Tag Archives: The Phantom of the Opera

Hello, New Fans!

Right now, The Phantom of The Opera at the Royal Albert Hall is airing on my PBS station.  It’s a pledge break, so I’m using the time to say hello to all the American fans who are just discovering Ramin Karimloo (Rah-MEEN CARE-em-loo), Hadley Fraser, and the lovely Sierra Boggess (bah-GUESS) tonight.  I can tell from the sudden upsurge in my visitor stats that lots of folks are searching for information about these talented actors.  You’re going to find entire tumblr sites devoted to Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser. These two have an avid fan base!  The best way to zero in on these actors here is to visit my “west end index” page (above).  This is because I bounce around between many topics, so if you’re not interested in book reviews, old TV westerns or farm animals, don’t despair.

Lots of people this weekend are searching for the answer to this question: why didn’t Michael Crawford sing during the encore?  The most common answer I read during the days following the live broadcast was that he was too emotional and overwhelmed by the audience’s response.  I also read that he was saving his voice, since he was appearing in another West End musical.  I honestly don’t know if either of these are correct.  I do know that many people were disappointed.

By the way, Hadley Fraser is one of my favorite performers on twitter.  The day the Phantom DVD was released in the US, he tweeted his apology for Raoul’s “guyliner.”  I love his self-deprecating sense of humor.  On my small, crappy television, the guyliner isn’t so bad, but so many of the wonderful production details are lost, especially with the costumes.  I’m so glad I went to see it at the cinema in October.

So, thanks for visiting The Ugly Bug Ball, and be sure to say hello.  Please leave a comment!

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo, The Phantom of the Opera, The Music of Night

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Actors, Television, Theatre

Photoshop: Before and After

I’m always mentioning what I do in photoshop.  It’s time for a little demonstration.  Here are some before and after versions.  I don’t usually save the originals once I’ve done corrections, so putting this together was a challenge!  I use version 7, which is old but effective.  How these look on your computer will depend on your screen and how it is balanced, but hopefully the “afters” will be much improved.

Here’s an example of cropping and improving contrast:

Hadley Fraser and cast in The Phantom of the Opera

Hadley Fraser and cast in The Phantom of the Opera

No matter how good a movie looks on DVD, the stills can always be better.  The original here was a few seconds before the one I used in my post for A Little Princess:

Liam Cunningham in A Little Princess

Liam Cunningham as Prince Rama in A Little Princess

I enjoy working with images from The Rifleman, because there’s no worry about color balancing.  It’s fun to restore the contrast, but I have to be careful not to wash out the lighter parts.  It’s also fun to remove unwanted elements using my favorite tool, the clone stamp:

Johnny Crawford in The Rifleman (The Pet, season 1)

Johnny Crawford in The Rifleman (The Pet, season 1)

Old family photos fade.  With my Epson scanner, I can scan them and restore the color and contrast quite a bit:

Christmas Party, 1970

Christmas Party, 1970 (I'm on the far right in red)

I’m certainly no expert at photoshop, but I have a great time learning new tools and techniques.  As I learn, I’m tempted to go back and fix the images in older posts, especially since getting a new laptop with a different screen.  I just have to resist the urge!

3 Comments

Filed under Movies, Photography, Television

2012: What I’m Excited About

Here’s a random list of some of the stuff I’m hoping will entertain me in the new year:

Books:  I’m on a long library waiting list for PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley.  It’s a murder mystery featuring the characters from Pride & Prejudice.  Mr Wickham gets bumped off, and I’m sure everybody is a suspect.  It fascinates me that the reviewers at Amazon are equally split between rating this book brilliant and awful.  I myself have tried many P & P sequels and failed to finish them.   I’m also looking forward to a book that’s coming out in spring, but I don’t even know the title or author.  All I know is that the cover photo will be one of my images of Ireland, posted last year at the beginning of January.

