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[Herald Review] ‘Phantom’ focuses on tragic character, fails to be memorable

Kai plays the phantom in musical “Phantom.” (EMK Musical Company)
Kai plays the phantom in musical “Phantom.” (EMK Musical Company)
Scene from “Phantom” (EMK Musical Company)
Scene from “Phantom” (EMK Musical Company)
The musical “Phantom” reveals another layer of the tragic, ghostly character who lives at the Paris Opera House, and who has stolen the hearts of many for ages. 

Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit’s “Phantom” -- long overshadowed by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s smash hit “The Phantom of the Opera” -- opened Wednesday in Seoul at the Charlotte Theater in Jamsil, eastern Seoul.

The Korean-language version of the licensed musical, which features original music and lyrics by Yeston and a book by Kopit, traces its roots to Gaston Leroux’s famous novel “The Phantom of the Opera,” set at the Paris Opera House.

Like the original story, there is a ghostly figure called the phantom living beneath the opera house. Deformed from birth, he hides in the catacomb, where he longs for beautiful music. His face hidden behind a mask, the phantom haunts the opera house.

In “Phantom,” Christine Daae, the female lead, sells music sheets on the streets of Paris. In the Weber production, Daae is a ballet dancer. Picked up by Count Phillippe de Chandon, Daae starts work at the opera house as a costume manager for Carlotta, the prima donna of the house.

The phantom, who learns that Daae has a beautiful voice, trains her. When Daae earns a chance to showcase her singing in front of the opera company, however, Carlotta -- jealous and threatened by Christine -- ruins her debut and the phantom takes it upon himself to exact revenge.

Though very similar, the plot of Kopit’s story is much more in-depth and detailed in comparison to the Lloyd Weber version. The phantom’s childhood story and his family secrets are revealed, allowing the audience to better understand the character and his motives.

The 185-minute musical is eye-dazzling and ear-pleasing, taking the form of an operetta, a mix of theater and opera. Yet, compared to the Lloyd Weber version -- which features many memorable works such as “Think of Me,” “Angel of Music,” “All I Ask of You” and more -- the songs do not captivate.

“We have all been going through a difficult time since last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We wait for the day to meet with you (the audience) without the masks,” stage actor Kai who plays the phantom said to the audience after the opening performance.

“Where is the path that leads out from this place / Now that all has been changed on this day? ... Oh, for an angel of music to come / And restore a small glimmer of light to my gloom,” he said, quoting lyrics from the musical’s “Where in the World.”

Soprano Lim Sun-hae plays female lead Christine Daae, along with stage actors Kim So-hyun, Lee Ji-hye and Kim Sue. Park Eun-tae and Kyuhyun of Super Junior play the role of the phantom, along with Kai.

“Phantom” runs until June 27. Tickets are priced between 48,000 won and 150,000 won.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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