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Phantom of the Opera - And why I finally get it

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dmwnc1959
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This past Thursday, March 14th I attended the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in New York City at the Majestic Theatre. I had seen Cameron Mackintosh's spectacular new production back in Nov. 2017 at the stunning Academy of Music in Philadelphia, a fitting venue if there ever was one, as well as the 2004 movie with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossen. But I had never seen the original version on Broadway.

The closing of KINKY BOOTS forced my hand for an early return to NYC, and I had an open slot to fill for the matinee. So I figured what better time to see PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and several recent threads on this forum pushed me in that direction.

I showed up at the theatre for the 2pm matinee an hour beforehand, and there were three school groups of an estimated 200 kids in attendance (they were to be thankfully sitting up in the mezzanine). The outside line snaked down the block forever, luckily I was ahead of 2/3’s of those school groups.

They let people in around 1:15pm and initially directed everyone downstairs to the lower lobby where the bathrooms are located. It got very crowded, very quickly. Once the seating opened we were allowed into the orchestra section. I had seat I108. It was absolute perfection. Row I is the first row mid-orchestra that is seated higher than all the rows in front of it, so the view to the stage was 100% unobstructed even by the tops of people’s heads. And you don’t miss a single second of the chandelier drop. Pay the price and get this row. You won’t regret it.

Once the prologue started I was ready and all smiles. The music is legendary and gorgeous. Ben Crawford as the Phantom and Kaley Ann Voorhees as Christine were phenomenal. The rest of the cast were all very, very strong.

The only problem I had was that some of the singing, especially when done in high pitched operatic by the ladies, was difficult to understand despite having listened to the OBCR for over 1-1/2 years. The enunciation and/or diction were not great at times in Act 1. But the scenery and acting more than made up for it.

And that is why I finally get it. Why so many people, when comparing the Broadway version to the current National Tour, are for the most part very negative about the latter. When I saw the tour in Philadelphia back in Nov. 2017 I absolutely LOVED it. The staging, sets, and everything about it was breathtaking. I more or less got defensive when folks here talked bad about the tour, and recommended it to others, which I still do.

But the original version on Broadway is exponentially far more superior in every way. The stunning gold decoration covering the stage’s archway, the massive chandelier, and gorgeous vibrant red curtain were just the beginning.

The audience was, for the most part, totally enraptured during the entire Act 1. The Music of the Night brought me to tears, it was simply breathtaking to hear it from a master like Ben Crawford, as did All I Ask of You by Kaley Ann Voorhees. These songs are both truly magnificent.

When Act 2 came, and the curtain pulled back to reveal the Masquerade staircase, the ooohs, ahhhhs, and wows were more than audible. It was impressive beyond my wildest imagination. As was the subterranean lake boat ride to his secret lair. The massive candelabras that rise from the misty stage are quite impressive. I was sitting there quickly comparing what I had seen on the tour and what was now in front of my eyes. There is no comparison.

Act 2 was far easier to understand the singing. And the show got even better. The graveyard scene was sublime with Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. And when the Phantom appears from his hiding spot (which took EVERYONE off guard, including me, because I knew he was somewhere just NOT there!), it got the most amazing reaction from the crowd: a slight but audible laughter.

The staging of the ending, and the return of the ring, as with so many aspects of the show (descent to the lair, reading of the notes received from O.G., the massive lair gate, the masquerade party, Hannibal at the beginning of the show, the Opera rooftop, etc. etc) was of course all different from the tour as well. The costumes at the Majestic Theatre were fabulous and the details so obvious even from my seat.

Once the curtain call came and the standing ovation subsided at the direction of Ben Crawford, still wearing his mask, we were told of the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS campaign. I instantly knew I was going to buy the window card (I bought two of them), as I had already bought the souvenir program, magnet, and two of the beautiful pens. I also bought two of the regular unsigned window cards. The owner of Triton Gallery was surprised to see the version used for the unsigned ones, and commented they hadn’t been using that one in a while. I was glad I picked them up as well.

Overall an absolutely stunning and memorable performance that I will cherish for the rest of my life. But if someone only ever has the opportunity to see the tour, and will never make it to NYC, do so. I enjoyed it when I saw it in Philadelphia. The Broadway version is a timeless piece of Broadway. And that’s why it’s been there for 30 years.

Updated On: 3/16/19 at 05:54 PM
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BalconyClub
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Beautifully stated.
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What a wonderful review! Thank you. 

Phantom has always been one of my favorite shows, I love the fact that it's sung through and indeed, there is no comparison to the original. 

