Sunday, January 11, 2009

So who is the bad guy again?

LibertyCat and I have just been to see Phantom of the Opera and, like Spamalot, I was generally disappointed. Not with the music, which was brilliant; nor with the special effects. I was just frustrated by the plot.

Spamalot irritated me by including bad Broadway jokes and a totally unnecessary token female character, which meant it missed the much-loved bridge scene from the original Monty Python film. I didn't realise it was going to miss the bridge scene until near the end, which caused me to leave the theatre moaning about it.

Neither LibertyCat or I realised until two-thirds the way through Phantom of the Opera that the Phantom was not the hero. In fact, he was the bad guy. This was because he was the only sympathetic character in the production, in our view, except for the ballet teacher.

Apologies to those who haven't seen this musical, who won't understand the next bit of the post, but:

Raoul, the male romantic lead, had all the character of the chandelier that crashes down at the end of the first half of the production. In contrast, the Phantom seemed dramatic and mysterious. This meant that Christine falling in love with Raoul after rejecting the Phantom made her look like a shallow individual who only values appearances. I kept wanting to shout at the stage "You daft bird, why can't you see the virtues of this passionate, talented man?"

The management and main tenor were equally unsympathetic so the Phantom killing them seemed like natural justice. In fact, this, and his attempts to blackmail the theatre, turned the misunderstood musical genius into an intriguing bad-boy prodigy. After all, everyone was horrid to him since he had a facial disfigurement so it wasn't like he didn't deserve payback. I also thought the character was supposed to be the same age as Raoul [~22/23] since older blokes in theatre, unless they're bungling and lecherous, don't become that tormented about girls.

Thus, leaving the poor bloke bereft of his love and alone at the end of the production while Raoul and Christine sailed off into the dawn seemed an unsatisfactory ending. The whole thing was a tragedy - why didn't he realise the girl he had tutored was utterly callow? Why couldn't he compromise and run off with the ballet teacher instead, who had remained loyal to him throughout by failing to reveal his hiding place? I was desperately frustrated by the original French author and Andrew Lloyd Webber. However, I did like the special effects... and the music.

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