A New Phantom Of The Opera Adaptation Will Be Set In The French Quarter

My sincerest apologies to anyone who clicked on this headline and assumed there was going to be a new adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, "The Phantom of the Opera," but this news story is about the 1910 Gaston Leroux French novel of the same name that went on to inspire the Universal Monsters' 1925 film depiction featuring Lon Chaney, that later inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber (heretofore known as ALW). Thanks to a news break over at Deadline, Universal Pictures has acquired a spec script called "Phantom" from John Fusco ("Young Guns," "Marco Polo," "The Highwaymen") as part of a package including producers Harvey Mason Jr. of Harvey Mason Media, John Legend and his Get Lifted Film producing partner, Mike Jackson, as well as Ty Stiklorius as executive producer. The film will be set in contemporary New Orleans rather than the more traditional Paris.

Fusco apparently came up with the idea while shooting the Bonnie and Clyde film, "The Highwaymen" the 2019 Netflix release about the men who tracked down the notorious killers. Principal photography was shot in New Orleans where Fusco became acquainted with the French Quarter music scene and felt inspired to take the public domain story of a phantom haunting an opera house and drop it in the modern era. During the pandemic, Fusco wrote and recorded two albums and felt motivated to bridge screenwriting and songwriting together.

Yes, It's Going to be a Movie Musical

Fusco told Deadline that the film will be set in the "sultry nightlife scene of modern-day New Orleans, the world of jazz, R&B, neo-Soul, and funk," but also noted that The French Quarter neighborhood of New Orleans has the reputation of being America's most haunted city. "The music, French Creole culture, the voodoo mystique, masquerade pageantry of Mardi Gras, just lent itself to a natural adaptation of the Paris setting," he continued. "And a story that has revenge, unrequited love, and mystery."

When I first heard the announcement, I'll admit my immediate reaction was to go a bit dog-eared about the whole thing. Making a version of "Phantom of the Opera" inspired by the novel after the huge success of the ALW musical felt a lot like making a version of "Les Miserables" based on Victor Hugo's novel in a post-Claude-Michel Schönberg musical world. However, Fusco's vision sounds very inspired, and like a genuinely refreshing take on such a familiar tale. 

Harvey Mason Jr. has credits that include "Jesus Christ Superstar Live," "Sing," "Dreamgirls," "Pitch Perfect," and "Respect," so the man surely knows his way around a movie musical. Getting John Legend on board will definitely help, as the team is vying for the story to focus on "a H.E.R.-like neo-Soul singer ingenue who is mentored by a mysterious man, as mysterious mishaps occur in a famed club trying to remain vibrant."

Consider this the start of my personal campaign to get the actual H.E.R. to play the "H.E.R.-like" version of Christine Daaé.