As the musical began playing, I was struck by how familiar the Phantom and Christine seemed. I knew I’d seen that actor before. The name Ramin Karimloo didn’t initially ring a bell, but the moment he started singing “The Phantom of the Opera” I suddenly recognized the voice.
“It’s the Phantom!” I cried. Seanie gave me a look that can best be described as “Duh.”
“No!” I explained. “No, I mean it’s the Phantom from Love Never Dies. We saw him in London!”
Seanie cringed. “That guy? Ugh, he was terrible.” He watched the rest of the song and part of “Music of the Night” before agreeing with me that it was, in fact, the same actor we’d seen in the summer of 2011. He’s a very gasping, breathy singer, and I hate that. I don’t want to hear every intake of breath as you sing! He also tends to get very whispery, which can help create an intimate connection in a romantic song…but depending on when it strikes can also make a very serious conversation guffaw-worthy. “Grassssssp it…sssssense it!” he hisses, and it isn’t seductive so much as silly. But to be fair, I might just be bagging on him because he isn’t Michael Crawford, who really did a phenomenal job with the role, and because Love Never Dies was just that terrible. The other actors and actresses were quite good.
The Royal Albert Hall performance is very similar to what I remember from the normal London production – just with a much, much larger cast. For example, during the “Masquerade” dance number I’m pretty the London show at Her Majesty’s Theatre had actors with puppets in a line, which gave the impression of a much larger crowd. However, my attempts to locate photos of this have failed, so I may be remembering incorrectly. But the costumes and staging and effects are largely unchanged, with the exception of the incorporation of those accursed digital screens that Webber’s productions have embraced full-heartedly.
The coolest part was probably the finale, when several Phantoms from around the world came out to perform “Phantom of the Opera” one last time with Sarah Brightman. She was a bit sluggish to warm up, but by the end of the song Brightman was perfect. Sadly, Crawford didn’t join her in song, but at least he showed up to lend support.
It’s a really nice chance to watch the show as it would be in the theatres...rather than that movie from several years back. Be sure to check it out while it’s on Netflix Streaming! Then, after you’ve enjoyed every last minute of it, go find a corner to cry in because Webber goes off and ruins the story with Love Never Dies.