16-Ezra Bridger

A Few Notes About Christine Daae, Part 2

It’s finally here!  And prepare for a loooong post…

Act II picks up at the Opera House’s masquerade party 6 months after the events of Act I.  The Phantom has been silent the whole time, and Raoul and the rest of the company believes him gone.  Christine, however, knows that the man has no choice but to live under the Opera House; and as far as she knows, he may still be obsessed with her.  Therefore, though she is excited about being Raoul’s bride, she begs him not to reveal their engagement yet.  And she knows Raoul still won’t believe her if she explains her reasoning.  She doesn’t want to rehash this point or argue, saying, “please pretend you will understand in time.”

Which means she doesn’t think he will ever understand.  She trusts Raoul and confides in him on other matters, but unless the Phantom literally shows up, Raoul isn’t going to believe her tale.  And Christine doesn’t want the Phantom to return to her life.  All she wants is freedom, remember, from that world of night.  So if he stays away, Raoul won’t understand what she was afraid of—but the two of them won’t have to deal with the Phantom’s anger either.

In fact, Christine is no doubt thinking of Raoul’s safety as well as her own.  The Phantom would be furious if he discovered their engagement—remember the way he lashed out at Raoul after the dressing room visit—and so she seeks protection for the two of them in secrecy.

These 6 months must have been uneasy for Christine.  The mentor who threatened her with “now you cannot ever be free!” has been oddly silent, but is no doubt still lurking somewhere.  And she lives in fear of her relationship with Raoul being discovered.  And she still stuck with Raoul.  For six months, under constant fear and uncertainty.  Which means she not only trusted him through those long months, but also that they remained faithful to each other in spite of this disagreement.

The musical doesn’t specify what she is waiting on, however, or when she would be comfortable announcing their engagement.  I suspect that she wants to affirm that the Phantom is gone from her life.  In fact, I think she planned to elope with Raoul that night on the roof, hence her line “order your fine horses, be with them at the door!”  But the falling chandelier made her pull back.  It reminded her that the Phantom was not gone from her life—and that consequences will follow if he finds out about her engagement.  Thus, she sought to keep Raoul and herself safe through secrecy, while maintaining her normal life—and watching for a confirmation that they were not suspected, and that the Phantom would not trouble her any more.

So when the Phantom appears at the masquerade, it is the incarnation of Christine’s fear.  She knew he was probably lurking around and possibly still obsessed with her.  His appearance and words confirm it.  And he will continue to terrorize the Opera House, with worse things “than a shattered chandelier” if the company doesn’t obey.

He also singles out Christine and declares: “Your chains are still mine—you will sing for me!”  This not only references his earlier remark, “Now you cannot ever be free!” it may also be a subtle communication that he knows of her engagement.  If she is figuratively chained, she cannot do what she wishes.  Since the Phantom controls those chains, only he can dictate what she can do and where she can go.  And rather than explain that he needs her to sing for his music (as he did earlier), now he commands it, treating it like a certainty.  Ultimately, Christine is helpless to change her situation—as such, if the Phantom decides to put a stop to her relationship with Raoul, he can, and he will.

When she comes to the managers’ office, she learns she has been cast in the star role of the Phantom’s opera—which did not ease her fears—and to top it off, Carlotta accuses her as the perpetrator of these problems.  Christine snaps, showing an outrage that she had never before displayed, and declares, “I don’t want any part of this plot!”  She’s mad at being blamed for this mess, but also angry of being accused of threats and manipulation—notice that she never once says something she doesn’t mean.

She also feels cornered.  The managers witnessed that nastily possessive order, “You will sing for me!” and their first instinct is not to protect her or put up any sort of fight, but to go along with those demands and cast her in the Phantom’s opera.  Andre pretends to be reasonable, but questions her reason for refusing; Firmin outright tells her that performing is her duty.  But Christine’s one fear is that the Phantom will take her again and would never let her go.  If she appeared in the opera, it would play right into his hands.

Though she feels attacked, cornered, and afraid—notice that she insists she won’t sing.  Commands of duty and faux-reasonableness do not sway her.  She has a spine of steel, and won’t let herself be pushed around once she’s decided to draw a line.  And all she wants now is to get away from the Phantom, from the shadows and uncertainties of the last few months—perhaps years, depending on how long the Phantom had been part of her life.  Six months earlier, she had starred in Ill Muto and admitted to Raoul that the Phantom’s music entranced her.  Now, she wants no more, and refuses the star role in Don Juan: “I cannot sing it, duty or not.”

What she intends to do instead is not specified, but regardless, the Phantom won’t give up that easily.  In his note, he appealed to her love for music, saying that her voice was good, but nowhere near excellence.  If that weren’t enough, he accuses her of rejecting his instruction out of pride.  And furthermore, he twists the situation to make it look like she was the one at fault in forsaking him.

He may also be communicating to her (again) that he knows of her engagement to Raoul.  By giving her a chance to return to him voluntarily, he forces her to make a choice: to ally with his music and his instruction, or to go with Raoul in “pride” that she needed no further instruction or protection.  But Christine’s response is instant and terrified: “I can’t.  I won’t do it.”  She is becoming more and more aware of the Phantom’s cunning and manipulation, and so rejects more and more of his advances.

During the chaos of everyone arguing over Raoul’s plan, Christine snaps again—though in fear rather than anger—and appeals to Raoul.  She tells him that the Phantom will take her back, whether she wants to go or not—“We’ll be parted forever; he won’t let me go!”  Think of that; separation from Raoul is one of her prime fears.  She knows good and well that the Phantom can do what he wants with her life.  He does not need to threaten her with danger.  His hold over her is stronger because she once trusted him, and he, in turn, revealed to her his lair and his desire for her to sing his music.  She does not want to return to him, but severing those once-personal ties and escaping him completely is harder than it sounds.  As such, her other fear is that she will never be able to escape the Phantom’s influence; “And he’ll always be there singing songs in my head…”

Raoul reminds her that she had said the Phantom was nothing but a man.  The libretto does not actually record this dialogue; I assume Raoul inferred this point from her conversation that night on the roof, or that Christine had said this directly during some scene that the musical did not show.  Either way, Raoul is right.  The Phantom is human, and Christine knows it.  But he is powerful in ways Raoul doesn’t understand.

Up until this point, Raoul had been Christine’s only ally.  Now she is understandably upset with his plan, yet she never accuses him of cruelty or harshness or going back on his word.  In fact, he is trying to fulfill his promise to her and get them both out of this mess.  And I think Christine knows it.  She feels “twisted every way,” but not because she fears he won’t protect her, or that his plan won’t work.  She doesn’t even accuse Raoul of being cruel towards the Phantom, and Christine is not in denial about the situation.  In fact, she understood the reality before she engaged herself to marry Raoul: that the Phantom was a danger to her and to others.  Matters have come to a crisis now, and they can’t disentangle themselves the way she hoped they could.

On the one hand, her dilemma is deeply personal: “Can I betray the man who once inspired my voice?”  Though she will not return to her music lessons, she recognizes the gift he gave her, and this recognition shows her to be a humble young woman.  Furthermore, trust is one of Christine’s highest values.  To betray someone she had once trusted—to use against him the skills he taught her, to use her voice to trap him, must have violated nearly everything she believed right.  And she may be very reluctant to treat the Phantom the way he once treated her.  She wants no revenge, has no wish to betray him as he once betrayed her.  She just wants out of the situation.

But on the other hand, this problem is not personal: “He kills without a thought; he murders all that’s good.”  It’s not just her life at stake.  And deep down, she seems to know that she has a duty to do this: “I know I can’t refuse and yet I wish I could!”  The fact that Raoul and others are depending on her and her alone to free them from the danger only adds to her torment.

But I don’t think Raoul could have forced Christine to sing.  She’s close to people she loves, and she hates to disappoint and hates to be pressured—but she is capable of standing her chosen ground.  Remember that she insisted the Phantom was real that night on the rooftop, in spite of protests from the man she loved.  And she insisted on keeping their engagement secret for six months, and barely five minutes earlier, had flat-out refused to sing in Don Juan.

Ultimately, she knows what she must do, yet can’t bring herself to do it.  She runs out of the room in conflict and torment, without deciding one way or the other.

Torn between choices, hesitant to betray the Phantom, and afraid she’ll lose Raoul forever, Christine turns to her memories of her father.  She visits the cemetery where he’s buried, which is as close as she can get to him now.  It’s interesting that she did not go to Raoul with her emotional turmoil here.  She may have been a little upset with him for persuading her to betray the Phantom—but then again, she may have just wanted some alone time.

“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is a gorgeous number, but it’s vital to the story on several levels.  It indirectly reveals a good deal about Christine’s heart and loyalty.  She describes her father as her “one companion” and “all that mattered.”  She describes him as “friend and father,”—and says that her world was shattered by his death.  With such a close relationship between them, it’s easier to understand that Christine trusted his last promise and was desperate for any connection to him.  And so fell for the whole “Angel of Music” thing.

The musical doesn’t specify how long it had been since her father died, but the lyrics give the impression that it happened some time ago, and that she’d been on her own for years.  And she longs for those days when he was alive, when none of this fear, loneliness, uncertainty existed.  His death and the lack of companionship in her life seems to have haunted her, affected her deeply even while performing as a simple ballet/chorus girl in the Opera House.

But as she remembers and grieves, she realizes that living in the past is not the solution: “Dreaming of you won’t help me to do all that you dreamed I could.”  And she realizes that she must let go of her memories, of that last promise, and move forward.  She will still miss her father, still wish he was there, but she will no longer depend on this longing and her memories: “…Knowing we must say good-bye.  Try to forgive; teach me to live!  Give me the strength to try!”

And by the end of the song, she makes her final decision: “No more memories!  No more silent tears!  No more gazing across the wasted years.  Help me say good-bye.”

This is tremendous strength of character, and a pivotal plot point.  For after this song, Christine herself does not slip into the past.  She deals with the situation as it is.  She also resolves to sing in Don Juan, regardless of the consequences—the conflict at the cemetery seemed to convince her, once and for all, that the Angel she had trusted must be stopped.

The Phantom, of course, is not entirely happy with this turn of events.  He attempts to call Christine back to him; and it’s interesting that in the managers’ office, his note appealed to her love of music and their mentor-student relationship.  Now he appeals to her love and loyalty toward her father, a bond that no one else would fully understand.

