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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 8, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 19
The Phantom is back!
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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The Phantom is back!

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Through May 10


Sir(s) Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh's musical [pop] opera The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running Broadway show in history. Running for 27 years (and still remaining on the Great White Way) the musical has undergone renovation and is currently touring under the heading of 'spectacular new production.' After a four-year absence, Phantom has returned to Seattle and the Paramount Theatre.

The musical tells the Gothic romance story of a Parisian opera house that is haunted by an unseen specter. Monsieurs Firmin and André have bought the opera house without knowing of the ghost's existence. After another of the phantom's accidents, the lead diva Carlotta walks out. The young chorus member named Christine Daaé is promoted to the lead. Christine is the daughter of a famous violinist and when her father died, he promised to send the 'Angel of Music' to guide her. Since his death Christine has become a protégé of the phantom's thinking it is her father's guidance from beyond the grave. The phantom becomes enraged with jealousy when the new opera patron Raoul and Christine become romantically involved and eventually engaged. The phantom reappears declaring Christine to be his and demanding that she perform in the opera he has written for her. After another fatal accident Christine realizes that she will never be free of the phantom's curse. The opera owners and Raoul set a trap to ensnare the phantom specter by deciding to put on the phantom's opera knowing the ghost will appear to hear his protégé sing.

The new opera owners Mssr Firmin (Craig Bennett) and André (Edward Staudenmayer) are good at balancing each other on stage. Both voices are strong enough for their roles and both men imbue them with good flair and presentation. The two lead opera divas are Carlotta (Jaequelynne Fontaine) and Piangi (Frank Viveros) and are definitely written for comic relief. While Mr. Viveros plays his role with a slight campy edge, Ms. Fontaine does not and presents Carlotta as the scorned, vindictive diva that the role calls for her to be, giving her a stronger presence with a better edge to her character. Theor voices are strong - considering they both do large operatic solos - and that's a good thing.

The three leads of the show are the counterpoints of the love triangle: Raoul (Storm Lineberger), Christine (Katie Travis) and, of course, the Phantom (Chris Mann; played by Eric Ruiz May 5-8). Mr. Lineberger's interpretation of the leading man Raoul is presented as a robust man, delighted to be reunited with his one time love, Christine. His voice is good and the singing is clear (which is important in an operetta) but there doesn't seem to be much emotion behind the power of his voice. In fact, that emotion seems to be lacking in all three of the leading parts as they all sing with wonderful training in voice, but not much evidence in emoting and giving the characters a personality. Ms. Travis' voice is pure and she enunciates well so that her powerful soprano can be heard throughout the theater. But&there seems to be an apathetic undertone in her presentation. There are several times throughout the night that she has the audience on the verge of eating out of her hand, and then lets it fizzle without any 'umph' to it. Even Mr. Mann's turn as the Phantom left a little to be desired. The role is a tragically sympathetic one and it is that power that allows the audience to empathize with the deformed genius. Mr. Mann's interpretation seems more angry and bitter than sympathetic, and it fails to fully win the audience over to his side.

The falling chandelier (is that a spoiler after 27 years?) still gets the largest applause of the evening.

So what is 'new' in this production? Although the cast has downsized slightly and the costumes have been a bit altered, neither the music nor orchestration has changed. The updates are mostly found in the staging and the sets, but it is all improvements. Over the past quarter century, theatrical special effects have improved with every other form of technology. Instead of past wanderings across the stage (showing the descent to the underground lake) during the title number 'Phantom of the Opera,' the specter leads Christine down spiral steps that magically protrude out of the side of the building making for a more fantastical descent. The fire attacks from the Phantom, which previously worked like magician's FlashPaper, now has erupting pyrotechnics for a much better effect. Even the signature 'chandelier fall' has had a mild makeover. While it still crashes down, the illustrious lantern falls over the audience (instead of swinging onto the stage) creating a better spectacle and illusion. There are also several other minor tweaks here and there, but those who have seen the show several times over the years would be the only ones to notice them.

Overall, the 'new' production of Phantom of the Opera is an enjoyable one. If this is your first exposure to the grandiose love story, sit back and enjoy one of the theatre's most popularly touted achievements. If you have seen Phantom before, you haven't seen this version, and the changes are definitely a credit to the production. It breathes new life into a well-told story and adds a refreshing cosmetic makeover.

The Phantom of the Opera followed its triumphant London debut with its Broadway premier on January 9, 1988, where it is currently still running in both venues. Nominated for ten Tony Awards it won seven including Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Crawford). The role of Christine was originated (and repeated on Broadway) by Sarah Brightman, who was at the time Mrs. Andrew Lloyd Webber. A film version of the musical was released in 2004 to less than fantastic reviews.

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