These days, the movie-musical is coming back in style, and after Chicago did so well, I would expect we’ll be seeing many more to come. The latest adaptation from stage to screen is one that has been in the works for nearly 15 years. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most popular musicals of all time, the second-longest running musical ever (his Cats was the first-longest). Brought to the screen by Joel Schumaker, the big-screen version makes a few minor changes to the storyline, but ultimately holds the same power and draw as the musical on which it was based.
The cast is a younger one: Gerard Butler is the Phantom, a disfigured mad genius living beneath the Paris Opera House. Emmy Rossum is Christine Daae, a chorus girl who is the object of the Phantom’s desires and training, who is ultimately pushed into the spotlight. Her childhood sweetheart, Raul (Patrick Wilson) is the benefactor of the new owners of the opera house, and thus lies the base for the romantic triangle.
If you enjoyed the musical, you’re bound to like the film. The visuals are great, the pacing solid, and the acting rather good considering the freshness of the cast. Their vocal performances are pretty good too, although the jump between production dialogue and ADR is a bit jolting at times. There were some lyric changes made, and the biggest changes were moving the chandelier crash from the middle of the story to the climax. It also has a flashback sequence which was nowhere to be found in the musical.
The screening I attended was held by the Society of Composers and Lyricists. After the film, Andrew Lloyd Webber was on hand to talk to the audience, and take questions. I thought it was particularly interesting to hear him discuss how his influence growing up was movie musicals, mainly the Rogers and Hammerstein variety, and so making the transition from stage to screen was not a rather difficult one.
The questions from the audience ranged from working with various lyricists, to getting his start (with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat). Apparently he got a 20-minute version of it performed at a school, and the father of one of the students was the theater critic for a London newspaper! Talk about a break!
There was a new song written for the film, entitled “Learn to be Lonely”. In my interview with music producer Nigel Wright, he indicated that they weren’t sure if the song would end up in the final film. Ultimately, a pop version shows up during the end credits. When asked about it, Webber indicated that they had indeed filmed a scene where the Phantom sings it, but cut it in the end. Ironically, Minnie Driver (who plays the diva Carlotta) was dubbed over during the film – but actually sings the end credits song!
The film runs 142 minutes long, and at times you can feel it – but the imagery and music on screen is enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen. For fans of the musical, this film has been a long-time coming. For people who haven’t been able to see it, now they finally can!