541 CHRONICLESnFor those who still feel that antheatergoing experience should benabout something, it’s difficult to avoidnresenting the situation. The masterfullynexecuted design of the show appearsncalculated to divert attention fromnwhat should be the raison d’etre of anynmusical: its score, its lyrics, and itsnbook. If those fortes were all that thisnPhantom had going for it, it would benfortunate to run for a week.nLloyd Webber’s score boasts onlyntwo pleasing melodies, which are repeatednoften enough to make the cumulativeneffect seem more substantialnthan it really is. Instead of a coherentnstory, sets literally evaporate or meltninto new ones, and perspectives instantlynchange so that during a mocknopera performance, the front of thenstage becomes backstage. The realnbasis for the success of Phantom, innother words, is not M. Gaston Leroux’snTitlenoriginal French novel, but any numbernof preceding musicals Webber &nCompany exploited. {Dreamgirls introducednthe method for altering perspectivesnon stage, while Smile tooknthis effect even further. The bridgesnthat shift into place in Starlight Expressnhave been used here for thenPhantom to take Christine down to hisnlair, or for Christine and Raoul tonclimb to the roof of the Opera House.nEven the cavernous lake that leads tonthe Phantom’s quarters is not unlikenthe Paris sewers from Les Miserables, anfar superior musical in almost everynrespect.)nLloyd Webber’s hideously spectacularnversion oiPhantom has promptedndiscussions of other variations on thenFrench novel. But the one whichnseems most pertinent for evaluatingnLloyd Webber’s version has curiouslynbeen overlooked: the 1974 Brian denGreat Topics, Great Issues!nCatch up on the CHRONICLESnyou’ve missed by orderingnfrom the following collectionnof recent back issues.nn Ethnic Conflict May ’88—Harold O.J. Brown tells why Swiss ethnic pluralism worlts; Eriknvon Kuehnelt-Leddihn stresses the historical reasons for South Africa’s state of affairs: andnSamuel Francis looks at Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. $2.50 .nn Homage to T. S. Eliot April ’88—Octavio Paz, Josef Pieper, James Tiittleton,nThomas Molnar, Fred Chappell, and Thomas Fleming pay their respects to the greatnmodern poet. $2.50 .n• Who’s in Charge? March ’88—Editor Thomas Fleming discusses the private diplomats’nand public scoundrels’ fight over the corpse of the American empire; Samuel Francis asks,n”If Presidents have a free hand in foreign poUcy who needs a Constitution?”; and JacknDouglaswondersifitmaybetimetoelectfederaljudges. $2.50 .n• Back to Nature Feb. ’88—The Greening of America, Part II, by Allan C. Carlson; Mutinynin Paradise or Sexual Freedom/Political Slavery by John Chodes; and Jigs Gardner examinesnrepentant radicals—‘conservative” and doing well. $2.50n• Institutionalized Writing: Are Universities the Last Stop for New Leftists and Burnt-nOut Writers? Jan. ’88—Bulgakov—a White Survivor of the Red Terror; plus handguns innFlorida, the homeless in North Dakota, and Lloyd’s of London’s new Tinkertoynhome. $2.50nn Restoring the Constitution—Seizing Power From Judges, Congressmen, and OthernUsurpers Dec. ’87—Clyde Wilson asks, “What have they done to our laws?”; Barry Shainnon Conservative Corrmions and Kyle E. McSlarrow on judicial editing and congressionalninaction, plus much more. $2.50n•Postage and handling included in issue price.nName_nCityn_ Address.nTotal amount duen_State. .Zip.nQty. Amt.nChronicles • 934 North Main Street • Rockford, IL • 61103 CBI588nnnPalma film Phantom of the Paradise,nwith an original score by Paul Williams.nThough Williams took greaternliberties than Lloyd Webber in departingnfrom the original story, his lyricsnwere vastly superior at capturing thenbook’s essential sentiments. “And as Inlost control /1 swore I’d sell my soulnfor one love / Who would sing mynsong / Fill this emptiness inside me,”ngoes one of the Phantom’s laments anla Williams. “To work it out, I let themnin / All the good guys and the bad guysnthat I’ve been. / All the devils thatndisturbed me / And the angels thatndefeated them somehow / Come togethernin me now,” goes another.nCompare these to the Phantom’s titlesongn(a duet with Christine) in thenLloyd Webber rendition: “And thoughnyou turn from me / To glance behind /nThe Phantom of the Opera / isnthere — inside your mind . . . / Mynspirit / My voice / In one combined:nthe Phantom of the Opera / Isnthere — inside your mind.”nHowever we might feel today aboutnthe dated vernacular, Williams clearlyndisplayed more responsibility to thenstory he adapted. In comparison,nLloyd Webber was more obviouslynmotivated by the music-video spin-offnand the disco-resale of the potential hitnsingle he had fabricated, where wordsnand meanings are about as relevant asnbright lights at a discotheque.nThe real story to this state-of-the-artntechnical prowess is the American ActorsnEquity’s attempt to prevent SarahnBrightman, Lloyd Webber’s wife, fromnrepeating her starring role on Broadway.nThe Phantom, remember, wouldnstop at nothing — not even murder—nto ensure that the Paris Opera featurenChristine. Lloyd Webber withheld andneven threatened to cancel the Americannproduction of his musical untilnActors Equity relented and permittednBrightman to perform this side of thenAtlantic. Oscar Wilde’s suggestion thatntruth imitates art has become somethingnof a commonplace in our increasinglynsurreal age; if only LloydnWebber had managed to translatensome passion from his real-life Phantomnrole into the product of his bestnmarketing feat yet.nDavid Kaufman writes from NewnYork City.n