“Phantom of the Opera” Book v. Musical

Have you ever seen a musical and then read the book it was based on, or vice versa?

If you have, you might have noticed some big or small differences in the story lines. This is true for the musical based on the novel, “The Phantom of the Opera.”

The book was written and published by Gaston Leroux, a French novelist, in 1909. A British composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, made the novel come alive on stage with a musical production in 1986. It continues to be one of the longest running shows on London’s West End and on New York’s Broadway.

The storyline for both the musical and novel are the same. A man with a deformed face is in love with a young Swedish soprano, Christine Daaé, who he gives vocal lessons to. Christine falls in love with her childhood sweetheart, Raoul de Changy, who returns the same feelings. Danger approaches when the Phantom’s orders are disobeyed and the two lovers become closer.

While some details in the novel and musical remain the same, there are a lot of differences. However, a couple of details from the novel were added to the 2004 movie, based on Webber’s stage production. One example is the maze of mirrors, which was mentioned in the stage adaption, but came to life in the film.

One of the biggest differences between the novel and the musical, is the Phantom’s deformity. In the book the deformity covers his entire face and he is forced to wear a full face mask. In the stage version, the deformity only covers half of his face and he wears a half mask.

The decision Prince and Webber make to give the Phantom half of a mask allows them to captivate the audience even more. We can see his expressions and emotions more clearly than we can visualize it in the book. Another example of such contrast between the two versions is the Phantom’s name. Leroux named him “Erik” in the novel and in the musical, he is “The Phantom.” 

Raoul is another character in “The Phantom of the Opera” that is portrayed differently in the book as well as the stage production. In the book, he is jealous, has a temper problem and is a bit of a stalker. Why Christine fell in love with him, I may never know because he does not seem pleasant to be around. However, he did go through a lot of trials and torture to try and save Christine from Erik’s kidnapping at nearly the end of the story, so you cannot say he did not love her.

Depending on how he is portrayed in the musical, Raoul can be the biggest sweetheart and very adorable. He also has a backbone, can hold his own against the Phantom and is very much in love with Christine. The character is easy to fall in love with, but it depends on who is playing him.

Another character difference is Madame Giry. In the book, she is the ballet teacher and the Phantom’s messenger, who he pays. She does not have a large role in the novel compared to the musical adaption.

In the musical, Madame Giry is a mother figure to Christine and knows more about the Phantom than anyone in the opera house. Much like in the book, she is the ballet teacher and the Phantom’s messenger. She is also intimidating and one of the strongest women in the novel and stage version.

In Webber’s production, Madame Giry knew who the Phantom was because she visited a traveling fair he was in and never forgot him. The 2004 film gave them a slightly bigger story in regard to their past.

The person who knew the most about Erik in the novel is the Persian, who often confronts him and is an old friend. Their friendship, and Erik’s past in general, is elaborated more in the book, “Phantom” by Susan Kay.

Susan Kay’s novel, “Phantom” is the story of Erik’s life and how he came to be the Phantom. It also elaborates on his and Christine’s relationship and how he came to be her teacher. The ending is very different from the stage version and original book.

*Spoilers for the ending of the book and musical*

The biggest difference between the two versions is the ending. In the book, Erik dies of a broken heart after letting Christine and Raoul leave. In the musical, once they are free, the Phantom disappears from under his cloak and no one knows where he went.

Personally, I prefer the musical’s ending. It is not as sad and gives the Phantom a chance to start over. It left the future for the Phantom, Christine and Raoul wide open, with a touch of mystery and a stunned audience. Ah, the magic of theater.

*End of spoilers*

If you are a fan of the “Phantom of the Opera” musical, then you will like the novel. If you have not seen the stage version, the best way to view it is to buy the 25th anniversary on DVD or Blu-Ray. The 2004 movie of the same name is good too, but it does not have the same magic the show has.

I have been a “Phan” for years and I think “Phantom” is one of the best musicals of all time. If you have not seen it, you are missing out, there is something in it for everyone.

