Tuesday, January 15, 2013

on the shelf: phantom of the opera

If you've known me for any length of time, you know I love musicals. In fact, I sing showtunes pretty much all day long.

Since I was twelve years old, my favorite musical has been The Phantom of the Opera. And it still is...most of the time (my favorite might be Les Miserables right now...you never know exactly). I've never seen it on stage before, the closest I've come is watching the incredible 25th anniversary London performance from last year on DVD. But as many of you know, I'M GOING TO NEW YORK CITY NEXT MONTH and then I'll get to see it in the Majestic Theatre...with my musical theatre heroine, Sierra Boggess herself, as Christine. Not that I'm excited or anything. {43 days to go!}


Phantom is based on a book by the same name - authored by Gaston Leroux, a French guy who died a long time ago. And he, in turn, wrote the book in such a way that the story of the Phantom can never be disproved unless they drain the vaults under the Paris Opera House. (which actually exists)

Naturally I expected there to be some differences in story line when I began reading the book - but was pleasantly surprised that there really were not. There were some characters (important ones, I might add) that were cut from the story when it was turned into a musical, but the story remained greatly unchanged.

In fact, as my dear friend Kate and I discussed once we'd both finished it, it was like reading the "behind-the-scenes" manual for the musical. Ever wondered why and how the Phantom could make his voice come from all parts of the theatre? Ever wondered why he lived across an underground lake? Or even why the lake was there in the first place? Or all the details about his pre-Opera House life? It's all in the book. Actually, if I were to ever play a character in the musical, I would go back and read the book first just to pick up any little tidbits that would help me play the role better.

“You are crying! You are afraid of me! And yet I am not really wicked. Love me and you shall see! All I wanted was to be loved for myself.” {Erik, The Phantom of the Opera}

Granted, the book can describe in detail what the musical portrays in seconds - which means sometimes it can be slightly disturbing. And the Phantom is *much* more violent in the book. But he's also more...real....if that makes any sense. More emotion. If you've ever listened to (or better yet, seen Ramin Karimloo perform) "the final lair" scene from the musical, and if you've ever shed a tear over Erik's sacrifice, or his desperate love for Christine - only from the musical - then multiply that times ten and you've got the final chapters of the book. I don't, in general, cry over books. Well, I did over this one.
Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom // 25th Anniversary Performance, London.

Raoul is an absolute wimp in the book. Sadly. I never really liked him terribly much anyway (even in the show), but Hadley Fraser's 25th anniversary Raoul was wonderful. But that's entirely due to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe's re-creating him, because Leroux's Raoul isn't really much of a hero. But Christine loved him...so I guess it's all good. (?)

The book is narrated in first person, which gives it an interesting flair. The narrator is "the Persian" - a man who has known Erik (the Phantom) for almost his entire life, so has more information than he originally lets on. It's really a fascinating perspective - and written in the style of a police report, or a Sherlock Holmes mystery. *happy shiver* I just love brilliant authors and literature!

“Know that it is a corpse who loves you and adores you and will never, never leave you!...Look, I am not laughing now, crying, crying for you, Christine, who have torn off my mask and who therefore can never leave me again!...Oh, mad Christine, who wanted to see me!” {Erik, The Phantom of the Opera}

It's a dramatic book. It'll leave you a little shaken and startled, but it's great reading. When I finished it the first time, I wanted to be alone to think...but didn't want to be by myself either. *nervous chuckle*
If you love the musical, read it. It'll give you perspective and help you understand the plot and the motive and the characters much better. If you're not a thriller/mystery/Sherlock type, then just stick with the show and you'll be fine. *grin*
“Erik is not truly dead. He lives on within the souls of those who choose to listen to the music of the night.” {The Persian, The Phantom of the Opera}

Giving this 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. You are going to see Sierra Boggess perform?! She is AMAZING. That's completely exciting!

    I have the Phantom book, but haven't read it yet. I really need to soon!

    P.S Ramin Karimloo is the bomb.

  2. So now I need to go read it again. After I finish the mile-high stack of schoolbooks I'm supposed to be reading. :P