Phantom Of The Opera stars defend the musical in the wake of #MeToo
Performers say #MeToo standard should not be applied to classic musical
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it is perhaps inevitable that Broadway's longest-running musical, The Phantom Of The Opera, faces newfound scrutiny.
After all, Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic revolves around a manipulative, jealous and abusive masked man who is romantically obsessed with and possessive of a beautiful young soprano, despite her resistance.
But the stars of the latest iteration of Phantom - which is back in Singapore after its last run in 2013 and kicks off its limited season this week - defend the allegedly misogynistic 1800s-era storyline.
Instead, they encourage audiences to watch with open hearts and minds, while aiming to deliver performances that balance the need to honour the show's 33-year legacy and the push for female empowerment.
South-African stage actor Jonathan Roxmouth, who portrays the Phantom, bristled at the suggestion that the character is problematic when viewed through the lens of #MeToo.
The 32-year-old told The New Paper over the phone: "The Phantom is a real person and a truly beautiful character.
"He became malevolent to be safe from the society that spurned him, but he is more than that. He is a scholar, a musical genius and he is misunderstood.
"The theatre is about telling stories, and this is a story about love. Digging deeper takes away the point of the show, and getting too philosophical or modernising the story too much ruins the experience. It is not real life."
The Phantom is part of his family's legacy, and he is proud to reprise the role seven years since his first portrayal.
He said: "I am dedicating my performance to my grandfather's memory. He taught me how to conduct the cassette of the original London cast album.
"The Phantom Of The Opera is part of my family's tapestry and I feel connected to all my family members by being a part of it. It is closer to my heart than any other show."
Opera-trained US actress Meghan Picerno, who plays the object of the Phantom's affection Christine Daae, and reprised the role in the sequel Love Never Dies in 2017 and 2018, identifies as a strong modern woman and recognises the importance of empowering women.
On the possibility that Christine's damsel-in-distress characterisation may not sit well with feminists, she told TNP in a separate phone interview: "As a teenage girl in the 1800s, Christine is young and vulnerable, and does not have the same tools and rights as women do now.
"I try to play her as strong as I can, but I cannot make Christine me because it will not work for the story."
Picerno added: "In the beginning, she gave up her power to the men she loved, the Phantom and her childhood friend Raoul.
"I have given up my power to men whom I loved before but became stronger for it, and that is what happens to Christine in the story.
"She is strong because she takes back the power she had given away."
WHAT: The Phantom Of The Opera
WHERE: Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands
WHEN: April 24 to June 8 (Tuesdays to Fridays 8pm; Saturdays 2pm and 8pm; Sundays 1pm and 6pm)
TICKETS: $75 to $225 from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg or 6348-5555) and Marina Bay Sands (www.marinabaysands.com or 6688-8826).
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