“This ain’t your daddy’s phantom,” I said to my daughter after the curtain dropped, as we made our way up the aisle. Cameron McIntosh’s new North American tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera retells a story of love, jealousy, and obsession, the budding romance between Raoul and Christine, and the Phantom’s tormented and unyielding love for her.
This ain’t your daddy’s phantom,
The songs that have captivated audiences since 1986 in London’s West End remain unchanged and, with the exuberance you would expect, the words are delivered masterfully through the actors exhibiting the training, talent, and experience they possess. The sets that draw in the viewer and both dazzle and excite are reinvented: From the sumptuous and festive set of “Masquerade” to the dreary descent to the Phantom’s labyrinth, this newly imagined Phantom is visually stunning and by far surpasses older productions.
Cooper Grodin (Into the Woods, The Golden Land, and the 25th anniversary tour of Les Miserables) is a true force as the title character, the Phantom. This young man, originally the Phantom’s understudy, skillfully and with the fluidity of a seasoned actor demonstrated why he is in this leading role. With a voice that reveals the darker, macabre side of the Phantom, but also exposes the tender being who seeks only to be loved, Grodin is an actor whose star is just begining to shine.
Julia Udine (Jack’s Back, Westside Story, and, oddly enogh, Law and Order SVU) as Christine Daae—in a word, spectacular! Another young talent to be mindful of. Her stage presence and her graceful control was only equaled by her formidable singing voice. As she neared the end of the title song “The Phantom of the Opera,” I waited, bedeviled, as to whether she could vocalize “Sing for Me” to my satisfaction. Not only did she deliver the final notes, but at the end of the song, added the ever small gesture of clasping her hands to her throat, indicating the stress the high notes caused. Brilliant!
The supporting cast played superbly and delivered the type of performance you would expect from a production of this caliiber, but it was Frank Viveros who stood out. Viveros (Sweeney Todd, Children of Eden, and Once on this Island) as Ubaldo Piangi brought with him a uniquely powerful voice with a touch of femininity; strong, yet delicate. Ubaldo Piangi, to me, is a character of no true consequence. His presence does not move the story forward and if you removed the character completely, you might not notice till the second act. Beyond his voice, Viveros changes all of this. Equipped with comedic timing, facial gestures, and body movement that would parallel a vaudevillian performance, Viveros brings humor and levity to a musical that was never intended to elicit laughter. But we do laugh, and he pulls it off with verve and panache, and for this I applaud him.
The most amazing of the new sets is the revolving semi-cylindrical shaped tower, which stands at about two and a half stories high. This set piece is utilized for several of the musical scenes. At the top level, a walkway leads the Phantom and Christine to a doorway where he pulls a lever and individual steps emerge from the side of the structure, one by one, to lead the two to the Phantom’s awaiting boat. This same side is also assigned as the backstage of the opera house where Joseph Bouquet is hung and, when the two large doors at the base of this tower are opened, they reveal the interior office of Monsieur Fremin and Monsieur Andre. The other flatter side of the tower takes us to the dressing room area where the Phantom reveals himself to Christine and also doubles as another backstage section.
The set of the musical number “Masquarade” recalls a time of splendor and opulence when society’s elite emerged in all of their finery for an evening of gaiety and festivities. Imagine a room decorated with statues designed to resemble gilded bronzes armed with candelabras, walls paneled with massive mirrors clad in luxurious frames of gold, a resplendent oval mirror fashioned as a ceiling, and a cornice adorned with winged heavenly creatures playing the harp or in repose. Now fill that room with costumed and masked revelers engaged in song and dance, as the ominous Phantom enters, boldly dressed as Red Death, to give instructions on his opera Don Juan Triumphant, and you have a scene worthy to be performed in any famed theater.
The wonder and sheer beauty of the new “chandelier” is something to truly behold…but I won’t give away any more, you will just have to experience it for yourself.
The Phantom of the Opera has delighted audiences worldwide and is Broadway’s longest running show in history, since 1988, and has over 10,000 performances to its credit. Phantom was the winner of 7 Tonys at the 1988 awards show: Best Musical, Best Lead Actor Michael Crawford, Best Featured Actress Judy Kaye, Best Direction Harold Prince, Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design Maria Bjomson, and Best Lighting Andrew Bridge.
A musical rich and deeply entrenched in theatre history coupled with new, dramatic and meticulously detailed sets are the foundation of this operatic extravaganza. If you know the story, get reacquainted, and if you don’t know it, what are you waiting for?! This Phantom is one that shouldn’t be missed. The look on my daughter’s face after the applause and full house standing ovation gave me great joy in knowing that I introduced her to this tragic love story told in a production that was visually spectacular.
1/09/14 – 3/02/14
3/05/14 – 3/16/14
3/19/14 – 4/13/14
4/16/14 – 4/27/14
4/30/14 – 5/11/14
5/14/14 – 5/25/14
5/28/14 – 6/08/14
6/11/14 – 6/22/14
6/26/14 – 7/20/14
7/23/14 – 8/03/14
8/27/14 – 9/07/14
9/10/14 – 9/21/14
4/15/15 – 4/25/15
6/10/15 – 7/26/15
Chicago, IL, Cadillac Palace Theatre
Columbus, OH, Ohio Theatre
Philadelphia, PA, Academy of Music
Rochester, NY, Auditorium Theatre
Cincinnati, OH, Aronoff Center
Greenville, SC, The Peace Center
Schenectady, NY, Proctors
Appleton, WI, Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
Boston, MA, Opera House
Milwaukee, WI, Uihlein Hall
Oklahoma City, OK, Civic Center Music Hall
Des Moines, IA, Des Moines Performing Arts – Civic Center
Tulsa, OK, Tulsa Performing Arts Center
Los Angeles, CA, Hollywood Pantages
Photo Credit: debrice58 via Compfight cc
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