Sunday, January 12, 2014

Movie Versus Musical Version

I've been on a musicals kick lately.  I've always loved them, grew up watching them, singing them.  Two of my favorites have always been The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.

I discovered the 25th anniversary LIVE version of The Phantom of the Opera that is on Netflix, which is absolutely incredible.  Brandon is singing the song "The Phantom of the Opera" around the house, I LOVE IT!  I also just received the Les Mis 10th anniversary special for Christmas.

Friday night I saw the movie version of the musical Les Miserables for the first time.  I wasn't interested in seeing it when it came out in the theaters, but after all the hype it got last year about how they sang live on the set, and the Emmy award wins, I thought that if I ever had the chance to watch it I would.

Needless to say, that's 2 hours and 33 minutes of my life that I can never get back.  Why does Hollywood continue to make movie versions of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time?  In my opinion, Movie to Broadway, or Broadway to Movie worked back in the 1950's - 1970's, but it just doesn't seem to be working the same way today.  Guys and Dolls, Hello Dolly, and Funny Girl are three of my all time favorites, and I actually enjoy the MOVIE versions better.  West Side Story, Mary Poppins, and Grease are other musicals that have been done both ways successfully.

Something just seems to be lacking today.  "Back in the day", it seemed more important that you could sing BEFORE you were cast in a role that actually required singing.  (Marlon Brando is the exception.  He did his best in Guys and Dolls, and luckily only had one big number to sing, "Luck be a Lady".  He was surrounded by men who COULD sing, and since he was a great Sky Masterson, I can overlook his singing ability).  Now it seems that Hollywood is more interested in casting an actor/actress that will bring people to the theatre BEFORE they think about whether or not they can sing.  Barbara Streisand, Julie Andrews, Natalie Wood, and Frank Sinatra can sing!

However, when you take on two the most FAMOUS BROADWAY PRODUCTIONS OF ALL TIME, you'd better really be ready, because no matter what you do, there will be fans who hate it.

Ready to hear some music?  I'm going to show you clips from the most popular song from both the movie and Broadway versions of Les Mis, and The Phantom of the Opera, and you can decide which you think is better.

First we'll start with Les Miserables:

Ms. Hathaway does a fantastic job of selling Fantine's desperate situation.  She looks like garbage, since the character of Fantine was a prostitute,  and the raw emotion is convincing.  What bothers me here is that it's almost overdone.  Is it just me, or does she seem to cry her way through a lot of this song?  And why did everyone make a big deal about her cutting her hair for the movie?  If I was getting her salary for making a movie, I'd cut my hair too!  It does grow back people!

Ms. Henshall busts out her singing chops, and I feel the emotion all WHILE SHE'S STANDING AT A MICROPHONE!  While I believe that Ms. Henshall sang the best version, I appreciate the emotion that Ms. Hathaway brought to the song.  But let's face it:  I'm NOT going to listen to Ms. Hathaway's version over and over again.

Movie Version: 0
Broadway Version: 1

Mr. Armstrong, and Ms. Hallway, as Thenardier the Innkeeper, and his wife, simply steal the show.  Not only is it fun to watch the two of them sing it, but everyone around them gets into it, bringing even more fun to the song.

First of all, I can't stand Sasha Baron Cohen.  And I'm not a real big fan of Helen Bonham Carter.  That being said, I think that they were a good choice for these roles.  They are both flamboyant, over-the-top actors who sell it.  I ended up hating these two characters, which might have been the point.  If it was, then they did their job.  My problem with this song is that it lacks the "pizazz" that the version from the musical has.  "Master of the House" is one of the show-stopping numbers.  The crowd during the live show goes WILD when this song comes on.  The song is funny in the broadway version.  This version is slower, andy I found no humor in it.  I listened to about 3 minutes of it and couldn't handle it anymore.  There's no doubt which version of this song I'd rather listen too.

Movie Version:  0
Broadway Version:  2

Absolutely PERFECT!  Again, they are only standing at a microphone and I can feel the emotions.  Marius is devastated since he's just discovered that his childhood friend loves him, and now she's died.  Eponine is finally where she has always wanted to be; in Marius's arms.  I cry every time I watch this clip.

I have many problems with this version.  I understand that after being shot in the stomach you wouldn't have the strength to belt out a song; you are dying after all.  However, whispering the lyrics of a song doesn't count as singing in any way, shape, or form... in my opinion.  One of the elements that draws people to the Lea Salgona/Michael Ball version, is the emotion.  Marius is truly sad to see her die.  In this version, I don't feel any of that.  Eponine dies, Marius hardly sheds a tear, and then she's gone.

Movie Version:  0
Broadway Version:  3

Considering this is one of the most well known songs of all time, and has been covered by some powerhouse singers, Hugh Jackman had HUGE shoes to fill.  I don't think there was anything Jackman could have done to make this work.  I would've been having panic attacks if I was him!  The last note is cringe-worthy, but otherwise I feel the emotion.

