While I have never been a rabid fan of the Lloyd Webber musical, it has a particular place in my heart despite its flaws. I watched the movie Phantom of the Opera (2004) for the first time yesterday, pre-disposed to like it with the show still ringing in my ears.
Gerard Butler("300"), why oh why are you in this movie? He sings quite well for a movie star, just not well enough for one of the most challenging vocal roles on Broadway. Emmy Rossum, who looks 'Christine' to such perfection - all apple-cheeked porcelain and brown ringlets - that one suspects Webber gengineered her for this role. She sings beautifully, though a little more pop-inflected then I would like. Minnie Driver's plays Carmen Miranda, excuse me, Carlotta and spends the entire time chewing the set and lip syncing opera.
Joel Schumacher's production choices create several puzzling questions: Why the gratuitous midget? Why are there sheep in the Act Three Ballet? Why do they vogue during "Masquerade"? And finally, though maybe they thought it necessary for film audiences...why speak the transition lines that were sung in the show? It gives it a preposterous artificiality. Lloyd Webber actually wrote the screenplay as well as produced, so how did...oh well.
This leads me to the real question in this post: why do some movie musicals work flawlessly and some dribble out onto the floor, leaving fans in flaccid-jawed discontent? What makes a Sound of Music, Chicago, Singing in the Rain and Guys and Dolls (to name just a few)? Conversely, what makes a Sweeney Todd (just the most recent example of Hollywood musical slaughter)?
Film allows directors to cheat a little. If their actor can't dance, just cut away or use a double. If their actors can't sing, dub or use production to obscure the fact. However, no amount of reverb can hide a non-singer. This was Sweeney Todd's greatest weakness, real actors who cannot sing. What a cast: Depp, Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman...can't sing a note between the three of them. Whereas Singing in the Rain featured three triple-threat performers singing and dancing until they got it right. Debbie Reynolds spoke in an interview once about taking off her tapshoes and finding blood.
But compare Phantom v. Phantom for yourself. The first video is John Cudia and Sarah Lawrence in the live stage performance.
This is a longish clip from the 2004 movie of the same song.
What do you think? Stage vs. screen? To me, the movie plays like a overwrought music video (go check out Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman's version from the 80's on YouTube - they are the real thing, but the video production exudes cheese). Could Phantom be converted? Or are some shows only to be seen live?