Christine, for her part, differentiates between “friend or Phantom.”  The two are no longer one and the same in her mind.  She also no longer follows a mysterious voice without question, and wants to know who is there.  But she quickly figures out it’s the Phantom, and picks up, at least to some degree, on hidden motives in his appearance: “Angel, oh speak!—what endless longings echo in this whisper?”  Christine made several mistakes in her thinking and emotions, but she is not an idiot, guys.  And my sister pointed out that she is fairly emotionally stable—she is affected by the traumatic circumstances, but she doesn’t totally break down under everything that happened.

The Phantom gives her a second chance to return to him voluntarily—and Christine feels the pull, but fights it: “Wildly, my mind beats against you, but my soul obeys!”  At first glance, it seems weird that she chooses to let go of the past, and then immediately falls back under the Phantom’s spell.  But the Phantom is manipulating her in a personal way here.  And manipulating her, as I specified in my Raoul post, where she is most vulnerable.  Also, Christine still feels a pull to the Phantom and his music, but it’s one that she does not want to submit to.

Though on the point of returning to the Phantom, she finally hears Raoul’s frantic call, and runs back to him.  It’s also strange, at first glance, that Christine chooses to let go of the past, but then Raoul has to be the one to snap her out of her trance.  However, this is actually a balance of what each of them are responsible for.  Raoul helps her where she cannot help herself (and his appearance perhaps reaffirms Christine’s knowledge that he will protect her).  And she sticks to her resolve to leave the past behind.  After his song, she does all she can to resist the Phantom, and she chooses to sing in Don Juan to put an end to his behavior and his threat.

After what happened at the cemetery, Christine could not be any more comfortable about the situation—the Phantom still clearly wants her under his authority, and will do whatever he can to call her back to him, thus separating her from Raoul.  And she sings in Don Juan anyway.  She no doubt trusted that Raoul would be nearby to protect her and trusted that his plan would actually work.  Of course, nobody expected that the Phantom would appear onstage in disguise to play role of Don Juan himself.  Christine doesn’t realize it until the end of “The Point of No Return.”

And I have to pause and make some important points about this song.  It’s strongly implied to be a sexual song (or at least to have sexual subtext), and the fact that Christine sings it with the Phantom (though he’s in disguise) makes it an emotionally charged duet.  Right?

Wrong.  Christine thinks she’s singing with Piangi.  She doesn’t realize who her Don Juan really is until the end of the song.  Did she have those feelings toward Piangi?  I think not.  I believe Christine was acting a part, that she did not feel (at least not completely) everything the song was trying to put to put into her head.  And if you think about it, the Phantom—once again—is manipulating her into saying and doing things she might not have done of her own free will.

And on that note, “Point of No Return” is also cited as a metaphor for the Phantom’s life.  It’s also something of metaphor for Christine’s involvement with him.  Her first line could well describe her innocent trust right when he came into her life: “No thoughts within her head but thoughts of joy; no dreams within her heart but dreams of love!”  The Phantom knows exactly what is going on; Christine has “come here, hardly knowing the reason why.”

But by the end of the song, Christine figures out who the other singer really is.  And if she had any doubts that the Phantom knew of her engagement to Raoul, those doubts vanish when he sings the exact lines Raoul had sung to her six months ago.

I was always confused about why she pulled off his mask.  Screaming something like “that’s the man, catch him!” might have succeeded better, and since he reacted so histrionically when she pulled it off the first time, what did she expect he’d do this time?  However, it’s possible that she did it to communicate to him the way he’d been subtly communicating to her: that she knew the truth of his actions and motives, and that she was not afraid of him anymore.

But the Phantom evades capture of the police and drags Christine down to his lair—as she’d earlier feared he would.

Up until this point, Christine had tried simply to evade the Phantom.  Now she confronts him directly, and accuses him of his moral crimes: “Have you gorged yourself at last in your lust for blood!”  And demands to know what his intentions are towards her: “Am I now to be prey to your lust for flesh?”  A huge change from the girl who once followed him into his lair without a question.

She has also realized that the darkness and twistedness in his heart was the problem, not his face.  Yes, he had been denied love, even from his mother.  Yes, he had been wrongfully outcast from society.  But his circumstances are not responsible for his actions—he alone is.  This is another great change from her character at the beginning of the musical: rather than being terrified to disobey or to challenge him, she tells him honestly that he had let this deformity twist his heart into something terrible.  The Phantom had spent the entire musical trying to manipulate her; she, on the other hand, tells him the truth about himself.  She doesn’t even address the fact that the Phantom threatened to keep her beside him for eternity; she focuses instead on the root of the matter.

She may also believe, or hope, that he will change his heart and turn from this path.  It was a bold move to tell him that his soul was more deformed than his face; it might tip him over the edge, and Christine, of all people, knew how angry he got when opposed.  Though she will no longer succumb to his manipulation and lies, the very fact that she points out his problem means she hopes that he might listen—and that she is concerned about the state of his soul.

On the other hand, when Raoul shows up, she cries that reasoning with the Phantom was “useless”—she may be afraid that the Phantom will explode if opposed by anyone else, and might take that anger out upon Raoul.  Which is exactly what happens.  The Phantom forces Christine to make a choice: stay with me, and Raoul will go free.  “Refuse me, and you send your lover to his death!”

Here, Christine snaps.  None of his other actions had brought out her hatred; but now she tells him, “The tears I might have shed for your dark fate grow cold—and turn to tears of hate!”

And she denounces him: “Farewell my fallen idol and false friend!”  She calls him as “Angel of Music” a few lines later, but the tone is almost in condemnation, referring to the role he had masqueraded to use her.  At the same time, she appeals to the fact that he, of all people, should understand the pain of being tormented for something not his fault: “Angel of Music, who deserves this?  Why do you curse mercy?”  She further accuses him of deceiving her–but also that she gave her mind blindly.  She realized he took advantage of her, but also that she was too trusting in the first place.

But her reasoning and pleas do not move him.  And Christine must choose whether to stay with the Phantom or to refuse to give up Raoul and so condemn him to death.

What she chooses to do is a strangely independent decision.  The Phantom is forcing her hand, yes, and there’s no way to get out of the situation.  But Christine does not simply give into his demands.  She sees his ignorance, misery, and loneliness, and she chooses to pity him and to show him compassion.  The very fact that she has a loved one whom the Phantom can use against her contrasts starkly with the lack of companionship in his own life.

This compassion is incredible.  Think about it: the man whom she trusted as a messenger from her father lied to her, deceived her, threatened her, manipulated her into singing a sexual song for his own benefit, betrayed her, and threatened to kill her fiancé.  And she still pitied him.  Her choice is not easy; she says, “God give me courage to show you you are not alone.”  But she offers the Phantom compassion, not ignoring or excusing his actions–she knows exactly who he is and what he had done–but choosing to extend mercy instead of judgment.

And she isn’t trying to manipulate the Phantom into setting Raoul free either.  Christine is honest and values trust, and it doesn’t make sense she would use the Phantom’s emotions like that.  I believe she truly chose to stay with him, partly to free Raoul, yes but also because he needed someone to show him compassion and mercy, to give him the love that others had wrongfully withheld.

But this choice shows the Phantom, instantly and clearly, how he is wrong, and that he himself is not showing Christine true love.  And he sets her and Raoul free.

Christine loses no time in fleeing with Raoul, yet she returns for a moment to give the Phantom back his ring.  I’m not sure whether she meant it to be a memento of her, as he would probably never see her again, or whether she felt it wrong to keep something that he had offered her that she did not accept.  Perhaps both.  Then she returns to Raoul, asking him to reaffirm his promise to “say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime.”  And she reaffirms her promise to him: “Say you’ll share with me each night, each morning.”

It’s up for debate whether Christine loved the Phantom romantically; the libretto is ambiguous enough that each actress can put her own spin on it.  But I don’t believe Christine loved the Phantom.  She is initially too trusting–but that’s exactly the point: she wants to trust her guide and protector.  Her faith in the Phantom was broken, never to be restored, and she seems to trust Raoul unconditionally, and to give him the same faithfulness he provides her.  She is also so honest that it makes no sense that she would string Raoul along in their relationship, nor to pretend she was afraid of the Phantom when she secretly loved him.  And the love she showed her former mentor was unconditional, sacrificial love, based on his needs, rather than romantic love.

Christine, in a nutshell, is a kind, observant, compassionate, trusting young woman–a  too trusting at first–but with a spine of steel and determination once she’s drawn the line.  She loves people deeply, but she picks up quickly on the realities of the situation.  She has the strongest character arc in the story and makes the choices to grow and to move on.  Yet she remains gentle and compassionate, uses her love to bless and not manipulate.  She’s a layered character who grows.  And there’s so much more to her than meets the eye.



















16-Ezra Bridger

Favorite Character Types

I loved Chelsea’s post about her favorite types of characters, and she kindly let me borrow the idea for my own blog!  These are the folks I most enjoy reading about:

The Principled/Steadfast Fighter

Captain America is probably the poster boy for this type!

This character may fit into the generic “good guy” category, but his (or her) defining feature is dedication to what he believes is right.  Characters such as Captain America, John Blake from The Dark Knight Rises, Jarrod Barkley from The Big Valley, Jane Eyre, Fanny Price, Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games, King Tirian from The Last Battle, and Puddleglum from The Silver Chair.  (Gloomy as Puddleglum is, when things are on the line, he’s steadfast in his principles!)

And this kind of character doesn’t always win the battle–Travis from The Alamo is this type (though, in a twist, definitely not a generic good guy).  But while winning the battle is important, for this character, doing what he believes is right is the ultimate fight.  And I love these kinds of characters because they give me hope, inspire me to stand up for my principles.

The Gentle/ Good-Hearted Fighter

Hugh Dancy as Daniel Deronda from the 2002 mini-series.

This is the guy who may seem like he’s too mild or gentle or soft-hearted to fight–but for these guys, Good Is Not Soft.  This is the character who cares deeply about his world, his loved ones, and his morals, and because of that deep love, he fights as fiercely as any hardened warrior.  Frodo and Faramir from The Lord of the Rings are the prime examples, but others are Jean Valjean, Samuel Diggs from Mercy Street, Igor from Victor Frankenstein, Fanny Price (again), and Bilbo Baggins.  Possibly also Daniel Deronda.  Steve Barton’s portrayal of Raoul also fits this category.  Just listen to his rendition of “All I Ask of You”–he’s understated, but earnest, and you can tell that he’d be willing to walk through fire for Christine.

This character is a subset of the principled fighter, but I enjoy this type because their fierceness is unexpected.  They get the upper hand because they look too tender to  do any damage–and yet they ultimately care so very deeply they’re willing to lay down their lives to defend what they love.  Durant from my story Gentle Fire is definitely this type.

The No-Nonsense Mentor

A comic I drew back in 2013!

