If you were disappointed with the Hollywood film version of Phantom of the Opera (and let’s be honest, who wasn’t?), you may want to look into acquiring this on video instead. In contrast to the misguided changes that plagued that movie, this is quite simply a filmed production of the stage show, so its fidelity is beyond question. It does use the lyrical revisions added to the show during its run, but those are mostly improvements anyway, and the direction is actually much closer to Harold Prince’s original vision than most actual stage productions of the last fifteen years or so.
The leads are, with one exception, superb. Ramin Karimloo is an excellent Phantom, beautifully sung, compellingly acted and with palpable sex appeal that puts Gerard Butler’s to shame. Sierra Boggess is not only an exceptional singer, but arguably the greatest actress ever to record the role of Christine. She takes especial advantage of the opportunities offered by the camera, and brings out the erotic side of Christine’s relationship with the Phantom especially strongly, spending both the “Music of the Night” and “The Point of No Return” scenes simmering with transparent arousal.
The only weak link is the cast is Hadley Fraser’s blustering Raoul, who sings nicely but comes across far too cold and strident for the character, and is ultimately not sufficiently sympathetic to serve the show’s overall dynamic. A proper Raoul should have a certain measure of moral ambiguity in the second act, but if he can’t come across as sweet and sincere in his scenes with Christine, the shock of his echoing the Phantom’s “So, there is to be war between us” speech (essentially, the realization that he is becoming not all that different from the Phantom in his attempts to bring him down) is completely lost. This might have something to do with the production’s links to the ill-advised sequel Love Never Dies (two of the leads were also cast in that show), where Raoul was subjected to a similar process of dehumanization.
Nevertheless, this one casting misstep isn’t enough to keep this from being a satisfying and at times thrilling production of the show, and a more than viable alternative to the movie version. If you want a version of the show you can watch in your own living room where the story is intact, the score is well-sung throughout and the Phantom doesn’t look like a boy-band member even with his mask off, this is probably the version for you.