If I could recast the “Phantom of the Opera” movie in 2016

Do you ever watch “The Phantom of the Opera” 2004 movie and say, “What were they thinking?”

Do you ever wish they had cast Ramin Karimloo as Raoul instead of Christine’s father, who only had two, three second cameos. Do you wish they had casted a vocally stronger Christine, a younger looking Raoul and a better singer than Gerard Butler? So do I.

If I could recast “The Phantom of the Opera” movie in 2016, this is who I would cast:

Phantom

John BarrowmanJohn-Barrowman-image-john-barrowman-36440683-600-850

Barrowman played Raoul in “Phantom” on West End (London) in 1992. He has a lot of stage experience, having been in many musicals before he was on television. He has also recorded several albums over the years and has toured after their releases.

Barrowman is famous for being on the television shows “Doctor Who,” “Torchwood” and “Arrow.” He currently plays the villain in the latter, so Phantom would not be a big stretch.

Like Gerard Butler, he is Scottish and very good looking. Unlike Butler, he is a professional theater actor, who is vocally trained and would have more knowledge of what the role requires.

 

Christine

Julia UdineUnknown

Udine is 22-years-old, portrayed Christine on the “Phantom” U.S. tour and is currently playing the same role on Broadway. She has a spectacular voice and is a fan favorite due to her age and career.

I saw her twice on tour and she is one of my favorite actresses who has played the role of Christine. Her acting and vocal range are amazing.

Like Emmy Rossum, Udine is one of the youngest actresses to play the role. Unlike Rossum, Udine is a professional theater actress and knows what is required to play the role. She can sing with emotion and her voice would not be as low during “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”

 

Raoul

Chris McCarrellIMG_6400

McCarrell is currently portraying Marius in the “Les Misérables” revival (closing in March). He is young, has a great voice and has a smile that melts fangirls’ hearts.

Personally, I think he would be a great fit if he was given the chance to play Raoul, even on Broadway. He would portray the role better than Patrick Wilson, who has a great voice, but wore a terrible wig and looked too old for the part.

 

 

Meg

Samantha BarksSamantha Barks, Awardsline, December 15, 2012

Barks is one of the biggest names in musical theater. She got her start in on the BBC show “I’d Do Anything,” a show where girls and young boys competed to play Nancy and Oliver for the musical, “Oliver.” She was the youngest competitor and came in third.

Since “I’d Do Anything,” Barks was in “Les Misérables” on West End, the 25th anniversary concert and 2012 movie version as Eponine. She played the role of Nancy in the “Oliver” U.K. tour in 2011 before leaving to film “Les Mis” and returning a year later. She has been in several movies and musicals since then.

Barks is a Mezzo-Soprano and she can dance, so I think she could portray Meg and do the role justice. I am a huge fan of hers and I know this is a role she would knock out of the park.

 

Madame Giry

Idina Menzel

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Is there anything this woman cannot do? Musicals, movies, television shows, albums and a large fan base from around the world. This woman can do it all.

Menzel started her Broadway career as Maureen in the musical, “Rent,” a role she reprised 10 years later for the movie version. Since then she has been in “Wicked,” a role which she won a Tony for, but her overall career seemed to take off once she played Elsa in Disney’s, “Frozen.”

While she has never played a role like Madame Giry, that I know of, she would nail it. Plus, I would love to see her and Barks playing mother and daughter.

 

Carlotta

Kristin ChenowethUnknown-1

Another woman who can do anything and she can do it in style. She is also from my home state, Oklahoma, so I am a bit biased.

Chenoweth is another fan favorite. She is funny, can hold some very high notes and can play any role she is given. She won a Tony for her role as Sally in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” has been in several other musicals, movies, television shows and hosted the Tony Awards in 2015 with Alan Cumming.

