The Phantom of the Opera on Ice (1995)

     by Roberto Danova

          starring Victor Michael, Susannah Glanville, Sue Quin,    

            Roberto Danova & Johnny Logan

Like the Falstein show, this is a musical that is no longer actively running and is now presented in the form of a DVD recording of the performance; unlike the Falstein show, it has the added weird element of being an ice show, meaning that there are all kinds of graceful ice-ballet things going on to further the interpretation of the story. I was totally prepared to make a lot of fun of this, because all the ice shows I've ever seen were somewhat painful in execution... but this? This is professional. And even better: aspects of it are pretty awesome.

 

Roberto Danova, it turns out, is a fairly big important composer and performer in Europe, having had a wildly varied and successful career from the seventies until today. I had never heard of him because I am apparently a farm-girl bumpkin, but he's produced and written for a huge number of big, recognizable names, and has done plenty of performing himself in addition to his compositional prowess. So hats off to him!

 

Overture/Dance of the Four Muses:

 

The first thing I noticed, unfortunately, was that the overture was unwelcomely reminiscent of that from Lloyd Webber's musical. Even John, who pays very little attention when I am scribbling from the couch in front of the television, mentioned this later. However, this was the only spot where I could pinpoint any of the music as sounding especially derivative; this leads me to wonder why on earth Danova would borrow so obviously in this one place and no other. The only thing I can guess is that maybe it's intended as a little tribute or shout-out to the Lloyd Webber version, or that that version is so iconic now that Danova felt a little familiar twiddle of notes would help get his audience ready for the story to come. I didn't like it, but I was prepared not to pass too much judgment when it became clear that it wasn't going to recur.

 

Considering this opening, there's actually surprisingly little influence from the Lloyd Webber musical to be found (though a few elements are obviously borrowed); the blurb at the beginning and a few other choices make it clear that Danova is also borrowing from Leroux's original novel, and possibly even drawing from the 1925 Julian/Chaney film a little bit. The potpurri is interesting, and where I might otherwise have found the combination of elements unremarkable - it's more than a little bit like the aforementioned Falstein musical in many respects--the sheer Russianness of it all kept me intrigued. It is very Russian in every respect; the music, the dance, and the plot elements are all slightly different in focus than most of the Western interpretations I've seen.

 

The orchestral music, I have to say, is absolutely stunning once we get past that initial overture under the credits. It's lush, sweeping, layered, and extremely evocative and appropriate for the action at hand. In fact, I'm anticipating getting a lot of enjoyment out of the orchestral soundtrack in the future. What may confuse first-time viewers is the fact that the score will occasionally give way to synthesized electric guitars and bewilderingly lugubrious popular music, the likes of which would have sounded right at home in 1986. These approaches mesh better than I would have thought, though I have to say that I was always jarred to leave the masterfully artistic orchestral arrangements for some croony soft-rock.

 

Despite the Lloyd-Webber-like touches on this Phantom (who is never named and wears a half-mask - which is shiny silver, I suppose to make it more visible, or else he just wants to look fabulous like Dance's 1990 film Phantom), he frequently hauls out a violin and plays lovely music on it, which is definitely borrowed from Leroux's original tale and which always made me smile. More interesting solutions are found for an ice show, which is much lower on special effects possibilities than many a theatre or film production, and while the Phantom (unblemished as of yet, which means he'll be having one of those origin stories that people seem to insist on adding) composes some very lovely music, several ladies come out and dance to the various movements of his piece, providing a visual representation of the music itself. According to the liner notes, these are his "muses", which doesn't really come across without help but which is nevertheless a very pretty idea and a novel way of presenting things. The fiery black-haired maiden comes with an equally fiery organ piece, while the white-blonde girl after her is for a much more mellow violin movement. Both women are distinctly bird-like in their costuming, which causes me to recall various previous versions that favored bird imagery: the 1974 de Palma/Finley film, the Ashe novel, the Argento/Barbieri film, etc.

