Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Theater Review

Theater Review

Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary National Tour

I went out with the parents to an evening at the theater to see the national touring production of Phantom of the Opera. Walking into the theater was magical because the theater, an old movie palace, splendidly suits the atmosphere. 

I sort of knew what to expect for the show, having seen the marvelous 25th Anniversary special from the Royal Albert Hall that aired on PBS but didn't know what to expect from the tour. It did not disappoint!  Even though I've seen the show 4 times live (and the movie and the 25th anniversary TV special), this production was the best I've seen. 

For the 25th anniversary they have added new sets that really make the show even more special. The proscenium comes and goes when necessary but you also see inside the backstage area, Christine's dressing room, the managers' office, the cemetery, the rooftop and the Phantom's newly redesigned lair. Heading down to the lair there's a labyrinth and inside his lair he has his organ, some candles and a bed. It looks like a nice Victorian parlor and not a gloomy dungeon lair. There's a fake curtain that sweeps back and forth during the opera scenes. It opens to reveal the sets. There is also a little bit of scene projection. I really liked the glimpses into the world of the Opera Garnier in the late 19th century. The sets really make you feel like you're there. The Masquerade scene now takes place in a hall of mirrors and the costumes are regular fancy dress or military inspired with masks instead of the fantastical costumes of the original. I missed the original costumes. It makes the scene spookier not knowing who is who.

The staging is a tiny bit different from the original production. I especially liked the prologue. As Raoul holds the monkey and sings his soliloquy you get to glimpse the past a bit. Then when the overture plays, you can see what was happening on the stage in the late 19th century instead of staring at the curtain. Don't be alarmed if you've heard there's a major change, it's not true. SPOILER ALERT: the chandelier still drops and it breaks off a piece and sparks when it hits the stage.There's a major change to the staging of the final scene. My jaw literally dropped when it happened. You will be left in complete shock and wonderment. There's a lot of pyrotechnics in this show and at one point the smell was very strong. It smelled like fireworks. There was some problems with that last week so be aware of it and don't be alarmed.

The libretto is basically the same with a few tweaks here and there, hardly noticeable at all except towards the end when Carlotta's lines are omitted following the aftermath of "Past the Point of No Return." Some of the lyrics sounded different from the ones I remember from the original cast recording but nothing major. the signature tune has been tweaked a bit to sound a little less 80s rock. It sounds richer and fuller this way and not as MTV.

The cast was very good. Julia Udine as Christine was absolutely incredible! She's the best Christine I've ever heard. Her voice is divine. My only complaint was that the music drowns her out when she's singing the scales for the Phantom. It was hard to hear her beautiful voice. The women really outshine the men in this production. Jacquelynne Fontaine as Carlotta also has an amazing voice. My only quibble with her is that she's too young and thin to fit my image of Carlotta. Carlotta is supposed to be an aging Diva. She did look corseted into her costume though fitting the period look so maybe that explains Carlotta's thinness? Also she spoke her lines with a very heavy Italian accent and was difficult to understand. It adds to the comedy but I've never had a problem understanding Carlotta before.

I wasn't crazy about Ben Jacoby as Raoul. He came on too perky and jerky (overacting). It seems like the actor is used to more traditional musical theater. He settled down a bit later on. 

Mark Campbell plays the title role. I found him good but not spectacular. His voice is strong but he didn't really move me. My parents disagree and they really felt for Erik and were rooting for him. Unfortunately from where I was sitting, I couldn't see his face. I had opera glasses for the second act but they're old and not very powerful. I could see his head but not his face. With the mask on, the Phantom looks very young and handsome. I found him almost too pretty.

I loved the show as always and I highly recommend going to see if if it comes to a city near you. If not, get a copy of the 25th Anniversary DVD or wait for PBS to air it again. You won't be disappointed!

Merchandise review:
I didn't buy ANYTHING! They hardly had any merchandise at all. They had a few t-shirts, a phone case, the original cast recording and a few other things but no program. I'm so disappointed because I collect them. It's fitting though because I don't have a program from the first time I saw the show at the same theater!

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