Monday, August 27, 2018

"Phantom” is Back With A Fire Shooting Chandelier And Plentiful Voices.

“Phantom of The Opera” had its World Premiere on Oct. 9, 1986 at Her Majesties Theatre in London (still running) winning every major British award including the Oliver and Standard Awards. The New York production opened on Jan. 26th 1988.

It won seven Tony’s including Best Musical. Internationally, its success has grossed over five billion (that’s a ‘B’) dollars and seen by over 2.5 million people around the world.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart wrote the music and lyrics respectively with additional music by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The story, based on the novel “Le Fantôme de L’ Opéra by Gaston Leroux, is a love story twisted as it may be and that’s the attraction.
Quentin Lee Oliver and Eva Tavares
The love triangle between Christine Daaé (Eva Tavares) a beautiful chorus girl turned ingénue in the new opera soon to be opening at the Paris Opera House, Raul, Vicomte de Chagny, (Jordan Craig) patron of the Opera House and the partially deformed half masked Phantom (Quentin Oliver Lee) make up the love triangle in this somewhat horror/love story. So it goes, one pulling at her the other enchanting her with his music.

The Phantom, deformed at birth, was sent as a child to be gawked at at freak shows. Somehow he escapes and now haunts the catacombs beneath the opera house terrorizing all its occupants. Smitten with this new young beauty, Christine, he fires the now star Carlotta Guidicelli (Trista Moldovan) of the upcoming opera for which they are rehearsing, insisting Christine be the star as he appeals to her  (“Angel of Music”) by taking her into the underground world he calls home.
Quintin Lee Oliver and Eva Tavares
When not trying to court (and I use the word cautiously) and nurturing Christine, the Phantom pretty much bullies the new owners of the Opera House Monsieur Firmin David Benoit) and Monsieur André (Rob Lindley) who are the perfectly clueless managers, to do his biding. He also has a way with anyone else he thinks isn’t worthy of performing there. That would include the resident diva Carlotta and her leading male Ubaldo Piangi’s (Phumzile Sojola).
Eva Tavares and Quentin Oliver Lee 
The Phantom spooks them often enough and in as many ways as to push them out of the limelight and replace Carlotta with is own protégée. In one scene Carlotta is in the middle of an aria and the backdrop falls almost hitting her. Blame is placed on the ‘Opera Ghost’. On balance, their little funny shticks are in fun contrast to the seriousness of the Phantom’s obsession with his newfound love.  It’s all so creepy but fun!
Eva Tavares and Jordan Craig
So sue me. I like Andrew Lloyd Webber. Some of his works at least. My patience wears thin with “Cats” even though I have an affinity for cats. It’s done too often.  In fact, before “Cats” the musical, I had cats (the four legged kind) that ran my house. I even have T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” somewhere in the house. That said, I think “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”, “Evita” and “Jesus Christ Super Star” have some of the cleverest lyrics ever. Some of the big showstoppers in these musicals are still (slobbery as they may be) lovely.

This new national tour passing through our fair city through the Sept 2nd is looking very healthy, thank you very much. Broadway/San Diego has brought this blockbuster back to us in what is billed as ‘a spectacular restaging by Cameron Mackintosh including a new chandelier that weighs 1 ton. Sitting under that weight would send shivers, but on with the show.
Trista Moldovan
The staircase at the top of Act II in the colorful, ‘Masquerade Ball’ has been replaced by a large overhead mirror reflecting the players dancing, in disguise, at the Grand Ballroom of the Opera House.

The chandelier in the Phantom's underground dwellings are replaced by lots of fire shooting up like firecrackers and the long unsteady staircase leading to his rooms replace the mist filled canoe ride through the labyrinths under the opera house, and Ubaldo rides in on a chariot rather than an elephant., little stuff like that. The good news is that the sound is fantastic as far as the music is concerned but still muffled when the actors are talking to each other.

Other subtleties that someone seeing the show for the first time will never miss, have been taken over by a massive revolving set that, most likely makes setting up and striking less labor intense.What remains is the music of Lloyd-Webber, the backbone of this “Music Of The Night”.
Kristie Dale Sanders
The opening sounds still sends chills up my spine when we hear Da-Da-Da- Da-Ta-Da… and the music box clinks to life when the monkey pops up and begins clapping his tiny cymbals the new and improved beaded chandelier that shimmy’s, shakes and shoots out fire streams and little plastic shards into the audience still reverberate.

With Quentin Lee Oliver as the overpowering all consuming Phantom ready to swoop down and pull Christine into the dungeons, there is no question of who is in charge here. Oliver has a beautiful and rich tenor voice n contrast to her long ago admirer Craig’s Raul with a fine baritone voice but often sounded nasal.

Both soprano’s Ms. Tavares and Ms. Maldovan sounded like angels (of music) both having an appealing presence and gorgeous voices. Madame Giri (Khristie Dale Sanders) the choreographer for the ballet girls has a rich Mezzo, and if we are counting, the women’s voices soar above and beyond Mick Porter’s sound design.    

Completing the pictures are Nina Dunn’s video and projection design on Paul Brown massive looking set, choreography by Scott Ambler with sure footed direction by Laurence Connor, Paul Constable’s lighting and Maria Bjornson’s masterful costumes and complete with Jamie John’s on target musical direction.

“Music Of The Night”, “All I ask Of You”,  “Wishing You Were “Somehow Here Again”… yup I do love that music for what it's worth. 

If you’ve not seen it, give it try, it is pretty spectacular looking!

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Sept. 2nd
Organization: Broadway San Diego
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1100 3rd and B Streets
Ticket Prices and show info:
Venue: San Diego Civic Theatre
Photo: Matthew Murphy


  1. Given that Ben was only 39 when he wrote this letter, he seems to have already amassed considerable mistress experience, getting an early start by fathering a son out of wedlock when he was 24. His presumably-long-suffering wife raised the child in her own home.
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