 

But what is any idyllic compositional scene without an evil man in a tall hat? Rubatutto (literally: "He steals everything"), whose name never failed to make me snicker incessantly, is an eeeevil man and has sneaked down to the Phantom's lair in his tall Russian fur cap to steal the new composition while its composer is sleeping. The liner notes inform me that he is the Phantom's "rival", and also Carlotta's lover, which really only kind of clears up the confusion as to what the hell he's doing here. Of course, the Phantom awakens in time to catch him, and there is a fierce, manful struggle, ending in Rubatutto knocking over a gas lamp and making his escape while the unfortunate Phantom is presumably consumed by flame. The gas lamp appears to be borrowed directly from the 1983 Markowitz/Schell film, and leaving the Phantom for dead in a burning house is a feature we've long enjoyed in the 1937 Weibang/Sheng film and all of its descendants. Obviously, the addition of an origin story (and one that makes the Phantom something of a victim, at that) has been used in almost every film version from 1937 onwards, and isn't that surprising here, though it does betray some influence from sources other than Leroux's novel and Lloyd Webber's musical.

 

Notte d'Amour:

 

I forgive the incredibly terrible lip-syncing by Carlotta in the next number, because Susannah Glanville's operatic soprano is a thing of beauty, and the use of real, engaging operatic sequences elevated the show considerably, in terms of both believability and of entertainment quality. Of course, since this is an ice show, the "singing" of the cast is usually represented by their dancing about with whomever else is in the number, but the choreography is quite lovely and I honestly could not be anything but enthralled by the seamless meshing of the ideas. As usual, something goes awry and Carlotta stomps off, leaving Christine to be nominated to take her place (as represented by her dancing with the "tenor"). It's interesting to note that while Carlotta's part of the piece was a lovely high-note coloratura affair, Christine's is much lower in the female register and very rich and flowing, a definite aural contrast. Both sounds are lovely, in my opinion, but the musical demarcation is well-done; the less showboat aria sets Christine up as more of an innocent, rather than an ambitious character. It's also worth noting here that Christine has made this rise in her career entirely on her own; she hasn't even met the Phantom yet, so her vocal progress and appointment to the role are solely on her own merits, making her an strong artistic character. (By the way, Christine also appears to be part of the ballet corps here, which is another idea borrowed from Lloyd Webber's musical.)

 

(Incidentally, the cameraperson - or crew, as I suspect the case may be - really know what they're doing. There are none of the overly static shots or inopportune zooms and lack of zooms that we saw in the Falstein recording; everything is carefully put together and all the splices and changes of angle are very professional and effective. Production values: they make my heart sing.)

 

Born to Love You:

 

Now, with the entrance of Raoul, a seriously handsome young blond guy (actually, they're pretty much all blond... this are the Russian Ice Stars, after all), we have the first leap into popular music. The introductory bars are somewhat jarring after the classical music we've been listening to, particularly as they have a distinctly 80's quality to them (heavy on the synthesizer... very heavy). But the song is pretty, and the shift isn't as abrupt or discomfiting as I would have assumed, so on we go our merry way while Raoul sings. The interlude is short, but the song lyrics (in English now) make it clear that this Raoul is very much based on his Leroux-novel forebear, and that he is overjoyed at finding his childhood playmate again, though he doesn't manage to approach her quite yet, mostly because she's too busy hanging out with her very obviously gay friend.

 

The gay friend is played for laughs with lots of hilarious antics, and about halfway through the scene that that garrulous, flamboyant gentleman in the tight overalls was most likely supposed to be (or at least here in lieu of) Buquet. An approach to that character we haven't seen before! The two Girys make an appearance here as well, both the Madame (a black-clad ballet mistress who is clearly modeled after Lloyd Webber's interpretation of the character) and her daughter, Meg.

 

Of course, Carlotta returns from her snit (Rubatutto in tow! Hee) and demands to resume performing, leaving Christine in the chorus again. Abnormally, the managers actually appear to be on Christine's side a bit more than on Carlotta's, though of course they cave in the end.

