Phantom of the Opera (1992)
by Michael Tilford & Tom Alonso
starring Braxton Peters, April Harr & Stephen F. Schmidt
The early nineties were a boom time for Phantom-based musicals, which looks at first glance like a flurry in response to the success of the Lloyd Webber show; in some cases that isn't strictly true, such as in the case of the Yeston/Kopit musical, the germs of which actually predated Lloyd Webber's spectacular, but in other cases the influence is pretty clear. This show, though more closely based on Leroux's than practically any other, still has moments wherein the influence seems pretty obvious, not the least of which is the pervasive half-mask.
Theoretically, this musical's cast recording (created for Toby's Dinner Theatre in Baltimore), exists out there in the wild, untracked wilderness of the world. Finding a copy of it requires the patronage of the bodhisattva of good fortune, however, which I obviously did not have since I spent years fruitlessly cruising online auctions and used CD shops. I finally got frustrated enough to email Alonso himself, who was not only very cordial about the unknown woman cluttering up his inbox but actually nice enough to provide me with a review copy of my very own. Rejoicing! I sincerely hope he won't regret it if (let's be fair: when) I occasionally say less than loving things about it in this review.
The themes introduced here are appropriate to the mood and setting of the piece, including churchbells, nicely evocative of the story's religious undertones, and a gently pastoral theme being slowly bled into by more ominous strings and rumblings, lending the whole sound an aura of oncoming creepiness. The churchbells are succeeded by a liturgical-style plainchant opening from the chorus that is absolutely gorgeous, and again reminds us that the story is rich in religious symbolism and importance.
There are a few harsh moments here for the listener; for one thing, the orchestra is all simulated, meaning that those who are not lovers of synth abuse are probably going to wince a time or two throughout the show. It's one of those things you just have to grin and bear in smaller shows where the house can't afford to pay for both the pizza and a fifty-six-piece orchestra, but it's still less than awesome. The second issue is that the chorus, though composed of what are, as far as I can tell, very talented singers, is surprisingly harsh and grating at times when it doesn't seem to be a stylistic choice; the impression I got was that while they are all very good singers individually, they're fighting with one another a bit too much to gel well as a chorus.
The solo singers back this theory up, since they are extremely competent (especially Braxton Peters as Erik and Stephen Schmidt as Raoul; April Harr is no slouch, but she doesn't quite get up to their level) and overall a pleasure to listen to. Surprisingly (or maybe I shouldn't be surprised but am just jaded by a lot of very, very bad lyrics in other shows), Tilford's book is impressively enjoyable, deft in its phrasing and intelligent in its vocabulary.
The content, as we discover here, is something else, though probably appealing to fans of a kinder, gentler Erik. After a good progression between chorus and narrator, comparing the Phantom to a demon, then an angel, then a lunatic, then a genius, then a ghost, and finally a man, the narrator proclaims the Phantom as "a man whose only crime was being born". Considering that Leroux's Phantom was guilty of numerous crimes, including theft, extortion, trespassing, and murder, it's hard to take that one seriously, though I think it's intended to insinuate that he had originally committed no other crimes but started in on his life of reckless terrorizing after the world punished his innocence. Either way, it lets you know that Tilford intends to approach this Phantom very sympathetically; you could practically drown in all the Phantom lovin' in this show, so head for the exits or buckle in accordingly.
The narrator's parting shot is to note that "If this story needs a moral, listen well and learn: the wheel turns slowly, but it turns." What the famous half-quote is referring to is kind of hard to guess given the lack of context; inevitability of something, sure, but what? Fate? Justice? Consequences? Reward for suffering? Throw me a bone, here!
Like Lloyd Webber's musical, this one features a framework story within which the Phantom's story is set, in this case court proceedings to determine the culpable parties in the affair of the opera house's vandalism, Joseph Buquet's death, and the disappearance of Christine and Raoul after a performance. Their disappearance points to an adherence to Leroux's story, which had them run away together after the final performance, as does the court set in 1882, a year or so after Leroux's story's events (though, despite all this talk of who's at fault for what heinous crimes, it appears that Philippe and his tragically heroic death are once again lost to the recesses of time - sob!). Despite taking a side trip for some off-the-wall backstory later, this may be one of the stage shows most closely based on Leroux's work, right up there with the 1984 Hill production.
