The longer a show runs, the more people are going to get protective of their favourite cast/company/performance. This is then amplified the more times that show is then recorded (officially recorded, ha). So that the next time ANOTHER version comes out you wonder, is it worth it? And the bottom line is, sometimes it is and sometimes it's not. So is this one? The short answer is yes. It is worth it 100%.
Why? 3 reasons: the cast, the orchestra, and the 4 Phantoms (no Sarah sadly, but I'll get to that). So, first orchestra. While this score would probably still sound good with a 10 piece, letting it blast with a 200 piece just sends it through the roof. And while some got irritated by the edition of a few modern sounding instruments (such as an electric guitar) I personally liked it. I think it gave it an edge it has never had before.
Next, the 4 Phantoms. To be completely fair Colm Wilkinson was the only one I personally recognized as a Phantom Past but the four sounded so beautiful together it made me wish I had seen them all. And yes, the CD only features "Music of the Night" and not the duet with Sarah Brightman. Why? I have no idea. But it, and some editing choices are the only bad things to say about this recording.
Lastly, the cast. Even characters beyond the 3 central seem more in dept and more thought out than I've ever seen before (and I've seen the movie and various live productions). I don't mean to short change them in this review but I've probably lost most of you already so I'll just jump to the central 3 after a brief mention that everyone sounds fantastic. First, Hadley Fraser as Raoul. I have to admit, Raoul as a character has always irritated me. I'm not really sure why, but he has...until now. Again, I'm not sure what is it about Hadley's voice and performance but for the first time I actually enjoy Raoul's presence in the story. Plus, Hadley's voice is just so rich and, for lack of a better word, so self assured it makes him perfect as the rich aristocrat. Now, Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess. In my opinion, the best pairing of Erik and Christine I've ever seen/heard. Sierra brings a softness and a openness along with her beautiful soprano that just knocks her songs out of the park. It is also the first time a Christine has sounded so equally (yet differently)good with both her Raoul and her Phantom. Which brings me to Ramin. His take on the character is so unique to anything I've seen and it just makes it for me. He starts as the Angel of Music, big and impassioned.Then you can hear more of the Phantom, darker and rougher. And then, you hear Erik, who is just so HUMAN. There's just a pure rawness to his voice (yes, I know that's an oxymoron) that I love and makes me hum the score for days after listening to it.
So, is it perfect? Due to the lack of a encore, a 6 minute speech, and some editing choices, no it isn't. Is it still my favourite recording and definitely worth your times listening to? Yes.