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Who wore that Iconic Mask best?
The Phantom of the Opera is known for its lavish production but the single most iconic element from the show is the Phantom’s mask and his facial deformity. I mean even people who have NEVER seen the show know the that half mask.
As it stands, the Phantom gets a few costumes all of which are memorable, so like my other page comparing Christine's musical costumes with the movie counterparts, this page is going to compare the Phantom’s costumes from the stage show and the 2004 movie version.
Every cast version has a slightly different look to the Phantom’s mask and facial deformity, so for somewhat continuity this page primarily uses Ramin Karimloo’s Phantom depiction.
Movie costumes were designed by Alexandra Byrne.
Musical costumes were designed by Maria Bjornson.
It has been long established in the musical that the Phantom has a white half mask to hide his deformity. The half mask is also for ease of singing. In the book and in other adaptations the mask is a full mask.
Every mask is different since it is made for the actor playing the role but between Karimloo’s mask and Butler's mask there are some differences that are beyond just face shape.
Butler's mask is more circular. It doesn’t really add any other details than just covering the face. Karimloo’s mask on the other hand is more angler and exaggerates his features like his eyes, nose, eyebrows and lips. It also has a curve detail at the forehead.
Both masks fit the style of their intended media. Since a movie can get in close the mask can be more subtle. This where the show has a disadvantage. Some people in the crowd will be so far back that they will not be able to really see all the ornate details of the costume, mask included. This is why the show's mask is more carved out to create more shapes and shadows. It defiantly has more dimension than the movie interpretation.
This is comparing apples and orange since both take took such different approaches. One mask take on the conceal angle and the other flaunt the artistry of the character. They both work.
The Main Costume
Out of the few costumes the Phantom wears, he wears his main suit the most.
The suit has a few layers to it, most notably his hat and cloak, which have their own section below. The suit mainly consists of a jacket, vest, shirt and pants. The Phantom wears the suit mostly with the jacket until the finale when he takes it off.
The basic idea of these versions is the same, a sophisticated elegant suit but the approached is quite different. The musical opts for more of an evening dinner white-tie look that is monochromatic with moire silk and velvet detailing.
The movie version is more casual by comparison and that is by no means a negative, the costume has a more day time look. It has a few thing in common with the its musical counterpart like it’s mostly dark tones and has the same velvet detail on the label. Unlike the musical, it sports an ascot and brown patterned vest. He also wears black leather gloves.
The musical version is better though as it fits the Phantom’s flair for the dramatics.
The Cloak and Hat
Without a doubt the cloak is the Phantom’s most dramatic article of clothing and the hat, or fedora, is the most beloved part of his main costume.
Karimloo’s hat as featured here is not the standard Phantom fedora as it has feathers and the movie does not feature a hat at all. So for the hat, the musical wins by default.
The cloak isn’t that much different between the versions, as they have the same basic shape with a similar lapels. Though it looks like the movie version is made with a thicker fabric. As is standard with the musical, the musical has more details to its cloak as it has beaded embroidery on the front. So there is more texture which fits in with the overall look of production.
It has to be a tie on cloak.
But since the movie didn't have a have a hat the musical wins but the movie can get a half point.
The Red Death
Just going to say this right off-the-bat, comparing the Red Death costumes is unfair.
The Red Death costume is the Phantom's only real costume change in the musical. He wears this when he crashes the Masquerade at the start of Act 2. The concept for this costume is lifted from the book and it’s pretty much based on the costume worn by Lon Chaney in the 1925 movie version.
In the musical, the Phantom wears a full skull mask, a massive hat with feathers and gold trimming and a renaissance looking outfit with huge puffy sleeves. The costume has lots of ribbon details. It very over-the-top in an amazing way. It’s a statement costume and a show-stopper or in the case of the narrative a party-stopper.
The movie version by contrast is much more subdue and streamline. He is pretty much wearing a red velvet suit with a half skull mask. Much like Christine Daae’s masquerade costume, this one doesn’t feel like a costume in the same way as the musical.
It is more costume-like compared to Christine’s pink ball-gown but for costume in a movie that is meant to be a costume in the story, it just doesn’t work. It a decent interpretation of the musical version but it doesn’t measure up.
Double points for the musical.
The Point of No Return
During "The Point of No Return" the Phantom takes the stage with Christine. The musical and the movie, again, take vastly different approaches to this costume.
In the musical the Phantom dons a full cloak and hood which disguises him from Christine who doesn’t know it’s him till she feels his mask through the hood. In the movie it is super apparent that Christine knows that it’s the Phantom. Most people have complained about this aspect in the musical, that Christine should have recognize the Phantom’s voice even with him wearing a cloak.
One could have head-cannon to explain this away. She was in the zone with performing or the Phantom's fake accent fooled her.
In the Movie, Phantom dons a cape, a leather mask, a ruffle shirt with a black jacket and pants. The cape has some floral details with pom-pom trim that matches the tango-like mood of the scene.
So we have one costume that is a full back cloak that muddles elements of Christine’s character and a costume that looks like it should be on a romance book cover. Movie should the get the point though I would point out that the mask used in this scene messes-up the deformity as when Christine takes off the mask, it's clear that mask wouldn’t have covered it all. So it too muddle a very significant element of the story.
I really don't want to award a point here though. This one is very confusing.
The Facial Deformity
Let’s be real here, this comparison is unfair because the movie went WAY too subtle.
The Phantom’s deformity, the source of his isolation and madness looks like a sunburn. Sure, means he has a flaw but devil child, this is not. I can’t tell you how disappointing this “deformity” was when the mask was pulled off. I don’t believe that this would have isolated him from society as freak of nature. Or the world of the movie is vastly more cruel and superficial than reality.
The musical version featured massive distorted lips, exposed holes, and general unpleasantness. In this version you can see some exposed brain. He looked grotesque which is perfect for his character. He is meant as someone you can’t look at without fear.
No contest, musical gets the point.
The Ruffle Shirt
Before we conclude, I just want to mention the movie’s Ruffle shirt.
The Phantom wears a ruffle shirt periodically throughout the movie. It might have been added in for more romantic appeal or to show his softer side. It does look like something off of a romance novel cover though.
There is no equivalent to this costume piece in the musical.
Unlike Christine Daae’s costumes that have more differences between the movie and the musical, the Phantom’s costume are pretty close to each other between the adaptations.
There is a split on points for the costumes but it considering the crux of the Phantom’s character is his face the musical has the better costumes plus the movie doesn’t have a fedora also the points didn't matter.
Musical has the better costumes.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 RiverCygnet