 

Could This Be Love?:

 

That's all okay, because Raoul and Christine have finally reunited and are busy being lost in their own little world. While the story of the scarf in the sea from Leroux's novel is not explicitly used, the skaters use a long red scarf that Christine drops and Raoul retrieves to great effect in this particular number, often binding the two dancers to one another or providing a bit of passionate color to flutter in their wake. It's very lovely and symbolic, and the scene is so well-presented that I really do believe in this innocent, child-like love that the players are portraying (badly handled Christine/Raoul relationships sometimes fall regrettably flat in derivative fiction, and I was pleased to see that gloriously absent here). I really wish that I knew who the individual dancers were (the credits just list them as "The Russian Ice Stars" and then rattle off a long passel of Russian names without telling you which ones are which), because they're stunningly emotive and I wish I could give credit where it is obviously due.

 

Again, this is an abrupt jump into a pop number after the classical bliss we'd been experiencing, and it's especially jarring because of Sue Quin's throaty mezzo voice after all the classical soprano action we've just had. It's not bad, by any means; just very disorienting.

 

Il Bel Canto:

 

Ballet-mistress Madame Giry is here, marshaling the corps de ballet, while the rest of the opera company runs around in a tizzy trying to get ready for the performance (worth noting: the managers have some seriously badass triple axel skills. Word). Somewhat confusingly, Christine spends a lot of the beginning of this scene being apparently torn between Raoul and the opera performance, skating back and forth and generally dithering emotionally while people pull her this way and that. The intent is a little confusing, though I assume it's to illustrate that Raoul is not a part of her performing world and that she may eventually have to choose between the two. The rest of the company are entertaining as usual, especially with Buquet constantly hitting on Madame Giry (now there's a romantic possibility I haven't seen anybody tackle yet). At any rate, despite the Phantom's warnings to the managers as he tries to avert this turn of events (this is the first time the Phantom has really made an appearance or, indeed, done much of anything since his little prelude; this might explain why they ignore him as a crackpot), Carlotta goes on to sing with Rubatutto (hee!) chortling evilly away in the background. I continued to be blown away by the cast's ability to make me, a total dunce when it comes to interpretive dance, understand what was going on without uttering a word.

 

I concluded around this point that Rubatutto (oh, man, I cannot get over his name) must also be a singer, since he appears to be waltzing his way around during all the opera performances as he pleases. Carlotta's arias continue to astound - these are not lightweight, folks, and require a real trooper of a singer - and the sound made up for the fact that, in another slightly derivative move, the lyrics (though in Italian) basically borrow from those of Lloyd Webber's "Prima Donna". When the lighting fails and things begin to go awry at the performance, Carlotta faints (interesting, as it's Christine that fainted onstage in Leroux's novel) and the Phantom naturally appears out of nowhere to whisk Christine off to his abode.

 

Phantom's Drama:

 

Interestingly enough, Danova chooses to play up the sexual tension underlying between the Phantom and Christine rather than resorting to the forceful abductions that most interpretations prefer. It's a feat to pull off when the two characters haven't heretofore interacted at all, but they manage it, and the Phantom lures off a very obviously spellbound Christine. There is amazing instant chemistry between the two, and the entire scene is extremely dream-like, giving the audience a plausible window through which to view what must be Christine's emotional state. The Phantom uses several of the same dance moves on her that Raoul did, in fact, but his versions are without exception more demanding and powerful, not at all the supplicant lover, and Christine is accordingly obviously afraid (which only emphasizes how helpless she is to resist him). It's a near perfect presentation of the dynamic present with any Gothic heroine and villain.

 

Ghostly echoes of the Phantom's stolen music come in and out during the sequence, heightening its loveliness, until Buquet makes an ill-fated rescue attempt and is dragged off by... bizarre men in black? Er. Yes.

