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Phantom Moves from Stage to Screen

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews
Article Date: December 31, 2004 | Publication: Sierra Star | Author: movie critic

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If most musicals are supposed to translate to the big screen as horribly as most books do, then you have to figure Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” was doomed from the get go.

Fortunately there are the exceptions, stage productions that don’t become tomato-throwing material once a film crew gets ahold of them.
“Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” is one of those movies, following the lead of the successful 2002 film-version of “Chicago.” Die-hard fans of the theatrical “Phantom” may be leery of the film, especially minus the performances of Michael Crawford as the title character and Sarah Brightman as Christine, the famed leads of the stage production that first opened in London in 1986.

But as the piercing organ sounds play, as the white, chiseled mask of the phantom first appears and as the soothing voices of the cast members fill the air, a new era of the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece begins.

It’s a good one, too. Inspired by the novel, “Le Fantome de L’Opera” by Gaston Leroux, the story in the film is the same as the stage version, with a few additions here and there.
The backdrop is still the opera house, still Paris in 1870, where chorus girl Christine Daae (18-year-old Emmy Rossum) becomes an overnight opera sensation after filling in for the emotional train wreck Carlotta (Minnie Driver), who storms out in the middle of rehearsal of the “Opera Populaire.”
The theater’s new managers are forced to take a chance on Christine, who effortlessly performs the film’s first musical number “Think of Me,” leaving the opera attendees in awe of the performance.

There’s a deeper, darker side to the story, however, as Christine’s beauty and talents capture both the hearts of her childhood acquaintance Raoul (Patrick Wilson) and the disfigured phantom (Gerard Butler), who spends his days lurking around the opera house terrifying most of the cast and crew members who see him.

The love triangle begins.

Christine seems to fall in love with Raoul, now a wealthy opera patron, and he seems to return the passion, while the phantom never seems too far away.

“Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” has a similar brilliance on screen as it does on stage, mainly due to another batch of great performances and the same batch of memorable songs.

As in the theatrical production, there are few words spoken in the film. The story’s dialogue is instead created through the lyrics of its songs. “Masquerade! Paper faces on parade... Masquerade! Hide your face, so the world will never find you!”

Under the direction of Joel Schumacher (“Batman & Robin,” “Phone Booth”), the cast members of this ensemble hold their own.
Rossum, who has worked along stage with Luciano Pavarotti and on screen with Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, has an innocence to her and seems to feel at home in “The Phantom.”
Also good is Butler, who was not familiar with the stage production when Schumacher approached him for the phantom role. Butler displays a nice balance in his passion for Christine and his fierce jealousy toward her relationship with Raoul.

Wilson, who played Curly in Broadway’s “Oklahoma!,” is a solid Raoul and portrays a great deal of confidence, while Jennifer Ellison is equally well cast as Meg, Christine’s friend and a fellow choir girl.
Another remarkable performance in the movie is pulled off by Driver, who doesn’t do her own singing in the film, but still finds the right notes as the temperamental diva who feels as if she should always get her way.
With all of its triumphs, “Phantom” is not flawless.

The film is bogged down at times with pointless flashback scenes and with a modest running time of 2 hours and 23 minutes, still seems a bit drawn out.

It’s hard to tell who will be affected by the film’s length, however. At the halfway point in the screening I attended, a portion of the audience members seemed to be enjoying the film, while the other portion seemed to be more enjoying the headrest of their seat in the theater. These flaws are minor.

As a whole, “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera” has made a smooth transition from the stage to the screen and with it should come another stage performance for the production’s cast and crew.

This one coming on Oscar night.

“Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” has been rated “PG-13” for brief violent images.


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