|The Phantom of the Opera (Matthew Murphy)|
The Phantom of the Opera
August 8-19, 2018
The “new” Phantom of the Opera sweeps into our fair city to wow us with its fresh approach to an iconic Broadway musical. Believe it or not, your SGN reviewer has never seen it! Of course I have heard a lot about it, but nope, never actually seen it.
I will say that I am not a huge Andrew Lloyd Webber fan. I feel honor-bound to make sure you factor that in. I respect his success and I understand that he has managed a kind of incredible feat in hitting the public’s sweet-spot of interest with musical extravaganzas.
Lloyd Webber’s early musicals, particularly Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, both written at the tender ages of 22 and 28, are still the most successful, to me, in both their storytelling and their sweep of historic events. They introduced his penchant - the song repetition - that he later amped up to encompass an even more significant amount of repetitions in subsequent musicals. He began using his same music with some changes in the lyrics throughout a musical.
While Lloyd Webber’s music is definitely singable and ear-wormable (songs that get stuck in your mind), the repetition is an aspect that, especially in later musicals, makes me feel more tired of the play. But I am not, by any means, an expert on all his shows, which include Cats, Sunset Boulevard, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (written when he was 17!), and a stage School of Rock based on the 2003 movie. There are a dozen others, including lesser known ones like Song and Dance, Starlight Express and Aspects of Love. He’s a music machine.
The Phantom of the Opera world premiered in London’s West End in 1986, and it still plays today! On Broadway, after opening in 1988, it has grossed over $890 million in ticket sales and is one of the longest continuously-running musicals in history!
The “new” Phantom has a new scenic design by Paul Brown, Tony Award®-winning original costume design by Maria Björnson, new choreography by Scott Ambler and new staging by director Laurence Connor. A special feature of this touring company is a total of 52 people in the cast and orchestra, making it one of the largest touring companies in the world, right now.
The new chandelier used in this tour weighs 1 ton and features over 6,000 beads! That sounds opulent. So the special effects are specialer, the technical aspects are refreshed and now it’s dependent on the particular touring cast to measure up to the expectations of the audience.
As you may know, the story centers on the love triangle between the mysterious Phantom, a young singer named Christine and Christine’s friend Raoul at the Opera Populaire in Paris. The Phantom, a deformed composer, hides from the outside world in an underground cavern, and tutors and composes operas for Christine. As Christine's star rises, and Raoul enters the picture, the Phantom grows mad and jealous and irrationally terrorizes those around him. Still, somehow Christine finds herself drawn to him.
It’s not clear why he’s so besotted with Christine. But only magic – and some portion of awe in his musical abilities – can explain why Christine responds to him. The show’s book (the story script), by Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe, is not updated and for some it will be a challenge to care about this skimpily-reasoned love triangle.
The new touring cast includes Quentin Oliver Lee as The Phantom, Eva Tavares as Christine Daaé, Jordan Craig as Raoul, Trista Moldovan as Carlotta, David Benoit as Monsieur Firmin, Edward Staudenmayer as Monsieur Andre, Kristie Dale Sanders as Madame Giry, Phumzile Sojola as Ubaldo Piangi and Emily Ramirez as Meg Giry.
There is a two week run that opens tonight. Some of the most desired times are already sold out, so if you are interested, you may want to work fast.