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I am so glad you got to see the the brilliant original production! I go back at least once a year to the Majestic to revisit Phantom as it is one of my favorite shows.

"There’s nothing quite like the power and the passion of Broadway music. "
Updated On: 3/17/19 at 08:54 AM
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Thank you for all the kind words. It’s impossible to relay in words how absolutely joyous it was to be able to watch these two shows - Phantom of the Opera and Kinky Boots.

It’s been a real privilege and honor to be able to go to NYC and to Broadway, twice last year and hopefully three times this year, and see these shows that so many people here talk about. The choices are overwhelming, and the opportunities so few and far between.

Maybe in 2020 I’ll also get to go back a few times, now that I have a handle on the MegaBus deal and can figure out the best dates to score TKTS bargains and availability. Not every show deserves or needs a front row or premium seat, and I’ll find that out in July.

As an old saying goes, He’s just happy to be there! And that’s me from head to toe. :)

Updated On: 3/17/19 at 09:42 AM
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My friend saw Phantom while I was at The Waverly Gallery when we we were together in NYC in January. She had seen a production (I believe in Canada) with her mom and the graveyard scene caused her to tear up as her mom passed away at a relatively young age when my friend was in her twenties. Her TKTS ticket placed her right under the chandelier and she said it was thrilling. I don’t regret seeing The Waverly Gallery that night as I needed to see it and it remains very high on my list of favorite theatrical experiences. I saw Phantom on tour maybe 10 years ago with my parents and was honestly a little underwhelmed by it. Despite my friend’s positive experience and others stating the tour just can’t compare to the Broadway version, I have yet to be tempted to try to see it on my NYC trips. Phantom (and Love Never Dies) actually both toured through here (OKC) recently and I skipped both. However, your review is making me think that a Thursday afternoon trip to Phantom may be in my future at some point when I’m in NYC.
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^ ^ ^ If you do ever go to see Phantom of the Opera, splurge and get Orchestra Row I middle seats. The view was unsurpassed. I went upstairs to the main aisle that runs between the Front Mezzanine and Rear Mezzanine to take a picture at intermission, and the overall view was wonderful. But I can’t imagine sitting too far from the stage, or too high up, and missing all of the action. The view from Orchestra Row I was simply remarkable.

Updated On: 3/17/19 at 10:08 AM
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Here some pictures that I took at the Majestic Theatre this past Thursday, March 14, 2019. I haven’t yet received my cast-signed window card being shipped from NYC yet, and I’ll post a separate picture of it when it comes it. There’s also a couple of pictures of some of the other souvenirs I bought.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/57377062@N04/albums/72157704096971912

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dmwnc1959
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Just got a surprise call from the owner of Triton Gallery, who happened to stop by his office today to get some things. He got my vm msg and gave me the tracking number for my UPS delivery coming Tuesday. So excited! Such a great place to do business with. :)
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I’m so glad Triton Gallery exists. After my January weekend trip to NYC with a friend, I ordered her an American Son window card and a The Waverly Gsllery window card for myself from their website. Their shipping and handling fees are expensive, but the pieces arrive in pristine condition. I honestly don’t where else I’d turn for window cards for show that don’t seek them at the theater or on-line. I’ve gotten two friends addicted to seeing shows and collecting window cards.
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I'm so glad you saw it on Broadway! Loved your photos! I've seen the production a few times (from rear mezz to left orch) and I think you sat in one of the best sections of the Majestic! 

I feel Phantom is pretty much a must-see for first time NYC visitors. A few years ago James Corden was the fop in the LA tour for one day and after watching that scene, I always pay attention in the Il Muto scene. hehe (beforehand I almost always forgot about that song!)

 

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dmwnc1959
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Very glad to get my window cards in today that I had purchased last week at the Majestic Theatre!!! :)

Phantom of the Opera - And why I finally get it

Updated On: 3/19/19 at 01:07 PM
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dmwnc1959 said: "When Act 2 came, and the curtain pulled back to reveal the Masquerade staircase, the ooohs, ahhhhs, and wows were more than audible. It was impressive beyond my wildest imagination. As was the subterranean lake boat ride to his secret lair. The massive candelabras that rise from the misty stage are quite impressive. I was sitting there quickly comparing what I had seen on the tour and what was now in front of my eyes. There is no comparison."

I'm so glad you got to experience this; seeing only the (current) touring production is truly a case of "you don't know what you're missing".

You also chose a great time to see the original, because Ben Crawford is simply phenomenal in the title role. If Michelle McConnell was still playing Carlotta, this cast would be as close to perfect as I can imagine.

