Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Phantom of the Opera

Phenomenal Phantom at Allen Theatre

By the time the farewell national touring production of ‘PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’ leaves Cleveland on August 22, around 600,000 audience members will have experienced the show since its first local performance in 1993.

Not only is the production a local success, but, the show, which is credited with starting the mega musical trend, is still running on Broadway. It became the longest-running show in Broadway history in 2006. In 2007, it became the first show in on-Broadway history to celebrate 20 uninterrupted years in production.

The mega musical designation comes from the cost and number of sets, costumes and special effects which create the illusions of the opulent show. For instance, the replica of the Paris Opera house chandelier features 6,000 beads, and weighs over a ton. The show takes 125 cast, crew, orchestra members and house personnel to create a single showing. Originally costing a record $8 million to mount, it would take about $13 million in 2010 dollars to reproduce the show. It took over 20 tractor-trailers to bring the sets, costumes and sound equipment to town for this staging.

‘PHANTOM’ is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux. It opened in London’s West End in 1986, and then on Broadway in 1988. The music was composed by Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Charles Hart and additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe.

The plot revolves around Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius known as The Phantom of the Opera. Mostly an opera within an opera, the story centers on the Phantom’s lusting for Christine, while she covets Raoul. The score contains such classics as “Think of Me,” “The Music of the Night,” “I Remember,” and “Wishing You Were Here.”

Both the London and Broadway productions originally starred Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine.

The touring production is every bit as visually stunning as the original. Yes, the famous chandelier suspends above the audience and crashes to the stage, the sets are numerous, the costumes are beautiful, the musical sounds created by the orchestra is exciting, and the sound system is crisp allowing for easy hearing of the libretto.

Though he does not have Michael Crawford’s mesmerizing vocal sound, Tim Martin Gleason is excellent as the Phantom. He adds his own twist to the role, creating a characterization which is well textured and allows the audience to experience the character’s emotional torment.

Brunswick native, Trista Moldovan (Christine), a 2002 musical theater graduate from Baldwin-Wallace College, is beautiful and has a stunning soprano voice. In contrast to Brightman’s maturity, Moldovan has a youthful vulnerability which works perfectly in her creation of the role. It’s exciting to see a local talent make good!

Handsome Sean MacLaughlin has a fine voice and the right attitude to portray Raoul, Christine’s love interest.

The choreography, vocal sounds, chorus actions and technical aspects of the show are all excellent.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The touring company of ‘PHANTOM’ lives up to all its hype and is a must see, especially if you have never seen the show. No local theatre will be able to reproduce it at this level of extravagance.