The Phantom is back at Broadway San Diego and he’s brought his famous, if slightly ominous chandelier with him! Playing through September 3rd this Cameron Mackintosh re-staging of the popular musical brings a new focus, energy, and even more spectacle to this popular tale.
The Phantom (Quentin Oliver Lee) is a mysterious genius, but due to his disfigurement lives in a subterranean dwelling (down the stairs, through the maze, and across the underground lake) of the Paris Opera Populaire. His haunting of the theatre is both figurative and literal as he causes mischiefs and some close calls to make his feelings clear to the theatre management.
In love, and a mysterious mentor to the young soprano Christine Daaé (Eva Tavares), the Phantom quickly turns obsessive about convincing the new owners of the opera house to replace Carlotta (Trista Moldovan) their current star with Christine, while also gaining Christine’s eternal love. Christine is in love with Raoul (Jordan Craig), a young and handsome aristocrat, but finds her “Angel of Music” mentor won’t let her go that easily.
This audience favorite gets some nice updates with sound design by Mick Potter, who helps the Phantom’s pleas and whispers come from multiple areas in the theatre. The set design by Paul Brown plays with height using a rotating tower that opens up to an underground canal and the Phantom’s hidden lair. Like a jewel box with hidden compartments the tower opens to reveal offices, backstage areas, and more. Projections are nicely used, and the addition of some pyrotechnics adds to the sense of drama.
Gorgeous and lush costumes by Maria Björnson help this cast of singers, ballerinas, producers, and aristocrats come to life. Though no costume can rival the dazzling showstopper that is the glittering chandelier; even the mention of it at the top of the show gets applause.
Lee as the Phantom has a rich and powerful voice, though his Phantom is not the softly hypnotic and seductive angel of music of the past, and he seems all the more dangerous for it.
Tavares has a lovely voice in the challenging part of Christine who is rarely off stage for long. Craig has the mandatory romantic voice and charisma as Raoul to win her over.
Moldovan has a fantastic voice (so many high notes!) and the comedic chops to make the diva Carlotta shine. She’s put up with five years of these mysterious “accidents”, held on to her job and her voice in a demanding occupation, her popularity is still strong, and she’s expected to just step aside for this chorus girl to become a star? How dare the Phantom be so presumptuous, this isn’t 42nd STREET, this is the Paris Opera Populaire!
The new theatre owners Monsieur Firmin (David Benoit) and Monsieur André (Rob Lindley) bring some fun comedy to their roles, especially in their exasperation with all of the notes the Phantom mails with his criticisms and directions. (Although, I can relate to the Phantom’s dedication of being so opinionated about theatre that he simply HAS to start writing it down and telling everyone.)
This popular show has run for 32 years, and will probably run for 32 more; clearly people love it. Yet I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the plot, based on the French novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, and the music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, can end up feeling melodramatic, bombastic, and lacking in nuance.
“Love me, that’s all I ask of you“, are oft repeated lyrics in this show. If you are a fan of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA then you will love this show and find this request easy to fulfill. If you’re not, the new staging, sets, and choreography will not be enough to change your mind.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre through September 9th. For ticket and show information go to www.broadwaysd.com