Really, I'm such a dork. I had it on pre-order from Amazon.com.
I didn't particularly enjoy the Joel Schumacher film--I thought it was tacky and overblown and lacking in intimacy. For example, "The Point of No Return" is a sexy, sexy song. Just look at the lyrics:
In my mind I have already imagined
Our bodies entwining, defenseless and silent
Hot, right? In the stage version, they are groping the hell out of each other; and even though the Phantom is completely shrouded in a cloak, you can detect his fear and excitement in being touched in a way he never has before.
In the film version, they don't even touch for half the song. They are on complete opposite sides of the stage while very distracting tango dancers twirl around in the background.
So I was thrilled when I heard they were putting out a DVD of a concert version that would feature the original staging (with some slight alterations for being on an unfamiliar stage) and the original scenic and costume design. Maria Bjornson's designs are one of the reasons this show has held up so well. Remember, it originally came out in London in 1986, and it does not look dated at all, in my opinion.
So on to the DVD. I was a little distracted at first because the acting is very big. They have a huge audience, and despite the filmed aspect, the actors are still playing to the back wall. Totally appropriate, it just took a little getting used to.
Any concerns I had about the broadness of the performances were shattered as soon as Ramin Karimloo turned up as the Phantom. He is originally Canadian, but made a name for himself for playing this role in London, and it shows why his interpretation really resonated with audiences. He's got a clear, powerful singing voice, makes bold acting choices, and has really intense emotional commitment.
Here's an excerpt from his performance of "Music of the Night" (they cut away right before the money note!):
Hadley Fraser, while adorable, makes a surprisingly douchey Raoul. During the scenes leading up to "All I Ask of You", he shows little concern for Christine, who is clearly terrified. He's like "I know we just saw a guy die, but stop freaking out about a ghost. It's totally improper. I am super rich and important, and it would not look cool for me to have a crazy girlfriend".
I've enjoying watching Sierra Boggess's career rise for the last couple years (and I want to go shopping with her. I think that would be fun). Her diction sometimes struck me as a bit odd--she's the kind of singer who favors rounder tones over accurate vowel pronunciation. But she has great tone, and her acting was great, especially after about the first quarter of the show, I could tell she was really getting into it. She gave the most passionate performance of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" I've ever heard.
Amusing story from watching the DVD: I started watching it while my stage manager roommate (and fellow Phantom fan) and our music director houseguest were out at rehearsal. They came in during the last scene, and slowly migrated over to join my in the living room. Before long the three of us were spellbound, and as the show closed, the music director shuddered and exclaimed "Chills!" We have a date to watch the whole thing together tomorrow.
Also, Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser are both alumni of the recent "Les Miserables" concert, playing Enjolras and Grantaire, respectively. Karimloo was sharing the stage most of the time with a huge star as Marius, Nick Jonas, and I thought he blew him out of the water. Fraser also had a "Hey, who's that guy?" performance, which must be why we saw him again here. I like that about Cameron Mackintosh; he recognizes talent, and will continue using it.