Forget the wise old man smoking a pipe and delivering quiet (if vague) words of wisdom; I like the mentors who tell it like it is and won’t put up with your whining, who whip ya into shape, and have a sharp wit to boot.  Think Gandalf, Alfred Pennyworth, Obi-Wan from the prequels, and Captain Pellew from the Horatio Hornblower TV series.  Dr. Livesey from Treasure Island kinda fits this category as well.

I think I like this type because the “wise old man” mentor type seems to deliver very vague advice and let the hero figure out the context/deeper meaning on his own.  And if I were a young hero-in-training, I would be incredibly frustrated.  Either tell me what to do point blank, or let me do it my way.  No waffling in between those options, please.  And the no-nonsense mentor does not waffle.  Their advice is “take it or leave it.”  That, and I love a sharp wit.  🙂

Honest, Honorable Men

These guys get labelled “bland” or “boring” because All Girls Want Bad Boys–until we’re pestered by that one boy who won’t take no for an answer, and then our distaste for honorable men comes back to bite us.

Ahem.  Sorry, got sidetracked.  But seriously, what’s wrong with a respectful and honest guy?  Just because they lack an edgy dark side doesn’t mean they’re boring.  Case in point would be Charles Darnay from A Tale of Two Cities.  Many people compare him to Sydney Carton and declare Sydney a more interesting character.  But that doesn’t mean Charles is one-dimensional.  He makes mistakes.  He should have told his family he was heading back to France.  His pride was nettled as Englishmen ridiculed the French aristocracy, the class to which he belonged–even though he had renounced his heritage.  And just look at his interactions with Lucie—when alone with his beloved, this honest, straightforward, principled young man turns into a sentimental softie who calls her pet names.  It’s adorable.

(And from a story analysis perspective, if Charles hadn’t been honorable and honest, Sydney would probably not have been inspired to change.  Comparing himself to Charles showed him what he could be, if he just made the effort.  But that’s another topic for another post.)

Other honest, honorable characters are Jarrod Barkley, Daniel Deronda, Mr. Darcy, and Edward Ferras from Sense & Sensibility, and James Green from Mercy Street.  A female example would be Jane Eyre (actually,  we could use  more female characters in this category.  I specified male characters because I respect those qualities, and I”m tired of the bad boy attraction, but women ought to be honest and honorable too.)

The Leader

This is how I picture Peter Pevensie!

I love a man who takes charge (without being a bully) and who knows what to do in the situation.  A man with initiative and willing to plunge right into things and get involved.  I can’t express how much I love the leaders!.  Characters like Jarrod Barkley, Captain America, Peter Pevensie, Aragorn, Hadley Fraser’s Raoul from The Phantom of the Opera, and  Lucky Jack from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

I like the leaders because, first of all, that is the role God assigned to men.  And I respect a man who embraces that role and doesn’t let the culture dictate otherwise.  It’s also quite admirable when a man sees what needs to be done and steps up to the plate, takes the responsibility of handling a sticky situation and tries to solve the problems that get thrown his way.

The Tragic Hero/Antagonist

Henry Jekyll

Often presented in a cautionary tale, I like the heroes who definitely have a downward arc, but who also have either a valid point about the situation or good intentions.  Characters like Javert from Les Miserables: he’s often viewed as the antagonist with no room for mercy or grace in his mind–but think just how sad that is!  Also, as much as I root for Valjean, he did break his parole.  Javert was justified in at least locating the fugitive.

Other such characters would be Robert Angier from The Prestige (film), Dr. Jekyll from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.  Oh, and Boromir, my goodness.  Possibly also Maedhros from The Silmarillion; I relate to that guy more than I should (we’re both the eldest, both responsible, both very honor/duty driven, devastated by any mistakes that violate those last two values…)  And I would argue Gale Hawthorne fits into this category.  Because he was determined, intelligent, intuitive, and creative.  And he misused all that, even though he was trying to help win the war.

I am honestly not sure why I like this kind of character.  I don’t enjoy watching someone destroy themselves–maybe it’s a combination of respect for whatever good intentions the character has, plus a sobering warning.

Silk Hiding Steel

These are the ladies who seem like products of their time (in historical fiction) or the so-hated doormats in a contemporary setting.  These ladies are actually not doormats.  They are quiet but firm, gentle but principled–and as such, when push comes to shove, they are unflinching, industrious, and intelligent with spines of steel.  Lucie Manette, for example.  She was gentle and compassionate, and she spends most of the book caring for her family.  She also followed her husband to France when he was unjustly imprisoned, worked bravely in a foreign country where she was in constant danger of being also imprisoned herself, and every day, journeyed to a corner of the street where her husband might be able to see her if he could get to one of the upper windows of the prison.  And she stood there for two hours to let him catch a glimpse of her when he was able to.  Every day.  Just to encourage her imprisoned husband and remind him that she was there for him.  She also suffered no breakdowns, and she persevered through apprehension and uncertainty for two years.  Oh, and the Reign of Terror was going on during this time.   Lucie swoons only after her husband is unjustly imprisoned for the second time and sentenced to death.  How in the world is she a weak character?

Or take Christine from The Phantom of the Opera.  She seems naive and overly-trusting–but notice that she trusts only those people she considers friends.  Which at first included the Phantom, but after she learns his true identity, she flees from him and never ultimately trusts him again.  She also, after being lied to and betrayed by the man she considered her mentor, was not afraid to love again, and trusted Raoul to protect her (even though she disagreed with his methods later).  And after all that–she remained compassionate toward the man who had hurt her so badly.  Christine is awesome, guys.  For deeper analysis of her character, check out my post here.

Jane Eyre also fits this Silk Hiding Steel category, and Elinor Dashwood , Fanny Price, Emma Green from Mercy Street, and Lisa Carew from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.  Probably others I can’t think of just now.  🙂

So there you have it, some of my favorite character types!  Are there any more you would add to the list?


16-Ezra Bridger

Artwork Wednesday – Fandom Crossover Edits!

Once upon a time, I was chatting with Bella  about A Tale of Two Cities.  At some point during the conversation, we realized that lyrics from other musicals like Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera fit the characters from AToTC.  Cue massive feels and fangirling and ideas shooting back and forth–and then a Photoshopping frenzy!  🙂  I began making picture/lyric edits, and Bella has already featured some of them on her Tumblr fan blog, which is here.

Warning: Serious feels and heartbreak ahead for Phantom and A Tale of Two Cities fans.  What do you mean, I’m taking this too seriously?


See what I mean?

That crack you heard was the sound of my heart breaking…


*gross hysterical sobbing*

As much as I love Sydney, Charles and Lucie are an absolutely precious couple, and they also need some love!

How about some Tale of Two Cities + Phantom?

I recently introduced another friend of mine to The Phantom of the Opera musical (the 25th Anniversary Concert, of course.  🙂 )  And she loved it–so much that she made some edits of her own!



Aw, yeessss!!

But it isn’t just musical crossovers I make, oh no.  Here’s Captain America + Bandstand:

I’m sorry.

And then The Alamo:

Now I’ve got to run, ’cause Chris is going to kill me.











16-Ezra Bridger

A Few Notes About Christine Daae…

It’s finally here!  The post that I promised months ago and kept forgetting about or pushing to the back burner meticulously wrote and rewrote until it is the epitome of literary analysis!  Or theatre analysis.  So without further ado, here’s Part 1 of this dissertation!  (Similar posts about Raoul are here and here.)

I thought Christine was a flat character when I first watched the 25th Anniversary concert.  She seemed far less interesting than the Phantom or Raoul.  One is a man outcast from society through no fault of his own, yet who chose to terrorize the Opera House.  His loneliness and attraction to Christine makes him a conflicted and multi-leveled character.  And sympathetic, if you can get past the whole habitual-choking-people-who-cross-him.  The other is the hero of the story, a man with some faults (listening problem for one), yet who was willing to devote the rest of his life to caring for his  fiancée and loving her, and willing to risk his life for her.  Then there’s Christine…obsessed with a voice whom she believes is the ghost of her father…then she learns he’s actually a man…then spends half the musical freaked out yet fascinated by him, but then in Final Lair, she kisses him.

Then I took a second look at her character.  And I found that there was a lot more to Christine’s personality than meets the eye.

For starters, she is more dynamic than people give her credit for, and she grows and changes during the story.  Her actions are subtle, but not passive.  She makes—and acts on—crucial decisions in at least four cases: she chooses to trust Raoul rather than the Phantom; she lets go of the memories holding her back; she sings in Don Juan to help capture the Phantom; and she chooses to remain with the Phantom, to give him the compassion he needed and to free Raoul.  Nobody forced her to do any of that.  And she makes other, smaller choices throughout the musical that, while not obvious, nonetheless influence the story.

That said, a lot of her motives are ambiguous, left up to actress interpretation.  I think this was done on purpose so that each production could choose whether to show Christine in love with the Phantom or in love with Raoul.  But as I pointed out in my posts about Raoul, you must look at her actions and the character she displays through the whole story.  Her actions point toward her motives.

We hear of Christine before we see her; and what we hear is that she often spoke of the music box that Raoul buys at the opera auction.  And spoke of it in detail, enough detail for Raoul to verify the artifact at the auction.  Why Christine referred to this music box, a relic of days that were full of betrayal and terror, is also a mystery “never fully explained”.  Whether she spoke of those days with longing, fear, or just recurring memory is not specified.  But the fact that Raoul speaks of Christine even though she is no longer there indicates the influence she had on him.  And the narrative of her often speaking of the music box shows the influence the events of the whole musical had upon her.

Since Andrew Lloyd Webber habitually rewrites the lyrics of the show, some productions give details of Christine’s character that are missing from others.  In one version of the libretto, the audience first meets Christine dancing ballet—and dancing out of step, and Madame Giry tells the managers that she often has her head in the clouds.  This line is missing from the film and from the 25th Anniversary Concert at Royal Albert Hall.  In another version of the libretto and also in the film, Madame Giry informs the managers of Christine’s relationship to the Swedish violinist.  In the 25th Anniversary concert, Christine does this herself.

So Christine’s first actions and lines change depending on the whims of ALW which version of the libretto is used.  But she is certainly a member of the ballet corps, and the daughter of a Swedish violinist.  And she may also have the singing ability to take over the lead female role in Hannibal.  But when Andre asks who her vocal teacher is, Christine hesitates to share her secret with the whole Hannibal cast and says only that she doesn’t know who her tutor is.  It’s possible she knew the managers would not believe her if she said “he’s the Angel of Music,” and that she could be fired on the suspicion of being delusional or insane–but more likely, she saw no reason to trust the entire opera company with this knowledge.

