Written by Daniella Litvak
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera (“Phantom”) isn’t just a musical — it’s the musical. Famous for its dramatic score, elaborate costuming and stage design, iconic title character, and for being the longest running show in Broadway history, Phantom is the musical all other musicals measure itself against. Seeing a performance is considered a must for any musical theater fan.
In 19th century Paris, the cast and crew at the Opera de Paris are rehearsing their latest opera. Unfortunately, a stage mishap occurs — the latest in a series of mysterious accidents occurring over the last three years. Some believe these are no mere accidents but rather the malicious work of the Phantom (Patrick McCormick) lurking about the opera house and extorting money from the owner(s).
This is last straw for resident diva Carlotta (Marlee Tierney), who walks out of the production. With opening night around the corner, a dancer named Christine (Allison Bossart) takes over the leading lady’s part. Christine’s singing wins over the audience, captures the heart of Raoul (Sean McCrimmon), and catches the Phantom’s attention.
Compared to, say, Les Miserables, Phantom’s story is actually pretty simple. The romance — a variation on a beauty and the beast tale — is the story. It is not forced to share the run time with twenty other different subplots or set against major historical events. Yet all the dramatics infused into the show make it so much more than just another story about a love triangle.
Every aspect of Phantom is DRAMATIC. As a result there are many memorable set pieces and songs such as “Angel of Music” and “The Music of the Night.” Still it can be a little overwhelming when even the ballads are so high energy. Enjoyable as all the spectacle is, it doesn’t completely hide some storytelling weaknesses. The secondary characters don’t receive a lot of characterization, and the moment the climax hinges on was over and done with a little too quickly.
The cast, crew, and orchestra are all extremely talented. Bossart as Christine and McCormick as The Phantom are flat out amazing. Jordan Halloran and Mathew Rangel in the comic relief roles of the opera house owners are a breath of fresh air. They’re funny, and made me realize the comedic bits in Phantom are under appreciated. There were times when it was hard to hear the vocals during the ensemble musical numbers either because the orchestra overwhelmed the vocals or the many voices singing at the same time drowned each other out.
The costumes are a joy to look at — lots of variety, lots of bright colors. It was easy to believe were among the 19th century’s equivalent of Hollywood’s elite. My favorite costumes of the night are the skeleton costumes Halloran and Rangel wore during the “Masquerade” sequence — funny but stylish.
The set design is splendid. In addition to the physical structures, great use was made of digital backdrops, fog, and pyrotechnics.
All around, this is a very impressive production of The Phantom of the Opera.