Universal // 2011 // 160 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 7th, 2012
Let the spectacle astound you!
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Andrew Lloyd Webber's sensational musical The Phantom of the Opera, the composer and producer Cameron Mackintosh decided to remount the show at the Royal Albert Hall. Originally, the pair thought it could be a simple concert with some familiar guest stars, but they somehow decided that concept was far too tame for a musical that redefined staged spectacle and bombast. So it was decided to assemble a cast of more than 130 performers and pair them with an eighty piece orchestra to perform the complete libretto from start to finish. And to pull it off, they reassembled most of the original technical crew to revise and reinvent the show for a space not known as a traditional theater. The Royal Albert Hall is a classical concert venue with no wings and little or no room for large set pieces to fly in and out of the ceiling. The resulting production is something different than what fans of The Phantom are used to. The big chandelier doesn't drop, the sets are projected on digital screens, and the production numbers squeezed into tight controlled spaces, but the costumes still dazzle, the make-up effects are top notch, and the singers are all first rate. The stunning cast includes Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine, Hadley Fraser as Raoul, Wendy Ferguson as Carlotta, Barry James as Monsieur Firmin, Gareth Snook as Monsieur Andre, Liz Roberston as Madame Giry, and Daisy Maywood as Meg Giry, all doing justice to this classic tale of a malformed genius who haunts a Paris opera house looking for his one true love.
This lush production was originally broadcast live as part of the Fathom Events series that comes to movie theaters showcasing opera and other fine arts events. Filmed in 1.78:1/1080p high definition during an actual production with a live audience, the camera work is outstanding, but you can tell they were operating on the fly. Using high def cameras often reveals the limitations of staged special effects in strange ways. When they focus on the actors too close to the digital screens you see quite a bit of pixilation destroying the intended illusion. You can also see microphones a bit too easily, and far too many production seams. However, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is quite good all the way through, though it does get very loud very quickly. The dynamic range goes from a whisper to a scream far too often, so keep the remote handy.
Extras include encore performances by some of the original cast. Sarah Brightman shows up to go through some of her signature songs, joined by four notable Phantoms from various productions including Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow, Peter Joback, John Owen-Jones, and Ramin Karimloo. The original Phantom, Michael Crawford (Hello Dolly!), is on hand but chose not to sing. We also get a very nice documentary on the origins of this celebration production, and some trailers for the Phantom sequel coming soon to DVD and Blu-ray.
This new stage version of The Phantom of the Opera is more true to the original production than the deliciously campy Joel Schumacher movie, but still has some distinct differences from seeing it on Broadway or in London's West End, both of which continue their run as of this writing. The show has become an institution and made more money than any other theatrical production ever conceived. It's only fitting this over-the-top spectacle would mark the show's 25th anniversary, and what a treat for fans to be able to see it on Blu-ray.
Guilty of making the musical huge, The Phantom still rules the musical theater world.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 160 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Encore Performances
* Official Site