While initially nervous as she begins the number “Think of Me,” Christine quickly gains confidence and shows that she can indeed handle the female lead role.  The managers immediately cast her Elissa, and this event subtly reveals a good deal about Christine’s character.  Firstly, she never objects to the star role.  She had a long and pleasant history with music; music strongly reminds her of her father (who played the violin and told her stories about the Angel of Music).  And later—something I never see mentioned—she says to the Phantom, “Grant to me your glory!” indication that she wanted further instruction of her voice, wanting more of what he had to teach her.

Secondly,  think what it must have taken to prepare for the female lead role in a 3-act opera.  Christine wasn’t even an understudy.  In a matter of minutes, she went from member of the ballet corps to the lead role, and she had to rehearse and remember new music, character, blocking, and vocals.  Not only did she prepare in time, she performed so well that she became a hit.  This reveals, not only the skill and beauty of her voice, but also her concentration, diligence, and acting capability.  Everyone hails the Phantom as the ultimate musical genius—and he is—but they overlook the implied extent of Christine’s skill.

After the opera, Christine tells Meg more about her mysterious tutor.  And her explanation makes her sound, quite frankly, air-headed.  But think about the events that led up to her belief in the Angel of Music.

In the first place, her father had promised to send this Angel.  Christine was very close to her father; she later refers to him as “my one companion,” and she implicitly trusted his word.  But there’s another, more believable, aspect to the situation.  Her father’s death left her alone, grieving, and emotionally vulnerable.  It also left her unprotected.  In 19th century theatre, male patrons of the opera often made romantic—or sexual—overtures to the ballet and chorus girls.  And while Christine and Meg are friends, there is no indication in the stage show that anyone besides the Phantom has stepped into the role of “guide and guardian.”  Thus, after her father’s death, Christine would be alone in the world, afraid for her safety, maybe afraid for her future (what social prospects did she have?) and grieving terribly.   And it must have been some comfort to think that the Angel was a messenger from her beloved father, and she seems to expect him to watch over her, not only to gift her with vocal instruction.  Thus, with grief and loneliness in her heart, with confidence in her father’s word, and with no other form of protection, it’s not much of a stretch that she decided the Phantom’s voice was indeed the Angel her father had promised.

However—despite her trust in her Angel, and despite her submission to his will—she fears him.  She’s not afraid of seeing him face-to-face; she actually wants him to reveal himself.  What she fears is the constant watchfulness.  Phans view this as mysterious and romantic, but Christine points out twice that her Angel is always with her, and the second time, specifies that “It frightens me.”  Though she does not want to be alone, this constant watchfulness is more than she bargained for.  Later, in the title song, the Phantom points out that “in all your fantasies, you always knew that man and mystery [were both in you].”  Thus, Christine may know (deep down) that the man’s voice is not really an Angel; and the alternative explanation makes her very uncomfortable.

She does not acknowledge this, however; perhaps fearing what would happen if she confronted the voice with her suspicions, or fearing to lose that one last link to her father.  Or simply maintaining trust in  her father’s word.  She does seem to recognize, however, how odd her belief sounds, and she doesn’t go around telling just anybody about it.  She tells only those she considers friends–first Meg, and later, Raoul.

Ardent admirers of Raoul (myself included) find it so sweet and romantic that he remembered the little girl he used to play with.  But Christine remembered him too.  When he mentioned her red scarf, she cries, “Oh, Raoul, so it is you!”  She suspected who he was when she read his note, and she rejoices to learn that her conclusion was correct.  She is also pleased that he remembered her, remembered the stories they used to play, and she joins him fondly in remembering their childhood.  Apparently, Raoul is also a reminder of her father, as she recalls her father playing the violin among the memories of her childhood escapades.

The very next thing she tells Raoul is that her father is dead—and that she has been visited by the Angel of Music.  She seems eager to share this information with him–notice that with Meg, Christine answered her friend’s inquiries; but here, she volunteers the information herself.  And she expects Raoul will believe in the Angel too, and insists that she can’t go to supper with him because “The Angel of Music is very strict.”

Interesting that she doesn’t refuse with a personal preference.  She doesn’t say “No, I don’t want to,” or “I have other plans,” or even, “I’m tired,” which would be perfectly natural after performing the star role in an opera.  She has no problem with going to supper with her old friend.  Christine’s sole objection is that her Angel is very strict.

But “strict” in what way?  The Phantom is not so unreasonable as to forbid her from getting supper.  He also never objected to Meg’s presence in the dressing room, not even to Christine explaining that he was her Angel of Music.  And Christine did not mention her Angel’s strictness to Meg.  It is only when a man offers to take her to supper that she says her Angel is very strict.  That implication?  The Phantom does not want Christine to associate with other men.

After Raoul leaves, Christine says aloud that “Things have changed, Raoul.”  But he is out of earshot by then, and the remark might have gotten his attention had he heard it.  It’s almost as though Christine is reminding herself that things have changed, that she can’t resume her acquaintance with Raoul because her angel would object.  And object he does.

Actually, the Phantom lashes out at Raoul, not at Christine for receiving him.  Nonetheless, Christine fears that even that little visit might be enough to make her Angel leave her.  “Stay by my side,” she begs after telling him that she is listening and attentive to his words.  Yet it is a fragile dependence; she apologizes for her “weak soul,” apparently terrified of driving him away if she is inattentive to his presence or if she does anything he might disapprove of.

On the other hand, she still believes he is a guardian, tutor, and protector sent by her father, and therefore, she trusts him enough to follow him into the tunnel behind the mirror.  She seems incredibly naïve–but the key here is that she trusts him.  After all, she believes he is an Angel, a messenger from her father, and her “guide and guardian” moreover.  She doesn’t go around believing or confiding in just anyone.  In fact, it’s the opposite, and she withholds personal information from people in general.  And once she realizes who her Angel really is, her confidence in him vanishes.

Mere minutes into the underground journey, Christine reveals that this man’s voice was with her in her dreams, calling to her.  (Whether his voice simply carried over into her subconscious—or whether the Phantom actually showed up and sang to her as she slept—is unspecified.)  Either way, Christine realizes that the voice in her head and the figure leading her down the tunnels were one and the same—and that this man is the Phantom of the Opera, not any Angel.

She also quickly figures out that the Phantom used her as a “mask” in the sense of showing his musical ability through her singing talent: “I am the mask you wear…” “It’s me they hear.”  And she mentioned that “Those who have seen your face draw back in fear,” but expresses no fear herself, merely points out what others do.  I’ve heard that many stage shows play this sequence as Christine being hypnotized, so one could argue that she has these revelations in a sort of trance.  But the next morning, some memories stuck in her mind: the journey across the lake, the Phantom’s music and voice, the sadness in his eyes.  She seemed to be under his influence to a degree, but she also retained enough of her own mind to piece together what was going on.

Most notably, she realizes–or rather, acknowledges–the reality of the situation.  The Phantom points out that “In all your fantasies, you always knew that man and mystery,” and Christine finishes, “…were both in you.”  She finally admits the truth she’d suspected: that the voice was no Angel but simply a man with tricks and mystery at his disposal.  And after the title song, she never again pretends the Phantom is something he’s not.  Nor does she call him “Angel” again until late in Act II.

Once in the lair, the Phantom sings a line that reveals as much about Christine as himself: “From the moment I first heard you sing, I have needed you with me to serve me, to sing for my music…”  Ignoring for now the possessive nature of this remark, it reveals that even before the Phantom’s training, Christine had a beautiful voice and musical talent entirely her own.  This potential is what got his attention in the first place, and shows Christine to be a realistic young lady rather than a perfect Mary Sue: she had talent, but it was talent that could be improved.  Not to mention the fact that her father was a violinist; Christine had been surrounded by music long before the Phantom came into her life.  Her gift and abilities do not derive entirely from him; he enhanced them, sure, but fans of the musical should not give the Phantom full credit for Christine’s talent.

Christine has no lines during “Music of the Night,” and the interpretation of this number depends on the actress and stage show.  She is hypnotized or entranced somehow, but she nonetheless registered and remember a few things.  As she tells Raoul later, she felt elation at the Phantom’s voice, at the freedom and expression and exhilaration that his music gave.  She “heard as [she’d] never heard before” while listening to the Phantom’s music, but she did not accept the his lure to the darkness.  She later speaks of the darkness with horror, and says, she wants “a world with no more night.”

When she wakes after her swoon, the first thing she remembers is the journey down to the lair—and that a man in a mask brought here.  Fully understanding that this person is no angel and no phantom either, her next priority is finding out who he is.  It does not seem to occur to her that the mask was there for a reason; on the other hand, since the guy lived in an elaborate lair underneath an opera house, she may have assumed it was theatricality.  But this, of course, is a wrong assumption.

After pulling off his mask, she is horrified by the deformity, and possibly by this further revelation about who her guardian is.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Christine connected the dots here or soon after and realized that the deformity is why he lives beneath the Opera House.  After the title song, she actually understands the realities of the situation pretty quickly.  At the moment, her reality is this: her guardian is not at all who she thought he was–and though he reacts violently to her pulling off his mask, he abruptly turns desperate, and expresses longing for human sympathy.  Christine registers the conflict in his soul, and hands him back his mask.

Upon returning to the opera house, Christine apparently told the Girys she wanted to see no one, and then secluded herself.  She may not have known whom to trust now.  Everybody accuses Christine of “betraying” the Phantom, but if you think about it, she was betrayed by him first.  Her last, precious link to her father was gone, and in fact never existed in the first place.  The guardian she trusted as her protector and as the messenger from her father turned out to be someone entirely different.  She is right back where she was when her father died: alone, frightened, and unprotected, and hurting from shattered trust.  Just imagine what she just have felt.

If Christine had known that the managers were disobeying the Phantom’s orders with their casting choice, she probably would have refused to play Serefimo. The memory of the Phantom’s possessiveness and strictness–and his anger when disobeyed–must have been fresh in her mind.  Thus, when the Phantom interrupts Ill Muto and demands explanation for the managers’ actions, Christine is terrified.  Not only is this the first time he has revealed his voice to everyone, she can only imagine what he will do now that the company has disobeyed his instructions.  Then, when he taunts Carlotta and ruins her voice, Christine realizes his vengeful power.  And when Buquet is murdered, she knows it was the Phantom’s doing. These revelations are more horrible than losing the last link to her father.  When Buquet falls dead to the stage, Christine cries out to Raoul for help—the only man she might be able to trust—and he instantly comes.