 

Mr. Midnight:

 

Yes, the Phantom has not one, as in the 1962 and 1983 films, but an entire band of helpers that live in the sewers and catacombs with him, apparently led by the Fagin-esque Mr. Midnight and his wife. This is actually not the first time we've seen this; the 1990 Perkins/Daughton graphic novel also made mention of a race of underground-dwelling people who aided the Phantom from time to time and owed him fealty as a sort of ruler over them. I thought the idea was neat there, even though Perkins had no time to really flesh it out, so I was open-minded to this entire cabal of underground minions that this Phantom seems to have, even though I have difficulty reconciling them with his comparatively recent fall from society (he got his face burned off, so it's not like he's been down here for forty years or anything). The idea of the Phantom, who was ostensibly a pretty normal dude up to a couple of years ago, suddenly becoming this mythical Hades figure requires a little more shoring up than Danova went into here, though the lyrics of the song (rock music again, and very obviously rock at that) seem to suggest a concept of camaraderie among outcasts as a possible reason.

 

Despite the reasoning, however, the presence of the cellar-dwellers does definitely enhance the idea of the Phantom as ruler of this underground domain, and the fact that they are presented as gleefully feral, almost inhuman, helps to reinforce that idea that this is not the normal world above. Where the single helper of the earlier films was usually used to help keep the Phantom more sympathetic by doing some of his dirty work for him, these people seem to be a law unto themselves, often doing the Phantom's bidding but often acting in his interests on their own, apparently perfectly aware and cognizant of the consequences of their actions.

 

I found myself wishing here that the rock music interludes had been used solely for the underground scenes, leaving the operatic sequences for the opera house proper; the difference between "worlds" would have been that much more pronounced. However, Danova is in charge of artistic choices here, not me, and he does a fine job the way it is despite my grumblings.

 

Endlessly:

 

When Christine awakens in the care of these strange underground people, she is understandably kind of freaked out, but they reassure her to the best of their ability while the Phantom sings his love song to her from out of sight. Again, she is obviously frightened, but in the end succumbs to the Phantom's mysterious power over her.

 

More interesting than the seduction going on here is the use of the underground dwellers to illustrate and represent the Phantom's song; they are in stark contrast to the bright, bird-like muses that fulfilled this function for him prior to his scarring, down to the dark, muddy colors and decided lack of innocence they display (their choreography is some of the most outright carnal in the entire show). The difference between his mental state pre-scarring and post-scarring is obvious.

 

The pop songs in the show, by the way, have all betrayed a somewhat classical structure (they aren't big on choruses and three-chord chugging), but this one is almost identical in structure to a traditional hymn, which I found fascinating. The scene seems to intentionally leave room for interpretation, to suggest that the Phantom may be viewing his love for Christine in an almost religious light, which would fit nicely with her original role in Leroux's novel as a sort of Christ figure for his redemption.

 

The Lady and the Mask:

 

As usual, Christine manages to snap herself out of her trance by unmasking the Phantom and finding out that he is totally messed up, man. I have to mention this prosthetic the dancer is wearing, because... whoo damn. He looks like an orc from The Lord of the Rings. I'm not even kidding. It's difficult to describe and I don't have a screenshot for you, but trust me, it's amazing. Not good for the story, mind you, but amazing. While it certainly does a great job of making the Phantom look inhuman, it stretches credulity more than a little bit and is less than convincing (keep in mind, however, that it probably wasn't intended for the close-up shots the camera is giving us, and might read better from an actual audience).

 

After Christine flees, the Phantom has a dance soliloquy with his mask, which is very introspective and calls to mind Hamlet's famous deliberation over Yorick. The character exudes a real sense of power and emotion, making this very much a man railing against his unhappy fate, rather than a man reduced to beasthood by unmasking (as has occurred in may previous versions); this particular Phantom is much stronger in personality than many of his predecessors.

