New PHANTOM to Dazzle Minneapolis with New Chandelier, Production
A spectacular new production of the venerable PHANTOM OF THE OPERA opened Wednesday night at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre including inventive new staging and a brand new star: the new chandelier.
After more than 25 years on Broadway, most theatre goers have probably seen PHANTOM once or twice (at least) between countless tours and the world record run on the Great White Way. But Minneapolitans should not overlook this production -- you have not been there, done that! This PHANTOM is all new with design and staging, taking audience members through more of the catacombs of the opera house and with more focus on the heroine, Christine, and the relationship with the Phantom.
Christine had recently lost her father, a fact that helps one to better understand how she could get wrapped up in the relationship with her teacher and benefactor, who is obsessed with her beauty and her talent and takes his plans further than even he may have realized when he began.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh and Matthew Bourne oversaw the revamped production, which is directed by Laurence Connor, who directed the 25th anniversary LES MISERABLES now in Toronto and headed for Broadway. Leading a new team that includes Choreographer Scott Ambler, Set Designer Paul Brown, Lighting Designer Paule Constable, Sound Designer Mick Potter and Musical Supervisor John Rigby, they changed much of what you see on stage except the original costumes designed by Maria Bjornson.
This premiere of the new national tour in Minneapolis features a stunning new chandelier (pictured here with Director Laurence Connor), a set piece that's really a character in the story itself. Orpheum patrons should prepare to be dazzled by this enormous, glittering object that happens to fit perfectly into the historic theatre space.
Connor assures that everyone will see a production with all the things you love about PHANTOM, including Webber's music, with the renewed verve of an all-new production starring Mark Campbell as The Phantom, Julia Udine as Christine Daae and Ben Jacoby as Raoul.
Post show thoughts
The new chandelier certainly was impressive, as were the pyrotechnics and the huge moving set. Most of all, the magical staircase that appears as the Phantom leads Christine down into the lair. That was a major "wow" moment for the show. The set was gorgeous, complex and for a theatre buff like me, a major reason not to miss a moment; watching the scenes change kept my interest to see what they'd do next. The complexity of the massive walls that moved, turned and changed into something else was not lost on me.
The fact that the opening night show had a few bugs technically was actually sort of endearing -- even a national touring production can have live theatre moments when the actors just have to keep going and ignore the fact that a wall was continually trying to close on them. The cast handled the challenges well; more than the audience did -- after the wall kept moving, unfortunatley attentions turned to that over the scene at hand and people quietly giggled as they waited to see what would happen next.
Campbell's Phantom sung the show brilliantly, and Christine, as played by Udine, was engaging, lovely and sweetly sung. Their moments together on stage rang true and the new take on Christine and the relationship was a welcome turn. As many times as I've seen PHANTOM, this production brought the character's struggles and complexities to life for me more than before. The tragic nature of their relationship is apparent throughout: she, a lost girl looking for a replacement for her father in a promise he left behind; he, damaged far beyond the physical, with a soul turned dark by losing out on a life he was cheated from. Campbell walks the fine line between compassion for his situation and the pure creepiness of his obsession with the object of his affection.
Jacoby's Raoul was very strong, manly and certainly appealing to look at, though the quality of his voice was not as well suited to the romantic "All I Ask of You." This song is normally my favorite but it felt a bit too hard-edged and the connection between the pair lost a bit of the tenderness it needed.
The orchestra was in top form and the soaring music almost sounded recorded (it was so good) that I had to look to the conductor rising just above the pit to be sure it was really played live.
Overall, the reasons to continue to go see this show are the same: The music, the spectacle and the music. The new staging, set and choreography were good changes for the most part, and the chandelier did not fail to impress. PHANTOM is still a winning show and will continue to to draw audiences regardless but updating the production gives regular theatre patrons another reason to see it again.
PHANTOM runs in Minneapolis Dec. 13, 2013, through Jan. 5, 2014, at Hennepin Theatre Trust's Orpheum Theatre at 910 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. Tickets and information available at www.hennepintheatretrust.org or call 612-339-7007 or 1-800-982-2787.
PHOTO: Director Laurence Connor is pictured with the chandelier in the new PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre during load-in for the opening of the new tour. Photo by Kristen Hirsch Montag.