Fandom Friday: Musical Theatre and Phantom of the Opera

The Fandom Friday is a weekly feature, cheapest with each blog post written by a new contributor.

This is the weekly post where either myself, visit this or a guest blogger, mind talks about a new fandom. See, I’ve had the experience in my life where I’ve been made fun or put down about my particular fandoms. And that has made me feel pretty crappy. But I’ve also put down other fandoms as well.

So I’ve decided to change that. I’m opening my world up to new fandoms, and the best way to do that is to bring people in to write about various fandoms. I’m very excited about this segment.

If you guys are interested in becoming a guest blogger for the Fandom Friday, feel free to email me at whatanerdgirlsays at gmail.com or contact me HERE

This week’s post comes from my DEAR DEAR DEAR DEAR friend, Chloe. She is a few years younger than me, going to university for theater and she lives in Australia. We have been pen pals since I was 16 years old, so 9 years and she has become one of my absolute closest friends in the world, even though we have never met! She enjoys a lot of the same fandoms that I do like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings (she ADORES Tolkien), Tamora Pierce (which is how we met), Mortal Instruments and so so so many more. Her biggest love though is musical theatre. That girl talks about musicals and theatre ALL the time and its AWESOME. So here is her addition to my Fandom Friday :)

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So. Music theatre.

Some people diss it, say it’s not real theatre, not real art. But I’ve studied it as an academic subject at university, and it definitely is art.

And I’m not ashamed to say that I love it. All of it. Everything from operettas like Fladermaus, to old school musicals like Kiss Me Kate, to new works like Next To Normal.

But if there was some horrifying cultural apocalypse and I had to choose only one musical to survive, without one moment of hesitation I would choose Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. If you’re unlucky enough never to have heard of it before, here’s a quick rundown:

 1881, Paris: Christine Daae, a young member of the corps de ballet and talented soprano has just been given the starring role in a new opera after the leading lady flees the Opera House due to a series of deadly ‘accidents.’

This reunites Christine with the Opera House’s patron Raoul, who was her childhood friend. But their blossoming love is threatened by Christine’s mysterious music teacher, who turns out to be none other than the Phantom of the Opera, and the cause of all the mysterious “accidents” around the Opera House. The Phantom will stop at nothing to make Christine his Angel of Music and his lover – including kidnapping, arson and even murder. Raoul and the Opera managers come up with a plan to trap the Phantom, using Christine as bait. But who is really in control of the situation at the Opera house?

Phantom was first staged in London in 1989, starring a young Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford as Christine and The Phantom (also known as ‘Erik’). To me, they will always be “THE” Christine and Erik, the true Angels of Music. But they would be played all over the world and in many different languages by many talented people. Phantom is still playing in London and New York. 27 years later. I would argue that Phantom is the world’s most beloved and successful musical the world has ever known (the only real competition it has for the honour might be Les Miserable, but that’s a whole different blog right there J )

I have been listening to the music of Phantom since I was born. Before, probably. My parents used to listen to it and I grew up on it. When I was two years old I even named my favourite doll Sarah Brightman. My sisters and I used to play at acting out the famous mirror scene in our back garden, using the garden arch as the mirror.

But I only ever saw Phantom in its entirety in 2004, when it was brought to the screen starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. A well-made and visually stunning film, but still nothing compared to seeing it onstage. The musical returned to Melbourne in 2007 and I was lucky enough to see it live for the first time. I’ll never forget the moment they swept back the covers from the gold statues around the proscenium and the chandelier was raised up off the stage while the overture thundered around me. I think I spent the entire show with my mouth open in a permanent gasp.

But why do I and so many people around the world love Phantom so much?

The simple answer is: music. The show features some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. If you haven’t ever heard The Music of the Night, log onto YouTube right now and listen to Michael Crawford sing it. Seriously amazing.

SPOILERS!

And in the final scenes that take place in the crypts below the opera house,  where Christine and Raoul are both pleading with Erik to let the other go, I cry every time because of the music: Webber is a genius at capturing emotion in his music and this scene is just incredible. The love, despair, passion, rage, hope and hopelessness are expressed so beautifully and powerfully in the music, one can listen to it in foreign languages and still be moved to tears. Now, I am a great lover of words, I would even say that I love language more than most people. But there are some places that music can take us that words can’t.

Aside from the beautiful music, one could talk about the stunning costumes and theatre tech all day long: Phantom contains some of the most astounding effects I’ve ever seen. The moment when the chandelier crashes onto the stage made me scream aloud (even though I knew it was going to happen). There’s also fire, hundreds of candles, a boat that sails across a sea of mist, a ballroom scene and some crazy stage magic that I have never been able to figure out. It’s a visual masterpiece.

The story of Phantom can seem a little disturbing to some. So why do so many people love it? I would say that the music makes up for any weirdness in the plot. I mean, if a musical about singing, dancing junk-yard cats can be almost as successful as Phantom, then a plot about a disfigured and deranged musical genius preying  on his student (while implying that he is her dead father, reincarnated as the Angel of Music) is nothing, right? But I think there’s more to it than that.

Phantom is about young people who are just experiencing an artistic and sexual awakening. Christine has to choose between artistic passion shared between her and Erik, or a warmer and more enduring love that she shares with Raoul. I’m sure this resonates with many people who have had to make difficult choices in their lives as they entered adulthood. This, together with the talented artists and artistic teams who create this show over and over again for people all over the world, as well as the sensory beauty of the show, make it so special.

END SPOILERS.

As I read over this blog, I am feeling a bit dissatisfied. I cannot express eloquently enough how much I love Phantom, or why I love it. I suppose that it links back to the idea that some things can only be expressed through music.

Here’s a quote from Plato that I love to sum it all up:

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Telling stories with music is a beautiful thing, not one to be scoffed at. In my mind, Andrew Lloyd Webber is a genius and Phantom a beautiful, vibrant, living piece of art that shouldn’t ever be looked down upon simply because it is popular. If you live somewhere that you can access it, go and see it. It will blow your mind.

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I hope you all enjoyed this week’s Fandom Friday. Stay tuned for more coming soon! And if you wish to be part of the Fandom Friday, feel free to contact me!

Don’t forget to check out the previous Fandom Fridays as well!

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