Well Preserved Phantom Returns to Los Angeles
The Phantom of the Opera
book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber
music by Webber; lyrics by Charles Hart
directed by Harold Prince
choreography by Gillian Lynne
through October 31
I will say upfront that I have never been a great fan of Phantom. I have always found it hokey in part, even though it has pretty music and some dazzling effects. This touring production, I must admit, has held up fairly well after so many years, and the production is fresh and vibrant - more vibrant, with one major exception, than the production that I first saw in LA in the late eighties (1986-first performed in the UK).
Why do audiences love this show so much and why has it remained the longest running show in Broadway history? Its underdog. The Phantom of the Opera is a twisted, tortured, deformed soul with great artistry with whom we sympathize by play's finale. Tim Martin Gleason as the Phantom is magnificent in every way. His acting, his singing, his command of the role. He comes closest vocally to Davis Gaines who played the role for so many years in LA. Gleason reduced me to tears in the final scene, and thus, I now understand the impact that the show has been able to create with its die-hard patrons. We long to commiserate with someone lonely and alone and hope the same fate will never be ours to emulate.
I loved Dale Kristien in the original LA cast as Christine Daae. Her powerful soprano - she stills sings beautifully - made the role reverberate, and so I was disappointed with Trista Moldovan as Christine. She is beautiful and has a delicate voice, but, unfortunately it got downed out in many of Act I's big numbers. It wasn't until Act II that she started to come across with "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again". In the solos she vocally came to life. Kim Stengel is wonderful as Carlotta, and Nancy Hess Judith Anderson-in-Rebecca frightfully strong as Madame Giry. Sean MacLaughlin is less eager and heartfelt than he should be as Raoul. The rest of the ensemble is great. Chorus songs and dance all gleam!
I love the Labyrinth underground in Act I, Act II's "Masquerade", "The Point of No Return" and seeing the Phantom pop up here, there and everywhere around the theatre over the course of the three hours. Production values are lush: credit Maria B Jornson for production design.
Hokiness aside, I came to love this villain/hero more because of Tim Martin Gleason, and I recommend that you see him as well.