Do You Believe in Ghosts?:
This initial chorus number illustrates the fear and superstition of the cast and crew of the opera house, ably illustrating the unexplainable phenomena within it by employing evocative phrases such as "wind in windowless halls" or "the cat singing Fidelio in the basement". The music's a bit of a hot mess; while not totally inaccessible, it's often vaguely atonal and extremely quick in tempo, which ends up giving it an effect not unlike a very messy Sondheim number. This didn't irritate me all that much, especially later in the show where its reprises are less frantically messy, but then again I'm an unabashed Sondheim fangirl.
This is the one part of the show wherein I felt that I really wasn't able to grasp what was going on just from listening to the cast recording; there's some business going on behind all the gasping and wailing that includes someone shouting, "Buquet, you're fired!" and the stagehand retorting, "In more than one way, I'm already retired!", but what they might be referring to is lost in a wall of chorus and action. Since there's no currently-running production of this musical that I know of, I can do nothing but theorize; it's possible that Buquet is being fired here for being lazy, considering his response, and that Tilford is foreshadowing his imminent demise. Shortly thereafter, more mention of Buquet is made without the involvement of the man himself, and almost seems to be suggesting that he has already been discovered dead, which if true would make his death part of the setup of the story rather than an event within it, and one of the most lightning-quick removals of Buquet in any stage version. Only Leroux's novel does it quicker, what with opening with him dead and all.
The Phantom makes his entrance here, wandering about behind the scenes mocking the mediocrity of the cast and making derisive noises at their superstitions ("If I were really a ghost, my dear, I'd find a better hell than here!"). As I said earlier, Peters has a very powerful baritone, and it's interesting to note that Alonso has chosen to write for that voice part, rather than writing for a tenor Phantom as most of the other large shows have done. The baritone voice part is more traditionally reserved for villains (with the tenors as the heroes), and it's an interesting contrast considering how much Tilford plans to try to keep Erik (who does, by the way, use his name in this version) sympathized.
Behind Every Door:
Schmidt comes in here as Raoul, and pretty much proceeds to charm the stars out of the eyes of every blushing girl (and many of the boys and non-binary babes) listening, I imagine. His tenor is light, lovely, and obviously handled by someone who knows what he's doing, and the character of Raoul in this musical is one of unrelenting gallantry and sentimental wistfulness. This particular song involves him singing his joy at having recognized Christine, and his exploration of all the regret he feels at never having been able to pursue her before. The song's message is one of hope, discarding lost chances to move forward and find happiness in the future, and its sweet character is very in keeping with Leroux's starstruck swain. In particular, Raoul quite baldly aligns himself, symbolically, with childhood ("The love of youth remains so pure and true!"), giving us the first of Christine's two very different suitor archetypes.
The piece's musicality is nicely handled, featuring a hopeful, major-key flute and piano being slowly encroached upon by an eerie, building theme representing the Phantom's influence on this hoped-for childhood romance. It's a great contrast between the two worlds, and while Raoul finally triumphs at the very end of the piece, drowning out the Phantom's theme, it's not through success but rather through hurt, as he overhears Leroux's famous line about Christine giving her soul away and realizes that he's hearing a rival for her love on the other side of the dressing room door (a play on the song's title, as well). Schmidt manages somehow to be palpably upset and jealous without sounding like a person I would want to avoid on the street, which is a difficult feat for most humans.
That's the Way It's Done Around Here:
In contrast to the otherworldly moans and undercurrents of the Phantom's influence on the previous scene, this piece, sung by the managers, features a sprightly, worldly theme concerned with business, efficiency and stress. The action involves Debienne and Poligny (making their first real musical appearance ever!) explaining the opera house's workings, including its resident ghost, to newcomers Moncharmin and Richard.
The notes from the Phantom, here read aloud, are oddly familiar and seem out-of-tone from him, but then again we are getting them through the filter of whatever manager is reading them at the time. More interesting is the fact that good old D&P already know about Erik's fixation on Christine, and know that it's based on a musical interest in her voice; the new owners aren't flying into this quite as blindly as they did in Leroux's novel, and even already have a shiny, demanding note for her performance. Listening to Moncharmin and Richard giggle uneasily through half of this song as they continue to think (and then hope) it's all an elaborate prank is pretty entertaining.
