The Phantom of the Opera

Orbis, The Musicals Collection, 1994

Overture                                                    **
Think of Me                                               **
Angel of Music                                           **
Angel of Music (Phantom's Version)           *
The Phantom of the Opera                          **
Music of the Night                                      **
Prima Donna                                              **
All I Ask of You                                         **
Entr'acte                                                     **
Masquerade                                               **
Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again   *
The Point of No Return                               **

music: Andrew Lloyd-Webber
lyrics: Charles Hart
additional lyrics: Richard Stilgoe

Produced by John Yap
Recorded 1993

Munich Symphony Orchestra (conducted by John Owen Edwards)
except (2, 6, 8, 11) by the National Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Martin Yates)
vocals: Graham Bickley, Claire Moore, John Barrowman
additional vocals: Sandra Dugdale, Megan Kelly, Mark Wynter, Michael Bauer, Ramon Remedios, Gay Soper

With Madonna riding high in reviews for her performance in 'Evita', I review another Lloyd-Webber musical. Lloyd-Webber is often dismissed: loved neither by the classical world, his attempts at 'art' rejected, nor by the popular world, jealous of anyone with so many commercial successes behind him. Yet I think prog fans should give him a fair hearing. Musicals like 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat' expanded popular music with outside influences in lengthy concept pieces, as well as good musicals. They were a product of the same changes in popular music from which prog evolved.

Shame then that 'The Phantom of the Opera' is such utter tripe. Lloyd-Webber neatly captures the worse of modern musicals and throws in stereotype excesses of opera for added effect. I judge from the soundtrack only, never having seen the production, but I cannot imagine what staging could support such musical histrionics. That one theme was used by the comedy 'Airplane' for romantic scenes is a fitting tribute. If only it had all been a joke - it might just work as caricature.

The title piece, the best of a bad bunch, at least has an OK bass riff but is spoiled by the over-the-top vocals and arrangement. The other pieces must suffer melodies from bland to awful as well. Hart and Stilgoe's lyrics mix romantic mush with dramatic mush. There is none of the play found in Rice's lyrics for earlier Lloyd-Webber musicals.

This is a cheap version, not the original cast, but from what I have heard elsewhere, they were no better. I was unable to pick out Ramon Remedios' voice, but after his terrible singing on various Rick Wakeman albums, I am quite glad of that. The main vocalists, as the orchestras, are technically fine - it's just that the material sucks.

That thousands have flocked to see 'Phantom' only reduces my faith in Joe and Jane Public's taste still further... :)

Henry Potts, 11.11.96

Originally posted to, and

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