The Phantom of the Opera still haunts Box 5 at Playhouse Square, as the “new” Cameron Mackintosh / Andrew Lloyd Webber production is back at the KeyBank State Theatre stage now through April 20, 2019.
Flashing the phrase “new” all over this quintessential piece of musical theater is not to be feared, as the beloved story, score, and original costume designs are untouched in the Lloyd Webber masterpiece.
Based on Gaston Leroux’s French novel, the story introduces up-and-comer Christine Daaé, a soprano in the opera house ballet. The tale is a whirlwind of romance, intrigue, and tragic obsession. As the dark force of a shadowy Opera Ghost takes hold of Christine’s career, a new suitor steps into her life. This ultimate fight for the young ingénue’s voice and affection leads the Opera company’s administration, staff, and performers into an explosion of musical madness that’s fed the hunger of ravenous audiences since 1986.
But “new?” It’s true that this production is exciting, and visually stunning, but not so “new” as to take away from anything audiences have come to know and love about this masterwork. Additional pyrotechnics are the most noticeable scenic element, with added explosions, fire, and poofs of light that play up the story. An all-new creative team has freshened up the scenic, lighting and sound elements of the show. This has allowed for advances in technology that weren’t available “back in the day” to add more nuance to the visuals and sound experience. The grand and sweeping production also still includes that infamous chandelier, with new twists in the execution of its ominous presence.
On the night of this review, the Phantom is played by Patrick Dunn. His portrayal of the disfigured genius is intense, and artfully sung. The Phantom is one we recognize – a skulking figure of talent and troubles, wounded by the cruelty of humanity throughout his fascinating yet unfortunate life. His notes in the higher ranges of “Music of the Night” soar and sweep, and Dunn’s overall performance is satisfying.
Christine is sparklingly played by Eva Tavares. Her joy flows through her songs, as her delivery is effortless and powerful. Her performance shows a mixture of curiosity, uncertainty and hope amidst the terrifying circumstances of being stalked by a mysterious music master. Her debut with “Think of Me” is beautifully vulnerable, and her version of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is heartbreaking.
The handsome Raoul is played by Jordan Craig on the night of the review. His vocals are strong, yet his portrayal is somewhat cocky. His beginning arc is full of interest, but there is a lack of warmth in the character that should solidify a new relationship with the character of Christine. Although the couple does come together at the end with passionate kissing, it’s hard to imagine these two “in love” through a lot of the show.
Carlotta is strikingly played by Baldwin-Wallace grad Trista Moldovan. Her performance’s poise and pomp are robust and delightful. Carlotta’s diva behavior is highlighted by Moldovan’s soaring voice that commands the space. Her “Think of Me” and Don Juan Triumphant presentations are full of energy and prima donna attitude.
Overall the production is stunning, with a giant morphing set creating worlds both above and below the ground. Candles, shadows, fog and disappearing stairs make the Phantom’s labyrinth a seductively gorgeous pit of fascination. The lights and rich colors give the opera house a decadent glow of luxury. The sculptures of gargoyles and angels provide a feeling of being watched in an ancient place.
The Phantom of the Opera is a gem of theater that’s been loved for decades, and will continue to be loved for many to come. This Tony Award winner runs at the KeyBank State Theatre now through April 20, 2019. Tickets are $40 – $129 and can be purchased by calling 216-241-6000, or visiting www.playhousesquare.org.
Run Time: 2 hours and 25 minutes, plus a 20 minute intermission.