Fleeing to the roof (as far from the lair as possible), Christine’s fear initially seems histrionic.  But think about the situation: after accusing the managers of disobeying his instructions, whom does the Phantom kill?  Buquet.  If he killed a man who had never wronged him in order to make a point, then anyone in the opera house might be the next target.  And Christine had previously been his pupil, but then had forsaken his guardianship.  Who would be a better target for the Phantom’s anger?  She does not assume that her former relationship with the Phantom or his need for her voice will save her.  Furthermore, she was the only one who knew his true identity; when she tore of his mask, he erupted with anger and the ominous threat of “Now you cannot ever be free!”  And he had just demonstrated that he could, one way or another, get what he wanted and punish those who opposed him.

And where could she go to escape him?  If he could sneak around in the opera house, he could probably find her if she tried to leave the  company.  Furthermore, she had only recently taken star roles, and before that, she had been a chorus and ballet girl—a job that did not pay well in 19th century theatre.  (I’ve done some research.)  She probably didn’t have the money to go anywhere else, and she couldn’t just walk away from her once source of income.

She tries to convince Raoul that the Phantom actually exists—and since she had been so easily manipulated by the Phantom once before—since she still felt a pull to his music—she may also be afraid that she will fall under his spell and return to him semi-willingly.  And he would probably not let her return to the upper world again.  She insists she has been to the Phantom’s home, which she describes in no rosy terms, but as a “world of unending night”, and “a world where the daylight dissolves into darkness.”

However, the situation is more complex than that, and Christine knows it.  She then explains the beauty of the man’s voice, a power and skill that captured her soul even while she feared his sway.  Then she reveals had seen sadness, pleading in his eyes.  Think about that; after being taken underground to a strange place, being nearly hypnotized and then being frightened by his deformity, Christine had noticed and remembered the grief in the man’s eyes.  It’s significant that this is the final piece of information she imparts to Raoul: the first was the ugliness and terror of the Phantom; the second was the power and beauty of his music; but the third was his sadness and loneliness.  This speaks volumes for her priorities and her compassion.

It’s also at this point that I take back my first impression that Christine was emotionally weak.  Because even though Raoul has made it clear he does not believe her story, or at least can’t understand it, she keeps telling him about her experience with the Phantom.  It’s possible she’s just thinking aloud; but since she called out to Raoul when Buquet falls dead from the rafters—and he came at once—she must have some level of trust in him.  Remember that she doesn’t confide in just anyone; only in those whom she considers her friends.

Just imagine the relief and comfort Raoul’s words must have given to a girl who’d been lonely and unprotected for years.  But she has grown wiser in several ways since the beginning of the story.  Firstly, she stipulates different priorities for a relationship. Earlier, she referred to the Phantom as “guide and guardian” and wanted him to “grant to me your glory,” and “come to me, strange Angel” (i.e. to reveal himself).  But here, she asks Raoul to love her “every waking moment.”  To cheer her emotionally and mentally—and to need her.  The Phantom had said he needed her “to sing for my music,” but Christine asks Raoul whether he needs her with him, “now and always.”  She wants to make sure that she fills a need in his entire life, just as he fills a need in hers.

Secondly, Christine isn’t seeking temporary relief and protection.  She is the first to specify a lifelong commitment with her line, “Say you need me with you now and always.”  And she continues to refer to a lifelong commitment through the rest of the song.  But she isn’t using Raoul for emotional fulfillment either.  She does want his companionship and protection, but she says, “you’ll guard me and you’ll guide me.”  In other words, she recognizes the need for a wiser head in her life.

And thirdly, though she is willing to trust Raoul, she also seeks assurance of his faithfulness.  ““Promise me that all you say is true,” this being “All I ask of you.”  Think about that: she is willing to trust Raoul after being betrayed by the man she had trusted as her guardian.  This speaks volumes for her opinion of her childhood friend.  And through the rest of the musical, she does trust him.  There’s no indication she doubts his love or his commitment.  (She hesitates at the Don Juan plan, but not because she doubts Raoul will protect her, or even doubts that the plan is necessary.  On the contrary, she’s knows it’s necessary, and that’s what makes her pause.)

Christine doesn’t promise specific actions of love the way Raoul does, but she does promise to share “each day…each night, each morning.”  And she fulfills that by staying with him during the rest of the musical, through their disagreement about announcing their engagement and through her hesitation about singing in Don Juan.  She also continues to confide in Raoul and to trust him unconditionally.  (Even if she disagrees with his methods.)  And she sticks with Raoul on his own merit.  Raoul never has to refer to her past or her memories to call her back to him; and if anything, Christine refers more to the present and the future when she’s with Raoul.  And promising to share a love and life with him is not a promise to be made lightly.  I think it indicates that she loves him, and so she wants to make sure her feelings are reciprocated.

Or, disgruntled Phantom/Christine shippers will say, all this is entirely selfish, and Christine simply wants to be rescued.  Well, she does want to be protected, but notice that she never asked Raoul—or anyone—for protection.  She looked to the Phantom as a guardian, but only because she believed he was a messenger from her father.  No one else has been Christine’s companion or protector, and she’s stood on her own two feet and earned her own living by her own discipline in the opera ballet corps.  And she seemed prepared to continue doing so (starring in Ill Muto, for example, despite the bad experience after her last appearance onstage).  When Raoul offered his protection and hinted at a romantic relationship, Christine accepted—but wisely specified a long-term commitment and also assured herself that Raoul was completely trustworthy and that he truly valued her and needed her.

She also repeatedly refers to both of them sharing a lifetime, and she is willing to follow Raoul wherever he goes: “Say the word, and I will follow you.”  Selfish motives here simply don’t match her actions and character through the entire story.  She’s a loving, compassionate young woman who dearly values her friends and family, and who trust implicitly those she considers friends, but who also is under no more delusions about the reality of the situation.  And since she later hesitated to betray the Phantom, whom she knew was untrustworthy and a confirmed murderer besides, would she really accept Raoul, whom she knew she could trust, with ulterior motives?

Interesting, though that Christine never says directly to Raoul “I love you.”  I think this was done deliberately to keep her motives ambiguous; but based on her actions, I do think she loved Raoul genuinely.

As I did with Raoul’s posts, I shall end Part 1 of this post at the end of Act 1.  Stay tuned for Part 2!


















16-Ezra Bridger

Artwork Wednesday – Back to Watercolor!

Before my watercolor painting frenzy began, I drew a couple of pictures with dry media.

I drew this in the car.  The highway was a long smooth stretch, and so I was able to sketch without worrying about bumps in the road.  And without getting car-sick, which is the real miracle.  🙂

This is my character, Mary, (from the semi-western story) and half of a quote from Pinterest.  The full quote says:

“Typical MBTI Description: INTJs are the cool-headed geniuses of the 16 types.  With their love of objective reasoning and  uncanny intuition, no one can fool this intellectual mastermind.  Actual INTJs: Where are my socks?”

Which is definitely Mary, so here she is, a bit confused.  Although she does use objective reasoning and generally points out the principle or detail that everyone else missed.

I started this one weeks ago, got extremely close to finishing, and therefore, didn’t bother finishing until now.  *headdesk*  Yet another victim falls prey to the “Oh-there’s-plenty-of-time” mindset.  Anyway, I absolutely loved painting all that mist in watercolor–it was difficult keeping an eye on the paint to make sure it didn’t drift into an area where it shouldn’t–but the work paid off!

A tulip tree blossom.

Some daffodils that didn’t turn out quite as detailed as I’d hoped.

But while painting the daffodils, I watched The Fellowship of the Ring–and got a sudden urge to paint a Shire landscape.

So I did.  This is a very small painting, maybe 3″x5″, but that may have actually helped me not go overboard with detail.

That’s all for now!





16-Ezra Bridger

10 Favorite Musicals! – Part 1

Overflowing Mind & Pen

All right, it’s here!  10 favorite musicals implies, of course, that I enjoy and listen to more than just those; the ones that didn’t make the top favorites list are: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Maury Yeston’s Phantom; The Lord of the Rings; The In-Between; The Sound of Music; Cinderella; and H. M. S. Pinafore.  (I may have forgotten a couple; I listen to a lot of musicals.  🙂 )

As such, I’m going to mention three favorites in this post, three more in the next post, and the final four in the last post.  Writing about all ten in one post would probably break the record for the World’s Longest Post Fangirling Post About Musicals.

Right, we’re off.

#1: Jane Eyre

Adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre tells the story of an orphan from her loveless childhood to her lonely young womanhood as a governess—but her situation is at Thornfield hall, the master of which, Mr. Rochester, kindles a spark of life in her that had remained long hidden.

Great.  I just made my favorite novel sound like a CBD romance thingy.

Anyway, Jane Eyre is my favorite musical of all time, which is why I’m mad that it (a) closed after only 7 months and (b) was apparently never filmed.  Or at least never released on DVD.  Fortunately, there’s a soundtrack available, and when I discovered the musical in June 2014, I fell in love with the score instantly.

This musical is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book (second only to the 1983 mini-series with Timothy Dalton).  Most notably, Helen is an influential character, and the story includes her faith and its impact on Jane’s character.  Helen even gets a beautiful number of her own: the song “Forgiveness”.  Also, in many of the songs, the lyrics are phrases or wording taken straight from the book (though tweaked to fit rhythm and rhyme).

The musical did make some changes: St. John not only has a minor role, but he was upgraded to be slightly kinder than he was in the book.  Also, Mrs. Fairfax was turned from a quiet, orderly housekeeper into an absent-minded figure of comic relief.  I understand the reason; the story needed some humor, and a stage play doesn’t adapt Charlotte Bronte’s dry wit very well, unless the audience is willing to sit for 3 hours listening to exchange of dialogue.  Still, it’s one thing to add comic relief; another to change a character’s entirely personality.

In general, however, the story stuck to the source material.  And the music is beautiful on its own merit: the melodies are haunting, quiet, souring, lonely, joyful.  The lyrics are poetic, passionate, and encouraging.  (That said, there is some scattered cursing throughout the songs; Mr. Rochester is the main culprit here.  Just something to watch out for.)

In fact, it’s hard to pick a favorite song; it would be easier to list the numbers I don’t care for (only three out of 25!).  But I’m going to go with Helen’s song “Forgiveness”.  In it, she admonishes Jane that “You have to be strong to offer good for evil, to return right for wrong.”  So many people act like a stubborn, fighting attitude is strength.  And if you’re fighting for what’s right, yes.  But it’s equally as strong to hold your tongue and “learn to endure.”  On the flip side, she tells Jane “You can continue to grieve, but know the Gospel* is true.  You must forgive those who lie and bless them that curse you.”  In other words, there’s no need to be a stoic about suffering, but to endure it with the knowledge that God knows–and blesses–who is right.

