Photos by Neal Corpus
The past week has been a dive into nostalgia, what with the Jonas Brothers reuniting, Sky Ferreira announcing new music, and Elle Magazine publishing a Taylor Swift-penned essay. It’s basically 2013 all over again, and I’m not complaining. So it was only fitting that I catch the gala night of The Phantom of the Opera, first staged in Manila six years ago.
2013 was the year I watched The Phantom of the Opera for the first time ever. As a newbie theater goer, I remember getting lost in the story, transported to a 19th century Paris opera house. Though our seats were high up on the balcony, I exited the theater blown away by the the whole spectacle.
Now that the Andrew Lloyd Weber masterpiece is back in Manila for another limited run, I worried that the grandiose memories I had of the musical would be spoiled after seeing it again as an adult. And who can blame me? In this Internet age of callout culture and #MeToo, where even the fictional TV characters are picked apart (see: Penn Badgley’s Joe in You), Phantom doesn’t stand a chance. Add to my recent realization that women deserve more than the emotionally manipulative men in this world, and you can imagine how iffy I was going into the theater this time around.
Set in 19th century Paris, the show revolves around the Paris Opera and its performers, one of which is soprano Christine Daaé. Christine becomes the object of obsession of the disfigured musical genius living underneath the opera house.
As a character, the Phantom can be considered a textbook sociopath — dangerously perpetuating that “if I do things for you you should be grateful and love me back” narrative. Christine was obviously scared of him, and yet he continued to harass her and her peers. By the end of the first act, my worries were confirmed: this wasn’t the tragic romance that I remembered.
Unable to reconcile my current feelings with my magical first Phantom experience, I messaged my friend (a huge fan) to ask her why she loves the production. She replied right away, in three paragraphs that pretty much hit it on the spot: “Well you can say that the best thing about Phantom is the production of it. Conceptually, it ties together so many strong elements that it makes up for the relatively weak story.”
Phantom truly embodies everything you look for in a major musical — stellar production design (the iconic chandelier drop scene already makes it so worth it), colorful and intricately designed costumes, powerhouse vocals, and a moving musical score.