Colm Wilkinson, the man who originated the character of Jean ValJean, has a voice of gold, plain and simple.  I want this man singing at my funeral, which means pulling out recordings since he will probably go before I do!!

Movie Version:  0
Broadway Version:  4

Russell Crowe played the character of Javert, the police officer who hunts ValJean.  I will never understand why he was chosen for this role.  And because I thought his acting, and more importantly, his singing was HORRIBLE, I'm not going to even post it here.  If you want to hear it, look it up on YouTube.  I am going to give the Broadway version points though because Russell was so awful!

Movie Version:  0
Broadway Version:  5

The best part of this movie came, when 30 minutes in, Colm Wilkinson showed up playing the Bishop!!  I was so excited, I started jumping up and down!  I loved that they gave him a "shout out", and it was five minutes of pure joy; the only pure joy in the entire movie.

Movie Version:  1
Broadway Version:  5

As you can see, I believe that the movie version is AWFUL and the Broadway version is far superior.  However, I did learn a few things about the musical from watching the movie.  The movie helped fill in the gaps of the story since I've only seen the version where they are standing in front of the microphone and singing.  However, that's all I gained from the over 2 hour movie that I watched.

And now on to my favorite musical of all:  The Phantom of the Opera

I'll be comparing the live version from the 25th anniversary at the Albert Hall (currently on Netflix), starring Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karminloo to the 2004 movie starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum.

We begin with the songs "The Phantom of the Opera", and "Music of the Night" from the movie.

Is it just me, or does Emmy Rossum's voice sound like that of a 10 year old girl?  It sounds very nasal-like to me, and it's annoying.  Christine's voice is supposed to be mind-blowing, amazing.  They missed the mark here.  One of the biggest differences between this movie and the Les Mis movie is that the tracks were pre-recorded for Phantom.  You would think that this would allow the actors to focus more on their acting and put more emotion into their characters.  Apparently they all missed that memo.  Gerard Butler doesn't sound that bad.  He sounds like a guy who doesn't sing for a living who was asked to sing in a movie.  But again, there's no passion, which is what the character of The Phantom is full of.  These two songs set the stage for the relationship between The Phantom and Christine.  She is entranced by him, she can't say no to him.  I don't feel that here at all.

Can you feel the passion of the characters here?  Holy cow, they are DRIPPING in it!  Their faces, movements, SINGING, everything draws you into their relationship.  I feel each of their struggles, and emotions.  It is oozing off of them.  And I don't know about you, but I've never found The Phantom a "sexy" character.....until now.  Ramin Karminloo does a fabulous job of making me see this character in a way I've never seen him before.

Movie Version:  0
Musical Version:  2

This was never one of my favorite songs from the musical but OMG...Sierra pulls me into this every single time.  The emotions on her face make it impossible to not find yourself getting caught up in the moment; her feelings are POURING out of her.  The first time I watched this I found myself yelling at her through the television to realize that her father wasn't singing to her!

I love the setting of this scene, but I can't help coming back to the fact that this was a pre-recorded song, giving the actress nothing else to worry about but selling it to us.  Why can't she give more emotion?  She's hardly moving her lips, so it looks like she isn't even singing to begin with.  If she looked like she was actually in character and paying attention to what she was supposed to be doing, I would've really liked this song.  I give more emotion to this song when I attempt to belt it out in the privacy of my own home!  It's very disappointing.

Movie Version:  0
Broadway Version:  3

The last song is "The Final Lair".  I had to put it in 3 parts to show you the movie version.

Does anyone else think that The Phantom isn't ugly enough in this movie?  Throughout the entire movie/play we are left wondering what he really looks like beneath the mask.  The movie was a big let down in that area.  Raoul is obnoxious; or maybe it's his hair that bothers me, I can't quite tell.  The Phantom displays emotion, but still nothing from Christine.  This Emmy Rossum person can't act!

I couldn't embed the Broadway version, so here's the link for their version.

Phantom of the Opera; The Final Lair

Holy cow.  Simply FAB.U.LOUS.  I can feel the Phantom's pain.  In this version I'm not feeling like Christine is kissing the Phantom to simply free Raoul.  Here, she wants the Phantom to know that she really does care.  The look on the Phantom's face at 6:55 says it all.  His hands are shaking, eyes wide open.  He can't believe what is happening.  It is pure love, and intoxicating.  His face is very disfigured, but I would've kissed him too!!  Ramin makes me feel sorry for the Phantom.  He makes me root for him to win Christine!  When he nods to Christine to go, she almost doesn't go.  I love that part.  If Raoul hadn't come back, the story could've ended differently.  One of my favorite sequences in the entire play.

Movie Version:  0
Broadway Version:  4

Bottom line:  The movie versions of these two movies were beyond horrible.  I'm grateful for the internet that gives us the ability to constantly watch the versions we prefer, and leave the rest of the garbage behind!

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