Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera has returned to Cleveland, Ohio, for a three week run (August 7 to August 22). It appears that Cleveland theatergoers are hungry for the returnon opening night, the Allen Theatre, which seats a little over 2,400, was almost filled to capacity. The House Manger told me she had only about 100 seats available and they were scattered throughout the theater.
The story of love and rejection seems to focus more on the romantic aspects of the script. This Phantom (Tim Martin Gleason) is more romantic with Christine (Trista Moldovan) and much more macho with the managers of the theater. For once, the phantom is not a villain, but a mentally unstable lover.
Raoul (Sean MacLaughlin) quickly falls in love with Christine and just as quickly sets out to protect her from the Phantom. Carlotta (Kim Stengel) is the diva of the opera company and, of course, Christine's rival for leading roles. Stengel has played Carlotta 5,000 times, more than any other actress.
The cast,from the leading roles to the ensemble players, doesn't have one weak link. Gleason and Moldovan are instant audience favorites, both with stunning voices. Gleason makes his love for Christine palpable. He seems to reach out into the audience to explain his for of the beautiful singer. Moldovan is an Ohio native and was educated in the excellent musical-theater program at Cleveland's Baldwin-Wallace College. How could such a fragile actress produce such a powerful voice? Oh, she wore a microphone. But that doesn't account for her ability to reach and hold high notes.
MacLaughlin is as handsome and talented as the romantic lead should be. He plays Raoul with big, brash physical movements that are a strong contrast to Gleason's smooth, well-tempered performance. When MacLaughlin woos Christine, the audience has to know she is the love of his life. But is Raoul the love of Christine's life?
The Phantom of the Opera is a difficult show to stage. Sets must change quickly, quietly and effortlessly. The chandelier must crash to the stage on cue. Every set change here is perfect and was unbelievably fast.
The costumes are visually exciting. For the dress rehearsal of "Hannibal," they are bright and sparkling, a dynamic contrast to the historically accurate street-wear of the cast in other scenes.
The audience left the theater chatting about the success of the production or singing songs from the show. These are the signs of a stellar production.
The Phantom of the Opera tour leaves Cleveland on August 23 and moves on to Pittsburgh, then Los Angeles. For performance information and tickets for the Cleveland stand, visit www.playhousesquare.org.
PlayhouseSquare will offer Othello in the Hanna Theatre, September 24 through October 31. In the 14th Street Theatre, Dixie's Tupperware Party will play September 29 through October 31. The Blue Man Group will be on the boards in the Palace Theatre, October 5 - 17.
The Allen Theatre
- David Ritchey