The Phantom of the Opera has become one of the classic musicals. It is Broadway’s longest-running musical. The show is celebrating its 30th anniversary. One that fans around the world have enjoyed though precious few will admit to liking. Such is the hazard of an Andrew Lloyd Webber penned musical. Phantom along with Cats is not heavy on the cool factor. Many have dismissed it as a result. That might be the reason that the latest touring version of the musical has taken on a a darker tone. The romance with small doses of comedy are still there in all their over-the-top glory.
It has been roughly 25 years since The Phantom of the Opera has come through Montreal. The time for it to return was overdue. Especially when it is a production of this calibre. The entire thing is run by the more than capable Laurence Connor, the man who staged the recent updated Broadway version of Les Miserables.
Underneath an opera house in Paris in the late 19th century there lives a man (Adryan Moorefield) who has made everyone’s life associated with it a living hell. The one silver lining is that as a result of his terrorizing they have discovered a new star, Christine Daae (Eva Tavares). Her voice has mesmerized everyone and brought ticket buyers back to the opera. New owners Monsieur Firmin (David Benoit) and Monsieur Andre (Edward Staudenmayer) are ecstatic as the shows are sold out.
That is the good part, the bad is that the Phantom of the Opera (as he is dubbed) has quite the temper. So much so that it has resulted in a death and the threat of more if his instructions are not followed to the letter. The root of all this evil is the way this disfigured man has been treated all his life and that he has fallen in love with Christine. As a result he will go to any length to ensure the success of her career on the stage. Anyone, including her love Raoul (Jordan Craig), who gets in the way is in mortal danger.
One of the first musicals that I had the chance to see as a younger person was The Phantom of the Opera. As soon as I saw it I was won over. Musicals have been my thing ever since. I hold a special place in my heart for the Andrew Lloyd Webber show. The music is great and its variation on the whole Beauty and the Beast story with a dash of murder thrown in for good measure.
The only downside of the entire production for me was the lack of vim and vigor amidst the Christine-Raoul-Phantom triangle. There is precious little chemistry between any members of the trio. Sexual tension between Christine and the men is an important part of the show. It suffers a little due to this hole.
A lot of this version of The Phantom is quite modern with several updates. A big star of this production is the set design. It is big and elaborate. Just like the show, now that I think of it. Impressive and quickly changeable. The most impressive addition is a large cylindrical wall which swivels, opens and expands to reveal the Monsieurs’ office. Other more high tech things have been added on that were not possible 25 years ago including pyrotechnics, fire, gunfire, and even smoke and mirrors. As a warning, be prepared for some blasts of heat and loud gunshots. Plus the fight scenes and hangings are more intense and gruesome which fits into the whole darker tone of the production.
Things that, thankfully, remained constant are the marvellous costumes of the departed Tony Award winning Maria Bjornson. They are marvellous and eye catching. And of course, that incredible chandelier still has a part to play.
All this glitz and glamour makes it feel like you are seeing it on Broadway rather than a toned down travelling show. The opulent and grand nature of the set, effects and costumes matches the largesse of the story and music.
What really makes the show is the music and it requires plenty of its vocalists. The three leads were up to the task. Despite the fact that the show I saw featured the understudy in the role of the Phantom Moorefield was more than up to the task with his rich voice. Even the supporting cast, most notably Trista Moldovan as Carlotta and as Madame Giry, adds to the overall spectacle. The voices along with those chills-inducing organ notes leaves quite an impression.