 

Ora Pronobis:

 

We head off to the graveyard scene, which has retained a much more spiritual and religious component from Leroux's novel than is normally kept in modern versions; in addition to the underground people, this makes me wonder if Danova had encountered the very spiritual Perkins/Daughton comic at any point. The chanted mass is lovely, but several aspects of the scene are kind of confusing, from Meg's presence to the bewildering black-clad folks that I'm pretty sure are not characters at all but an abstract representation of something (possibly dripping candles? I've got nothing, though they did help set the mood despite my confusion). Once again, the Phantom prepares to carry Christine off, and it's quite chemistry-charged as before.

 

Angel of Music:

 

The Phantom's claim here to be the Angel of Music is somewhat less than useful, since said angel has not been previously mentioned and any viewer without a previous foundation in the story would find this a pretty far-fetched and nonsensical assertion. The lyrics of the Phantom's song, however, make it clear that he is setting Christine up as a representative of music itself, which communicates to us her importance to him, a composer, and makes his determination not to lose her more immediate (especially as he has already lost the muses of his previous compositional works).

 

In a very intriguing choice, the sudden return of the religious theme of "Ora Pronobis" chases the Phantom off and heralds Raoul's arrival; the obvious implication is that the Phantom is rejected by God, and that Raoul, in contrast, is spiritually acceptable, which certainly emphasizes Raoul as the hero. Christine's change of character is remarkable and ably acted by the dancer, who is suddenly much happier and more carefree (sentiments which are mirrored in the now much sprightlier orchestra). My only quibble here was that we were visited by a resurgence of the "Born to Love You" theme, which was jarring in the sweeping orchestra because of its simple pop melody. In keeping with his new status as Approved by God, Raoul accompanies Christine to her father's grave and is every bit as respectful and religious in his observance as she is.

 

Face Behind the Mask:

 

Upon Christine's departure, however, it's suddenly Ice-Skating Fight Night, and the Phantom and Raoul get into it. It's all very stylized due to the nature of the performance, but there seem to be swords involved as well as fisticuffs; the whole thing is reminiscent of Lloyd Webber's take on the graveyard scene, though of course sans the horrified Christine. I have to say, however, that these two very muscular guys throwing each other around is pretty damn sexy. The Phantom is reinforced as the bad guy by being needlessly brutal to Raoul, who he finally manages to knock unconscious and kicks around excessively anyway - in fact, we wonder if he's killed Raoul, and his total and obvious lack of remorse doesn't exactly endear him to us. Raoul's character actually doesn't suffer any for this treatment; having acquitted himself well in the fight and only lost after a struggle, he doesn't lose much in the way of being admirable, especially as he's been established as very much the more boyish figure of the two and doesn't need to be super macho.

 

And then... Rubatutto (snort) arrives? Yes... yes, he does. What he is doing in the graveyard I don't know, except that he's being busily convenient so that he can rescue Raoul (not because he's a nice guy, mind you, but because he's the Phantom's arch-nemesis). Rubatutto's very presence in the show annoyed me intermittently, mostly because he was so much less than necessary, in my opinion (of course, Danova and a slew of filmmakers, including de Palma and Fisher and Markowitz, disagree with me). His real functional purpose seems to be to provide a villain so that neither the Phantom nor Raoul have to take on that role, leaving Christine's choice one between two sympathetic figures; unfortunately, it doesn't really work for me, as Rubatutto seems extraneous and the Phantom is doing a perfectly good job of looking like a jerk all by himself over there.

 

The Russian hat, by the way, is easy to ignore because this is after all a Russian production, but it's also similar to the one worn by the daroga in the 1925 Julian/Chaney film. It's possible that Rubatutto is filling some of that character's role as well, especially as Facilitator of the Plot.