Of course, they had to go and ruin it by pronouncing the venerable boxkeeper's name "Gear-y" a moment later, giving me a new possible source to blame that pronunciation on in the Microprose game that came out a year after htis show. Mercifully, Peters does not mispronounce it when he repeats it a moment later. The Madame herself, however, is in fact a boxkeeper rather than a ballet mistress as so many descendents of Webber's musical paint her, and just as formidable and unwilling to be the managers' doormat as she was in the novel. This woman wants to go home and take a nap, dammit. Get off her junk.
Something in the Sea:
Did you find Raoul adorably romantic back in Behind Every Door? Good; now multiply that by three and you have this song. It starts out with him musing sadly about times gone by, and moves on to his plaintive, moving plea to Christine to consider his suit; he recounts the story of diving into the sea to rescue her scarf as a little boy, and uses the ocean as a metaphor for the unknown, allowing him to exhort her to take a similar leap of faith here and now. Lines such as "The challenge is in choosing to choose!" nicely encourage her without being demanding, and his loving cries ("Can't you see that I loved you then and I love you still?") tug at the heartstrings of the most stalwart viewer. Schmidt is a little bit more bombastic at this point than necessary; I would have appreciated a little more vocal subtlety, but as usual he sounds lovely, so I have little to really complain about.
Christine is more cautious; interestingly, this version of the character seems to be more worldly and less childlike than most. I say seems because it will turn out that she is in no way stripped of her innocence or nearly as grown-up as she believes (exhibit A: belief in magical invisible Angel of Vocal Tutoring), but she likes to think that she is and gently tries to turn Raoul aside, deliberately calling him "my friend" and reminding him that, while she will never forget the past, she is no longer the child he once knew. There is an implication that Christine has intentionally tried to make herself more strong and mature in order to make her father proud, which fits well with the idea that she isn't succeeding a whole lot in spite of her best efforts.
The extended metaphor of the scarf as their childhood love continues, with Raoul challenging Christine to be the hero who rescues it this time; it isn't overdone, and the visuals drawn by his entreaties not to let it "drift away" and reminding her of his own long-ago lack of hesitation make it a powerful plaint. Tilford's book and Schmidt's acting combine to create the perfect dynamic here: the character is urging but not pushing, asking earnestly but not demanding - spot-on for the representation of gentle and encouraging love. (In fact, he's pretty much a lot nicer than Leroux's version of the character, too - there's no satire in his behavior or representation.)
I said it earlier, but it bears repeating: this recording has very high-caliber singers. They're a great afternoon of listening. The melodic choices for this song are again very Sondheim-esque (most strongly reminiscent of Sweeney Todd).
This number is a fairly basic retelling of the story of Christine's father dying and promising to send her an angel; Harr is believable in her credulity, though it's all just the tiniest bit at odds with her earlier self-proclaimed maturity. She poignantly states that there is "no place for dreamers like poor Raoul" in her adult world, while is completed by the Angel's presence; the irony, of course, is that it is she who is clinging to childhood and to the memory of her father rather than choosing to move forward. Leroux's double conundrum - that the Phantom represents childhood by being connected to her father but also adulthood by being the carnal, passionate lover as opposed to Raoul, who represents childhood by being her remembered love from bygone days but also adulthood by being the growing-up, getting-married and joining-society choice - is such a fun one to play with, and I'm glad it was tackled in this show.
The Love You Never Had:
In sharp contrast, the Phantom's big number involves his mourning for the complete absence of emotion in his life, not only of happiness and love but even of more negative emotions ("pain means you're alive," he laments at one point). Rather than longing specifically for love, he seems to be reacting to a fear that he will be forever mired in emptiness and inhumanity, a surprisingly self-aware approach we don't often see. No matter how much he talks about feeling nothing, however, his emotional response to Christine by the last verse is obvious, and halfway through the song he's gone from being emo over his lack of human emotion to being emo over his loneliness. I recognize how dramatic the idea of being trapped in a lack of emotion is, but considering that a total lack of emotion makes for people who are not emotional enough to care about not having any emotions, it seldom translates well without sounding like adolescent whining.
It seems clear, from the direction of this song, that Christine is intended to be a direct love interest - i.e., he is interested in her specifically, not in her as a representative for the entire human race, a more humanizing choice than Leroux's novel's. The entire song, in fact, is extremely humanizing; unfortunately, it doesn't pull that off as well as I'd like it to. Expositional "I feel" songs like this are always more relatable for the audience, but on the flip side they detract from the mystery and power of the character by laying out all of his squishy innards for us at once. It's not an invalid approach, but this Phantom often seems to have more in common with the one from the Yeston/Kopit musical than with Leroux's decidedly enigmatic and frightening villain.
