For some reason recently I started listening to The Phantom of the Opera again.
And for some reason I just really want to talk about his mask.
In the book Gaston Leroux described Erik as “very ugly” — extraordinarily thin, with nasty yellow skin; his nose was absent and had few locks of hair. And true to the book, the makeup for the phantom in the musical is so horrifyingly ugly that it hurts to even look straight at it. But with the mask on, the phantom immediately merges into an alpha male.
Take a look at Ramin Karimloo’s portrayal of Erik. During “Stranger Than You Dreamt It”. His mask got pulled off; shocked and angry he ran after Christine yelling “Damn you! Curse you!” and fell down to his knees with one hand constantly covering the damaged side of his face. Then he started to inch towards Christine on his knees and started reasoning with her (“But Christine… Fear can turn to love, You’ll learn to see, To find the man behind the monster, This repulsive carcass who seems a beast, But secretly dreams of beauty.”) and eventually felt so vulnerable without the mask on in front of her that he turned away from her, still kneeling, with his hand still covering his face. He looked so pitiful at that moment that Christine, though still afraid, handed him his mask. He still couldn’t face her when he was putting the mask on, but after the mask was back on his face the transformation came. The second he put on the mask, it was as though his confidence came back: he no longer knelt, but stood straighter; he no longer hid, but turned to face her. That aura of dominance was seeping through the screen as he grabbed Christine’s hand and practically dragged her away (“Come, we must return; those two fools who run MY theatre will be missing you.”)
And the same thing happened with John Owen Jones’ Erik, Peter Jöback’s Erik, and Norm Lewis’s Erik.
So all I’m rambling is that the mask could be seen as Erik’s shield: with it he was strong and dominating, but without it he was no more than a wounded child.
(Pictures are from Google search.)