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.