Comment: Phantom 25th Concert Update – So why ​didn’t Michael Crawford sing?

23/03/2012

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
Chewingthescenery.com

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18 Responses to “Comment: Phantom 25th Concert Update – So why ​didn’t Michael Crawford sing?”

  1. Sally Scheef Says:

    You had most of your answer in the second paragraph:

    “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.”

    He takes seriously his obligations to the show he is in, and at that time he was fully involved with eight shows a week at the Paladium in The Wizard of Oz. He missed only a very few performances during his OZ run. He passed up participating in and being honored in the first two concerts and most of the third to do his job at the Palladium.

    He hates to do ANYthing without rehearsing it thoroughly, and I am sure that singing part of his signature song on that stage without adequate rehearsal would have been stressful and just not something he wanted to do.
    —————————————————————————
    In a recent interview with Matt Wolf of Broadway.com, the subject came up :

    MICHAEL C.-“In this, [Wizard of Oz] I’ve so far had maybe five shows off because of my voice having gone but—touch wood—I’m very, very rarely off. I’m a believer that if they want to see you, you’re there; I’m very old school.”

    MATT WOLF: There was such excitement when you came on stage at the last of the three 25th-anniversary Phantom gala performances at the Royal Albert Hall. You didn’t appear at the first two.

    
MICHAEL C. “I couldn’t have gone to any of the others because that wouldn’t have been right for the audience here [at the Palladium, where Wizard was performing concurrently], but I certainly wanted to be at that last one on the Sunday night. I said that I couldn’t quite deal with the pressure of singing, and they were fine that, so I just walked on.”

    ————————————————————————-
    Is that enough for you?

    • Harry Zing Says:

      And yet thousands of disappointed fans a week search Google asking why Crawford didn’t sing; this isn’t my crusade, it is happenstance that my review touches on a subject clearly a lot of people feel strongly – even angered – about.

  2. Sally Scheef Says:

    Perhaps some of them will read your blog and my comment. It is too bad that fans were disappointed that their hero did not sing. I am a fan, and I was disappointed too, but he had his reasons.

    WE might not agree that he should have put the audiences at the Paladium ahead of the audiences at Royal Albert Hall, but making it a point not to miss a performance he is committed to if he is physically able to do it has been a career-long part of Michael Crawford’s professional ethics.

  3. Ashlee Barnes Says:

    I actually found your website asking this question and enjoyed the review very much. I agree with this piece I think (although i am a fan of Michael and you clearly are not) and a lot of fans were very disappointed he didnt sing as like me they paid a lot of money to go to the last night and sit near the stage we were all expecting him to sing Music of the Night. Michael takes his singing very seriously and wouldnt sing unless he was at his best and I think that he said recently he doesnt think he can sing his best any more so maybe thats why he didnt sing

  4. Sally Scheef Says:

    Ashlee,

    It must have been disappointing (I couldn’t be there in person), but you and the fans who paid money to sit close were doing so in the HOPE he would be there and sing “Music of the Night.” There was never any announcement that he would.

    I think you’re right about his not wanting to sing unless he could do his best—have a look at what I wrote above for what he actually said and the other reasons why he wasn’t at the first two concerts and didn’t sing at the third.

  5. Lou Says:

    At the end of the day, he should have sang something. We all know his voice isn’t great anymore, I saw The Woman and White and The Wizard of Oz, but this was a career making role for him and I think the fans, especially those who had paid a huge premium to see essentially a slightly worse version than the West End, deserved more.

    • Sally Scheef Says:

      Lou, two things.

      First, *he* felt he owed the audiences at the Palladium the performance they had every reason to expect . He has, as far as I know, always been that way. He missed only three performances while he was in The Wizard of Oz.

      You think he should have thought of the Phantom fans first so you were disappointed. It was never announced or promised that he would sing at the Anniversary concert although a lot of us hoped he would.

      Second, something you might not know is a matter he has been talking about in recent interviews in Australia. He had to leave Woman in White because of chronic fatigue syndrome, and it took him something like three or four years living a stress-less life in New Zealand, eating well, getting exercise, etc. to recover. He knows it could come back so when he returned to the stage it was in the supporting role of the Wizard, not too demanding. He said in one interview that every time he gets tired—he’s afraid the CFS has come back. Stress is one thing they think can bring it on.

      In the Matt Wolf interview quoted above, he says ” I said that I couldn’t quite deal with the pressure of singing, and they were fine that, so I just walked on.”


      I suppose that none of this will change your mind, but give it some thought.

      I’m glad he got the love and respect he did from the audience at the concert and from the actors and others connected with POTO and the concert, Maybe the latter were more willing to forgive him for not singing because they understood his situation better.


  6. […] *EDIT* – In March 2012 I posted this follow-up piece: please check it out for more random musings! […]

  7. lisa butler Says:

    I assumed he lost his voice or was saving his voice. All of the phantom songs are so demanding. I was shocked Sarah Brightman sang and was in awe that she could still sing that song so well. It was a thrilling event for me just to watch on PBS. It would have been worth every penny to see it live with or without Michael Crawford singing. I am amazed he still preforms with all he has been through and the demand of the current schedule. I think choking back the tears of the moment on such a stage full of memories would be reason alone not to sing for me.

  8. tom merle Says:

    When he came out his lips were quivering and his hands seem to be shaking. It really was too much for him. He has his standard and he couldn’t meet it.

  9. LMV Says:

    If he had come out and sang not at his best people would be complaining “why did he sing? He wasn’t at his best”; Michael Crawford wouldn’t have won either way. I was disappointed that he didn’t sing but I do understand his reason. If people want to hear him so badly buy the CD and listen to it.

    • Sally Scheef Says:

      I think you are right, LMV. I’ll bet he left the building feeling a winner, anyway. A lot of love was directed his way as he stood on that stage.

  10. ShanThePhan Says:

    As much as I was disappointed to not have seen him sing, I would’ve been more disappointed if he had forced himself to sing and strained his voice…performers who do as much as him have to be careful about that…they don’t want to permanantly damage their vocal cords

  11. Jackie Rockey Says:

    I was at the 25th Anniversary Show at the Albert Hall, and just seeing Michael and Sarah Brightman on the same stage again …. as I had seen them in New York in 1988 ….. was the most magical moment. I didn’t care that he didn’t sing …. so please everyone, let’s drop it now and get over it!

  12. Mindy Danko Says:

    Years ago when Michael Crawford was starring in Las Vegas I was one of 200 people in his fan group who was lucky enough to have a private get together with him and his leading lady. He graciously spent some time with us answering questions but then said he had to leave to protect his voice. He’s older now, has been very sick and has to protect his health. I’d rather remember his beautiful voice as it was than demand he run in from his current show, possibly just sing adequately without proper rehearsal to satisfy his fans. It was wonderful to have him participate in the celebration which sounds like it wasn’t easy for him to accomplish.

  13. Lin Says:

    He loved the role, you all, loved it like no other, and he has a very tender heart. He may not have trusted himself to sing. Also, he is totally full on in everything he does. ALW was probably telling the simple truth when he said Crawford was exhausted. You know how he emotes. That takes a whole lot of energy, not even to mention the singing. I also think he might have been aware that, for many people, he is and always will be the Phantom, the only one. He might not have cared to steal the spotlight from the guy who had just spent 2.5 hours singing his heart out.

  14. Phanthom of the Todd Says:

    After hearing all the other Phanthoms he probably was the only one still working at least in a play that was currently a hit. If it was a tribute to The play it also was a tribute to Michael and sometimes the honoree doesnt do anything but say a few words …


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