Saturday, October 09, 2004

Phantom of the Opera (Playhouse Square Center)

'THE PHANTOM' gets deserved standing ovation at the Allen Theatre

Saw ‘THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’ before? Afraid that the touring production might be one of those slapped together non-union actor productions? Well, fear not. The rendition of the show which is appearing at the Allen Theatre has a superb cast and all the spectacle of any edition of the show, including the Broadway production. Yes, the falling chandelier, Hannibal’s elephant, the sumptuous costumes, the boat which floats across the stage, they are all there. And the cast is outstanding!

“THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1986.
Since then, it has been seen in 110 cities in 20 countries by over 70 million people. Worldwide, the box office revenues are higher than any film or stage play in history, including “TITANIC”, “ET” and “STAR WARS.”

On February 4 of this year, PHANTOM became the 2nd longest-running show in Broadway history. That version has been running for 16 years.

In June of 1993 the show made its first appearance in Cleveland. Almost 200,000 people attended that run.

The musical, which has won over 50 major theatre awards, including seven Tonys, is scheduled to be released as a motion picture during this year’s holiday season.
The movie trailer can be accessed at:

As for the story line: It is 1911 and the contents of an Opera House are being auctioned off. Present are the auctioneer and bidders. As the auctioneer displays the Opera House chandelier, he explains that it is connected with the legend of The Phantom of the Opera. With a flash of light, the audience is flung back in time, when the Paris Opera was at its height.

We are in the middle of a rehearsal for the opera ‘HANNIBAL.’ The retiring manager of the Opera is showing the new managers the great stage. As the prima donna is singing, a backdrop falls to the floor, nearly killing her. The cry is raised, "It's The Phantom of the Opera!" And, the story of a young singer, her lover, and the phantom who loves her, play out before our eyes. As the plot deepens we discover the real story of the phantom and, in the end, the Phantom gives Christine (the young singer) a choice. She can stay with him forever, or he will kill Raoul (her lover). That decision brings an end to the story.

Don’t go to see the production thinking this is musical comedy. Comedy, it definitely is not. It is high drama. High dark drama. And, be warned, there are scenes that are not visually appropriate for young children...skeletons, murders, scary masks, hangings, gun shots, light flashes, and strong illusions. On opening night, a child exited screaming.

The Allen production is suburb. Gary Mauer, makes the Phantom his own. He does not do a Michael Crawford (the original Phantom) imitation. He makes the role softer, more vulnerable, more human. His voice is marvelous. His rendition of “The Music of the Night” is what musical theatre is all about...superb, enthralling. His “All I Ask” is emotionally draining.

Rebecca Pitcher who portrays Christine, gives a believable acting performance which graces her marvelous voice. She makes for a perfect Christine. The duets between Mauer and Pitcher, which include “The Phantom of the Opera,” “I Remember,” and “The Point of No Return” were production highlights.

Tim Martin Gleason effectively sings the role of Raoul, Christine’s lover. He physically fits the role of the handsome suitor. But he sometimes seems on the surface in his character development, not totally immersed in the role. “”All I Ask of You” his major duet with Pitcher, was riveting.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The production of ‘THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’ now playing at the Allen Theatre, is as close to a perfect production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, Richard Stilgoe musical as you will ever see. If you haven’t experienced the show before see this production. If you have seen it before, go again. You won’t be disappointed. As is the habit of Cleveland audiences, the opening night production received a standing ovation. This is one of the few shows that deserved it!