Chenoweth is well known for originating the role of the popular girl, G(a)linda in the musical, “Wicked,” so I do not think Carlotta is much of a stretch. Chenoweth is a very talented actress and has a fantastic voice, I would love to see her as Carlotta.

 

Andre and Firmin (The Managers)

Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser

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Hadley Fraser (left) and Ramin Karimloo (right)

Over the past few years these two have been known to portray enemies while in a musical together. In the “Phantom” 25th anniversary in 2011, Karimloo played Phantom and Fraser played Raoul. On West End’s “Les Misérables” in 2012, Karimloo played Jean Valjean and Fraser played Javert. In reality, they are best friends and have their own band.

I can very easily see Karimloo and Fraser as the managers.  I think they would have fun with it and make the audience laugh. The roles are not as vocally challenging as the Phantom and Raoul are, but it would give Fraser and Karimloo a chance to act like goofballs.

BONUS:

The Auctioneer

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The original Phantom and inspiration to many, who was robbed of his chance to be in the 2004 “Phantom” movie, Michael Crawford. That is all.

“Grease Live” review

It’s electrifying! The long awaited live musical telecast, “Grease Live” was a hit among viewers, beating NBC’s “The Wiz.” The FOX television event aired on the evening of January 31, 2016. I had only seen the film and I am still not familiar with the stage version, but I was not disappointed with the new one.

“Grease Live” was directed by Thomas Kail (Director of the musical “Hamilton”) with an all star cast, including Aaron Tveit (“Les Misérables” and “Graceland”) as Danny, Julianne Hough (“Safe Haven”) as Sandy, Vanessa Hudgens (“High School Musical”) as Rizzo, Keke Palmer as Marty, Carlos PenaVega (“Big Time Rush”) as Kenickie, Jordan Fisher (“Teen Beach”) as Doody and Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchy. The cast also included Didi Conn and Barry Pearl from the 1978 film.

Aron Tveit was easily the fan favorite, having stage, movie and television experience. He had the voice and the looks for Danny. He stated months before, he was growing his hair out for the event. While no one is John Travolta (Danny in the 1978 movie version), Tveit managed to steal the hearts of many, mainly females. He did justice to “Greased Lightnin’,” “Summer Nights” and “Sandy” without stealing Travolta’s version of the character.

Julianne Hough did a great job as Sandy. She made the character her own and wowed the audience with “Hopelessly Devoted To You.” She was the perfect choice for the character and her dancing was amazing as well.

Vanessa Hudgens was the all time favorite of the live event. Just hours before the musical was to air she announced very devastating news, but managed to put on one of the best performances of the night. She portrayed Rizzo the way the character is meant to be played, much like Stockard Channing in the 1978 movie. Hudgens poured her heart out in “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” and it looked like she had a blast singing “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee.” She was the hero and inspiration of the evening.

One of the most impressive performances of the evening came from Jordan Fisher who stole women’s hearts with his version of “Those Magic Changes.” Joe Jonas made an appearance as the band singer, Johnny Casino, reminding Jonas Brothers fans why we loved him. Keke Palmer did great as Marty and did a good job singing her number “Freddie My Love,” a song from the original stage production.

Boys II Men were cast as the Teen Angel (played by Frankie Avalon in the movie), a role famous for the song “Beauty School Dropout.” Boys II Men were actually very good, which I was not expecting considering I did not know they were playing the part and they are a R&B vocal group.

One of the disappointments during the evening was, not surprisingly, Carly Rae Jepsen singing the new song “All I Need Is An Angel.” The pop singer mixed with a number the audience did not ask for, managed to have people on social media asking, “What is this” and “Where is ‘Beauty School Dropout?'”

“All I Need Is An Angel” might have worked if it was sung by a professional theater actress and not Jepson. The pop singer’s voice did not fit the character, but she played the role very well.

Another let down was the infamous Thunder Road scene. I know you cannot race cars on a small set, but it was too obvious the cars were not moving.

