THE PHANTOM IS HERE
The well-loved “Phantom” doesn't disappoint as it returns to Orpheum Theatre
Hero image by Alastair Muir; feature and inset photo by Matthew Murphy
By Lianna Matt
Anyone remotely familiar with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” will look upon the covered, hanging chandelier in the Orpheum Theatre with a grin of anticipation. They know that once the show starts, the drab, abandoned and cob-webbed look of Paris’ fictional Opera Populaire will soon revert to the opulence and overproduction that was its heyday at the end of the 19th century. From Dec. 13-31, all of the spectacular set design, colorful costumes, unleashed passions and ethereal notes are back on Hennepin Avenue for three weeks, a special holiday treat for its theater goers.
For those who have come back to see “Phantom” for the umpteenth time—it hasn’t enjoyed a Broadway run of 30 years and counting and multiple national tours for nothing—there isn’t much to say except, “You get what you came for.” As for those who have escaped the clutches of high school drama and Gerard Butler’s singing in the film adaptation, I don’t particularly want to spoil it.
“Phantom” has “Beauty and the Beast” similarities, except instead of a cursed prince living in an isolated castle, we have a masked man secretly living in the underground lair of a fully functioning opera house, his presence an omniscient force that both terrorizes and critiques. From the shadows, he coaches the dancer Christine Daaé into a singing prima donna, but soon his obsessive love for her is threatened by the return of her childhood sweetheart, Raoul. If all goes according to the Phantom’s plan, he will showcase her singing to the world but keep her soul to himself, no matter who gets in the way.
On the opening week of “Phantom,” Derrick Davis sang the titular role with an unwavering voice, hitting all of the Phantom’s famous fanfares with the same emotion that has captivated audiences since the musical was written in 1984. Perhaps it is only because we know how high the Phantom can soar that his heartbroken moments make us fall with him, too. (Quentin Oliver Lee, who takes over for the role in the rest of performances, doubtlessly will perform it with similar star quality.) While Eva Tavares (Christine Daaé) and Jordan Craig (Raoul) are well cast, it is a shame that some of the songs featuring simultaneous parts and counter melodies cancel each other out in a blur of sound and microphone balancing.
Although Cameron Mackintosh’s productions have become more financially efficient over the years, “Phantom” doesn’t looked slimmed down in the slightest with a cast and orchestra of 52, period costume design by Maria Björnson and the jaw-dropping set design and effects by Paul Brown. Yes, “Phantom” has its critics who say that the spectacle is prioritized over the plot and that the musical themes can be tiring. However, when you look at the set and the climactic orchestrations alone, you can see just why people fall under the spell of “The Music of the Night” every time.