First off, may I preface with how much I adore the book The Phantom of the Opera. It is one of my favorites. In the top 5. The musical? Well, I do love much of it. (And not love some of it.) And it is, of course, very well done as only A.L. Webber can do. I love singing and playing some of the songs. I love how I often do feel as if I'm soaring when I hear some of the music from that musical. I tried as hard as I could to memorize the libretto when I checked it out from the library.
But it's not the book, or, I should say, not as good as the book (in my typical reader opinion). So many things left out, and enough done to the story to confuse the audience. For example, I am still shocked by people who are sympathetic toward the phantom. Only those who have only seen the musical would think that. Those who have read the book know how devious, unfeeling, scheming, twisted, horrid person that he is. (One little hint: His torture chamber from the book is not even mentioned in the musical.) The musical also glosses over the fact that Christine and Raoul knew each other for many years and loved each other long before the curtain rises on either the book or the musical.
Still, as one whose own life-long hobby is composing a musical based on a favorite book, I understand the need and difficulty to condense and lose much of a great story and great characters. So, I don't fault much in the musical as I could. (Though I'm still upset about the "treatment" of the Persian. A barrel monkey indeed!)
Well, with my great love for the book and my love for A.L. Webber's music/musicals, you may imagine my intrigue when I learned two weeks ago that said A.L. Webber had composed a sequel to his own musical. Yep. Phantom of the Opera's sequel Love Never Dies is premiering in London this month. And my skeptic reader self thought "How can you make a sequel when Erik dies at the end?" Then I remembered. He doesn't die at the end of the musical. It was left open, as A.L. Webber intended. (He has spent 20 years working with ideas of this sequel musical.)
So what would they do with the story. My reader/book-loving self was quite wary, but my musical-loving self was anxious. I read what I could in the one evening that I allowed myself time (though I really should have spent the time reading picture books for work or doing my taxes). I read of the background of the man A.L. Webber himself picked to play the phantom. (And oh wow was I impressed and taken in!) I watched three or four of the movie clips (one included later). I wanted to be in the know--and I wanted to own "the one song." Thus, I bought the CD. From across the pond, yes. But the excitement of the evening's discovery had me on the less sensical route, and the CD was bought. I waited, and kept myself from telling anyone how anxious I was to know what would happen. What this music would sound like.
It finally came. I got it this morning and immediately popped it into the car on my way to work.
(Note: contains spoilers)
"The one song" was played a few times. But I knew I must move on to hear the rest. I had not gotten 1/2 way through the 1st CD by my lunch hour. And already I was quite worried and a bit upset. I listened to the rest on my drive home and as I washed dishes and made fruit pizza tonight.
My thoughts? I hate the story. Hate, hate, hate, H.A.T.E. it! I could spend days and days of all the things that I hate about the story. The orchestral pieces were enchanting and mesmerizing (as could only be expected of A.L. Webber). But I hate the story. There were a few songs that slightly annoyed me, yet others (like "the one song") that will never leave my life the same again. But I hate the story. I liked a couple of twists (like Meg's feelings) that I would not have expected. But I hate the story. The voice of the man chosen to play the phantom? Wow, there are times he is right up there with Josh--and that's saying something from me! But I hate the story. I was impressed with Christine. But I hate the story.
I was furious with what was done concerning Raoul and Christine. And I hate the story. I was livid about what happened in the second to last scene. And I hate the story. I was startled by the last scene and completely dumbfounded by that choice of ending. And I hate the story. I despised the whole Superman/Indiana Jones/2002 Count of Monte Cristo element that things these days just have to include. If you didn't catch those references, let me quote a portion of a phantom-Christine duet:
Once upon another time,
You went off and left me alone.
But that's not all you did...
You left me with a son.
Oh, did I mention I hate the story? Yeah. 'Cause in my musical and book interpretations, the relations between Christine and her devious Angel of Music were completely chaste--no matter what the true meaning of "Music of the Night" is! I liked how the 2004 movie handled it, and that's how I viewed it. Nothing happened. But an earlier song in this sequel talked way too much of what apparently the writers for this sequel decided had happened. And guess what? I hate the story. And then as the musical went on, I suddenly had a dawning--as the phantom himself does. And I was ready to not continue after the first CD. Honestly. I already hated the story that much.
But I'd bought the thing and might as well see what else happens. Worse and worse. More and more hating it. Let's just throw in a lot of views of the world and twist them musically so that they twist your heart into being sympathetic. No! I am stronger than that. And I will stand firm: I hate the story.
But I love "the one song." And I laugh that I went through so much effort...just for "the one song." Yet listen to the song (and the voice) for yourself and you will see that no matter how much one can hate a story, they can be totally in love with a song. Especially if that one person is a singer herself. Oh, if a man sang this to me, I think my entire being would melt.
(Much more enjoyable to listen to than to watch, by the way--what is up with music videos like this? Though the other is slightly more odd)
So I love the song. And I hate the story. We'll see how I connect with some of the other songs, and how much I'll not listen to others. I wonder about the reception of others to this musical. I see so many who will love every bit of it. While it would be nice to have others understand my feelings over it, if I stand alone in hating it, then I stand alone. That's not the first time. But I'll let you decide for yourself, for "to each his own" in their views and opinions. And much of the world will be happy that their sympathies for the phantom in the first musical will be answered in this second.
But me? I should have gone with my initial instinct, and just listened to the YouTube video for free over and over. Ah, well. At least I'm more informed now. Let's just hope Gaston Leroux can still rest peacefully.
P.S. My word do I hate the story.