, now a young adult, I was getting ready to go see the play once again. I was at a bookstore and saw— *gasp!*— The Phantom Of The Opera novel! Wow, I thought. This should be really good; I love the play, and the play was based on it. So I got the book and read it, and afterwards— no joke— I said, ‘Ugh! It’s an old-school-horror novel!’ I mean, I really disliked it.
You see, in the play, you could sympathize with the Phantom. He was mysterious, but human, with human emotions. Sure, those emotions were way out of whack… and sure, he gets rid of a few guys… but he still had his good side. He even had a relationship of quasi-love with Christine. Contrast that with the book, where he’s this crazed, typical-old-horror-flick maniacal freak, who basically just keeps on trying to kill Raoul in every weird way he can think of.
I was really shocked at the difference between the two. Thank goodness I saw the awesome play first!”
We agree. In fact, we have to commend Charles Hart, Richard Stilgoe, and Andrew Lloyd Webber because they took a pretty awful novel and somehow magically morphed it into a sweeping, entrancing, excellent play.
(Copyright © 2007 The Really Useful Group Limited.)
The play’s story (at least the bulk of it, which is actually a long flashback after the year-1911 prologue) takes place in 1881, and lets you in on the lives of the actors, actresses, managers, and other staff of the Paris Opéra House theater. The previous manager of this theater had recently left, under some rather mysterious circumstances, and two inexperienced men named André and Firmin— seeing ‘a great opportunity’ and lots of money to be made— eagerly seized the position jointly. All of the actors, actresses, and staff know of the Opera Ghost that supposedly haunts their theater, but both the Prima Donna and the new managers pay little attention, considering the ‘legend’ a mere product of foolish imaginations. As you are introduced to the other main characters, however, you begin to see that the Opera Ghost is not just mere fantasy… and as an old childhood friend of Christine’s returns from her past, things will get ever more complicated and mysterious.
An idea that was a brilliant addition to The Phantom… by its creators was the involvement of the crowd (and orchestra pit). If you think about it, it’s a real play in a real theater— about people who do plays in a theater! So, they have a unique opportunity to use the crowd as the audience for not only the real play, but also for the plays within the story itself.
For example, at a certain point in The Phantom Of The Opera, the managers try to catch the Phantom. They bring ‘police’ there to make sure the doors are secure— so those ‘police’ in the story then fan out down the real aisles and slam the real exit doors to ‘secure’ them. Then, they have another ‘policeman’ with a (stage) gun down in the real orchestra pit, just where he’s supposed to be in the story, etc.
And then, of course, there’s also the famous giant chandelier that hangs directly above the real crowd the entire time (…well, most of the time, anyway )— just as it does in the story. There are also several great illusions, including one where a certain character completely and mysteriously disappears.
And apart from the clever use of those elements, of course, there is the power of the story itself: The darkness, the danger, the mystery, the absolutely stunning songs, the romance, the sprinkling of humor (not a lot, but just enough), and pure, raw emotion. You experience and explore the mixture of darkness and beauty that is present in human life— the extremes of murder and lust on the one hand vs. true love, self-sacrifice, and compassion on the other.
In short, The Phantom Of The Opera is one of the best plays we’ve seen, and it’s recommended.