Play: The Phantom of the Opera
Group: Touring company
Venue: Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand
Dates: Through October 25
Tickets: From $28 to $130; contact 314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com
Story: In 1911, an auctioneer sells off several items from the Paris Opera House, including a shattered chandelier. As he describes the chandelier and its role in the infamous case of the mysterious “Phantom of the Opera,” the fixture magically ascends above the stage and takes its proper place in the Opera House, circa 1881. There, an ingénue named Christine becomes the infatuation of the disfigured Phantom, a specter and musical genius who inhabits a lair on the lake beneath the Opera House. He writes a new opera to be performed with Christine in the lead role. When his demands are resisted by the Opera House managers and by Raoul, Christine’s childhood love interest who is reunited with her in Paris, the Phantom abducts Christine and swears his revenge against his adversaries.
Highlights: Based on French writer Gaston Leroux’s 1911 novel of the same name, Phantom of the Opera won the Olivier Award in London for Best Musical in 1986 and seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway in 1988, where it continues to be performed as the longest-running musical in Broadway history. This latest touring production demonstrates once again the sheer size and stature of the show, which features a staggering number of sets, voluminous costumes and mesmerizing special effects in addition to the lush musical score composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Other Info: Charles Hart provides the theatrical lyrics for Webber’s music, with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe and a book by Stilgoe and Webber. The major star of the show, though, continues to be the Cameron Mackintosh production, which sumptuously fills the immense stage at The Fox with a myriad of dominating designs, most noticeably the initial foray into the Phantom’s lair, when a sea of shimmering candles lights the way for the descent of the Phantom and Chrstine from stairwell to gondola to the title character’s Gothic pad, all under the expert design touch of the late Maria Bjornson. The throwaway sets for the various operettas within the show are a marvel in their own impressive scope.
This touring version features the accomplished musical talents of Tim Martin Gleason in the title role, who delivers the show’s two primary numbers, the stirring title tune and the lavish romantic ballad, The Music of the Night, with considerable verve. Trista Moldovan demonstrated her beautiful soprano voice as Christine in the opening night performance (Kelly Jeanne Grant will perform the role in select performances) on such notable tunes as Think of Me and her duet with Raoul, All I Ask of You.
Nancy Hess delivers the strongest acting achievement as Madame Giry, the ballet mistress and messenger of The Phantom. Sean MacLaughlin plays well opposite Christine as the smitten Raoul, while Kim Stengel and David Gaschen shine in the show’s comic moments as the pompous diva Carlotta and her buffoonish husband, Piangi. D.C. Anderson and Michael McCoy essay the roles of the dunderheaded Opera producers, while Paloma Garcia-Lee plays Christine’s devoted friend, Meg Giry.
Andrew Bridge’s lighting design is highlighted in the eerily luminescent lair segments, while musical director Jonathan Gorst leads his orchestra in Webber’s rich score, with musical supervision provided by David Caddick, sound by Martin Levan and musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne. The show’s direction follows the meticulous vision of its original director, Harold Prince.
A major flaw in the opening night presentation was the faulty sound, with players losing and gaining volume in their microphones so erratically it seemed as if The Fox had its own ghastly ghoul on the premises, particularly in the first act. Hopefully that problem will be eradicated in subsequent performances.
For those who have seen Phantom more than a couple of times, the show has lost some of its luster and magic. But, for the many newcomers who apparently were in the opening night audience, it remains a theatrical and special-effects treat of the first rank.
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.