At the Opera:
Carlotta, fully introduced here, is the usual stereotypical Italian diva, seemingly owing a lot to previous versions of the character (Biancarolli from the 1943 Lubin/Rains film and Guidicelli from the Webber musical spring immediately to mind). Surprisingly enough, Christine and Carlotta get into it head to head here, outright scrapping backstage in a way we have only seen in the 1976 Bischoff novel (well, and the 1989 Thomas/Gillis film. If you want to count that), though more believably than in either of those; Carlotta accuses her of trying to steal her thunder, while Christine declares that she's what the people want to see, damn it, and everyone gets very threatened and angry.
While the rest of the cast presumably goes to get concessions and settle in to spectate, Carlotta and Christine have a sing-off. It's in much more of a duel format than the sing-off in the 1990 Richardson/Dance miniseries, involving the two tackling difficult melismas and passages one at a time, one right after the other. Christine wins, of course; Jane Boyle does a fantastic job of making her Carlotta sound bad on the high notes, despite her obvious ability to sing them, and if I'm slightly disappointed by the ever-trite representation of Carlotta as talentless instead of just inconvenient, at least it wasn't in a musical that tried to convince me that sublime perfection was awful (I'm looking at you, Schumacher/Butler film).
The Jewel Song:
Gounod lives! Despite the results of the sing-off, Christine actually can't stop Carlotta from going on in her role, and so off she goes to sing the famous Marguerite. The Phantom's displeasure is felt very early on, with various technical difficulties, up to and including the stage lights going AWOL, plaguing the production; the humor of Carlotta's threatening warbles about everyone being sorry if they don't get some light on the stage is followed by horror as the Phantom responds to her request by crashing the chandelier down.
There's a moment of good character work here; both Raoul and Erik can clearly be heard calling to Christine after the disaster.
A Room Full of Shadows:
And now, the weirdness. Not that it's bad, by any means, but I'm willing to bet most of you weren't coming in expecting to see these shenanigans.
Having recently unmasked Erik and become traumatized by the experience and his response, Christine is mostly incoherent and the Phantom is attempting, remorseful and self-loathing, to comfort her; in particular, the line, "You must now bear a burden I have had a lifetime to become accustomed to," referring to the image of his hideousness, is very powerful. He attempts to put her to sleep by singing a lullaby and making a half-assed attempt to avoid telling her all about his childhood, which he obviously desperately wants to do.
It's interesting to me to note here that, with the very notable exceptions of the 1990 Kay novel, the 2004 Lofficier story and the Yeston/Kopit musical and the miniseries based on it, few versions touch on the Phantom's father when they start explaining his backstory. I'm not entirely sure why this is, except that Leroux himself doesn't mention Erik's father along with his mother, and that the idea of being cut off from a mother's love is usually a more culturally resonant and basic one than the idea of being cut off from a father's.
At any rate, this extended flashback/dream-sequence is all about Erik's mother, and, surprisingly, it's not condemning; unlike most versions, which paint her as a selfish and/or weak woman incapable of loving such a hideously deformed son, Tilford's script sensitively portrays her as a struggling but tender figure, unable to avoid the spectre of Erik's ugliness but as loving and sheltering as she can be in spite of it. Erik not only exhorts Christine to pity her (what happened to his mother is never alluded to, so I guess we have to assume she died of the consumption or the cholera or something else romantic and vague) but actually describes remembered scenes of childhood happiness, during which he spent many evenings in his shadowed room with her while she told him fantastic bedtime stories.
There are a lot of things going on here. For one thing, that mysterious baby!Phantom from the cover of the album up there makes his appearance here as Young Erik, and that means a lot of boy soprano stylings. A member of the Mormon Tabernacle choir the child isn't, but he isn't terrible, either; just very obviously a child singer, and it's very difficult to get child singers who don't eventually make you want to pour lead in your ears to escape their shrill whines. I happen to love many musicals that involve child singers - Norman & Simon's The Secret Garden is a great example - but I still want to go after the little hellspawn with a sharp stake after an hour or so. This is why I am not societally allowed to bear children.