Television:  Downton Abbey Series Two begins a week from today.  Also this month, Ian Tracey guest stars on Supernatural (January 6th) and in the pilot for the new Fox series Alcatraz (January 16th or 23rd, or perhaps both?).   A friend just told me there’s a new Doc Martin series coming later in the year, as well as Sherlock, Great Expectations, Wallander, Endeavor, and Inspector Lewis.  Finally, The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary at the Royal Albert will get a PBS airing.

Movies:  2012 will be a countdown to The Hobbit and the movie version of Les Misérables.  While waiting for next Christmas, I am curious about The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, both actors I enjoy watching.  For March, I have a hugely expensive ticket to the silent masterpiece Abel Gance’s Napoleon, restored by Kevin Brownlow.  It will be shown on a triptych of three screens with a full orchestra.  This five hour epic at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre includes a dinner break!

DVDs:  February brings The Phantom of the Opera to the US, months after the folks in the UK got their DVDs.  I’m looking forward to The Help, since I missed it in the theatre.  Of course, that’s true for most of the other good movies in 2011.

Theatre:  The touring productions of Les Misérables and War Horse are coming to San Francisco.  I’ve got to get tickets, which means being more careful with my entertainment budget.  Damn you, Amazon and ebay!  No more impulse buying!

More New Year’s Resolutions:

1.  Keep better notes for next year’s Wrap Up.

2.  Read more, surf less.  (I’ve been on the computer way too much lately.)

3.  Get out to see more films in the cinema.

4.  You may have noticed a change in how I’m posting photographs here.  I’ve switched to slideshows in a effort to save on scrolling, but it also makes it harder for people to steal my images.  My goal is to take more photographs in 2012 and to see less of them posted on other sites without credit.

This is my 200th post at The Ugly Bug Ball!  I’m not planning to post more often in 2012, but I do hope to keep things going steadily along, with lots of new topics and not too much repetition.  Suggestions are always welcome.

Please share some of your resolutions and anticipations for 2012!

2 Comments

Filed under Literature, Movies, Television, Theatre

My Year End Wrap Up 2011

Another year comes to a close, so now it’s time to reflect back over what entertained me in 2011.  I just looked at the wrap up from last year, to get an idea of how far I’ve come in twelve months.  It’s clear that my focus has shifted in two directions.   I spent a large part of this year with my head in London, after watching the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables in March.  I also headed back to the past in a big way, once I started watching RetroTV and MeTV during a summer of unbearable television on the big networks.   These two obsessions have a major influence on my best and worst list of 2011.

Best Books:  Most of the novels I liked this year were written for children and teens.  I particularly enjoyed Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (the 2011 Newbery Award winner) and Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  Guitar Boy by MJ Auch and Countdown by Deborah Wiles weren’t perfect, but they each stayed with me long after reading.  My favorite non-fiction book was The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which managed to make the periodic table interesting to someone who barely paid attention to science in high school.  The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan was a little book filled with some gems, and it goes into the “hard to categorize” category.  The funniest books were Demitri Martin’s This is A Book, and Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward.  The biggest disappointments were The Sherlockian by Graham Moore and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.  The lesson here is to give up on Sherlock Holmes in books and stick to the BBC.

Best Television:  The Big Bang Theory remains my favorite sitcom, just for being consistently funny.  The best line: “Let’s hurry up and watch this Star Wars blu-ray before George Lucas changes it again!” (Sorry for the paraphrase.)  NCIS consistently underwhelmed me, and I’m can’t help wondering if I’ll give up on it soon.  In spite of my declaration to boycott Masterpiece on PBS, I still watched and enjoyed Downton Abbey, Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, Jason Isaac as Jackson Brodie, and the Inspector Lewis mysteries.  I spent my summer wrapped up in the old series Da Vinci’s Inquest, and my winter has been dominated by reruns of The Rifleman.  Overall, the television program with the biggest impact this year was the Les Mis concert on PBS.

Best Twitter:  Last year, Matthew Gray Gubler was my favorite tweeter.  He’s still whimsical and original, but now most of his tweets are links to his tumblr page.  I hate tumbr, so this is a big strike against him.  Sorry, Gube.  West End performer Hadley Fraser can be great on twitter, but he goes quiet for long stretches.  Ramin Karimloo tweets with sincerity, but all those tattoo photos freak me out!  Matt Lucas, Josh Groban and Yigit Pura have been consistently entertaining, and Shah Rukh Khan’s twitter feed has a good balance of the personal and professional.

