Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Songs for the Cure:
The cast of the national tour of The Phantom of the Opera gave up its Monday night off August 16th volunteering talent and time to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for breast cancer. I recently praised this cast for the outstanding performance of The Phantom of the Opera in the Allen Theatre, PlayhouseSquare. Songs for the Cure provided some of the supporting players a chance to star on the stage of the Hannah Theatre. In addition, leading performers such as Trista Moldovan, Pamela Shandrow and Sean MacLaughlin had an opportunity to sing songs different from those they perform in Phantom.
Kim Stengel (Carlotta) stepped forward near the end of the two-hour performance to summarize the cast's contributions to charities. She noted that since Phantom started touring about 18 years ago, the various cast members have raised over $800,000 for charities.
I don't know how much was raised Monday night in Cleveland, but the theater was almost at capacity at $20.00 a ticket. A silent auction brought in several thousand dollars (auction listings included many autographed and Phantom-related items). Someone donated a first edition of Gaston LeRoux's "Le Fantôme de L'Opéra," the novel on which Webber and Hart based the musical, with an opening bid of $800.
Kevin Joseph Kelly, a local actor, served as emcee of the performance, which ran about two hours plus intermission.
All of the performers wore the pink/red ribbon, which is a symbol for the Komen Race for the Cure. Pamela Shandrow wore a black dress with a big red ribbon at the waist. Shandrow, who plays the Wardrobe Mistress in Phantom, sang "Don't Rain on My Parade."
Sean MacLaughlin, who plays Raoul, sang in several numbers. He and four other performers sang "Tonight Quintet," from West Side Story. Later he sang "Infinite Joy" and in a sextet, "Light," from Next to Normal.
Gregory Emanuel Rahming, who plays Don Attilio in Phantom, stopped the show with "Old Man River." Rahming has a wide vocal range and the ability to make all of the lyrics intelligible on the lowest of notes. At the end of the song, most of the audience members stood and cheered.
Justin Lee Miller, who played Joseph Bouquet / Firechief (8/13 -8/22), sang a glorious version of "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'." Later in the show, he sang "Popcorn" with Elizabeth Welch, who was the Princess in Phantom. Miller and Welch have comedic skills that pleased the audience in this naughty duet.
Kim Stengel played with the audience and her own singing abilities with the song "A Word on My Ear," which is a salute to a singer who can't hit the right notes. Stengel, of course, can hit every note beautifully and can hit notes with a discord that get a laugh from the audience.
David Gaschen (Monsieur Lefevre) brought a hush to the audience with a riveting "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables.
The evening ended with the entire cast on the stage singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel. This song started with all of the women in the company singing and the men joined the women on the chorus.
On the way out of the theater, I heard an audience member comment about having mixed reactions to the evening: "Why do we have to have something as horrible as cancer to bring us together for such a beautiful evening?" I don't have the answer to the question. I'm glad I paid my $20.00 for the ticket. I was moved by some of the performances and laughed with some of the other songs. It was a beautiful evening.
- David Ritchey