Overall, this was a new favorite among theatre fans who tune in to watch live musicals on television. The sets were amazing and the camera work was phenomenal. The casting was perfect and the dancing was great without completely copying the movie. It is a must see for fans of the film as long as they remember the stage version came first and FOX was trying to make “Grease Live” their own.

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” musical album review

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For months musical theater fans were anxiously awaiting for the release of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” album from the Off-Broadway production. Over the summer of 2015, it was announced that unfortunately the popular musical would not head to Broadway, but a cast recording would be released. Finally, the CD came out on January 22, 2016.

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Michael Arden as Quasimodo

The album consists of cast members from the original Off-Broadway production including Michael Arden as Quasimodo, Ciara Renée (Hawkgirl “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow”) as Esmeralda, Erik Liberman as Clopin, Patrick Page as Don Claude Frollo and Andrew Samonsky as Phoebus. It also features a few ensemble members from the Papermill Playhouse cast, including Jeremy Stolle (understudy in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway).

Michael Arden is a fantastic singer and put a lot of passion into his character. He put so much emotion into the song “Heaven’s Light” and really showed his vocals in “Out There.” He also had a great speaking tone for Quasimodo. Rather than talking in his normal voice, he made it sound slightly raspy.

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Ciara Renée as Esmeralda

Ciara Renée has a phenomenal singing voice. She put a lot of emotion into “God Help the Outcasts” and it sounded like she had a lot of fun with “Rhythm of the Tambourine.” She is easily one of my favorite singers on the album.

Patrick Page has a great voice, he put a lot of emotion into the character and made him a bit scary. He sounds almost exactly like Tony Jay (Frollo in Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”), especially in “Hellfire” as well as his speaking voice for the character.

 

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Andrew Samonsky (Phoebus) and Ciara Renée (Esmeralda)

Erik Liberman is one of my top favorite singers on the soundtrack. I love Clopin and find his vocals impressive when I watch the movie. Liberman hit the high notes perfectly and he sounded like he had fun singing for the album.

The first song on the soundtrack had me hooked there and then. The choir is amazing and sounds incredibly beautiful. There is a lot of emotion shown though the vocals, especially with the main cast.

Since I did not see the show when it was on stage, I greatly enjoyed the soundtrack. It gives a good idea of what the show was about regarding the book compared to the Disney movie version. While it had some songs from the Disney classic, there were several songs written for the musical itself.

The story seemed to be a mix of the book written by Victor Hugo and the Disney movie version of the same name. It is like the book because of a couple of details in the beginning, but mainly the ending. It is more in regard to the film in terms of Esmeralda and Phoebus’ love story, but only slightly, and the talking gargoyles, which I did not realize were in the musical until the song “Flight Into Egypt.”

Overall, it is a fantastic album and is worth listening to, even if you did not like the Disney version.  The choir will give you chills and the cast will steal your heart. Once you hear the first song, there is no going back because the voices will leave you entranced. I can only imagine what it would have been like to see the stage version.

“The Last Five Years” movie review

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Jamie and Cathy are a young married couple. Jamie is a best selling novelist and Cathy is a struggling theater actress. The movie has an intercutting timeline and began from Cathy’s point of view at the end of the couple’s relationship and ended at the start of it. From Jamie’s standpoint, it went from the beginning of it to the end.

Before the film came to theaters I really wanted to see it, but I could not because I was still in college at the time and I was busy. I was finally able to watch it on Netflix recently, and I was pretty disappointed. 

Based on the Off-Broadway production of the same name, “The Last Five Years”stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. The film was released in theaters in the United States on February 13, 2015.

Former Broadway actress, Anna Kendrick was very believable as Cathy. She did a great job acting and had a good voice. Since the director had most of the songs sung live, the audience got the chance to see what she is capable of without being studio recorded.

Broadway actor, Jeremy Jordan did a fantastic job as Jamie, they could not have casted anyone better. He put a lot of emotion into the character and had a great voice.

