Honorable mentions: “Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer,” “Why Have You Brought Us Here?”
Okay, grab a pen or pencil and a piece of scratch paper. You have one minute to write down everything you associate with The Phantom of the Opera. It might be a song, or character, or something from the production end of it, or something to do with the plot or the set or the endless plagiarism suits or whatever. Go!
Now that your minute is done, go ahead and check it over. Did you have anything in there resembling the idea: “Deep into the second act of the play, Christine still thinks there’s a nonzero chance that the Phantom is her dad?” That is, of course, the context of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” the show’s best single showcase for a single voice: better than “The Music of the Night,” or “Think of Me,” and one heck of a lot better than the showoffish portion at the end of “Phantom of the Opera.” “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” invites you to actually feel for one of the characters in the show, to share in her grief. That’s something which does not come easily in this play or, really, in any Webber production. Christine is slightly wooden, as is Raoul, and so is the Phantom, even if he does interesting things from time to time; Pinocchio didn’t stop being a wooden puppet in the moments where he grew donkey ears or fought a sperm whale.
Christine is wooden, but she’s likable as well. There’s no doubt, certainly not at this point in Act Two, that she is being used by virtually every man who runs into her path. She’s a sexual fantasy, or a diva who can sell tickets, or she’s the irresistible bait for a murderer who lives in the sewers beneath an opera house and writes music in his spare time. One has to feel bad for her, and one has to also think of the one man who appears to have loved her just because: her father, the literal angel of music in this show.
“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is, like “One More Kiss,” about trying to let go; unlike “One More Kiss,” it’s evident that Christine can’t give herself closure. Heidi could shut the door, “never look back” at what she used to be. Christine has no such ability; there are too many strings that are, in the parlance of an earlier song, “twisted every way.” “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is about seeing the one you want to see around every corner and knowing that it can’t possibly be that person. It’s a touching idea, but what makes the song exceptional is the way it actually plays on the virtuosity of the singer rather than shoving that virtuosity down the audience’s throats. It’s a song for a true soprano, but there’s nothing in the song which actively calls attention to how difficult it is. It’s meant to be honest, to be a true display of feeling, and to its credit, it doesn’t get in its own way.