Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
The Phantom of the Opera
Cameron Mackintosh's new production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber (music/book), Charles Hart (lyrics), and Richard Stilgoe (additional lyrics/book) masterpiece is everything it can possibly be. This production features awesome set design by Paul Brown, Tony Award winning original costume designs by Maria Bjornson, stupendous lighting design by Paule Constable, and newly staged choreography by Scott Ambler. Those familiar with the show will notice the little touches put in by renowned Matthew Bourne. The show is tightly directed by Laurence Connor, who oversees a cast and orchestra of 52 members. And there is the chandelier!
"Music of the Night," "All I Ask of You," "Masquerade," and the title song are all brilliantly performed by a very capable cast and 16-piece orchestra.
New owners have taken over the running of the Palais Garnier de Paris (Paris Opera House), but little do they know that it comes with its own "ghost" in the form of the Phantom (Patrick Dunn) who demands a monthly salary as well as strict adherence to his instructions sent in the form of many handwritten notes. When the owners, Monsieur Firmin (David Benoit) and Monsieur André (Rob Lindley), dismiss the threats as a hoax and idle threats, various "accidents" begin to happen, including their principle soprano Carlotta Giudicelli (Trista Moldovan) being nearly killed by falling sandbags. When the Phantom demands that his protege Christine Daaé (Eva Tavares) replace the current diva, Carlotta quits in fear of her life. After a quick on the spot audition, Christine is found more than capable of taking over the role and is fitted for her costumes.
After a triumphant performance of Hannibal, Vicomte Raoul de Chagny recognizes Christine as his long lost childhood friend and goes to see her after the performance. After they reestablish their long lost love for each other, she bids Raoul to leave so she can . While Raoul is gone, the Phantom comes through a mirror and abducts Christine, taking her to his lair beneath the opera house. While there, Christine unmasks the Phantom, who flies into a rage but soon calms down and expresses his love. Christine returns his mask and he eventually lets her go back to the opera house.
In spite of the splendid job Christine did with Hannibal, as well as the warnings from the Phantom, the owners convince Carlotta to return for the lead role in Il Muto, with Christine playing the mute pageboy. During the performance the sound of the Phantom's voice is heard as he berates the owners for not keeping Box 5 open just for him as ordered and allowing Carlotta to come back for the lead role. When Carlotta sprays her throat as part of the performance, her voice is reduced to a raspy croak.
The curtain is drawn as Monsieur Firmin rushes out to inform the audience that Christine will take over the lead role as the dancers are returned to the stage to entertain the patrons in the interim. Suddenly and unbeknownst to the opera house audience, the corpse of Joseph Buquet (Victor Wallace), who had mocked the Phantom, drops from above with a noose around his neck. In the ensuing chaos Christine is found on the roof by Raoul, who promises to always protect her. The Phantom, overhearing Christine promise her love to another, goes into a jealous rage that results in him bringing the chandelier crashing down on the audience during the final ensuing curtain call.
In the program for the performance I attended, notice was made that the role of the Phantom, normally played by Quentin Oliver Lee, would be played by understudy Patrick Dunn. To say that Mr. Dunn was up to the task is an understatement. He totally embodied the roll from start to finish, owning the stage with every appearance. The show is also blessed with two outstanding sopranos in the form of Eva Tavares as Christine Daaé and Trista Moldovan as Carlotta Giudicelli. Their voices fill the huge (and apparently sold-out) 3,200-seat capacity theater from corner to corner and top to bottom.
Jordon Craig as Raoul captivates with his good looks and fine singing voice. Adding snippets of comedy to an otherwise grim story are David Benoit and Rob Lindley as Monsieurs Firmin and André, respectively. There is a running gag about them receiving a barrage of notes from the Phantom.
What makes this production a delight is the attention to the little details, such as the appearing and disappearing staircase leading to the opera house cellar, the torch on the up-swept bow of the small boat, the working bellows and pumping apparatus for the organ in the Phantom's lair, and the judicious use of flame, sparks and gunshots throughout the show. It is all in the details.
No matter how many times you have witnessed a performance of The Phantom of the Opera, mark this one on your calendar as a must see show. Although nearly two and a half hours in length, time flies by as the audience is mesmerized by this truly spectacular version of a time honored classic. Come see how truly great The Phantom of the Opera can be.
The Phantom of the Opera, through April 20, 2019, in the State Theatre at Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland OH. Tickets may be purchased online at www.playhousesquare.org, by phone by calling 216-241-6000 or by stopping by the Playhouse Square ticket office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre. For more information on the tour, visit ustour.thephantomoftheopera.com.