The characters are a good reminder of what it is like to be young and in love, but the problem was, they were too focused on their careers. Jamie was more successful than Cathy and she did not like being on the sidelines, nor did she like where her job as an actress was going.

Jamie tried to support Cathy, but he also had his own career to think about. By the end of the film he had given up on his marriage and made some very big mistakes.

When you make vows to another person they need to mean something to both people. When you are in a marriage, both parties need to make it work. This is why I did not particularly enjoy the story or feel sad by the end of the film. Both Jamie and Cathy did not seem to fight hard enough for their relationship when their careers were getting in the way.

I know musicals are mostly fiction, but the storyline bothered me, especially since divorce is such a heavy topic for me. The story did not move me like most musicals do, nor did I find any moments humorous. There were some sweet moments, but when I know what is going to happen, it spoils everything. That is just how I am.

The film was not my favorite and I found the timelines to be confusing at certain points. However, the music was good and I thought Jordan and Kendrick’s voices went well together.

“Jersey Boys” 2016 tour review

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There is always a story to how legends got started. “Jersey Boys” is a story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I saw the musical on tour in Oklahoma City, Okla., on January 16, 2016. I had never seen the show before and I thought it was amazing.

The show is about four boys named Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey), Frankie Valli (Aaron de Jesus), Nick Massi (Keith Hines) and Bob Gaudio (Drew Seeley) who later go on to be known as The Four Seasons. It tells of how they began, met Bob, became a hit and the struggles they all went through on and off the stage.

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Matthew Dailey was great as Tommy, he had a great voice and did a good job showing the character’s development. He did a great job showing the struggle the character went through to try and keep the band together, while also keeping secrets of his own.

Arron de Jesus was amazing as Frankie and did the best job showing the character’s development. He hit the high notes perfectly, but at times he sounded a bit drowned out by the other three. He had phenomenal dancing skills and the audience loved him.

Keith Hines was great as Nick Massi, the deep voiced comic relief of the show. He did not have a lot of dialogue compared to the rest of the cast, but whenever he spoke it was either hilarious or serious. He did not have much of a chance to show his singing voice like the other three characters did, but that is most likely because the character was a backup singer and bass player.

Drew Seeley was great as Bob Gaudio. He did a good job showing the struggle the character went through as a songwriter who, unlike the other three boys, did not grow up in the same area as the others. Seeley is widely known for his singing and dancing, specifically on Disney Channel, so it was interesting and exciting to see him in a professional show.

All of the characters were narrators for their own stories at different parts of the musical, which is something I enjoyed a great deal. It gave the audience a chance to hear their side of the story.

I was very impressed with the set and the actors’ ability to play instruments. I loved that they used cameras to record the actors during the performance and put it on a screen in the background.

The music is amazing, including classics such as “Sherry,” “Oh, What A Night,” “My Eyes Adored You” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” The show is a must see for anyone, it has great music and tells a great story about the band, the struggles they went through and were they are now.

My Top 5 John Barrowman Albums

You may recognize John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness (“Doctor Who” and “Torchwood”) and/or as Malcolm Merlyn (“Arrow”). But did you know before he started gracing our television screens, he was a musical theater actor and has recorded several albums as well?

This is a list of my top five albums he has recorded over the years. Since I am an aspiring critic, this will also be a review of them.

1) Aspects of Lloyd Webber

I admit, I am biased when it comes to this CD because I am a huge R-1862361-1372311097-5260.jpegAndrew Lloyd Webber fan. This was John Barrowman’s second album he recorded. It was originally released in 1997 and was re-issued in 2007.

Favorite songs

One of my favorite songs is the first song on the soundtrack, “Sunset Boulevard.” Barrowman sings this with a passion and in a way, he makes it his own. His version is one of two that I like.

Did you know that in 1992 John Barrowman played Raoul in “The Phantom of the Opera?” I believe that was one of the reasons he recorded “All I Ask of You” with Shona Lindsay. The duet between these two is beautiful and Lindsay has a great voice. If only we could hear this song with him and musical theater actress, Sierra Boggess.

