in my whole life, the amount of time i have went to concerts or music festivals are so few, i can count them with my hands. but ask me how many times i’ve seen musicals, operas, ballet/dance performances, and other cultural-musical performances, i can only say: too many times to count!
and the one show that i had always wanted & waited to see was The Phantom of the Opera musical performance (Andrew Lloyd Weber). just writing the name gave me goosebumps already. :p
my story began sometime around 1995 when my musical-lover family bought a CD full of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s songs from musicals. the second i heard Michael Crawford’s version of Music of the Night, i fell in love with the Phantom. we then bought a 2-CD set of The Phantom of the Opera musical which consisted of the all the songs in the musical performance, from beginning to the end. i religiously listened to those CDs with my sister ever since, and sang the songs together whenever we could. by then, i can say that i knew most of the songs by heart & somewhat guessed what the story told.
it wasn’t until some time in 1997-98 that i actually read the book for the first time. and i fell in deeper. now all the lyrics in the songs made more sense and i wished so bad that they would perform the musical in Indonesia.
they never did, and then i moved to Finland… a place where they also had never performed.
last year, as soon as they started selling the tickets, i jumped up on my seat and bought it. which was a good move, because they were all sold out in a matter of weeks. i don’t know how i managed to wait a whole year till the actual show, but i did! and now, on with the review!
when i first heard that they were finally going to show this musical here in Finland, i already read that it was going to be “a new production”. after reading many articles about it, i finally gathered that: the songs & scores in the performance would be as they were in the original show, everything would be performed in English, the story would of course be exactly the same, but the stage design and how the whole thing is performed would be different than the original. and then a few days before seeing this musical, i read that “different” here actually means bigger: bigger stage than in London’s West End, more cast than the original as well.
i have not seen the original production, ever, and the closest thing i’ve seen was the 2004 movie. so i can say that i know what to expect of the songs & music, but no expectations at all about the stage etc.
so first, the stage: it was just FANTASTIC! with so many different scenes within the story, they changed quite rapidly, but everything went smoothly and even the “mini” opera scenes were staged so beautifully, as if they were real operas in themselves. my most fave sets were the part where Christine saw the Phantom through the mirror, and the underground world of the Phantom.
next, the costumes: exactly what you would expect from that era’s fashion, which is to say that they’re good… but not extremely special. EXCEPT: at the masquerade party. it reminded me a bit of the An American In Paris movie, the new year’s party scene. 😉
and now, the moment i had been waiting for, the actors/singers & music: on the night that i went to see this, Christine was played by Hanna-Liina Võsa, who to my understanding is originally from Estonia and have done many shows around the world. i personally think she was perfect as Christine, her voice clear and her pronunciations perfect.
the Phantom was played by Ilkka Hämäläinen, a Finn who have been in the national opera for many years and originally started his career in rock & pop music. in the beginning, i felt like he sang a little bit quicker than the music, which was a tiny bit disappointing for me because it happened while he sang the song i waited for the most, Music of the Night. maybe i was just so used to Michael Crawford’s version that i had expected it to be slow, with clear pronunciations as to make a point to each and every word. but as the show went on, Hämäläinen became more and more integrated with his Phantom role (and no longer sang too quick for the music), and before long i actually felt like he WAS the Phantom, with all his gestures, his proudness, and how he always crept in the darkness. it was all very well done!
Raoul was played by Olli Tuovinen, and while he sang beautifully just like Raoul would to Christine, i wish he would show more affection to his on-stage lover. i felt like the chemistry between Raoul & Christine wasn’t really there (or if it was, then it was very subtle), and could see it more between Christine & the Phantom.
the music was brilliantly played, i felt as if i was listening to our old CD, many years ago.
did i cry in the end? you bet your socks i did. i still couldn’t believe that i finally had seen the show LIVE, my lifelong dream had finally came true. i knew i couldn’t expect this show to be as “perfect” as how i envisioned it in my mind when i listened to the original CD years ago, but it was still a lot better than what i expected, and it was worth every cent! but if i ever get the chance to see it again, whether this Finnish production one or the original West End version, i would still jump at the chance and do it again.
if you’re living in Finland or are planning to visit some time next spring, i highly recommend this musical show! click here for more info.
PS. the video is from The Finnish National Opera YouTube account and all the credits belong to them.