Ben Forster's "Phantom": A New Look At An Infamous Character

Ben Forster's "Phantom": A New Look At An Infamous Character

A review of the West End's newest Phantom
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After spending months surrounded by the churches and biblical art of Rome, I was starting to feel more and more curious about what exactly was in the New Testament. Being the musical theater fan that I am, I turned to "Jesus Christ Superstar" (JCS), an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical I had managed to go without seeing, up until then. I watched a modernized version that had been filmed while on tour a few years earlier, and found myself completely entranced by it. The lighting, costumes and staging were endlessly creative and new, but what really caught my attention was the performance by the leading actors. Ben Forster, who won the role of Jesus after performing on the show, "Superstar," was captivating. Not just in his singing, but in the way he put so much emotion and intensity into the role. His interpretation just radiated sadness and anger.

This was only a week before my trip to London, during which I would be seeing "Phantom of the Opera," a show I had been dying to see for the past 12 years. Imagine my surprise when I looked up the current cast and found that I would be seeing Ben Forster as the Phantom, just days after I'd discovered him. Reviews of his performance weren't entirely positive, complaining that his voice didn't have the strength to play the Phantom. I would agree that his voice isn't as heavy as the Phantom's normally is, but once I heard his opening soft and quiet "Brava" echo through the theater before he calls Christine's name, I could tell that that voice was going to become an advantage. Rather than that robust quality the Phantom's voice normally has, Forster's Phantom was unbelievably quiet and soft from the beginning, with this almost sickeningly sweet tinge to it on certain notes. In his more intense moments, all of this sweetness spiked not into a roar, like other Phantom's tend to favor, as much as a wavering and broken anger. This became especially unsettling when combined with Forster's character interpretation. Everything from his facial expressions to the slow, fluid way he moved across the stage in Act I, especially around Christine, seemed like a predator examining his prey.

One moment that stands out in particular is the way Forster's head tilts and his slow stalking in "Music of the Night" became noticeably snake-like, despite the sweetness of the song. His movements were some of my favorite elements of his interpretation. He emphasized the way the Phantom seems to force and pull the final notes of the title song from her throat, clenching his fist and pulling toward his chest as Christine reached higher and her chest heaved forward. Rather than just moving his hands as Christine sings her part in "Point of No Return," he actually starts to conduct in his lap, bringing everything back to the fact that he is Christine's teacher and that this is his opera.

These acting choices are especially important because since his voice is missing that robust quality and it is combined with the fact that he is about the same height as Celinde Shoenmaker's Christine, his character can be a bit hard to seem fearsome. This became most apparent in the "Point of No Return" reprise, when the Phantom needs to have a strong and menacing presence to combat Christine's howling anger, something Forster doesn't exactly have and his slow and unnerving treatment of the Phantom up until that point can't really save. He makes up for it in the emotion he brings to the whole Final Lair scene, though, and throughout the musical. Every feeling is heightened and intensified. His softness with Christine in the beginning is in every movement, from the way he guides her into the Lair during the title song to the way he removes her hand from his mask in "Music of the Night." He is slow and quiet and hypnotic, so much so that the audience is on edge throughout "Music of the Night," the song that normally makes them fall for the Phantom in the same moment Christine does. His high and soft voice lends itself to the sadness of the role, especially throughout the "All I Ask of You" and "Masquerade" reprises, and remains behind every moment of loud and sudden anger.

What some may think Ben Forster lacks actually allows him to explore different elements of the character, allowing him to bring something very different to "Phantom of the Opera." If you're looking for a show to see on the West End while he's still in the role, don't let poor reviews or even disliking him in "JCS" discourage you. You'll be seeing a version of "Phantom" you can't find elsewhere.

Cover Image Credit: Olivier Awards

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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Things To Do When You're So Bored All You Want To Do Is Cry

Do something artsy

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Everyone has times when they have nothing to do and boredom strikes way too hard. From experience, I have found some top things to do when you literally have nothing else to do!

1. Clean

Not super fun, but will keep you busy.

2. Netflix

Find a new show to binge watch. Watched them all? Rewatch something you haven't seen in a while!

3. Shopping

Retail therapy can always keep you busy.

4. Make a home cooked meal

Spend some time in the kitchen and make something yummy! Even invite some friends.

5. Visit friends/ family

Pop in on some people you care about that you haven't seen in a while!

6. Write

Writing is something we all do and is a great way to express ourselves!

7. Exercise

Hit the gym or go for walk, do something to keep you nice and fit.

8. Volunteer

Go to an animal shelter, food bank, museums, or anywhere in your area that needs help.

9. Look for a job

If you're bored, maybe getting a part time job will keep you a little occupied. Plus it's extra money in your pocket.

10. Draw/ do something artsy

Even if you think you're a bad artist, drawing is something fun to do! You'll get better in time.

11. Join an Odyssey Team!

Writing articles through the Odyssey is an amazing experience and can always keep you busy!

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