“The Phantom of the Opera” is back in town, and while many have seen this fabulous work by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber many times, this particular production has been changed to bring new life to an already exciting and haunting musical theater experience. In fact, this is a musical that comes close to actually being an opera (a close second to “Porgy and Bess” for sure). Cameron Mackintosh, who has been the heart of this work for decades, has made sure that the sparkling new staging and stunning scenic design along with some extraordinary special effects only add to the overall beauty of the production. Directed by Lawrence O’conner with choreography by Scott Ambler, this large cast of players keeps the story intact, while making the production far more energetic than previous editions.
Based on the book, “Le Fantome de L’Opera by Gaston Leroux,” The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the floors of the Paris Opera House. The Phantom falls in love with a young soprano, Christine (Katie Travis has amazing range and is as graceful a Christine as I have ever seen). He devotes himself, because of his adoration for this young lady, to ensuring that she become a star. Not only by nurturing her talents, but by using all the magic in his arsenal. The Phantom in this production is played to perfection by Derrick Davis, who moves with grace, sings like these songs were written with him in mind, and brings a special emotion to the story and the love. I found myself with a tear in my eye at the conclusion of this masterpiece of character building. Bravo Mr. Davis and welcome to Chicago!
The ensemble is composed of over 50 performers. I believe this to be the largest road production of this production. They worked together like a well-oiled team, giving the audience a new look at a classic show with music that truly rings in your head even hours after leaving the theater. Some of these titles are: “Angel of Music,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Music of the Night,” “Stranger than you Dreamt It,” “All I Ask Of You,” “Masquerade,” “The Point Of No Return” and more. Just hearing these songs as they are performed in this sterling production makes for a special theatrical production. If you have never seen “Phantom,” this will be an adventure for you. If you have witnessed prior productions, you will find yourself enjoying some of the new aspects that have been added.
Some of the featured performers: Jordan Craig (Raoul, Christine’s love interest), Carlotta, the soprano she is destined to replace (Trista Moldovan), Monsieur Firmin (David Benoit) and Monsieur Andre (Price Waldman), the two men who take over the Opera House to start the story in gear (after the famous auction scene, with the intro of the chandelier), are priceless. The chandelier, by the way, is already hanging above the audience at the start covered, and when they uncover it, we see an amazing spectacle. In fact, the visuals in this new production are powerful and will hold one’s attention for the entire two hours and thirty minutes (with a 15-minute intermission).
By Alan Bresloff