REVAMPED “PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” GAINS REALISM BUT LOSES PASSION

Recommended: Theatre In Chicago Review Round up

Reviewed by: Justin Williams

The life of The Phantom of the Opera is proof that music is the link between cultures, the universal language.  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera opened last night at the Cadillac Palace Theatre to a dazzled full house, bringing the much loved and longest running Broadway musical back to Chicago.

Based on the classic French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, it tells the story of a young soprano, Christine Daaé, and the tortured masked soul who lives beyond the catacombs of the Paris Opera House. The Phantom falls deeply in love with Christine and devotes his time to molding a new star out of her by implementing every tool at his disposal.

Opening on the West End in 1986 and Broadway in 1988 The Phantom of the Opera has become the longest running Broadway musical and the second longest running musical on the West End, behind Les Miserables . The original cast of both the West End and Broadway were led by Michael Crawford (Phantom), Sarah Brightman (Christine), and Steve Barton (Raoul).) Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year Phantom of the Opera has been seen by over 130 million people in 145 different cities across 27 countries, a truly incredible feat.  Cameron Mackintosh’s original production continues playing to sold out houses at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway and many other cities world-wide.

Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera has been filled with a few “upgrades” such as a new revamped chandelier and a multi-form cylindrical moving central piece.

Having seen the original Broadway production and fell captive to the breathtaking power that production has, I felt disappointed with the opening and the use of the “new” chandelier. For those that have seen either of the original productions or one of the original tours, you know how intoxicating that moment of reveal for the chandelier and its journey back to its place above the audience is. This fell very short of that for me. The newly designed set by Paul Brown is absolutely brilliant! Brown managed to make a lot of those breath stealing moments from the original productions appear in this one, but in completely new ways.

One thing severely lacked in this production for me, passion. Passion is a central point in this story, without it the Phantom becomes more of an obsessive, imbalanced, masked man. I felt that if I didn’t know the show before, I would have not been rooting so hard for the Phantom. Likewise for Raoul, I never felt the return of those feelings from their days in “the attic”.

Katie Travis makes a delightful Christine with beautiful soprano voice that is supported with a nice blend between classical and contemporary musical theatre technique.

Derrick Davis has such a commanding voice and presence. As mentioned previously the only thing missing from his performance was passion. Davis’s performance has some wonderful moments throughout.

Trista Moldavon turns in a knockout performance as Diva Carlotta Giudicelli. She has an absolutely stunning voice. Phumzile Sojola is the perfect counterpart to Moldavon’s Carlotta as Ubaldo Piangi. David Benoit and Price Waldman are hilarious together as the new owners of the Opera House; they delight any time they are on stage. Anne Kanengesiser commands the stage every second she is on it as the mysterious Madame Giry.

Overall, the entire company is remarkable vocally; clarity was the best of any touring musical I have seen. Kudos for that! Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera is proof that some shows age well, 30 years and still going strong. You have until January 8, 2017 to see Phantom of the Opera at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago. Visit BroadwayInChicago.com for tickets and more information.