Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Original O.G. (Opera Ghost)

I am a nerd.  Not, in like, the Star Trek sense of the word (I do love some TNG, however) just in general.  I usually get into things via the cheesiest way possible.  And tonight, I realized my gateway drug into all things dark and moody.  It's Phantom of the frickin' Opera, you guys.

Yes, I am ashamed to admit this because it's a Broadway show.  I don't know if it's considered a good Broadway show or not, I am not a theater snob or anything, but Dear God do I love it so.  When I saw it on Broadway in NYC in 2005 I nearly burst into tears.  But, it is considered a "horror story."  Certainly the 1925 version with Lon Chaney as the creepy-as-hell-not-at-all-sexy-why-isn't-he-singing Phantom.  I actually tried watching that version of Phantom years ago, before I was the sophisticated lady I am today, and declared it "icky" and changed the channel.  I wan't ready for it, man.

 My parents bought me the soundtrack for my tenth birthday in 1993.  That year in school the choir did a Broadway theme concert around Christmas time and we had learned all kinds of Andrew Lloyd Webber spawned show tunes and all the girls loved The Phantom of the Opera songs the best.  Even at ten, girls wanted brooding, disfigured (secretly handsome) weirdos to be obsessed with them.  Mom and Dad picked up on my constant off-key singing around the house and bought me the soundtrack, probably in hopes I would sing along to it and it would drowned out my terrible voice.  I wore that CD down to its proverbial bone for the next several years.  I knew all the words to all the songs by heart and imagined in my head what the stage show looked like, since I had only seen super '80's still photos from the original stage production with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford (who, I am convinced, as one of the best male singing voices of all time. Of. All. Time!)

It wasn't until the movie came out in 2004 that I got a real, actual sense of what the story was all about.  I was able to piece together a few things here and there through the lyrics and what I read on the internet, but I never had the entire picture.  The movie version, with Gerard Butler (I know, right?) and Emmy Rossum was something I dragged my sister Cori to...and she walked away a Phantom superfan.  We know the movie isn't good, the acting is atrocious, Gerry Butler is not a good singer, but boy, is he handsome.  Cori even declared, "Who cares about the deformed side?  The other half rocks!" Which lead us into a long discussion about how we would just request him to sleep on his bad side at night, and really, when he took the mask off...c'mon, guys.  It looked like he was having an allergic reaction to a bee sting or something.  Nothing jaw-dropping horrifying.  But, anyways, enough about that.  The story!  Yikes!  Creepy old man in love with a child!  News at 11!

The movie tamed down not only the creep factor of the Phantom, himself.  In the movie he was much more of a misunderstood soul, a tortured artist who loved Christine, but would never do anything to harm her....'cept try to kill her fiance, no big.

The Broadway show not only ramped up the freak factor on the Phantom, but also his general creeper status.  There is a scene in the Broadway show where Phantom straddles an unconscious Christine and moves in a fashion that can only be described as "thrusting".  This scene was virtually absent from the movie.  In the film version, it comes across as if Phantom is adjusting Christine, trying to make her a little more comfy while she sleeps.  Wouldn't want to vilify the villain or anything.  Especially since he's so handsome!  Whatever, Movie Version.  I could go into a diatribe about how it's easier to think ugly people are horrible creatures, but I think I've made my point.

Despite the Phantom's completely inappropriate behavior, kidnapping, convincing her he is the ghost of her deceased father and murder attempts, Christine still falls in love with him.  He writes her beautiful music and heaps praise and flattery upon her, and she's sixteen.  Phantom and Christine sing lovely, swirly, romantic songs together, it's all very corsets and gauzy skirts.  There are other characters who aid Phantom in his, ahem, pursuit of Christine and cave to his blackmail and threats to make sure Christine becomes the star of the opera house.

Aside from her being taken with the Phantom, Christine also hooks up with a friend from her childhood who now has all kinds of money and bankrolls the opera house.  He too falls in love with Christine (gee whiz, I can't imagine why little girls would be so crazy about a story where just about every guy falls in love with them?) and since he doesn't live in a basement, wear a mask, or have homicidal tendencies, when he proposes, Christine accepts, and this makes Phantom go cuckoo bananas.  Phantom ends up kidnapping Christine and spiriting her away to his lair.

The story ends with an epic fight between Phantom and Christine's fiance (the character has a super French name that I don't feel like looking up the spelling of right now, oddly enough, I took the time to look up fiance vs. fiancee...) and Phantom ends up realizing the best thing for Christine is not to be kept as some weird singing/sex slave to a guy with half a face and a whole lotta crazy.  Christine and her fiance leave Phantom alone in the basement of the opera house, singing alone to his monkey music box.  It's actually quite heartbreaking, even after I made the Phantom out to be a total potential murdering rapist monster, you still kinda feel for the guy.

So, that is the story.  I did NOT get the majority of it from the music alone.  I grasped the love triangle easily through the lyrics, but the other story lines and subplots I missed, and the Phantom's, er, poor choices.

Like I said, me and Cori, along with our Mom and aunt Carla were able to see The Phantom of the Opera in NYC in 2005, and it was such an emotional experience for me.  It was music from my childhood, it was a story I had only seen in film, which is easy to disengage from, and seeing live theater is such a jolt on it's own, no matter what show you are seeing.  I welled up good for about the first 20 minutes.  Then I was able to relax and really enjoy it, and realize what a poor adaptation the movie is.

Of course, I will still pop the movie in every now in then, to hear the music alone.  Yes, I own it.  No shame.

There is also a Monster High doll, Operetta, who is the "daughter of The Phantom of the Opera" (the Universal version) but of course, to me, she is Christine and Phantom's daughter.  Because I am a nerdy fangirl.

I guess that is why, on one hand, I like my monsters to be haunted creatures, looking for redemption and love.  But on the other hand, if you are meant to be a bad guy, then be a bad guy.  Hmmm...paradox.

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