*I’m not sure if she means that “forgive those who lie” is the Gospel, or if she’s referring to the Gospel and the principle separately.  The first case is incorrect; “forgive those who like &etc.” is not the Gospel…but substituting the word “scripture” removes this problem.  🙂


#2: The Phantom of the Opera

Erik instructs young soprano Christine Daae in singing, masquerading as her Angel of Music.  Erik also terrorizes the opera house as the mysterious Phantom of the Opera.  When Christine learns his true identity, she flees from his guardianship, but this Phantom has a desperate fixation on her, hoping for her love.

 I’m terrible at writing any synopsis, apparently.  Also, it’s hard to describe every aspect of The Phantom of the Opera.

Which is one reason why I like it.  At first glance, the story seems to be a Gothic romance; and to some degree, it is, but it’s also about love, trust, and compassion.  The Phantom, hideously deformed and therefore outcast from society, desperately seeks Christine’s love, but goes about winning it the wrong way.  Christine, alone in the world after her father’s death, also seeks love and guardianship and at first thinks she’ll find them in the Phantom, at first trusts him.  But then that trust is shattered when the Phantom reveals his true identity.  Christine flees, and puts her trust in Raoul, her childhood playmate and now her sweetheart who also seeks to win her love.  Which turn of events, of course, angers the Phantom.

So yes, in one sense it’s a Gothic romance, and there is definitely a love triangle.  But it’s not a beautifully dramatic one; if anything, it complicates things, brings terror and doom to Raoul and Christine.  Christine knows the Phantom is dangerous and must be stopped, but she can’t help but pity him.  Raoul would move heaven and earth to protect Christine, and the Phantom would destroy heaven and earth to win her love. In fact, he tries to do just that.

But then, at the end, he performs an act of sacrificial love.  All three of the protagonists, in fact, display sacrificial love for someone else, and that, I think, is ultimately what the story is about.  If you truly love someone, what will you give up for his/her happiness?

Speaking of love, this musical has one of my favorite love songs of all time, “All I Ask of You.”  And yes, the lyrics describe sacrificial love.  Rather than being a feel-good, he’s-the-one-who-flutters-my-heart type of love song, it speaks of service and leadership, sacrifice and loyalty, trust and commitment.


No more talk of darkness

Forget these wide-eyed fears

I’m here; nothing can harm you

My words will warm and calm you

Let me be your freedom

Let daylight dry your tears

I’m here, with you, beside you

To guard you and to guide you.


Say you’ll love me every waking moment

Turn my head with talk of summertime

Say you need me with you now and always

Promise me that all you say is true

That’s all I ask of you

The rest of the score is similar: powerful lyrics and beautiful melodies.  I fell in love with the film soundtrack at age 12 and fell in love with the 25th Anniversary Concert about 10 years later, and I’ve never looked back.  The vocal talent required to perform this musical is impressive, and I’ve wanted to sing like Christine ever since I heard the film soundtrack.  For the record, my favorite Phantom is John Owen-Jones, my favorite Christine is Gina Beck (with Rebecca Caine as a close second), and my favorite Raoul is a toss-up between Hadley Fraser and Steve Barton.  (When I’m not feeling well, I listen to Barton’s performance of “All I Ask of You”; his voice is so gentle and steady and reassuring.)

And there’s dancing in this musical.  I tend to like a musical better if there’s dancing as well as singing, and this one contains two nice ballet numbers.  And the musical also has funny, lighthearted lines and sequences to break up the tension of the main story line.

Lastly, I love the characters of this story.  I like Christine and Raoul the best, but all three main characters are deeper and more layered than they first appear.  Christine, for example, comes across as air headed at first, but when you look closer, you see that she takes the word of those she trusts and is cautious around people whom she does not trust so closely.  Raoul seems to be (at best) a hot piece of cardboard and (at worst) an obstacle to the Phantom’s happiness, until you look closer and understand his reasoning and his devotion to Christine.  I’ve written and posted a dissertation about Raoul’s character (and one staunchly in defense of his good qualities, as he is generally hated by the fandom), and I’m working on a dissertation about Christine’s.  And I’ll probably write one for the Phantom at some point.

The only caveats are scattered cursing throughout the musical, and the number “The Point of No Return” has some pretty sensual subtext.  We just skip that song.  🙂

As with the musical Jane Eyre, it’s hard to pick a favorite song from The Phantom of the Opera.  But I’m going to go with “All I Ask of You” because it’s about trust, loyalty, commitment.  It speaks of sacrifice from both parties; it centers on the mutual need they have for each other; yet it also is romantic.  How much more romantic can you get than a man promising to “hold you and to hide you.”?


#3: A Tale of Two Cities

Adapted from Dickens’ novel, the story describes three French families suffering from the corruption of the French nobility shortly before the Revolution.  Lucie Manette, after being reunited with her father, who was unjustly imprisoned in the Bastille for years, remove to England and become acquainted with Charles Darnay, a young Frenchman with something of a mysterious past.  Meanwhile in France, the Defarges had enough with the suffering of their people and become instrumental in the acts of the Revolution.  All these characters impact each other in minor ways on the surface, but they are also connected in a more sinister way, that, when discovered, that will resurface deep anger and pain.

Give me a break.  It’s hard to describe Dickens’ novels succinctly.  But then, that’s why I love them.  🙂

This is one of the few musicals that can make me cry.  I am not the sort to cry over books and films; if someone tells me, “Oh, that movie is a tearjerker,” there is actually 99% chance I will not cry.  But with this story, I’m always in a puddle by the Finale, if not long before.  In fact, I tend to lose it when Charles weeps during “Let Her Be A Child.”

The musical focuses more on Sydney Carton, the English lawyer who frees Charles Darnay from an unjust trial in England, but who seems not to care about anything in the world.  Which is untrue; his careless attitude merely conceals a heart of long-enduring pain and disappointment.  (Actually, it’s the PBS Theatrical concert [available on DVD] that focuses on Sydney and his character arc.  The theatrical concert is an abridged form of the Original Broadway production.  The OBC was filmed, apparently, but never released on DVD *grumble growl*.  However, we do have the theatrical concert, and it gives a taste of what the full production must be like.)

What’s interesting to me is the contrasts between the main characters.  Sydney compares himself (unfavorably) to Charles Darnay, and Lucie is simply but powerfully compared to Madame Defarge.  Both ladies lost their families at a young age.  Both suffered at the hands of aristocrats.  Both endured loneliness and pain.  But each lady responded to that differently.  Madame Defarge let the pain twist her into cold fury, an anger that could be satisfied (in theory) only by revenge: “I’ve waited twenty-five years for this day!  Doctor Manette may forget; Doctor Manette may forgive, but this one survivor will never let Evremonde live!”

Lucy, on the other, hand, let that pain make her compassionate*.  She did not become hard and bitter; when reunited with her father after all those years, she says, “We both were lost, but now that’s all behind us, all the endless years I never knew you.”  She does not resent the family who unjustly imprisoned her father; and she does not condemn the descendant of that family for his ancestor’s actions.

It is this kindness and forgiveness that gets Sydney Carton’s attention.  She treats him like a normal human being and shows concern for his welfare; upon learning that he was not at church on Christmas Eve, she simply says, “It’s not our business where you were, Mr. Carton,” and invites him to share Christmas dinner with her family, saying he was not eating enough and needed a little fattening.

*This observation is not actually mine; this post brought the contrast to my attention.

This kindness and forgiveness helps Sydney see the world in a new light.  In his song “I Can’t Recall,” he says, “The heavens seem an inch away, not cold and empty like before.”  It almost sounds as though he viewed God as a distant being, one who did not listen and did not care about the world below, much less Sydney’s own hopelessness.  But Lucie’s caring put into words and actions the benevolence attributed to God.  And by the end of the musical, his outlook about God and sacrifice has changed completely.

And I need to change the subject before I melt into a useless puddle.

The melodies in this story are unique because of how amazingly they mirror and evoke the emotion of the moment.  But the lyrics are especially powerful.  For example, the song “Everything Stays the Same” describes the futility of the violence of the French Revolution, and quite frankly, it reminds me of the whining protests going on today.

Come join the revolution

Come play the latest game

Not much has changed, but then again

Not everything stays the same

Because of the amazing lyrics, it’s hard to pick a favorite song.  Get used to that line of thought; it’s prevalent among my favorite musicals.  After much thought, and nail-biting, and hair-pulling, and listening to the soundtrack again, and listening to my favorite songs on repeat, and all but dissolving into a puddle again, I picked “Let Her Be A Child” as my favorite.  Sydney muses on the fate of Lucie’s family–and her daughter–if Charles is unjustly killed, and resolves to do all he can to save him.

Sydney now considers others more important than himself.  The bitterness and hopelessness of his life has faded; he received the unreserved love of the whole Darnay family: Charles, Lucie, and their little girl.  Which showed him, in a way, the love of God.  The Darnays treated him like a member of their family, and Sydney does not hesitate now to show how much he cares.  As he tells another character, “They gave me a family; now I’m giving it back.”

“It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

~Sydney Carton

*melts into a useless puddle*













16-Ezra Bridger

Phantom Film Remake Wish List

I do like some aspects of the 2004 film–it’s a film of one of my favorite musicals, after all, and the instrumentals and sets are fabulous.  And some of the character moments are touching.  Gerard Butler was a better actor for the Phantom than singer; I have no objection to him portraying the character, but I wish the filmmakers had dubbed his voice over with John Owen-Jones’s or some professional singer.  Also, I think Patrick Wilson was underused in the film, and is under-appreciated for his portrayal of Raoul, which I discussed in this post.

Point being, the 2004 film has a few good points–but a lot of flaws that could be corrected in a remake.  So here’s what I’d like to see should anyone undertake that task:

  • #1 requirement: a cast who can sing. This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it’s not.  Half of the story’s beauty and power would vanish if Christine and the Phantom lacked professional and polished singing voices.  And hey, since it’s a musical, the rest of the cast also needs to be able to sing!  Melody and vocals are the storytelling medium here, and part of what drives the plot.


  • #2 requirement: a cast who can act.  Since this would be a film version of a stage musical, both singing and acting abilities are essential.  And it’s not a shot for the moon to require both: in the 2012 film Les Miserables, Aaron Tveit was a polished singer and talented actor; in the 2000 Broadway production of Jane Eyre, James Barbour not only had a powerhouse voice (and very versatile) he portrayed Mr. Rochester almost perfectly.  Same for his portrayal of Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.


