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Well, can it live to the expectations? SPOILERS (kind of)
on 8 March 2010
I saw the first ever public performance of the show (lucky me, but not for others, the first one was canceled, mine turned out to be THE first one)How to start addressing this show...with tact:
Let me start by saying that the story is not as strong as the original, none of the Gothic gore implied by The Phantom, this is a more human one. The phantom is not below anymore, but towers above, in a penthouse overlooking Coney Island. He can now 'walk amongst man' another freak in a permanent freak show. Hence, the phantom we meet here is less mysterious, his torment more complex, not just obsession, but vulnerability. The story falters at times, I must admit it, yet the show is beautifully done and manages to move you and close the chapter.
2. The Coney Island Waltz
3. That's the place that you ruined, you fool!
---A terrible opening for a show, akin to the dreadful opening to the woman in white (a show that should not have existed and has been mercifully musically remade into Love never dies). The saving grace is the Waltz and its marvelous projections (on the show) a lovely piece, truly pure Webber. That's the place you ruined, fool and prologue could go amiss and no one will notice.
4. Heaven By The Sea
---- nice song, a touch out of place with the darker more romantic music, but attempting to capture the banality and lightheartedness of the time and the society in NY at the time. It serves its purpose, the core musical theme being lifted mainly from a repetitive melodic phrase used to death in woman in white, still, nice.
5. Only For Him / Only For You
-----A nice song with a less forthcoming orchestration, lovely melodic tilt, intended to show Meg's love for the Phantom. It appears Webber tried to make a clear distinction between the deep love the phantom has for Christine with the 'cheap' and brassy tolerance he shows Meg, one (Christine's) is for sustenance, the other (Meg) is for survival. I like this song, maybe the distinction marked by the styles is rather too wide, making it two dimensional and one sided (leaning towards Christine)It achieves that.
6. The Aerie
----A lovely, haunting, beautiful instrumental, right from the bowels of the Phantom of the opera. Thick, serene, moving
7. Til I Hear You Sing
---Now we are talking, this is a magnificent song, a true descendant from the original Phantom. A pure display of the best Lloyd Webber can produce. Ramin is absolutely brilliant in it, This song makes the whole show worth it, really.
8. Giry Confronts The Phantom / 'Til I Hear You Sing
---A nice excuse for listening to Ramin again. Giry's bit is typical of the sung through melodic style in Phantom. Very well done by Giry.
9. Christine Disembarks
---mostly spoken, snippets of melodies in the background, mainly themes that will develop later
10. Arrival Of The Trio / Are You Ready To Begin?
I don't care for the three new characters..the Phantom's henchman. Their a-melodic and tense musical themes grind me, not good voices, neither great lyrics, they just add to the oddness that is the phantom, but are never developed enough to matter or to add any depth to the phantom, They are cliches that fill in space. I wish a judge would give Webber a court restraining order so he cannot get near electric guitars, he seems to think that by using them he is 'edgy', wrong! Lovely melodic bit at the end for Gustav, again, lots from woman in white.
11. What A Dreadful Town!...
---I like this song. A lovely string punctuation quite different from Webber's style. Mature, efficient.
12. Look With Your Heart
---Beautiful waltz, sweet, with surprising melodic changes that slide into one another. Fresh and tender.
13. Beneath A Moonless Sky
--This is the heavy bit! the first few notes and chords are straight from the beginning of the song 'the phantom of the opera', as the phantom enters the room of Christine and sees her for the first time in ten years. Although the refrain in this song will remind you of the cell block tango from Chicago (I mean it)it is a powerful, beautiful ballad (kind of a tango as well) here we get the whole story of what happened in the last ten years, a bit of a rush, but such a powerful song, the phantom has entered the room...really a triumph
14. Once Upon Another Time
---Less of a song than above, but still sweet and lovely with a great melodic surge, dense with meaning and very much an aria in the opera style.
15. "Mother Please, I'm Scared!"
--Incidental stuff, the phantom meets Gustav...we get the electric guitar...bearable...it works, just enough, the right balance.
16. Dear Old Friend
---Great song a la notes in Phantom. cleverly worded, with touches of the original show and to great effect. It does have the same rhythmic style as Prima Donna , and the scene calls for it, as Meg is a Prima Donna in her work at Coney and Christine is a Prima Donna in her own right, with the trick from notes of shifting between conversations.
---Haunting, sweet melody for Gustav.
18. The Beauty Underneath
---Loved by some, hated by almost every single soul that saw the show when I saw it. Too much guitar, too far off the musical style for the show, too modern. Honestly, I hated at the moment. One can imagine Elton John playing a set with AC/DC...it has its moments and many will like it...I found it a low point in the show, uncomfortable.
19. The Phantom Confronts Christine
---Nice, a mix of themes previously heard
---Just that, but I love it.
2. Why Does She Love Me?
--A brooding song, quite different from the Webber stock, although in the same vein as his musical foundation for Sunset. Really nice and very well performed.
3. Devil Take The Hindmost
---Brilliant, brilliant...all I can say is 'Javert and Valjean's dialogue at Fantine's deathbed'...as powerful and as sublime.
4. Heaven By The Sea (Reprise)
---well..it is there...this being a not so great song and rather flat in its texture, i would have preferred another song to fill this slot instead of a rehash , almost feels as if Webber did not have enough time to come up with much musical vartiety and stuck to a couple of musical themes.
5. Ladies...Gents! / The Coney Island Waltz (Reprise)
---More of the same...I must admit I was bored by this point in the plot....
6. Bathing Beauty
---cute, very much a Webber song, catchy.
7. "Mother, Did You Watch?"
---Incidental, no new musical themes, just the same: mix and match. Still effective.
8. Before The Performance
Lovely, if because of the reprise of till I hear you sing. No new musical themes, again, reprises put together.
9. Devil Take The Hindmost
---A reprise but with a lot of pressure in it, a critical point in the plot, quite effective, really nice.
10. Love Never Dies
---This one is not new to us, heard it in the beautiful game and heard it by dame Kiri, yet it works well here, after all it was conceived years ago for this show. Sierra B has a wonderful voice, but the high notes are a push in her range, we can still say it is a breathless performance, a thousand times better than Katerine Jenkins and her catastrophic attempt at this song.
11. "Ah, Christine!..."
---more of the same,nice mix of earlier themes
12. "Gustave! Gustave!..."
---As above, more incidental music and earlier musical themes intertwined.
13. "Please Miss Giry, I want to go back..."
---climatic yet melodic-less ending. The final musical theme reprises the aeria and remind me of the very ending of Superstar, John Nineteen Forty-One. Maybe too weak for an ending (for this show)
So, do I like it? yes, overall a great musical that deserves many years on stage. I wish it had more original numbers and less reprises and that it did not have 'the beauty underneath' but hey, overall, a different show, this is not the phantom times 2, this is its own original show, with it's own personality. This show contains some of Webber's best ballads and melodies. Does it copy from his previous musical stock? yes, there is lots of Aspects of love, Woman in white and some Whistle down the wind...is it bad? well if we assume absolute originality as the definition of creativity, Sondheim has not been creative since Company, so there....