Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Revisiting Phantom

I saw The Phantom of The Opera way back in August, 2001 and I'm not ashamed to call myself a fan. I know that theater snobs look down on Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I love a good spectacle and I really enjoy the score for all its melodrama. Plus, at the heart of Phantom is a compelling story which has everything--romance, suspense, humor. I hadn't been back since because there are always new shows to see and I tend to forget about the long-running musicals, but my sister was visiting me and there aren't that many new shows in the middle of January, so we decided it was time to see how Phantom was holding up.

Not surprisingly, it wasn't sold out on a Monday night in the middle of January, but it was still pretty full, especially in the rear mezzanine. Also not surprisingly, most of the audience seemed to be tourists. I really loved listening to the excitement of the people around me, many of who had never seen a Broadway show before (though I could have done without so many camera flashes going off). Now that I go all the time, I miss when seeing a show was a treat that meant getting dressed up and that sense of wonder that came with sitting in a big Broadway theater.

The show begins at an auction and there are sheets covering many of the set pieces. The reveal of the chandelier and its rise to the ceiling during the first chords of "The Phantom of the Opera" was as thrilling a moment of theater as I remembered it to be. However, the fall of the chandelier at the end of act 1 was noticeably less impressive than I remembered. I couldn't help but think of this SNL skit. The cast was fine in Act 1, they were hitting the right notes, but it didn't grab me as it did the first time. George Lee Andrews (who has been in the show since it started) as Moinsieur Andre and David Cryer as Monsieur Firmin, the comic relief, were by far the highlights and the only ones who really seemed in the moment, rather than going through the motions.

I'm not sure what happened at intermission, but everyone seemed to pick up their game in act two. Susan Owen, who plays Christine a few nights a week, delivered a beautiful "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again." Jon Cudia as Phantom, Ryan Silverman as Raoul, and Owen came alive during "The Point of No Return," so the emotional impact of the ending was not lost. Phantom doesn't have shows on Sundays, so maybe they were just having a slow start getting back into the work week. All in all, I'm glad I gave the show another look, and now my memory is refreshed so I am ready for Love Never Dies.


Spencer said...

I've never seen it on Broadway! Once on tour, and one time in Vegas. I'm seeing it again in Vegas next month and I can't wait!

The Vegas version is so absolutely fantastic! It's shortened and full of spectacle. So great!

Great reading your review.

Esther said...

I've never seen Phantom of the Opera anywhere but I will at some point so I can realize my goal of seeing a show in every Broadway theater. Good to know it's still holding strong!

Linda said...

Spencer, I'm very curious about the Vegas version--what did they cut out?

Esther, I definitely think you should see Phantom at some point. I think you'll be glad you saw it, even if you don't end up loving it. Maybe you can wait until Love Never Dies comes out and make it a double feature.

Kat said...

I'm not a huge Phantom fan, but I do really like a lot of ALW shows--I was obsessed with CATS and JCS before I knew what theatre was--so I always love reading favorable opinions about his work. People can have their own opinions about the quality of his shows, but any show that runs for over a decade HAS to reach a lot of people in a pretty deep way, even if a lot of hardcore theatre fans (myself included) don't understand why.

Jesse North said...

You are so right on with this post! I had forgotten just how many great elements the story had. And yes, when the curtain came off the chandelier and it rose up to the overture, I had goosebumps. It was a great moment to have again, really. (Even if it coming down at the end of Act I wasn't as exciting. Have Jerry Bruckheimer movies ruined us?)