 

Phantom's Despair:

 

The Phantom goes off to play some mopey music on his violin, which is less than effective for making me feel sorry for him since he just tried to mash Raoul's spine into paste with his skates. While the rest of the opera house (sans Buquet... was he not invited to this group panic? Or did the Phantom and his henchmen kill him and we just didn't notice?) runs around frantically trying to figure out what to do, the mole-men attempt to comfort their master, of whom they are unaccountably solicitous. Their heartfelt attempts to console and encourage him really make them almost more sympathetic than he is. Clearly, he just needs embark upon a threesome with Mr. Midnight and his wife, and everyones' problems will be solved.

 

Don't Despair:

 

In an interesting switcheroo, Christine goes on down to the Phantom's lair and comforts him with her disembodied voice (in another pop song... sigh), much as he sang to her a few scenes ago. The fact that she is comforting him not only strengthens her position as a Christ figure for him, but also reinforces her as representative of his music, as the muse dancers that we haven't seen since Rubatutto's (giggle) attack reappear and visit him while she sings. Very obviously, Christine is the living embodiment of the music he needs to survive, which is a much more powerful idea than that he just thinks she's pretty or sounds nice. He whips out his violin about halfway through and the two of them egg one another on, much like the Phantom and Christine in the 1998 Argento/Sands film.

 

Parisian Masquerade/Red Mask Waltz:

 

The managers are back, and still with the mad skills... seriously, these guys are pro. I am impressed that they can do all these over-the-top skating moves, and in a top hat and tails, no less. The masquerade is lovely, managing to balance courtly with creepy, keeping the fun aura but allowing a sinister undertone to leak through. Raoul, unlike most of the attendees, wears no mask, another obvious visual cue to remind us that he's the honest, frank guy who isn't hiding anything and won't kill you in the night. The Phantom is also present in his Red Death costume, which is truly fabulous; not only is it very lurid and crowned by a truly spectacular feather-dripping hat, but it's cleverly designed to really look dead, including a mostly-visible ribcage in the front and a very unsettling skull-mask on top. Also attending are Mr. Midnight and his wife, who are obviously having a grand old time and somewhat discomfiting the other party-goers with their unrestrained antics; they are obviously out of place in the upper world in a way that the Phantom, who is even drawn into the courtly dancing by Madame Giry, is not.

 

When Christine arrives, there is some really excellent interplay between her and her two suitors, who take turns stealing her from the other for a dance and eventually end up both dancing with her at once; it's a great visual metaphor for the overall situation that the characters find themselves in (though technically, of course, Raoul and Christine are unaware that the Red Death is the Phantom) and for the dynamics between them, as Raoul's dance sequences with Christine are always gentle and reciprocal while the Red Death's are more powerful and demanding. The Phantom spirits her off during a particularly complicated interchange, and once Raoul realizes what's happened, it's on to everyone's favorite hunt through the underground.

 

I do want to note here that, while I have had nothing to complain about production-wise with the filming up to this point, I hate the glowing effect that they add to the Red Death's costume during this dance scene. It looks like really terrible old special effects, drops out in some shots only to reappear in others, and is generally obnoxious and distracting for the viewer. I promise. We know it's the Phantom and that he's important.

 

Mr. Midnight (Reprise):

 

It becomes clear here that Rubatutto (heh) is definitely going to take on the role normally filled by the Persian and help Raoul find his way down to the Phantom's lair (again, not because he's a nice guy, but because he's the Phantom's sworn enemy - though wouldn't it be kind of cool if he were trying to set right what he had caused all those years ago? Alas, this is not that show).

 

Rubatutto, who knows the way because he was down here some time ago to steal the Phantom's music and scar him up (which raises two excellent questions: what was the Phantom doing living underground when he was a normal dude, and how did Rubatutto know how to get down there in the first place?), accidentally leads the two of them right into a nest of the underground people, necessitating an Underground Tussle. Again, the fighting is very stylized due to the nature of a skating presentation, which may throw some viewers off or seem somewhat silly in execution, but it works well in context.