If you don't mind the constant child-singing, you can move on to look at the odd hodgepodge of ideas instead. Leroux's original novel, which very definitely excised pretty much all mother figures except for Christine herself, doesn't seem to have much to do with this interpretation of the character's origins. While the surfeit of emotion and inner monologuing does again make the character more relatable, it's actually having a regrettable effect on me; the Phantom's becoming less sympathetic for me, not more, when Erik's mother is such a fiercely loving and positive role model and he's still grown up to be a threatening, lurking, murdering asshat. Mother would be so disappointed, Erik.
Erik begins talking back and forth with his younger self in an externalized sort of mental drama, which is actually very gripping as the child preaches hope and tolerance and the adult lashes out in ostracization and despair. It's not quite a full-fledged multiple-personality conceit - it's pretty clear that Tilford means most of this metaphorically - but it's still a great signpost on the Road to Weirdness, and particularly poignant lines stick out all over the place, such as the child-Erik asking his adult self, "I learned to hope in a room full of shadows... where did you learn to hate?". Despite Erik's angry (and, based on the flashbacks, totally unfounded) claims that his mother only paid attention and treated him kindly out of guilt, not love, the kid pwns him by just shrugging and saying, "More than some people receive." It's really nice to see a later version of the story that acknowledges some of the silliness inherent in Erik's behavior; while the idea of being so hideously deformed that you are the SADDEST MAN ON EARTH is very romantic, it's not particularly believable, especially in versions that use the half-mask and keep most of the Phantom's body intact, and sometimes as the reader or viewer you just have to roll your eyes and acknowledge the drama-queening.
At any rate, Erik eventually gets over his internal argument with himself and resolves to try to be a better person, both because he wants Christine to like him and, on a subconscious level, because he knows his behavior is inexcusable no matter how bitter he may be over his past troubles. He will fail a lot at being a better person, but Tilford wants us to know that he's trying, at least.
I can't tell if the role of Erik's mother is also performed by Harr; whoever she is, she isn't credited on the sleeve, unless it's Abby Margulis and she's just oddly placed after the Young Phantom (Ian T. Carroll).
This is the masquerade song, and it's all very delightfully irreverent and inhibitionless. The chorus runs around cheerfully admitting to all the misbehaviors they're planning on indulging in while protected by their masks ("Reserve the confessional!" one calls in passing), and there's no particular delicacy when it comes to the implied sexual shenanigans that are and will be going on. This is all accomplished, of course, with the proper amount of decorous denial; it's a song about social rituals, and very neatly represents them in order to emphasize the order of society and the Phantom's inability to participate in it.
The man himself seems downright chipper, apparently pleased by the rare chance to be out and about in his mask without fear of discovery. It's a bit of a different take to see him so full of good cheer, though the crashing disappointment and ensuing rage when he sees Christine hanging out with Raoul is pretty familiar. By the time he's declaring, "We will dance - on his tomb!", I recognize our old Leroux-based friend but am suffering from slight whiplash from the abrupt 180 he just did.
Leaving for the World:
Raoul and Christine affirm their love in duet, starting with Schmidt's melting voice calling Christine to run away and see the world with him. I would basically go anywhere with a dude who sounds like that; this is by far one of the most deftly romantic versions of Raoul I've seen.
Despite her earlier reluctance, Christine eventually agrees that she must leave the opera house to experience the world with him, and the sweet flute doubling of the melodic line is a lovely touch from Alonso near the end.
Of course, then she vanishes into thin air and everyone is all of a tizzy, the way they are in this story. This piece is a return to the theme from "That's the Way It's Done Around Here", and it's basically just a galloping heap of fun; I actually enjoyed it even more the second time around.
In amongst all the hullabaloo of the cast demanding that the managers rescue them from the ghosts they see lurking around every corner, someone suggests questioning "the count". I felt a brief spurt of hope that they were talking about Philippe, but if so he never materialized, and it seems likely that they meant Raoul and his title has just been jumped up a notch for this version.
And this one is a reprise of "The Love You Never Had", during which a now incredibly obviously unstable Erik explains to Christine that he loves her the most and that she could totally learn to love him back if she just tried a little harder. Peters does an excellent job of sounding completely creepy and unhinged even before he presents her with the choice (the grasshopper and scorpion of Leroux's novel!); he spends so much time singing her praises and describing touching her and sleeping with her that I'm surprised she didn't just start screaming and hitting him with whatever was closest to hand.
