Comment: Phantom 25th Concert Update – So why didn’t Michael Crawford sing?
Since I published this review back in October of last year, there has been one question on the fingertips of visitors to Chewing the Scenery. On the 5th of March 2012, the day the concert was shown in full by free-to-air American TV network PBS, no fewer than 2,562 people Googled ‘why didn’t michael crawford sing at the phantom anniversary’ or similar – and subsequently found my now six month old review. The piece has, in fact, received twice as many views since publication from people asking ‘The Crawford Question’ than every other search term related to the concert combined. The review is actually the top Google-ranked review (I wasn’t even at the event out of protest at the scandelous ticket prices!) but it is not a review my visitors seek – it is an answer.
So do I have a definitive answer? No. But I have heard plenty of theories! Crawford was performing in The Wizard of Oz on the day of the final performance and, by all accounts, it was a real rush for him to make it to even make it to the Royal Albert Hall in time. Many people had speculated that he and Sarah Brightman were to unite and perform at least one number from the show together. Brightman sang, but Crawford didn’t. Why?
He certainly still has what it takes; whilst his performance in The Wizard of Oz will perhaps not be remembered through the ages, his singing is still adequate and the sheer thrill of seeing him, however briefly, sing the part that arguably made the show such a success was seen as one of the main justifications of the insanely high ticket prices. Perhaps he didn’t want to risk somehow tainting the image of him as a younger man in his pomp singing the role? Perhaps he is not soundtrack perfect and wasn’t willing to commit himself to video performing as a man of nearly seventy? He is no Placido Domingo! But to not even sing a note unaccompanied must be considered a massive faux-pas for the producers – and perhaps even for Crawford himself.
I am reminded of a visit to the Palladium in 2009 for a special charity gala event in aid of Crusaid, fronted by Jerry Herman who was sadly unable to travel from the United States due to poor health. After Barbara Cook and other guest stars dropped out with varying degrees of notice, only one of the star names remained, a certain Ms. Angela Lansbury. Looking very frail, tired and with little or no rehearsal time (having arrived on a flight from New York City only hours previously), Ms. Lansbury not only sang a few lines from Mame but fulfilled all her obligations, meeting and greeting those who donated to attend a special champagne reception, taking the time to pose for photographs, sign autographs and just generally prove what a class act she is. At the age of eighty. Having flown for eight hours for a one-night-only unpaid charity event. It really puts things into perspective, at least in my mind.
The suggestions that Crawford should have played the part instead of Ramin Karimloo are laughable; but if there is one thing that people don’t like, it is feeling let down by their heroes. People search Google expecting to find a real reason why Crawford chose not to sing; laryngitis, artistic differences – anything. But six months later people are looking back and saying ‘why didn’t Michael Crawford sing?’.
I doubt that question will ever be truly answered.
- Harry Zing