  • #3 requirement: a deformity that looks hideous.  This is essential to the power of the story.  If the Phantom is only moderately ugly when unmasked, it destroys the whole reason he was outcast from society, and destroys the power of Christine’s compassion and sacrifice.  The cool thing is, with all the special effects filmmakers have at their fingertips these days, they could make the deformity really horrific and gross.


  • #4 requirement: no Love Never Dies set-up.  No longing looks back as Christine leaves, no over-aggressiveness or pushiness from Raoul, no hints that Christine and the Phantom got too cozy down in the lair—nothing of that sort.  The idea of a sequel actually undermines the mystery and tragedy of that last Phantom scene—and LND not only destroyed that power and mystery, but it ruined the characters as well.  For example, in LND, the Phantom still pines for Christine–understandable–but also ignores the choice he made to let Christine and Raoul go, and pulls almost the exact same kidnapping and threats he performed in the last musical in order to keep Christine near him.  Seriously?  That completely ruins his sacrifice in the original musical.  Would the Phantom miss Christine?  Of course.  Would he perhaps dream about “the way things might have been”?  Possibly.  Would he try to take her back?  I don’t think so–I think he would have stuck with his choice.  And I’m not even going to mention what LND did to Raoul, or I might explode.


  • #5 requirement: filling in of “missing scenes.” The following are what I particularly want to see:
    • What, exactly, did Raoul do after discovering Christine gone from her dressing room? Given the lengths he goes to protect her in the musical, I don’t see him thinking, “Whelp, she’s gone.  Might as well go home and get some supper.  Like, on my own…thanks, Christine.”  He’s going to get to the bottom of the matter.  It could be set up something like this: after Christine vanishes into the mirror, Raoul comes back and looks around in bewilderment.  During the opening notes of the title song, the Phantom and Christine head through the passages to the lair; then the scene cuts to a quick shot of Raoul speaking to two or three people, his face worried, and they answer by shaking their heads.  Then the scene cuts back to tunnels, and Christine begins to sing the title song.  The sequence continues until after “Music of the Night”—the camera cuts to Raoul in entrance to the Opera House, and the managers tell him, “We’ll send word if we find her.  Go home, Monsieur le Vicomte.”  Raoul looks over their shoulders to the policemen conferring inside, and then puts on his hat and reluctantly leaves.  As he crosses the street, a tower clock strikes 3: 00 a. m.   (I don’t think the timing is too far-fetched: if the opera started at, say, 8: 00 p. m. and lasted until 11:00 p. m. or 12:00 a. m., it would probably take an hour or so for everyone to become aware of the disappearance and summon the police, and another hour or two to realize that nothing further could be done that night.)  Then Christine wakes up in the Phantom’s lair, and “I Remember” starts.
    • How long was Christine missing after her debut?  The musical indicates it was only one night, but the newspapers somehow got wind of it–as I mentioned in my Raoul Defense posts, I have a head canon that a journalist showed up to interview the new soprano, but before he had a chance, he ran into a worried Raoul, and, well, there you go.  (This discrepancy in the story’s time line probably occurred by ALW’s condensing how long Christine was kidnapped.  In the book, it was two weeks, giving everyone plenty of time to notice and discuss her disappearance.)  There aren’t huge questions or gaping plot holes, but a film could devote a few lines to answering them.
    • What happened in the 6-months the Phantom was absent?  Did Christine continue to sing?  If so, was it as a soprano or as a background vocalist?  This would be interesting to answer, as both she and Carlotta are at the masquerade, with apparently no enmity between them—possibly suggesting that Christine sung as a chorus girl or understudy.  Which then begs the question: why didn’t the Phantom do anything about this?—all these questions could be answered in some dialogues between the managers or cast members wondering where the Phantom is and scenes of rehearsal in which Carlotta rubs the role reversal in chorus-girl-Christine’s face.


  • Lavish sets.  ‘Nuff said.  But I’ll say more anyway.  The stage versions of the musical just can’t convey the power of atmosphere and color that a film could.  A film has the opportunity to show the glitter of the stage; the richness of the theatre boxes and the (non-ghostly) occupants; the bustle and messiness of backstage; the roof of the Opera House, so high above the rest of the world and drenched in moonlight; the dark elegance of the Phantom’s lair lit with hundreds of candles and strange inventions in the corners; the underground tunnels and lake…


  • Nods to the Leroux novel, such as the Phantom’s violin-playing.  It would be amazing if, after Christine’s swoon, he plays a little of Music of the Night on his violin before finishing, “help me make the music of the night…”.  Perhaps also, Raoul could mention (with some disgust) his elder brother who’d gone to see a mistress in the north of France, and Christine referencing the family that took her in after her father’s death and provided for her education.


  • Raoul swimming the lake to get to the Phantom’s lair.  A strange wish, maybe, but it’s a cool piece of action, and it would heighten the tension by showing how frantic he is, what danger he is willing to risk in order to find Christine.  It would also show that, no, he is not a sissy.

So that’s my Phantom film remake wish list.  What would you all like to see in a remake?













16-Ezra Bridger

A Few Notes about Movie-Raoul…

I’ll get to my post about Christine eventually.  But there is a lot of material to ponder and organize (and edit) because there is a lot more to her personality than meets the eye.  So everyone waiting for the Christine post, hang in there!

* * *

I was not impressed with Raoul the first time I saw the 2004 film.  He did the right thing at the end of the day, but he wasn’t dynamic; and the instances he was didn’t make a whole lot of sense *coughthegraveyardswordfightcough*.  Film-Raoul came nowhere near Hadley Fraser’s complex, dynamic, and sincere portrayal.  (I have since learned that just because an actor isn’t Hadley Fraser doesn’t mean his portrayal of Raoul is wrong.  🙂 )

Having seen the 2004 film way too many times, and sometimes observing only Raoul and his demeanor and dialogue, I have changed my opinion of and Patrick Wilson’s acting abilities.  In fact, it’s remarkable that he came across as earnestly as he did, because Movie-Raoul could have been—and should have been—a stronger character.

I’m not sure if filmmakers didn’t care about developing Raoul’s personality or if they deliberately strengthened (in a way) the Phantom’s character and didn’t bother to improve Raoul’s.  Or if something simply got lost in translation.  However it happened, Movie-Raoul is weak compared to the stage show counterpart.

One problem is that many of Raoul’s lines and scenes were cut, starting in the song “Prima Donna”.  The lines “Why did Christine fly from my arms?” and “Is this her angel of music?  Angel or madman? … Christine must be protected!” are gone.  Instead, the film shows him in the chapel, saying: “Christine spoke of an angel…” and in the next shot, he strides out of the chapel singing, “Orders!  Warnings!  Lunatic demands!  I must see these demands are rejected!”—without specifying that his motive was to protect Christine.  Now, since the film established Raoul’s status as patron of the opera, he might feel responsible for what goes on there.  But if that was the intent, the removal of those lines adds a quality to his character that has nothing to do with the story.

Moving on to Act II, in the stage show, we see Raoul reacting in horror and amazement to Madame Giry’s tale, and connecting the dots between her information and Christine’s fears that night on the rooftop.  In the film, both these aspects are missing—Madame Giry’s story is told in a flashback montage, and while this was a good cinematic choice (stage blocking would not have worked well), it cuts further action and reaction from Raoul.


The filmmakers did give Raoul an interesting line: “But clearly, Madame Giry, genius has turned to madness.”  On the one hand, he doesn’t deny the genius, just points out that the Phantom misused it.  Madame Giry reluctantly agrees.  But on the other hand, this line makes Raoul the only character in the film* to call the Phantom “mad.”  And while his observation is true, it has the unfortunate (perhaps unintended) effect of making Raoul look unsympathetic—especially as the filmmakers have pulled strings to make the Phantom a more pitiable character than in the stage show.

*In the stage show, one of the managers said, “The man is mad!” in “Notes”, but this line was also cut from the film.

Raoul’s part of “Wandering Child” is missing as well: his lines in which he wonders who on earth this person is, and concludes, based on what he’s seeing, that the man is a seducer.  Also gone are his desperate appeals to the Phantom and Christine—his attempt to call her back to reality and to inform the Phantom that Christine’s love should be earned, not forced.  Instead, Movie-Raoul dashes up and says, almost in a throwaway manner, “Christine, whatever you may believe, this man, this thing is not your father.”

Finally, a key line was removed from the moments before Don Juan: “Shoot—only if you have to—but shoot to kill.”  In the stage show, this showed  that Raoul was prepared to use drastic measures, but would try to capture the Phantom first.  The film removes this line, thus drastically changing aspects of both justice and restraint from Raoul’s character.

On the flip side, that graveyard swordfight pushes his character in the opposite direction–because he’s clearly willing to go after the Phantom himself on limited information about how dangerous the man was.  Long story short, many lines and scenes that reveal the layers of Raoul’s character were cut, making him a less complex and motivated protagonist.


A second problem with his character is that he performs some actions that make no sense.  In “Think of Me,” after calling “Bravo!” to Christine, he abruptly leaves his box and apparently the Opera, trotting down the staircase and through the grand hall while he sings his part of the song.  He turns up backstage later without being missed and without having purchased flowers or champagne or anything like that for Christine.  Maybe he was making a dinner reservation?  His reason for leaving is never explained.

Then at the Masquerade when the Phantom crashes the party, Raoul runs off without explanation–bad–and dashes back with his sword.  While he didn’t do this until the Phantom drew his own sword and demanded the production of Don Juan, the film’s Raoul either connects all the dots instantly (voice in the dressing room = guy Christine was scared of = this guy), or decides to cross swords without fully understanding how dangerous the man was.  Remember, the chandelier hasn’t fallen yet in this version.


The problem gets worse when Raoul confronts the Phantom in the graveyard.  (Yeah, I’m really picking on that scene.)  On the one hand, this is the shortest distance between two points.  On the other, the chandelier still hasn’t fallen, and Madame Giry’s tale wasn’t really about the Phantom’s abilities and mystery, but about his tragic experience as a child.  While Film-Raoul is clearly concerned for Christine’s safety, his current knowledge doesn’t allow for anything more drastic than reporting the threats to the police and sticking around to protect Christine.  Granted, the Phantom threatened her and carted her off in the wee dawn hours, but trying to kill that guy is an over-the-top choice—one that clashes with Wilson’s understated performance.

Raoul makes a second senseless choice in this graveyard fight scene—after all that ruckus, he spares the Phantom’s life when Christine cries, “No, Raoul!  Not like this.”  While, on the one hand, it shows his devotion to his fiancée, on the other, it was stupid given that he thought the man dangerous enough to be killed.  And it begs the question of just exactly how film-Christine would prefer the Phantom to be disposed of…but that’s another topic for a different post.

