Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I had a chance to see the US touring production of The Phantom of the Opera, and it was so incredible that I had to share everything with you. So strap yourselves in for a wild ride through the new production of the classic musical, a ride that brings the story to a whole new level.
First of all, I have to mention the brand-new set. Pretty much everything was contained in a rotating set; whenever they needed to change the scene, they would spin the set around and open another section of the drum’s wall. They even used the outside of the drum as the backdrop for the journey to the lair by attaching stairs to the wall. The stairs looked awfully rickety, though, and I was glad that I wasn’t the one walking on them. The lair itself was a bit smaller due to the decreased stage size, but color scheme of dark blues and purples had the coolest effect ever.
The chandelier was awe-inspiring, and I can safely say that the overture is about a thousand times more epic in person than any mere recording. Oh, and in case you’ve read any reports that they don’t drop the chandelier at the end of Act I anymore–it’s a lie. They do drop it, and it’s one of the most spectacular sights you’ll ever see. Just make sure than when you buy tickets, you don’t sit too close to the stage because you could end up sitting underneath the chandelier when it falls–unless you enjoy being scared to death.
When it came to the singing and acting, it was clear that all the cast members were enjoying themselves immensely. From the Phantom himself to the most minor of characters, everyone gave an outstanding performance. Though he was young, Cooper Grodin did a spectacular job in the title role; give his voice a few more years to mature, and he’ll truly be a force to be reckoned with. His performance was a bit reminiscent of Ramin Karimloo’s from the 25th anniversary in some spots (some of his pronunciations, how he would hold notes), yet he was still his own Phantom.
I’m a little less enthusiastic about Julia Udine’s Christine. Don’t get me wrong; she had a great voice, but…well…she sounded a bit too much like a pop singer for my tastes. It was annoying. Also, she didn’t quite hit the high E at the end of the title song; although she did well with the other vocalizations in the song, that one all-important note sounded more like shrieking than singing. Still, I give her props for singing it live–and I suppose it’s a bit more realistic, too, because how many people really can hit that note? The fact that she didn’t quite hit it does serve as an interesting insight to the superhuman standards to which the Phantom holds his student. Her other songs she nailed (apart from the annoying pop sound in her voice).
Ben Jacoby had a surprisingly strong voice for Raoul, and it was actually pretty similar to Cooper Grodin’s. This similarity made “Wandering Child” especially epic. Other than that, there’s not much to tell about him–he was solid and performed his role well, and he probably enjoyed getting to punch the Phantom in the restaged “Bravo, Monsieur!”. No, really, Raoul punches the Phantom in this one. I don’t know why that amuses me so much, but it does.
Perhaps the star who stood out the most was Jacquelynne Fontaine as Carlotta. Oh, my goodness, has that woman got a set of pipes. She outperformed Christine (I feel very treasonous for saying that, but it’s true), and I couldn’t help but think, “Why is everyone hating on Carlotta; she’s got a great voice!” The same was true for all of the others, amazing actors and singers of incredible caliber. There were no fops or fools in this production.
As great as it was, however, it wasn’t perfect. There were a few…confusing staging decisions. For instance, why during “Music of the Night” does the Phantom blindfold Christine and then proceed to dance with her? Why do they dance again during “The Point of No Return”? Why does Christine dance on the table in the same scene? Why did there have to be dance numbers in those songs at all? Well, perhaps they weren’t strictly dance numbers, but just those little interludes were making me go, “Eh…what?” Another thing that raised my eyebrows was they didn’t have Christine pull off the Phantom’s mask during “I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It”; he had taken it off himself for a moment, and Christine tried to turn him around so she could see his face. And speaking of faces–or rather heads–I missed the Phantom’s hats. They showed his shadows wearing a hat, but there were no hats in his actual scenes, not even the Feathered Hat of Awesomeness. Also, for some reason the cloak the Phantom wears in “Point of No Return” made him look like a Nazgul. I never really noticed it before, but he had a whole Witch King of Angmar vibe this time. Maybe it was just me. Another big change is the lack of a wedding veil for Christine. Normally she throws it down and yells at him; this time she took his music and threw it at him. And it was the music he cradled at the end and not the veil. And speaking of the end–well, his new disappearing act is pretty cool.
All in all, it was amazing. The lights, the music, the sets–everything was on fire. One of the cool bits was the part where they lock down the opera house–there was one part where the Phantom sounded as though he was right behind me. Also, after the show I had a chance to meet Frank Viveros, the actor who played Piangi, an extremely nice man. For my first time seeing Phantom live, it was the best experience ever.