When Phantom of the Opera first opened on Broadway, it quickly sold out. I recall hearing stories of people waiting more than a year to get tickets (though the years may have dulled the accuracy of that statement). In the years that followed, I heard the music everywhere, but I never made it to the show.
Tonight, though, I did catch the Seattle stop of the latest tour. Phantom has been playing to sold out crowds at Seattle's Paramount theater for nearly a month now, and has just one more week to go on the current stop. I was lucky to catch it when I did.
The music in the show is great, and the costumes are beautiful. I've listened to the show on CD multiple times, but it's tough to really get a handle on the show's story without seeing it live. That live performance is the key to contextualizing the music.
Phantom is all about the spectacle, from the big, memorable songs, to the pyrotechnics, to the the swinging chandelier. Those elements, along with a solid cast carry the show.
That's fortunate, because while I enjoyed the show overall, the story was bit week. There are scenes that go no where. For example, the read through of the new play in the second half could probably be cut without hurting anything.
There are several interesting secondary characters that seem to be left hanging. For example, the Dance Captain is tough, but does help the hero. The story implies there is more to her than we see, but never goes into detail. She seemed particularly interesting, but there is no exploration of her character.
Christian's dancer friend also seems interesting but nothing happens.
An shorter, 90-minute version of the show plays in Vegas every night. When I first heard about that, I though it was rather silly to cut it down like that. After seeing the show tonight though, the Vegas cut makes sense. Phantom just doesn't seem to have enough story to adequately fill its 2.5 hour run time.
Despite those quibbles, this is still a great show. And now the music makes much more sense.