Live Theater Review: The Phantom of the Opera
This Sunday, I once again took my girlfriend to the Pantages Theater for a live show. (The last time was in March to see Wicked.) Right now, they are playing The Phantom of the Opera, which is Broadway’s longest running show, and for good reason; it’s a marvelous production on every level. If you get the chance go see it, make sure you do.
I had seen Phantom on Broadway in the 1990s and loved it then, too. It’s a tragic, romantic story with excellent music and a creepy atmosphere. I’m not really going to compare the two performances, as they are similar. Instead, I’ll list for you the pros and cons of the show at the Pantages. Spoiler: It’s almost all “pros.”
This show is fantastic, almost every element is a positive. I’ll try to be specific to this show, but much praise needs to go to Andrew Lloyd Webber for the original inspiration and blueprint he laid out.
- The music. Of all the Broadway productions and live theater I’ve seen, and I’ve seen many, I think The Phantom of the Opera has the best music. The first act is almost entirely (original) hit songs. I especially like the song Angel of Music. It has a beautiful melody that’s somehow haunting at the same time. Of course, the title track has become a staple of pop culture. Good luck getting it out of your head. In this production, the orchestra, sound engineers, and actors all delivered flawlessly. I got literal chills during the scene when Christine first sees the Phantom in the mirror.
- The costumes. Since the story takes place in an opera house, it has to have “opera quality” costumes to make it believable. Not only are there 19th century French costumes for the dailies, but the show also employs costumes for a masquerade ball, ballerinas, a play about Hannibal, and a play about Rococo France. Even from afar, the audience can see the detail and care that went into crafting every single one. The wardrobe department, which is often overlooked, did a spectacular job and should win some kind of award. Bravo.
- The sets. From the moment we walked into the theater, we were transported to Phantom‘s creepy, Gothic world. The main set piece was particularly impressive; it was a large cylindrical room that rotated as needed. When closed, it served as the pathway leading to the Phantom’s lair. Stairs appeared and disappeared as necessary. A smaller room opened up at the base, serving as the opera’s offices. Inside, the Phantom’s lair revealed itself. The design of this set piece was brilliant. Other notable sets are Christine’s dressing room and the graveyard, but there really wasn’t a weak link.
- The special effects. Special effects are constantly improving, and I was very impressed with what they were able to pull off in a live theater setting. They used a fog machine to simulate the river to the Phantom’s lair, and you believed it. Also notable are the chandelier effects and the gunshots. They could have easily been hokey, but they came across as (almost) totally real. In another 10 years, they will probably look completely real.
It was very difficult to come up with any cons, but I was able to come up with two minor criticisms.
- We didn’t get to see the two leads. The understudies were excellent and I have no complaints about their performances. However, I would have liked to see the show with the intended casting. This is a very minor con and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the show at all, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
- The second half. This is a fault of the story, and not of the production. In my opinion, Act II is weaker than Act I. Act I has more build up, tighter pacing, and a more richly defined atmosphere. It also has stronger songs. I think the play suffers from the same flaw as any horror movie; the tension is immediately broken when you get to see the monster. Monsters are always more effective when the audience can project his own fears into the story.
The Phantom of the Opera is a modern classic. It’s creepy, romantic, disturbing, and sweet all at the same time. The music is my favorite element, but every piece comes together to make up an impressive whole. There really is something for everyone. If you get a chance to see it, make sure you do. It’s at the Pantages until August 2nd. It will be a night you won’t soon forget.
Story: ★★★★ of 5
Acting: ★★★★ of 5
Music: ★★★★★ of 5
Visuals: ★★★★★ of 5
Overall: ★★★★½ of 5
Live Theater Reviews
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