I had a lot of errands to run today, including one that I've been putting off for a while but that had to get done before I leave this weekend for Almost Christmas, and since I don't like to run errands in the dark I realized that it had to be today or never. For some reason, this made me think of the song "Point of No Return" from Phantom of the Opera. And then I thought, "You know, I'd really like to have the movie cast recording of that," so as I was running errands, I stopped to see if they had it at the library. Alas, no; they only had the original cast recording, which is okay but I don't care for Michael Crawford.
For some reason people get really protective of and defensive about Michael Crawford's performance as the Phantom. I guess I can understand that; I know he originated the role and I respect that, but just because his was the first interpretation doesn't mean it is the only valid one. Personally, I don't care for it. I find his voice kind of weak and reedy, and he tends to swoop, especially when he's going for the higher notes, which to be fair was the fashion for many years, but I don't care for it. I can't remember the name of the guy who played the Phantom when I saw it in New York (I might just have to dig out my Playbill and look), but I enjoyed his performance better than Crawford's and I prefer Gerard Butler's version from the movie as well (and if IMDb is a credible source, so does Andrew Lloyd Webber).
So they didn't have the movie soundtrack at the library, but they did have the movie DVD itself, which I checked out again for the heck of it. I really, really like the movie; I thought it was an excellent adaptation, and I'm glad they didn't feel so slavishly devoted to the stage version that they felt like they had to have every little line be sung, as it is in the stage musical. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that, but I feel that it gets a little tedious even on stage, so I prefer to have things shaken up with spoken dialogue, but that's just me. I also always kind of want Christine to end up with the Phantom rather than with Raoul. To be fair, Raoul is probably the better match for her, because the Phantom does tend to grabby and possessive, to say nothing of violent, but he's such a more interesting character than Raoul.
I do find it really amusing, however, how little the Phantom's face is covered throughout the movie. I would have to get out my souvenir program to be sure, but I think the movie version of his iconic white mask is smaller than in the stage version, in which it covers a little less than half his face, but in the movie it covers roughly a quarter. Also, in the "Masquerade" scene in the stage version he wears a mask that is pretty much a replica of a human skull, complete with moving jaw, whereas in the movie it's a stylized top half of the skull that reveals the entire half of his face as well as his eyes. I also find that, once he's finally unmasked in the movie, his "horrible disfigurement" that makes him a pariah from civilized society is really quite underwhelming. Again, if I remember correctly, in the stage version they give him prosthetic lips and apply some artificial disfigurement even to the parts of his face that aren't covered by the mask, and it is quite startling when he's finally revealed, whereas in the movie it's only his upper right of his face that seems to be disfigured at all, and on first glance it appears to be no more than minor redness and irritation. I can just imagine the "real" Phantom, if indeed he existed, taunting him: "You call that disfigurement, pretty boy?"
Anyway, thinking about musicals naturally led me back to thinking about Sweeney Todd, which recently earned four Golden Globe nominations, including an acting nomination for Johnny Depp, about which I am very excited, especially since he didn't get any nominations for PotC 3, which is understandable but disappointing. I've been really impatient to see it because I want to hear Johnny Depp sing, but then I realized, "Hey, if it's this close to the release date, maybe the soundtrack has already been released," so I looked and indeed it has, complete with samples. The samples, annoyingly, don't contain a lot of actual Johnny Depp vocals, but so far I have to say that for the most part I like what I'm hearing from him. There were some vowels in some of the samples that made me cringe a little bit, but that's because he's trying to maintain the dialect he chose for the character as he sings, and all the other actors are doing the exact same thing, and I think that Sondheim's music allows for that.
It's interesting because Webber and Sondheim have very different musical styles, and yet their effect on me as an audience member (and occasional performer) is similar in that they both often cause a great deal of impatience in me. On the one hand, you have Webber, who writes a 2 hour show with about 20 minutes worth of music in the whole thing (and then you listen to, say, Jesus Christ, Superstar and say, "Wait a minute, didn't I already hear this music in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?") And then on the other hand you have Stephen Sondheim, who says, "Hey, let's see if we can get the whole cast on stage and have them all sing something completely different at the same time and see how it sounds; I think it sounds neat!" and who also seems to have made it his goal in life to never, ever write a song that anyone would ever want, or even be able, to sing out of context with his shows. "Melody?" seems to be his unspoken attitude, "You don't need no stinking melody! Anyone can sing a pretty melody; there's nothing artistic about melody!"
I'm being a bit overly harsh on Mr. Sondheim, because he has written some songs that are actually quite pretty (such as "Send in the Clowns") and in those cases the reason they don't get sung so much outside his shows is more because they don't make sense out of context than because they're not pretty, but still, in a lot of cases they are still really hard to sing.
Anyway, I'd really like to get my hands on the Sweeney Todd soundtrack and listen to it before I see the movie, but seeing as the library doesn't even have the Phantom soundtrack nearly four years after the fact, it's probably not very likely to happen. Woe.