Tag Archives: Royal Albert Hall

Phantom of the Opera 25: The DVD

The DVD version of The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary at the Royal Albert Hall was released this week, but not in the United States.  We have to wait until February 7th, which I’ve already ranted about.  I recruited two UK friends who’ve guest blogged here already to help me out once again.  Here they share their impressions of the new DVD.

Scolytinae:

My hubby and I were unable to make the trip to the Royal Albert Hall to experience The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary in person, so the next best thing was to go to our local cinema and be a part of the worldwide live broadcast on 2 October 2011. It was quite something to sit there and think that friends were sitting thousands of miles away, at a different time of day, doing exactly the same thing!

Obviously you miss the buzz of excitement and anticipation as the auditorium fills and the orchestra begins to tune up—people arriving juggling buckets of popcorn and giant hot dogs doesn’t  have quite the same atmosphere! However, when the lights dimmed and the show started, we were all quickly transported to the world of the Opera Populaire.

Having never seen the show before, I can honestly say it was a wonderful experience. I have no point of reference, but I thought Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser were absolutely stunning and, considering the tight time frame everyone was working to, the whole show was an amazing spectacle and if anything major went wrong, I didn’t notice!

The only minor criticism was that on occasions, the music seemed far too loud and we lost some of the lyrics, but we put that down to the cinema sound system and hoped it would be an issue that was easily rectified on the DVD.  Strangely, the very clever digital backdrops didn’t come across on camera too well either, becoming pixelated at times and drawing the eye. Other than that, we got to see the performance in all its glory, with just a couple of things which were always going to be destined for the cutting room floor: Hadley backing into a table and the Phantom’s “switch on” candle!

It was a long wait, but the DVD finally dropped through the letterbox on 14th November, and we both settled down for another evening with the Phantom.  Happy to report the sound problems have been fixed, and it was a delight to hear everything. The editing is good, and the use of multiple angles actually adds to some scenes, bringing your attention to some action that you may have missed before and allowing a much better shot of that candle lighting incident.  (It looks good now, and the table incident has been omitted entirely!) It was also nice to have periodic shots of the fabulous orchestra too. Sadly, those digital backdrop panels still didn’t come across at their best, although they were improved.

An interesting and informative behind-the-scenes style documentary was included as a bonus feature. It was nice to hear from the technical side of the production team for a change, outlining the logistical problems of mounting a full stage production in a concert hall, and watching the talented make up artist at work.

Not having seen the show live, the DVD is, for me at least, a much improved version of the cinematic experience. It is a beautiful record of a truly extraordinary theatrical event, and should definitely be a part of every musical theatre lover’s collection.

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Helsbrownie, who attended the live performance at the Royal Albert Hall, shared her reactions via twitter as she watched the DVD for the first time.  Click twice to read version with bigger print.

Thank you, Scolytinae and Helsbrownie!  Now we’ll be counting down the days until we can get our hands on the US version of the Phantom DVD.

Some folks might not be aware that the UK version has a region coding that makes it impossible to play on a US player.  Region-free DVD players can play all or most DVDs, and some new computers will allow you to reset the region coding but only a few times.  For example, my new laptop allows me five resets.  The risk is losing track and ending up with a DVD drive that won’t play anything else you own or rent.

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The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary

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.

The Next Phantom?

The Next Phantom? A young moviegoer in San Bruno

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