And then, while I have not watched the film’s version of “Point of No Return,” I have read that Raoul, though he figures out that Don Juan is the Phantom, does nothing about the situation.  Maybe he thought Christine was too close to the guy for him to interfere?  But Movie-Raoul sits in Box 5 during the performance—so where, exactly, did he expect the Phantom to show up?

Really, Raoul’s character was shortchanged in this film.  If those problems weren’t enough, other cards are stacked against him from square one.


For starters, there’s that hair.  I personally don’t mind it; I’m a sucker for shoulder-length hair on guys provided they keep it out of their faces, but long blond locks just look stupid compared to the Phantom’s thick dark hair.  I wondered if Raoul’s haircut started the “fop” accusation permeating the fandom, but apparently that was a myth before the film ever came out.  Go figure.

Additionally, many sung lines were changed to spoken dialogue.  All the characters get this downgrade, but Raoul’s scenes suffer the most, particularly in “Little Lotte.”  The song, originally a lingering and gentle melody, sounds stilted and heavy when changed to dialogue.

There is actually a rhythmic reason for the difference.  In “Little Lotte,” the stress, or beat, falls on the first syllable, denoted in italics: “Little Lotte, let her mind wander.”  The second syllables have no stress, or beat, meaning the rhythm ends on a softer tone than it began.  This combination of stress plus softer beat creates a “falling” rhythm.  And falling rhythm makes a song or piece of poetry feel quiet, ominous, or melancholy.  (Y’all still with me?)

However, the melody of “Little Lotte” bends these rules.  The music extends the second syllables for a note or two, which softens the falling rhythm and keeps the song from sounding melancholy.  Thus, “Little Lotte” is a rhythmic but lingering melody, not heavy, but not upbeat either.  In fact, it’s just the right mix of fun and wistful.

But changing the lyrics to dialogue ruins this effect.  The second syllables of each word fall with no music to extend them, and so the rhythms feel heavy and stilted.  Recite the song for yourself: sing the first line of “Little Lotte” and then speak it.  You should be able to hear the difference in tone.  Thus, to make Raoul’s lines sound like normal conversation, Wilson had to deliver them in almost an offhand manner.  And, of course, this is the song where Raoul renews his friendship with Christine, which makes his attempt look pitiful compared to the Phantom’s entrance.


Quite frankly, it’s a feat that Patrick Wilson portrayed Raoul as sweet and earnest as he did.  It’s an understated portrayal, but not an emotionless one.  Years before I saw the movie, I devoured the soundtrack; and the impression I got from Wilson’s voice alone was that of an earnest young man, a bit rash, but who tried to do the right thing and was willing to sacrifice himself for his sweetheart.  (From Gerard Butler’s voice, I got the impression of a character whose hard life had created some major anger-management issues; and Emmy Rossum’s voice inspired no character impression whatsoever.)

And then if you watch Raoul carefully, you’ll see some depth and layers and quirks you might have missed the first time.  For instance, when Raoul greets Carlotta, he has this hilarious gag-inwardly-smile-outwardly expression:


And Wilson does sound bored in these first scenes as being introduced as patron of the opera–but how many of us have been bored at some necessary social duty or function?  I wonder if he played it that way deliberately, with the subtext of Raoul needing someone to need him, needing some purpose in his life beyond the pleasures of a French aristocrat.

And then (stilted dialogue aside), he’s so adorably earnest in “Little Lotte”:


(Yes, I edited Christine’s neckline and sleeves because, good grief, could her costumes get any lower?!?!)

Confused at the goings-on:


Fierce Raoul is fierce.


And sweet Raoul is sweet.


He has anguish in his face and voice as he calls, “Christine, forgive me.  Please, forgive me!”


And then a little moment I love: when going down the stairs to the Phantom’s lair, he pauses, glances down the path ahead—and looks afraid.


Then he raises his hand and continues forward.

Also, Wilson really needs credit for the water trap scene.  If you thought acting was hard, imagine acting underwater: hitting marks and moving and conveying emotion in a totally different element—all while you can’t breathe.


To be fair to the filmmakers, Raoul’s character is not the only weak point of the film.  Christine’s character could have been a lot stronger; and in trying to make the Phantom more sympathetic, the filmmakers created a number of plot holes (if he lived under the Opera House since age 12, how did he learn how to sculpt, sword-fight, and such?)  But the character flaws in Movie-Raoul stand out more, probably because this character is not generally liked and because the filmmakers didn’t seem to do him justice.  Ultimately, though, Raoul did the right thing at the end of the day—in fact, on my second viewing of the movie alone, I thought that Raoul was an earnest, sometimes reckless young man who wanted to do the right thing, but didn’t know how.  Film-Raoul was shortchanged–terribly–but Patrick Wilson’s portrayal has more nuance than people give it credit for.




















16-Ezra Bridger

Picture Saturday–Phantom of the Opera Cupcakes!

Yeah, I’m doing something a little different for Picture Saturday, mainly because I have no artwork to show.  #Fail.  Or at least, no pencil-and-paintbrush artwork.  For many years, I’ve decorated cakes semi-professionally, and have made custom-themed cakes for my family’s birthdays.  Which is a form of artwork.

And because my birthday was recently, I indulged in this confectionery art.  Unfortunately, my family has developed several food sensitivities in the last two years.  A boxed-mix cake is now out of the question.  We’ve found a nice coconut flour cake recipe as substitute, and we’ve made cupcakes, half of which are covered with my regular cake icing, and the other half of which are covered with melted chocolate.  Which caters to the various sensitivities, but also lets us enjoy something sweet for the party.

But cupcakes restrict the lavish designs I usually do.  I like to decorate cakes this way:




My siblings definitely like this; they tell me what theme they want for their birthdays and what designs they have in mind, and I make their cakes accordingly.  But that style of decorating does not translate well to cupcakes.

So the morning of my birthday, I frantically scanned Pinterest for ideas.  I finally settled on a Phantom of the Opera theme and decided to put a different symbol on each cupcake–a mirror, for instance, could be on one, and a rose on another, and musical notes and piano keys on others.  When I told Chris of my plan, he exclaimed, “Dude, that is awesome!”  Gingersnap gave the same reaction.  🙂


Here are my tools: decorator’s bags, food coloring (black, maroon, green, brown, gold), couplers (to hold the decorators’ tips in the bags), and decorators’ tips to pipe the icing in different shapes.

I work with buttercream icing instead of fondant.  Fondant has always looked like creamy play-dough to me, and who wants to eat dessert like that looks like play-dough?  Buttercream icing, however, is soft and less easy to mold than fondant, but I’ve found a way around this problem.


I smooth swatches of icing on a flat, wax-paper covered surface and pop the tray in the freezer.  After a few minutes, the icing gets hard enough to cut with a knife and to pick up without leaving fingerprints.  So I’m able to cut and mold shapes with frozen buttercream icing.


Here, I’ve started to cut out the shapes.  The white swatch is for piano keys and the iconic mask; gold is for the mirror frames; and red is for theatre curtains.  And for the roses, which I’ve already piped.

The swatches soften quickly, though, so I would make a few cuts, and then put the tray back in the freezer.  Rinse and repeat.  🙂


I used a special icing tip to pipe the roses.  And I played the  25th Anniversary Concert soundtrack in the background as I worked.  🙂


Here, I’ve cut out the piano keys and the mirror frames and have sliced the roses in half.  I intended to pipe a few more petals over the bottom of the roses once I put the flowers on the cupcakes.  I also piped small patterns onto the mirror frames.  However, after snapping this picture, I worked so busily that I neglected to take more.  So I don’t have any in-progress shots of cutting out the mirror glass or the black piano keys.

Also, the theatre curtains idea fell through (not enough maroon icing), and so I used a different symbol…


…the red scarf.  I actually like this better; it’s kinda a forgotten symbol in the Phantom musical.



Christine & Raoul–had to be done, although I have terrible icing-penmanship.  🙂


Musical notes, which I piped directly on the cupcake.


The assembled piano keys.  (Gingersnap claimed this cupcake.)


The mirror!


The roses turned out really well, which relieved me because I thought they might look stiff and scrawny.

And then my favorite cupcake of all…



This was the hardest symbol to mold, but boy, it was worth it!  I claimed this cupcake posthaste.  Also one of the rose cupcakes.


The finished product!











16-Ezra Bridger

Picture Saturday–From the Archives

My whole family and I are still getting over lingering effects of illness.  We’re feeling a lot better than we were early this week and late last week–but unfortunately, I don’t have any new artwork to show.  So today’s Picture Saturday will be old drawings.

Old, as in, within the last year or two.  🙂  And it will be exclusively Phantom of the Opera fan art as well.


While working on this, I learned how to properly use my 2H and HB pencils.  See, I used to employ the 2B–7B to “color” the drawing–e.g. “color” the lightest values with a 2B and then use 3B for light-ish “colors” and 4B for medium shades, and so on.  It never worked; the drawings always turned out smudged and muddy.  But for this drawing, I used the 2H and HB pencils to sketch the shadows and then deepen the values, layer by layer.  A much cleaner, crisper shadow transition.


I drew this on impulse from a screencap from the 2004 film.  And of course, only as I prepare to post the drawing, do I notice that the lantern is crooked.  Oh well.


This has got to be one of my favorite drawings!  I loved the lighting in that scene and just had to capture it.  Blue pastel paper conveys the pre-dawn lighting quite well.


And here’s the companion piece!  I have these drawings in matching frames on my wall.  This scene in the film is one of my favorites: the early morning atmosphere, the violin music in the background, Christine unwittingly entering danger and Raoul dashing after her in desperation…it’s beautifully haunting.


A couple of sketches–which I forced myself to leave rough–of Raoul from the film.  Here, he’s sliding down a rope from Box 5 to the floor of the opera house.  At least he knows the shortest distance between two points.  🙂


And here, he’s dashing backstage to make sure Christine is all right.  Such a jerk.  #sarcasm


This is actually Book-Christine, and I deliberately drew her face turned away and with the objects around her as clues to her identity.  She’s wearing a scarf and holding a picture of Raoul (drawing?  Photograph?  You decide).  On the table is a photograph of her father in a frame, a stack of letters, a sheet of music, her father’s violin bow, and a playbill from Faust (the opera featured in the book).  And a rose on the windowsill as a nod to the stage show.  The pearls are there just because I thought they would look good on the table.



Sierra Boggess as Christine.  This was supposed to be a doodle, but I got carried away with the shading.  That happens often…



Sarah Brightman as Christine!  Referenced from a promotional shot, mainly because I wanted to practice drawing poses, and using my colored pencils.  I like how the folds on her dress turned out.

That’s all for now!