There’s nothing quite like rediscovering something that you loved when you were younger. When I was twelve years old, and into my high school years, I was obsessed withThe Phantom of the Opera. It started with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, but then quickly moved on to the original novel by Gaston Leroux and many other versions and impressions of the story. I haven’t really thought about it much since then, until recently when a co-worker, who is also into musical theater, mentioned that they had released a DVD of the 25th anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall. A few YouTube clips later and I knew that I had to have it. The performance is amazing, with a full orchestra and a cast of 140 people. It’s the main trio of actors – Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine, and Hadley Fraser as Raoul – that truly makes it special. They are absolutely brilliant and as far as I’m concerned, one of the best Phantoms to ever play the part. Check out the video if you don’t believe me.
Since I’ve been in such a Phantom mood, I decided to reread the original novel by Gaston Leroux. I have to say that pretty much everyone who has ever created their own rendition of the story, whether on stage or in film, has changed it drastically. And in some ways, they have to. There is little about the actual Phantom (whose name is Erik) in the book. Mostly, it deals with the management of the opera trying to solve the mystery of the “Opera Ghost,” and about Raoul trying to solve the mystery of why Christine keeps disappearing for days on end and seems so unwell when she’s with him. Still, it’s an interesting read, especially if you love the story as much as I do. It’s nice to see where it all started. It also made me want to visit the Garnier Opera House in Paris someday. That’s one for the bucket list.
Finally, after all of this, I decided to reread another of my favorite books: Phantom by Susan Kay. This book was out of print for a while, but I think it’s come back out in paperback and is available in e-book. I found this book by accident when I was in high school – at the check out line at a grocery store of all places! Since it had something to do with the Phantom of the Opera, you know that I had to grab it! Kay takes the story a step further, taking what we know about the Phantom (that he’s a magician, that he had traveled to Persia, that he must’ve had something to do with the building of the Opera House) and built his life story. We get to see what it was like when he was a small child, hated and feared by his mother. What happened when he ran away and was used in a gypsy carnival as a freak show. How he traveled to Russia and Persia, becoming invaluable to the Shah and creating multitudes of enemies. How he was able to work with Garnier, the architect of the Opera House, and how he secretly created his underground house. And of course, how he first heard Christine sing. It’s a fascinating character study and Kay certainly did her homework, giving a very plausible example of how someone could become so brilliant in so many fields of study, while still dealing with the limitations forced upon him by his deformity.