Big news for all my Broadway fanatics out there. It is the thirtieth anniversary of the Broadway play, The Phantom of the Opera. Phantom was originally a French novel created by Gaston Leroux. It was published in the year 1910 and the book is written like a crime mystery. It tells the story of the strange ghost that apparently haunts the Paris Opera Garnier and the mysterious disappearance of the new and upcoming soprano singer Christine Daae. If you don’t know much about Phantom I can give you a summary/criticism of the book and how it became the famous play and movie.
Leroux’s novel is a Gothic mystery romance. He writes it as though the reader is collecting evidence from different accounts to find out what happened to Miss Daae. The story is made up of interviews and newspaper clippings. To be quite honest, I have read the book and I for one can’t stand it. No offense to any book fans reading this. It’s not so much as the style it was written but the fact that the Phantom, known as Erik, never has his own voice. We never hear Erik speak for himself. Even in the end, the last accounts are told by Erik’s only “companion” and I use that term loosely, the Persian.
Another thing I don’t like about it is the fact that the story is mostly told by Raoul. Throughout most of the novel it’s literally Raoul whining, crying, and complaining about how hard his poor rich life is because Christine, his childhood love, doesn’t love him anymore. There’s one moment that drove me up the wall. It was when that stalker (yes, I know Erik stalked Christine too) Raoul has sneaked into Christine’s dressing room and watches her from a hiding spot. While hiding, he over hers her say, “Poor Erik.” She says this because she has just returned from Erik’s house after discovering his deformity. And all stupid Raoul says is, “Poor Erik? What about poor Raoul?” Are you kidding me, Raoul? Erik deserves way more sympathy than you do!
Here’s why with a little background knowledge of Erik. Erik was born with no nose and looks like a living corpse. He’s described as having long slender hands that are cold to the touch, yellowish skin, a lip-less mouth, and a few wisps of black hair on top of his head. But what’s probably the most haunting thing about Erik’s appearance is his eyes. They are hallowed with two orbs that glow like stars in the night. You can only see them gleam in the darkness. But that’s not his only tragedy. Being born this way he was never loved by his own mother. He grew up traveling with gypsies. He learned he was a musical genius, ventriloquist, and architect. Erik has also never even felt a compassionate touch from another human being. But oh yes poor little wealthy Raoul your life must be so miserable because Christine grew up and moved on with her life? Not to mention they’re whole relationship is absurd to the point where they act as if they’re still children.
There are also some more things of what makes the book different from Broadway. For one thing, the Persian is never in the Broadway production. He is, however, in the 1925 silent film that starred Lon Chaney. He is also included in some of the stage performances of the book. Another character they typically leave out is Christine’s godmother-like figure, Madame Valerius. Which makes sense, she never really had a huge role in the book. In the musical they combined the Persian and Valerius into Madame Giry’s character. Originally Madame Giry is only an usher instead of the ballet instructor. She’s mainly the usher to box five, Erik’s box. Erik for some unknown reason is fond of Madame Giry probably why they made her the one to help Erik escape the gypsies. One more character that’s different is Meg Giry. In the book Meg has a small roll as only a ballet dancer who’s rude and vain and doesn’t even like Christine. Whereas in the musical they’re best friends. In fact, they’re practically like sister. (The rest of this article will continue in part 2)