The longest-running show in Broadway history is back in town, exciting news indeed for Phantom Of The Opera fans who’ve been waiting years for its return, particularly since this North American Tour’s fresh new scenic/lighting designs and choreography give this Phantom a look unlike any other.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation* of Gaston Leroux’s 1909 novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra may never make my list of favorite musicals (I can’t get all that involved in its improbable, overbaked storyline). Still, it’s easy to see why Phantom’s Broadway run has continued unstopped for the past twenty-seven-and-a-half years. (That’s over 11,000 performances so far!)
The Phantom Of The Opera is the closest a Broadway musical has ever gotten to grand opera, or will likely ever get, with music so glorious, you might think it’s Puccini you’re hearing when “The Music Of The Night” fills the Segerstrom Center For The Arts.
And talk about spectacle. The production now touring the U.S. is as spectacular-looking as touring productions get thanks to Paul Brown’s sumptuous new sets, Paule Constable’s dazzling new lighting, and Nina Dunn’s state-of-the-art new video and projection design. As for the late Maria Björnson’s original costumes, why mess with perfection?
This Phantom sounds gorgeous too, with music supervisor John Rigby, musical director/conductor Dale Rieling and his Broadway caliber fourteen-piece pit orchestra, orchestrations by David Cullen and Lloyd Webber, and Mick Potter’s crystal-clear sound design filling the Segerstrom with one exquisite Lloyd Webber melody after another.
“The Music Of The Night” may be Phantom’s Greatest Hit, but it’s far from the only song likely to ring a bell even among those like this reviewer who haven’t seen umpteen productions. “Think Of Me,” “Prima Donna,” “All I Ask Of You,” “Wishing You Were Somehow Hear Again,” “The Point Of No Return,” and the title song have all become Lloyd Webber classics over the past three decades.
And though The Phantom Of The Opera may not be widely thought of as a dancy show, choreographer Scott Ambler (of Matthew Bourne fame) not only has the corps de ballet of its Opéra Populaire up on their toe shoes more often than you’d think, Act Two opens with a memorably choreographed and performed “Masquerade.”
With Lawrence Connor confidently in the director’s chair (and Seth Sklar-Heyn serving as associate director for The Phantom of The Opera National Tour**), an all-around superb cast bring this Cameron Mackintosh presentation to vibrant life.
Le Fantôme himself may well have the least stage time of any title character lead in Broadway history, but Chris Mann makes the very most of his every Phantom moment, combining sublime vocals with abundant charisma.
Jacquelynne Fontaine hits spectacular high notes (and garners ample comic-relief laughs) as Carlotta Giudicelli, the prima donna to end all prima donnas, and she is ably supported by David Benoit (Monsieur Firmin), Edward Staudenmayer (Monsieur André), Anne Kanengeiser (Madame Giry), understudy Alexandra Pernice (Meg Giry), and a grand-operatically-piped Frank Viveros (Ubaldo Piangi).
Providing topnotch support at the performance reviewed were swing Adam Bashian (Auctioneer), Krista Buccellato (Princess), fight captain Nick Cartell (Policeman in Pit), David Foley, Jr. (Monsieur Reyer), Celia Hottenstein (Princess), Edward Juvier (Jeweler, Passarino), Freddie Kimmel (Hairdresser), Luke Lazzaro (Slave Master), Jay Lusteck (Monsieur LeFévre, Firechief), Kathryn McCreary (Wild Woman), Christy Morton (Wardrobe Mistress), Quinto Ott (Don Attilio), Rebecca Robbins (Madame Firmin, Confidante), Eric Ruiz (Porter), and Allan Snyder (Joseph Buquet), along with Corps de Ballet members Christina Dooling, Anjelica Bette Fellini, Abigail Mentzer, Lily Rose Peck, Pernice, and Micki Weiner.
Bashian, Dan Debenport, Sarah DeBiase, Amy Decker, associate dance captain Christopher M. Howard, dance captain Tara Sweeney, and Marguerite Willbanks are swings. Hottenstein performs the role of Christine at certain performances.
With The Phantom Of The Opera still going strong on New York’s Great White Way, it’s unlikely you’ll be seeing production rights granted to regional theaters any time in the foreseeable future, which means just one thing.
If you want to see Phantom in the USA, you have two options. You can fly to New York where it’s been playing nonstop since 1988 at Broadway’s Majestic Theatre, or you can drive down to Costa Mesa and see it as it has never been staged before.
Now that’s what I call a no-brainer.
Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.
August 7, 2015
Photos: Matthew Murphy, Alastair Muir
* Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart, additional Lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, book by Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber.
**Additional credits for The Phantom of The Opera National Tour: costume coordinator Christine Rowland, casting by Tara Rubin Casting and Merri Sugarman, CSA, associate choreographer Nina Goldman, musical supervisor James Lowe, and production stage manager Heather Chockley. Production overseen by Matthew Bourne & Cameron Mackintosh. A Cameron Mackintosh, The Really Useful Group and Networks presentation.