Her Majesty's Theatre, London, Friday evening 22.06.2007.
My seat was quite lousy, second row on the highest balcony. I really regretted that I had forgotten my dear binoculars at home. Luckily I had nothing blocking my view, I just had problems in seeing the actors' facial expressions, but the binoculars you could get at the theatre helped at least a bit. I did have to sit on my jacket to get the crucial 1,5 cm higher to see better over the hairdo of the lady in front of me. I also had a little discussion with the sweet middle-aged lady next to me, we had fun complaining together about the seats and glaring at the woman behind us who was eating something noisy during the show. I wonder why sweet ladies always start to talk to me in theatres.
I didn't see the cast list of that night anywhere but I asked some worker and he told me I saw Earl Carpenter as the Phantom, Leila Benn Harris as Christine and someone else than Michael Xavier as Raoul, probably Oliver Thornton. I have no idea of the rest of the cast but as it was Friday evening I assume it was mostly the first cast. Everybody was pretty good. At first Christine seemed even more air-headed than Emmy Rossum, which I had thought would be impossible and which was scary. Like the Christine in Terry Pratchett's Maskerade would have suddenly taken over her mind. After Think of Me she started to sound a bit more normal, to my great relief, and the rest of the show she was as likeable as a Christine can be to an almost-feminist who has gotten used to sensible and powerful female musical characters like Elisabeth. I have seen and heard better actresses in the role but she was good.
Raoul was a bit funny. He didn't seem that bright, either, and he and Christine totally earned each other. I think 'a fop' would be a good word for it. He was kind of sweet but slightly too boyish and heroic for my taste. Anyway, a good Raoul, that's the way the young and innocent young boys can be.
Earl Carpenter then... To be honest, he was the only actor who managed to make me so absorbed in the musical that I completely forgot everything else. His Point of No Return was gorgeous and the Final Lair one of the best I've ever seen. If I would be the kind of person who cries in theatre I would have cried during the Lair. I almost even enjoyed Music of the Night. (Don't hate me but it simply bores me to death, I can't help it). This far only Thomas Borchert has made me actually like the song so I was rather surprised to find myself really concentrated in it in the theatre.
Otherwise... Well, I like the musical and it is certainly the best one ALW has ever gotten out of his brains (I always wonder what he was eating when Point Of No Return was written, and if someone could give it him again), but I can't help thinking that some fresh air wouldn't hurt it, it seemed that even most actors were a bit too used to playing the characters everyone knows too well, and the whole show was like covered in invisible spiderwebs. I was slightly shocked when I noticed that I was rather bored during too many scenes. It felt like I would have seen it all a dozen times earlier and it hardly roused feelings in me anymore, and yet this was my first time seeing PotO. I also saw Rebecca six times on stage and never got the feeling with it. I admit the cases are a bit different, but still it bothers me that I should have enjoyed the musical more, considering how much I still like it. Of course it was well made, the actors were good, the sets and costumes beautiful, the music lovely and so on, but something was missing, some general spirit that would have made the whole thing alive. It may be that I had too great expectations and a better seat would certainly have helped, but I have a feeling that it's not the only reason. I still enjoyed the evening very much, definitely don't regret that I went to see the musical, it could have been much, much worse and I also have seen worse musicals. I'm probably just spoiled or have weird opinions, but in general I think the Germans and Austrians have more feeling on stage than their colleagues in West End, at least judging by the three musicals I saw there. The quality was good but something was always missing.
Btw, why does Christine get scared twice during The Point of No Return? I can understand that she recognizes the Phantom under the cape and is shocked, but she did it twice, and as far as I can remember that's the way Christine's do all over the world. I tried to explain to myself that the first time was Aminta being scared of what she was going to do with Don Juan, but the both times looked too much like Christine suddenly realizing it's the Phantom she's singing with. And even Christine can't be that stupid.