Really....I'm going to do these posts, I swear. Let me be a little heretical for a moment. I hate Andrew Lloyd Webber. I think his shows are formulaic at best, and offer very little variety in story lines......most of his shows have been stolen from books and adapted to the stage only moderately well. But (and this is a big but) he is a musical theatre titan. So if you're going to build a broadway music collection, you've got to include him (twice to be exact).
Phantom of the Opera, referred to as Phantom by the hordes of Christine obsessed teenage girls, is the gateway drug of choice for musical theatre buffs. My question is and always has been, why this particular musical? The music's not that great, with the exception of a few great arias/ensemble pieces, it's rather mediocre. Perhaps it's the story? Based on the Leroux novel by the same name, the story follows Christine's journey from choir girl to opera diva under the tutelage of the Phantom of the Opera. We also get a love story gone wrong with a severely wussy Raoul (come on dude......in the first act we hear about the invisible lasso.....can you not "keep your hand at the level of your eyes?"). Its appeal, more than likely, is rooted in the transformation of Christine into the operatic diva we see at the end of the aria "Think of Me." When performed correctly, it's a beautiful piece of theatre. Unfortunately, I've heard way too many altos in denial try to hit that Bb at the end of the cadenza......not a pretty sound. In my opinion, Phantom's virtues don't actually lie in the musical score (although there was a time when I could sing every word to said score), but rather in its staging, costuming, and effects. The sets to this thing are insanely elaborate, as are the lighting effects (specifically during the boat scenes going to the Phantom's lair). The costumes are among the best I've ever seen, even years after the production's 1988 opening on Broadway (opened first in '86 in London). It is currently the longest-running Broadway musical of all time (thank God something beat Cats, even if it was an ALW musical).
All that being said, the recording you want for this particular one is from the original '86 London Cast. Die hard fans will devoutly tell you that there is no other Phantom but Michael Crawford and no other Christine except Sarah Brightman. Michael Crawford is truly amazing, but Sarah Bright seriously gets on my nerves. Some really nice ensemble works (my favorite being Notes into Prima Donna) and the ever present Think of Me and All I ask of You. Just a taste: one of the many virtues of youtube is the ability to see Tony Performances from way back when.
Phantom of the Opera's Tony Performance.
Peace, love, and tunes,