On Saturday, February 11th, I went to see the Phantom of the Opera at Majestic Theater on Broadway. The play itself was out of this world, and I can see why it is the longest running play on Broadway – it has been playing since 1986! The acting was incredible, the use of the stage and prompts left the audience gasping as it transformed to a sea, and the singing rivaled that of the ‘Angel of Music’ himself. This ‘Angel of Music,’ or Phantom, played a major part in the play and James Barbour gave a performance that left the audience sympathizing with the devil. This review will take a look at how the Phantom influenced the lives of mortal actors during the play, and how the audience gains sympathy for the phantom by the end of the play.
The prologue starts off with an auction many years later in which they sell a music box the Phantom owned and a chandelier that hung in the theater, which the Phantom terrorized. After discussing the chandelier, it rises up to the rafters and we go back in time to when the Phantom haunted the theater.
Before I continue with the plot, I am going to release a pivotal reveal that is essential to the plot but does not tie in well to the overall narrative that follows. The Phantom was born with a horribly deformed face and spent most of his living years in a freak show. He was an excellent musician and somehow escaped and disappeared. During the time of the play he is some type of ghost who is ‘fairly’ omnipotent and has an underground lair.
Right off the bat in Act One, the Phantom makes his presence known by knocking down one of the back drop curtains and scaring the lead actress, Carlotta, off the stage. Christine, a Swedish chorus girl, is asked to replace her. That night, her old friend Raoul visits and she confides in him her secrets about the Phantom. When he leaves, the Phantom appears in her mirror and leads her to his underground lair, which is a lake. This was an amazing stage transformation and it really looked like a rowboat was crossing this foggy underground lake. But I digress. She sees his disfigured face for the first time and he confesses his love to her.
When she returns to the normal world, the Phantom gives a note to the directors of the play, instructing them to give Christine the lead over Carlotta or else there will be unimaginable consequences. This warning is not followed and during the play, Carlotta’s voice begins to croak and Joseph Buquet, the chief stagehand, is hanged from the rafters. The play is stopped and Christine and Raoul flee to the roof where she tells him about the underground lake and he promises to love her, always. The Phantom hears this and jealously sends a large chandelier crashing to the ground.
Act Two takes place six months later (Raoul and Christine are engaged) when the actors are at a ball and the phantom appears with a play he has written called Don Juan Triumphant. He demands that they produce it immediately and have Christine as the lead. Raoul hatches a plan to catch the Phantom at the play, but Christine is torn between her love for Raoul and her sympathy for the Phantom who loves her dearly and has given her so much. She visits the grave of her father where the Phantom appears and tries to persuade her into loving him, but Raoul arrives and saves her so the phantom burns down the cemetery.
In the opening of Don Juan Triumphant, Christine is singing and realizes that Phantom has killed the other lead and took his place on the stage. She takes off his mask and exposes his deformed face to the audience. He grabs her and brings her to his underground home. Raoul then goes down to his lair to rescue Christine but gets caught in a noose by the Phantom. The Phantom tells Christine he will let Raoul live if Christine marries him (the Phantom). She says that it is not his face that people fear, but rather his soul, and gives him a kiss. The Phantom is heartbroken, realizes she will never love him, and lets both of them go in a final act of kindness. He sits, weeping in his chair for his lost love and before he is apprehended, he disappears into thin air in one final act of stage trickery that blows the mind.
In summation, the Phantom was a key component to the plot of the Phantom of the Opera, although you probably could have deduced that from the title of the play. The Phantom was a unique character because he was not of this world, so he was able to do things the average character could not. This led to astonishing surprises, which required great choreography and deception. Furthermore, even though he was seemingly evil, we see by the end that he actually was not. Since he was young, everyone immediately looked at him differently due to his face and he was an outcast. So, he became a bad being who acted as if everyone would hate him because of his face. However, Christine sees his face and tells him that is not what is bad —it was his personality. This really affected him because he loved her, but she does not want to be with him because she is bad. He then agrees to let them both go, realizing that he has become just as bad as the people who judged him for his looks. This dramatic change in character makes the audience sympathize with him by illustrating that his heart was pure and he truly loved Christine, but his soul was tainted by years of rejection.