 

Angel of Music (Reprise):

 

After Raoul manages to escape the clutches of the mole-people, he comes upon Christine dancing with the Phantom, who is again using his considerable seductive talents to try to convince her to stay here with him forever and ever and ever. The difference between her interactions with Raoul and this one is very obvious, as she is extremely passionate in contrast to the gentle, carefree happiness that usually characterizes her encounters with Raoul. Raoul himself, who has done an amazing job of being convincingly in love with Christine from the moment he skated onstage, pauses to look on sadly; one can extrapolate several reasons for his unhappiness from the clues at hand, whether it's her obvious emotional attachment to the Phantom, or the music that he cannot offer her the way the Phantom can, or the way that the two artists seem to fit one another very well... the list goes on, and the skater's emotive range is amazing and heartbreaking.

 

The scene plays out perfectly for the emotional dynamics presented, as upon noticing Raoul Christine begins to flit back and forth between the two men, dancing with both in their unique styles while clearly becoming more and more upset, illustrative of the strain of her divided heart. The Phantom is not immune to all this emotional upheaval, either, becoming progressively sadder himself as Christine's obvious affection for Raoul begins to gain ground. Raoul's gentle refusal to influence Christine is particularly striking, as he simply remains on the edge of the room, ensuring that when she does come to him it is obviously out of real emotion on her part.

 

In the end, she hugs the Phantom (rather than giving him the kiss from Leroux's novel) and does leave with Raoul; interestingly, the Phantom stays masked this entire time, and will not be unmasked again at any point in the show. Possibly Danova felt that it would be anti-climactic, or just didn't see the dramatic necessity for it.

 

When Love Was Born:

 

The following solo dance and song by the Phantom is pretty much the typical pained number you would expect when he's just lost Christine, though again the choreography continues to paint him as a very powerful force despite his agony. I won't lie; the pop lyrics kind of suck, but if you tune them out, it's kind of a pleasant background noise. As the number winds down, the Phantom begins to obviously fade, literally "dying of love" as is mentioned in the epilogue of Leroux's novel (the sudden fainting is very reminiscent of that suffered by Dance's Phantom in the 1990 miniseries). In a very cool visual maneuver, the Phantom's underground minions form a bier with their bodies, the better to spirit his corpse away and... I dunno, do something with it.

 

The Phantom's Theme:

 

Wait, aren't we done yet? Oh, that's right, there was that extraneous character... Rubatutto. I would have much preferred the show just end there, as it would have wrapped up neatly and been more emotionally resonant, but no, we have to go deal with the irrelevant, stereotyped villain, too. Mr. Midnight and his mole-men kill him for their recently-deceased master. The extra scene really doesn't feel necessary or even all that interesting.

 

Wedding Symphony:

 

I couldn't help but giggle as the beginning of this final scene burst jubilantly forth with the familiar wedding bells you hear at the end of pretty much every Disney movie (Cinderella and Robin Hood both come to mind at the moment). The scene is pretty much the same as the final wedding scene in every Disney movie, too, with a big old fairytale ceremony and absolutely nobody worrying about any social ramifications (though, to be fair, there has been no mention of Raoul's birth and he could easily just be a regular soldier). Unfortunately for story cohesiveness, the priest performing their ceremony turns out to be the Phantom, who jumps around in a gleeful "You'll never be rid of me!" Twilight Zone kind of a way, and the lights fade to black as everyone panics and Christine and Raoul reflect on how they probably aren't actually married because they're pretty sure that guy isn't really ordained.

 

Aside from the totally unnecessary and frankly detracting last two scenes, I found myself liking this version much more than I had thought I would. Part of this is due to an excellent and heartfelt portrayal of Raoul by a Russian guy whose name I don't know, and part is due to the fact that this odd, piecemeal format managed to tell the story so compellingly. It's not going to get a super-duper awesome grade out of me, what with the silliness it is bent on indulging in, but it's definitely one I'd recommend taking a look at.

 

(For those interested, the fancy schmancy three-disc set, if you can get it, comes with not only the DVD but also two CDs, one with the excellent classical score on it and another with the popular music.)

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