Wow, am I exhausted! I got up at 7am this morning, and it’s been POTO25 ever since. Here in San Francisco, the simulcast of The Phantom of the Opera Live from the Royal Albert Hall began at 11am. We drove down early, ate breakfast nearby, and then got to the cinema for choice seats. I’m sure nobody wants to hear what I had for breakfast, so I’ll cut right to the good stuff. Our cinema had a 255 seat capacity (trust me, I looked) and there were probably about 60 of us in attendance.
Overall, the quality of the broadcast was excellent. There were probably four cameras doing the coverage, and the only one I didn’t like was the one at stage level, literally along the footlights. Every time they switched over to that camera, it made me a little seasick. This was due to the angle and the lens distortion. The set was gorgeous, with the orchestra above the main platform and sometimes covered by a scrim. There were four panels at the back of the main stage that had different backdrops projected. Now, I don’t know the proper terminology for this, but the little colored light circles making up these projections didn’t react very well to certain camera angles and movements. It was very hard on the eye, and I hope it’s something they can fix digitally for the DVD release. I imagine it was fine for the live audience at the Royal Albert Hall. My favorite use of these panels was during Christine’s bows after her first big solo. She turned her back to the actual audience, and the panels were used like mirrors to reflect the audience applauding. Then the front stage became backstage at the opera house.
The big surprise and delight for me was Sierra Boggess. I’ve never seen her perform before, and she was truly lovely. The camera adores her, and she performed beautifully. I can’t actually be objective about Ramin Karimloo (The Phantom) and Hadley Fraser (Raoul) because I’m such a big fan of both of them already. Sadly, makeup for the stage isn’t subtle enough for filmed closeups, and Karimloo’s prosthetics, mask, and two microphones (forehead and cheek) were, well, not subtle. In spite of this, Karimloo broke my heart at the end when he let Christine go. Fraser cleaned up nicely as Raoul, and I thought he struck the right balance between gentle lover and arrogant aristocrat. I thought everybody did a great job, and I enjoyed finding familiar faces in the ensemble from the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert last year.
The finale was pretty spectacular, and these folks came out: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, the surviving creative team from the original production, the creative team for the RAH production, the original London cast including Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, and four other Phantom actors. These were Colm Wilkinson, John Owen-Jones, Anthony Warlow and Peter Jöback. Sarah Brightman sang with the four phantoms with Ramin Karimloo joining them at the end. It’s a shame that the Phantom makeup takes too long to take off, because it would have been great to see Karimloo’s real face for the finale. Andrew Lloyd Webber made a short speech, and he was pretty cute when he asked the audience to sit down in case he went on too long. After the encores, during the final bows, sparklers went off around the Hall while confetti and streamers dropped from above. I was sorry to see it end, but at least we’ll have the DVD release. There was a slide advertising the DVD before the simulcast began, but it didn’t give a US release date, just “coming soon.”
One of the real pleasures of the day was chatting with other members of the audience. One nice woman brought her young son who enjoys performing in musicals. Who knows, one day we may be seeing him as the Phantom! He was happy to pose for a photograph with the cinema poster.
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