Reviewed by Katherine Damisch
The Phantom of the Opera is undoubtedly Broadway’s most iconic musical.That ultra-recognizable mask has become synonymous with the romanticism and glamor of classic musical theatre. In fact, it has run by far the longest, surpassing over 12,000 performances on the Great White Way and counting! With all this in mind, packing all of that spectacle and enchantment up and taking it on the road seems like a monumental task.
This tour passed that test beautifully. The sets, costumes, and special effects dazzled. They begged the question, “How in the world is this a tour? How does all of this get transported and translated to a different space every few weeks?” Every designer and stagehand involved is to be commended for excelling in this mammoth endeavor. The most eye-popping set piece was a central tower that rotated to reveal new locales, pushed stairs out from hidden panels, and broke apart to create a more open space. As for effects, I still do not know how they will accomplish things like making fire appear from under the floor once they move to the next theater. From every technical standpoint, this did not feel reduced for travel in any way.
Casting Derrick Davis as the Phantom in a race-blind move brought exponentially more depth to the role and plot. Not only did he act and sing the part beautifully in his resonant baritone, it created undertones of racism and prejudice rather than the characters only being horrified by his looks. Director Laurence Connor even used it to his advantage in his staging. During “The Point of No Return”, Christine thinks she is dueting with fellow opera singer Piangi when she is really performing with the Phantom. Connor added a turning point in the piece when the Phantom slips his hands over her eyes; once she notices his dark skin, she instantly realizes what is truly going on. Those new subtleties made this production truly unique.
One problem the action did have was the pacing. Both dramatically and musically, everything sped by too quickly. Tempos were too fast; moments that could have been delicate and poignant whisked by. Theatre-goers knows that Phantom is a long, operatic piece; they buy tickets knowing what they’re in for. However, trying to get the audience out in under 150 minutes does the piece, the performers, and the patrons a disservice. While most moments rang true, many were also lost, and in a piece with such passion, that is a shame. Still, on the whole, this production did what it was supposed to do: entrance and transport its listeners to a more mysterious version of our world.