============> this board is a nest of vipers <============

"Michael Riedel...The Perez Hilton of the New York Theatre scene"
- Craig Hepworth, What's On Stage
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I love the new windowcard with the world tour artwork so much more than the blue clouds they’ve been using. The new art is updated but a throwback to the original mask and rose which we haven’t seen in a while. I hope they update the marquee too.
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I didn’t want to start a new thread on this but I wondering if anyone knew about how much longer Ben will be in the show. It’s about a year now so I would think he would be leaving soon.
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Marway44 said: "I didn’t want to start a new thread on this but I wondering if anyone knew about how much longer Ben will be in the show. It’s about a year now so I would think he would be leaving soon."

I believe his contract is until October but he could always extend. He's mentioned it on some of his social media I think.

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I agree that Ben Crawford is phenomenal in the role!!! I hope to see Phantom again at some point later this year (most likely when a friend is visiting NYC for the first time.)

Stellasteve
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Thank you for your enthusiastic review, dmwnc1959.  I haven't seen the original production since 1997 when the Christine Company was in San Francisco, but I remember it fondly.  I took my daughter to see the tour last year and was so disappointed in it.  To be fair, I think the tour is fine on its own.  But if you've experienced the lush, original production, the tour feels like a letdown because so much of what was magical about the original is gone.  My daughter loved the tour, but when I told her about what was different she insisted she wants to see the Broadway production on our upcoming trip to NYC.  Consequently, we will be attending the Majestic April 8.  Your beautiful photos got us very excited to experience what you did.  That's quite a nice camera you have.

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labellaragazza1 said: "Marway44 said: "I didn’t want to start a new thread on this but I wondering if anyone knew about how much longer Ben will be in the show. It’s about a year now so I would think he would be leaving soon."

I believe his contract is until October but he could always extend. He's mentioned it on some of his social media I think.
"

I specifically asked him about this because I wanted to know if he would still be in the show this June (I'm planning to see it/him twice during my visit) and he did indeed say that his current contract will be up in October 2019. No word, however, on whether he is interested in extending.

============> this board is a nest of vipers <============

"Michael Riedel...The Perez Hilton of the New York Theatre scene"
- Craig Hepworth, What's On Stage
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Wonderful post and really enjoyed reading it. 

BroadwayinATL
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What a great review of a classic show! What makes Phantom so special is that it is just as fresh today as it was decades ago. I was a musical theatre nerd as a young boy from N.C. My parents knew this, and in 1991 at age 11, they took me up to see it, and I remember being blown away. Fast forward to 2014. I took my partner (who really just goes along with me to shows! lol) and it was EXACTLY as I remembered it two decades earlier. When the sheer curtain moves away to reveal the staircase in Masquerade, my partner mumbled "wow" under his breath!......the show just has that effect!

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Thank you to those who posted the information about how long Ben will be with the show.  I'm glad he should be there in May when I go back.

I also want to second the Masquerade comments.  I enjoy the "oohs and aahs" every time they pull the curtain back.  The mirrors on the tour did not have the same effect.  While the show does not seem dated or old to me the only thing I wish they could do was speed up the chandelier crash a little for dramatic effect, otherwise I do agree, it's a perfect show.  I love the way that they keep the stage polished, the actors fresh and just maintain the show after 30 years.  I think that's another reason it's run for so long too. 

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I've been a Phantom fan for quite awhile and have seen several tours. Never seen it at the Majestic.  I look forward to doing so in early April. This thread is making me glad I bought a ticket for this trip.

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I'm curious --- have any of you seen the show in London West End? I believe it's been there continuously since 1986 and am curious if there are any major differences between the West End production and Broadway. 

nfrjikgovf
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Wick3- yes it has been there since 1986. Very few differences, only a hardcore fan would pay attention. The costumes are Maria Bjornson's design, but look slightly different than the Broadway ones since they are made by a different workshop. Same with the wigs and makeup. When Christine faints in the Music of the Night in London, the Phantom catches her and lies her down in the boat, while on Broadway she just falls to the floor. There are slight blocking and choreography changes, but only something you would notice by obsessing over it. There are also some slight lyric changes (Carlotta singing in Italian, for example). It used to be that the "Wandering Child trio" was sung only in London, elsewhere the Phantom and Christine sung a duet during the graveyard scene without Raoul coming in until later, but now all three leads sing together during that scene (and I believe that goes for worldwide). You are seeing basically the same show, however I find the West End is a little more fresh because there is a cast change every year where at least a dozen people leave, while on Broadway some people have been there since the 1990s.

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