Interestingly, Erik sobbingly informs Christine that he can invent a mask that's indistinguishable from a real face, meaning he'll be able to wear it and hang out with her among normal people. I have to wonder if this is where Vehlow got the idea for the incredibly irritating sexy-face mask she features in her 2004 novel. (Edit: As pointed out by an astute reader, Leroux's Erik does briefly mention in passing that he can make a mask that will make him look normal, so that he can go out walking with Christine. This is probably where both this musical and Vehlow's novel get the idea, though one is obviously carried off better than the other.)
Sorry, did I mention that Erik is by this point a raving and dangerous terror to all around him? It needs mentioning again. His next lines are a storm-flurry of of a rant, including such gems as "Skin deep - poison in the mirror! Define your own perfection and rape your own reflection!" He is not kidding around. Everyone needs to step away from him. Peters manages to pull this off with just the right amount of pitiful ("I've never loved before," he also says imploringly, explaining why he's so stupendously bad at this wooing business that he's threatening to blow everyone up) so that you can't help but feel a little bit bad for him, even when you want your very own pitchfork to keep him at bay.
Unlike most versions, Erik even spends some time directly shouting at Raoul rather than just shouting at Christine about him, furiously accusing the nobleman of being worthless and claiming that at least he will have his music as his legacy; the most salient point in his rage is that he feels that Raoul is being selfish by loving Christine instead of merely protecting her as he did in his youth, and the skewedness of that vision is another great example of his slide into irrationality.
In a Whisper:
The beginning of this song is powerful enough to be painful to listen to; Erik is so ecstatic over Christine's having "chosen" him that he's temporarily blind to the fact that she's miserable over it, and Peters is so emotively joyous that the audience instinctively cringes at the thought of the inevitable crash once he realizes that things are not actually trending toward a happily-ever-after ending. Alonso sets the scene musically by keeping Raoul's and Christine's heartbreaking farewell duet soft beneath the Phantom's monologue, only gaining in power near the end when the three become a true trio. Raoul and the daroga (oh snap! Yes, he's here, and in a more substantial role, it seems, than in the Rosen/Schierhorn show. Kraus has a nice voice, less operatic than the others but pleasant nonetheless) beg the Phantom to let Christine go, while she, in turn, begs Raoul to be silent for his own safety and sobbingly assures him of her love.
Tilford finally allows Christine's illusion of adulthood to break here, as she realizes that this is the moment, when her "angel" is a violent madman and she's losing her childhood love, that she really loses her girlish innocence.
A lot of the action of this show takes place between songs, one must assume, which makes it a little hard to read much into the story when a lot of it is accomplished via dialogue I'm not hearing; again, it's not running right now, but it seems that Toby's does occasional revivals of it, so there's always the possibility. The Phantom's final decision to let Christine go (or anything else he decides to do) falls largely into this black hole between numbers, but the show has been so scrupulously close to Leroux's story that I have to assume it probably concluded in a similar fashion.
The court (remember, we're hearing testimony a year later!) finds everyone innocent, since nobody can prove any culpability in this ridiculous story, and sternly informs everyone that there simply isn't enough evidence to lend any credence to these claims that the theatre is haunted by a ghost, so everyone should seriously drop it now and get back to work. This is again much more similar to Leroux's novel than most later versions, which tend to give the story a more final or disastrous conclusion.
Rather than ending in narrative, we close out with a "moral" style song in which everyone discusses the importance of realizing that everybody has issues and regrets and that facing them rather than skulking in a basement is generally preferable. This is faintly ironic since the prelude implied that there was no clear moral to the story, but there was apparently a bit of wandering between the beginning and the ending. The Phantom's final thoughts include relishing his legacy, both as having created beautiful music and simply as having existed in spite of the odds against him, which is, while not particularly related to Leroux's story, a nice, grown-up point of view for him to take.
The show may be lacking that je ne sais quoi that would really catapult it to greatness, and it's undeniably made a few weird choices and suffered from a few bobbles, but overall it's a pretty fun romp and has emotion in all the right places. And it didn't make me break into the newly-reinforced liquor cabinet, and when a musical accomplishes that, it's done right by me. There's still no forgetting the fact that, without context, that CD cover is either horrifying or hilarious or both, but what can you do?