The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most well-known musicals of all-time and has had very successful runs on both Broadway and London’s West End. There have been some non-replica productions of PHANTOM, most notably, the Czech production. But today I thought that I’d talk a little about the Sydmonton version of PHANTOM which starred Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Christine Daaé, and Clive Carter as Raoul de Chagny.
First, a little bit of background. In 1985, a preview of the first act of PHANTOM was put on at Sydmonton (which is ALW’s home). While all of the tunes that are familiar to countless fans even today were still present, many of the lyrics were different, most notably for songs such as “Think of Me”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, and “All I Ask of You”. Also, at the staging of the Sydmonton production, Christine was not “Christine”. She was, in fact, called “Kristen” because it was a traditionally more Swedish name (Christine Daaé being Swedish according the the Gaston Leroux novel). The Sydmonton version, in general (at least from what we can tell because it was only Act 1) much more closely follows the Leroux novel in the character’s interactions with one another, perhaps most noticeably in Raoul and the Phantom. Raoul in the current musical is a pretty confident young man. Not so in the Sydmonton version. Like in the book, Sydmonton Raoul is much sweeter, and perhaps even timid at times. The Phantom, also, is not to be seen, in this version, as a romantic sort of figure, but rather a sort of ominous, sort of character who is very creepy in the words that he chooses. I know, that’s hard to understand but it’s the only way in which I can explain what I mean to say without having a mob of Eristine shippers chasing me down the street. But, I suppose that what I should say is that, even amongst Eristine shippers, the general consensus seems to be that the Phantom’s word choice is very creepy, even causing some people that I know who strongly ship Eristine to say that they do not like the pairing in the Sydmonton version. But, I think that’s enough of the background and I’m going to just jump straight into the analysis.
“Think of Me” is a fan favorite especially among those who hold Christine high on their dreamrole list. Singing that cadenza at the end just right is a dream for many girls who dream of being Christine on a big stage one day. During the Sydmonton production however, “Think of Me” was actually “What Has Time Done to Me”. The lyrics are, as you might imagine, quite different. Both “Think of Me” and “What Has Time Done to Me” share the same sort of feeling of a reflection of a former love. This feeling/sense is even stronger in “What Has Time Done to Me” and, in my opinion, very clearly correlates with Christine’s relationship with Raoul, especially during the Mirror scene in which we get their backstory.
All I see,
Is how he used to be.
Can past and present now agree?
And if time has altered him
What has time done to me?
-Refrain of “What Has Time Done to Me”
Personally, I feel like these lyrics just fit the feel of Phantom more than the lyrics to “Think of Me” do. If you were to ask me which one I prefer, I think that I’d have to say “What Has Time Done to Me”. Unfortunately, though, there is only one recording (which is barely audible). But I still love it.
I’m going to stop for a little moment to talk about the Mirror scene. In contrast with what we have now, the Sydmonton version has some dialogue/singing between Christine and the Phantom prior to Raoul bursting into the dressing room. Funnily enough, I find that a lot of people’s criticisms of Raoul come from this scene and how “pushy” he was. Interestingly, in this version, he is not pushy. At all.
My…father died last year.
He was the greatest musician I ever heard. He always said he had the angel of music on his shoulder…now we have a new angel of music to sing for us! Where did you learn to sing like that? You must tell me over dinner; even angels have reasons…
No. Things have changed, Raoul.
But we have so much to talk about!
Not now. Maybe another time. Please go.
I’m sorry…you must be tired.
But, thank you for coming to see me…
Alright, that’s done. I’m going to talk about “The Phantom of the Opera” or, as some people like to call it “The Title Song”. Now, the lyrics aren’t too different here, but they’re different enough that someone who is a fan of the show will notice. Overall, the best way to put it is that there is a lot more scene-setting in this version of the song and the Phantom is a lot more controlling (as would more accurately fit the book).
There was also a Sydmonton version of “The Music of the Night”, but I’m not familiar enough with that version of the song to really talk about it in depth. Some of what I have read about it and other people’s thoughts about it involve it being a lot less hypnotic and more… creepy. Creepy, being the lyrics. As in, the Phantom was being creepy in the things that he chose to say. That’s all that I can really say about this part.
Perhaps the most controversial of the songs that I’m going to be talking about is “All I Ask of You”. While I personally quite like this version, some people find it awkward. Which, it is when you read the lyrics. But when you hear the lyrics being sung, it’s a lot easier to really like it. The current version of the song is, in my opinion, more romantic and probably a little more serious. The Sydmonton version, I feel, was quite a bit more… cute? Cute, as in, not so much as having the feeling of a marriage proposal but more of a “I’m asking you out on a date” kind of feel.
I could bring you flowers,
To mingle with your hair,
But what good would be flowers?
They only last for hours…
I could bring you diamonds,
But that would not be fair,
I don’t wish to malign them,
But your eyes would far outshine them.
You can say what you like about it, but I do like it for what it is, though I must say that I largely prefer the current version, unlike how I feel about “What Has Time Done to Me”.
And that is essentially the end of the changes (as far as we know). I think that these lyrics and characterizations definitely have more of a Gaston Leroux vibe to them. They most certainly ring true to the original novel and personally, I kind of like that.
What do you think of the Sydmonton version of The Phantom of the Opera? Do you think that some things should have stayed the same or are you glad that they changed them?