REVIEW: Phantom Bedazzles Broward

Wow! It is rough to type this review because my hands are so sore from clapping. How will I get to sleep tonight? Thoughts of joy, greatness, grandeur and theatrical nirvana are "inside my mind." As surely at the Phantom takes hypnotic control of the young soprano Christine, Harold Prince's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera will leave you mesmerized, with glorious goose bumps encasing your skin.

Be aware, this is NOT your grandfather's "The Phantom of the Opera." There is no horror show here. This Phantom is a thrill ride of romance and soaring melodies.   

There has never before been a Broadway musical that reaches the romantic heights of The Phantom of the Opera. Phantom is and likely will be forever, the "Gone With The Wind" of musicals.

At its very core, this Phantom is a "backstage" musical. The disfigured, isolated, lonely genius lives beneath the Paris opera house. The beauty of Christine's singing voice leads the Phantom into becoming the ingénue's "angel of music." The Phantom seemingly hypnotizes Christine and certainly the audience as he brings her to his underground lair. Here he trains the novice soprano, bringing her voice to full glory; helping the Phantom make the "Music of the Night." The Phantom sings of Raoul, "He was bound to love you, once he heard you sing." Alas, this is also the fate of the title character.

In the world of daylight, Christine has indeed fallen in love with dashing Raoul. It becomes Raoul's mission to rescue his abducted love from the Phantom's world of darkness.

Along the way, we encounter the most amazing razzle dazzle the theater has given us since Michael Bennett's Dreamgirls. You do NOT want to miss the first five minutes of Phantom. The combination of chilling music, lush orchestrations and Prince's wizardry will be breathtaking and jolting to even the most jaded of theatergoers.

In addition to being the ultimate romantic musical, Phantom is a love letter to and celebration of the world of performing arts. Full of trap doors, sandbags, catwalks and scenes shown from the perspective of those onstage or backstage, Harold Prince shares his love for the glory and greasepaint of the behind the scenes theatrical world. Thanks for sharing your love Mr. Prince. Your work here is simply glorious.

Comic relief is provided by the opera house's two new proprietors, delightfully played by David Cryer and D.C. Anderson. Fear not, this comic relief is not a distraction. It enhances this theatrical thrill ride as surely as Mr. Webber's masterful melodies will swell your heart and haunt your mind long after the final bow of Phantom.

There is not a weak link in this fabulous production with its fabuloulously sense assaulting sets and costumes by Maria B. Jornson and enchanting lighting by Andrew W. Bridge.

Marie Danvers is a sumptuous voiced Christine. She brings a lovely touch of warmth and humor, especially in her scenes with the excellent John Cudia as Raoul.

Kim Stengel's biography says that she holds the world's record for playing Carlotta, over 3,500 performances in Phantom and counting. Ms. Stengel should be the only woman ever allowed to play the part of Carlotta in Mr. Prince's Production of Mr. Webber's musical. She is magnificent.

Gary Mauer as the Phantom of the Opera, blew me away. This was my forth Phantom. I have never before seen or heard the Phantom played with the command, passion and heartbreak that Mr. Mauer delivers here. His performance tonight of "Music of the Night" was one I will never forget. It was one of those moments that theater lovers dream they will encounter, but most often, never do. The spectacular voiced Mr. Mauer gives a shattering performance as the deformed pitiful and solitary ghoul. Bravo!

On Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera will soon become the longest running show in history. You can see why at the Broward Center through Saturday, October 29.

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