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CLEVELAND
Regional Reviews by David Ritchey

The Phantom of the Opera
Allen Theatre, PlayhouseSquare

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 return—on 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
PlayhouseSquare
The Phantom of the Opera
July 28 to August 22, 2010
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Charles Hart
Additional lyrics: Richard Stilgoe
Book: Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Based on the novel: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux
Direction: Harold Prince
Musical staging and choreography: Gillian Lynne
Production Design: Maria Bjornson
Lighting: Andrew Bridge
Sound: Martin Levan
Musical Supervision & Direction: David Caddick
Music Direction: Jonathan Gorst
Production Supervisor: Peter von Mayrhauser The Phantom of the Opera: Tim Martin Gleason
Christine Daae: Trista Moldovan: Christine Daae: Kelly Jeanne Grant (Saturday Mat. and Sunday, except 7/31 & 7:20 Mat.)
Raoul: Sean MacLaughlin
Carlotta Giudicelli: Kim Stengel
Monsieur Andre: D. C. Anderson
Monsieur Firmin: Michael McCoy
Madame Giry: Nancy Hess
Ubaldo Piangi: Luke Grooms
Meg Giry: Paloma Garcia-Lee
Monsieur Reyer/ Jeweler ("Il Muto"): Thomas Schumacher
Auctioneer / Passarino ("Don Juan Triumphant"): Carrington Vilmont
Joseph Buquet / Firechief (7/28 - 8/1): Rob Lorey
Joseph Buquet /Firechief (8/3 - 8/22):Justin Lee Miller
Hairdresser ("Il Muto") / Marksman (7/28 - 8/1 and 8/10 - 8/22): Dallyn Vail Bayles
Hairdresser ("Il Muto") / Marksman (8/3 - 8/8): Bob Lorey
Don Attilio ("Il Muto"): Gregory Emanuel Rahming
Monsieur Lefevre: David Gaschen
Slave Master ("Hannibal") (7/26 - 8/9): Harlan Bengel
Slave Master ("Hannibal") (8/2 - 8/16) Don Bellamy
Solo Dancer ("Il Muto")(7/26 - 8/9): Don Bellamy
Solo Dancer ("Il Muto) (8/2 - 8/16): Harlan Bengel
Stagehand: Lawrence Asher
Page ("Don Juan Triumphant"): Annika Johansson
Wardrobe Mistress / Confidante ("Il Muto"): Pamela Shandrow
Princess: Elizabeth Welch
Spanish Lady ("Don Juan Triumphant"): Satomi Hofmann
Innkeeper's Wife ("Don Juan Triumphant"):Sally Ann Swarm
Madame Firmin/ Wildwoman ("Hannibal"):Anne Kanengeiser
Fireman / Monk ("Don Juan Triumphant"):Kirk Vaughn-Robinson
The Ballet Chorus of the Opera Populaire: Dara Adler, Emily Adonna, Erin Brooke Burton, Triana Cristobal, Anna Laghezza, Elaine Matthews, Kristi Patricia, Lily Rose Peck
Dance Captain/ Ballet Swing: Joelle Gates
Associate Dance Captain: Dara Adler
Swings: William Patrick Dunne, Michael Scott Harris, Laureen Vigil
Vacation Covers: Kyle Barisch, Stephen Tewksbury
Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare
1519 Euclid, downtown Cleveland
Tickets:(216) 241-6000.

- David Ritchey



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