Best Movies:  I did slightly better than last year getting out to see new films on the big screen.  I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class, The Descendants, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.   I’m not sure The Phantom of The Opera 25th Anniversary simulcast even counts in this category!  At the Frameline Film Festival, I enjoyed Kawa and Spork.  I have many more late 2011 films to see on DVD when they’re released in 2012.

Best DVDs:  I watched a lot of bad DVDs this year, just because they featured actors that I liked.  I really need to get over this habit!  While not necessarily bad, I endured a lot of fighting and CGI in movies like Thor, Captain America, and Centurion, just so I could see actors Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, JJ Feild, and Michael Fassbender.  I tried to watch all ten Best Picture Oscar nominees on DVD, but I faltered at 7½.  I did love The King’s Speech.  I hate to admit it, but I think my most entertaining DVD experience this year was re-watching JJ Abrams’ Star Trek with a friend.

Best StreamingDa Vinci’s Inquest and The Rifleman on hulu were great, even though I was also watching these series on broadcast television.  The worst: when Netflix split their charges for DVDs by mail versus streaming.  I tried a month of streaming only.  It was a disaster.  Nothing I wanted to watch would play without long pauses to reload.  Now that I’m getting DVDs only, the Netflix site doesn’t tell me what is available streaming only.  Netflix, you’ve got a long way to go before you win back my trust.  One free DVD rental for Christmas isn’t enough.

Best TheatreLes Mis and The Phantom of the Opera, obviously, even though I didn’t see either show live in an actual theatre.  I had some fun at San Francisco’s BATS Improv, especially seeing their Spontaneous Broadway.

Best Music:  I’ve spent most of my time listening to Josh Groban, Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo), and Johnny Crawford.   Another favorite is the song Electricity from Billy Elliot (the stage musical).  Still, nothing beats Hadley Fraser singing Again.  The worst music this year?  Whatever was playing in the trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Gack.

Best Music Video:  It really doesn’t count, but I can’t help it.  I love Josh Groban Sings Kanye West Tweets.

Best Entertainment News:  Following the news from London about West End performers from the Les Mis concert has entertained me at least as much as the concert itself.  It brought me new friendships with fellow fans from all over, and it kicked off the practice of having guest bloggers here at The Ugly Bug Ball.  If I’m blogging less about the West End, it’s only because things are pretty quiet right now.  2012 promises some guest reviews of Ramin Karimloo as Valjean.

Entertainer of The Year:  Last year was easy.  This year, it’s difficult to choose.  Johnny Crawford is great, but he came along late, at the end of November.  I blogged the most often about Hadley Fraser.  He provided me with a rich variety of entertainment, between the Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera performances, the online news and tweets, the music recordings and the YouTube videos.  Still, Ian Tracey beats Fraser out for sheer volume.  Tracey has been working steadily since he was a teenager, and even without an online presence (no tweets, fansites, or facebook page) he provided me with the most hours of entertainment.  I’m going to have to declare a tie between Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey.  Congratulations, guys.  There’s no prize, but you get my sincere thanks.  I’m sorry I can’t promise you my exclusive loyalty, because there’s always going to be a Johnny-Come-Lately waiting in the wings!

Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey

Hadley Fraser as Grantaire in the Les Mis concert; Ian Tracey as Adam Worth in Sanctuary

Next: What I’m excited about in 2012.  Happy New Year, everyone!

9 Comments

Filed under Actors, Literature, Movies, Music, Television, The Internet, Theatre

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.

*   *   *   *

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.

6 Comments

Filed under Theatre

The Phantom Unmasked!

A guest review from Scolytinae of Ramin Karimloo’s concert in Birmingham on Saturday, October 29, 2011.

A Night With The Phantom programWhat would it take to prise you away from your fireside on a damp and blustery October Saturday evening? For me, it was the prospect of spending “A Night with the Phantom” as the man himself, Ramin Karimloo, stepped out from behind the mask to perform as himself without the aid of character, makeup, costume, sets or an ensemble.

Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is an impressive venue, and its 4 levels were soon almost full.  Even the balconies behind the stage were occupied, prompting Ramin to ask if the audience all the way up there could hear him okay.

The evening got off to a good start with the excellent Manchester Concert Orchestra treating us to the lovely overture from South Pacific.  Then the star of the evening made his rapturously received entrance singing “Some Enchanted Evening.”  From here, the concert spanned a wide variety of songs and, as is the very nature of a “songs from the shows” format, some I enjoyed, some were fabulous, and some not so good.  A special mention must go to Capital Voices, whose 4 part harmony rendition of “Moon River” was truly lovely.

As the news that Ramin was going into Les Misérables in November had officially broken, there was a change to the published running order as “Stars” was abandoned in favour of “Bring Him Home.”  We were hushed in anticipation as the song began; after all, this is the signature song from the show and the one that every Valjean is judged on.  We have all heard Alfie Boe’s beautiful version, so the question was—how would Ramin do?  The answer—very well indeed.  He has just the right quality to his voice for this quiet, haunting ballad, and it was a lovely performance.  The only criticism—that final note went a little astray, but given the proper context and rehearsal time, I feel sure he will be a good Valjean and bring his own intensity to the role.  He admitted himself that he has a lot of work to do over the next 4 weeks to get ready, and we all wish him well.

The most popular part of the evening was, perhaps not surprisingly, the selection from The Phantom of the Opera.  I felt that this was where guest star Celia Graham really came into her own. The fact that she had been Christine opposite Ramin in both Phantom and Love Never Dies gave the performances a polish and confidence that some of the other numbers lacked, and her beautiful, clear voice filled the auditorium at the end of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

As a shameless plug for his first solo CD, due out in January, a couple of songs were included to showcase the album and to show a completely different side to Ramin.  These were enthusiastically received by the large audience.

Ramin closed the show with “’Til I Hear You Sing” from Love Never Dies, a beautiful ballad that he has most definitely made his own. A rapturous standing ovation brought him back on stage and, after checking with us that we were okay for time to get our trains and buses, he gave us an encore in the shape of the beautiful “Music of the Night.”

Overall it was a really enjoyable evening.  Things moved along at a brisk pace with guests breaking up the time on stage nicely and Ramin occasionally sharing an anecdote or story with the audience and, while raising the microphone stand after their appearances, quipping “no-one’s THAT short!”

The orchestra was fantastic, if a little too loud on occasion, meaning we sometimes lost the voices underneath the soaring music. Apparently this wasn’t a problem for my husband who, as a late addition to the proceedings, was sitting out at the side of the auditorium and not with me.  Obviously the amps must point straight out from the stage!

However, this certainly didn’t spoil the evening in any way—the man came out from behind the mask and did a great job.

Thank you, Scolytinae, for another great review!  (She reviewed Les Mis last month.)  We’re looking forward to your impressions of Ramin Karimloo in Les Misérables, when the time comes.

YouTube videos from the Birmingham concert:

Ramin Karimloo and Celia Graham

Music of the Night

7 Comments

Filed under Actors, Theatre

POTO25: Curtain Call and Encores

 

Curtain call with Hadley Fraser, Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess
Curtain call with Hadley Fraser, Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh
John Owen-Jones, Sarah Brightman, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
John Owen-Jones, Sarah Brightman, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Ramin Karimloo, Sarah Brightman, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Ramin Karimloo, Sarah Brightman, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Ramin Karimloo, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Ramin Karimloo, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Crawford
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Crawford
Michael Crawford and Ramin Karimloo shake hands
Michael Crawford and Ramin Karimloo shake hands
Crawford, Boggess, Karimloo, Warlow, Wilkinson, & Joback
Crawford, Boggess, Karimloo, Warlow, Wilkinson, & Jöback

Confetti finale

These are from the finale at the Royal Albert Hall, celebrating 25 years of The Phantom of the Opera.

11 Comments

Filed under Actors, Theatre