Least Favorite Song-

Everyone has at least one track they do not like on an album, for me it is “Love Changes Everything.” What “Phantom of the Opera” is to sopranos, I imagine this is for tenors and it all comes down to the last note.

Barrowman seemed to have it, then he hit the last note and his voice could not hit it. Not every tenor is Michael Ball, who was the first to sing the song and let’s admit it, he is hard to follow.

2) Music, Music, Music512ysB9+xiL

Recorded later in his career was “Music, Music, Music.” This album includes covers from other artists, including a song he was the first to record and was released in 2008.

Favorite Songs-

One of my favorites from this album is “What About Us.” This is a song John Barrowman was the first to record, it was written by Gary Barlow and Chris Braide.

Any Dream Will Do” contestant and musical theater actor, Daniel Boys, duets with Barrowman in “I Know Him So Well.” These two voices go together beautifully and while the song is usually sung by women, these two men knock it out of the park. I also love Barrowman’s solo version of it.

3) Another Side

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There are so many songs I love on this album, it is hard to choose my top favorites. This CD has so many tracks that fit John Barrowman’s voice perfectly.

Favorite Songs

One of my favorite covers on this CD is “Time After Time.” It is hard to top Cyndi Lauper, but Barrowman managed to do so. His voice is absolutely beautiful in this song.

I am not 100 percent certain, but I believe he recorded “Heaven” because it reminded him of his husband, Scott. Either way, he put a lot of emotion into the song and it is one of his best covers.

4)  Reflections From Broadway

This album was released when he was on his rise to fame in 2007. It is barrowman-john-reflections-from-broadwayevident he has a love for musical theater on this soundtrack.

Favorite Songs-

One of my favorites on this album is “If I Can’t Love Her,” from “Beauty and the Beast.” While listening to this I cannot help but notice his voice is lower, but not so low he sounds out of his element.

“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is one of the best on the CD. He could put a baby to sleep with his voice, it is so beautiful and calming.

Least Favorite Song

I know he played the role of Chris a few times in “Miss Saigon” in the 1990’s, but his version of “Why God Why” is not the best. His voice goes all over the place and it sounds like he is shouting. I also have a problem with the way he pronounced a few of the words such as, “God” and his A’s. However, if he sung it now he might do a better job.

5) You Raise Me Up

This is John Barrowman’s most recent album to date. With help from hislarge fans using PledgeMusic, he was able to make his own CD with songs of different genres he wanted to sing.

Favorite Songs

Let’s face it, no one is ever going to be Josh Groban, but John Barrowman does “You Raise Me Up” justice. He starts to sing it a bit low, then slowly progresses into his natural tenor tone. He sings it with so much passion and it is evident he loved recording it.

John Barrowman admitted he liked the song “A Thousand Years” when he announced he would be recording it. His version is very beautiful and is better than Christina Perri’s.

“Skyscraper” is easily one of my absolute favorites on this album. Barrowman sings it with so much passion and I LOVE it. This song holds a special place in my heart, especially since my best friend and I both enjoy it and the message it gives.

Staying true to his Scottish heritage, Barowman decided to add “Loch Lomond” to the album. He sings it with so much more passion than any other song on the CD. He makes it known through his voice how much he loves his home country.

Honorable Mentions

I Owe It All to You- Tonight’s the Night: The Very Best of 

Memory- John Barrowman

You’ll Never Walk Alone- John Barrowman

Oh, What A Night- John Barrowman

Angel – Music, Music, Music

Right Here Waiting For You – Music, Music, Music

Felling Good – Another Side

All By Myself – Another Side

Being Alive – Another Side, Reflections From Broadway

Easy to Love – Reflections From Broadway

Try to Remember – Reflections From Broadway

Hollywood – You Raise Me Up

This Is the Moment – You Raise Me Up