BWW Reviews: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Returns to Columbus
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical about the ghostly guest who resides in Box 5 of the Paris Opera House, makes its return to Columbus after a nearly four year absence and it spends a two sets at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street in downtown Columbus).
In an interview with the Financial Times, Cameron Mackintosh, the producer of PHANTOM, states that he wouldn't venture to put out a subpar version of the show "unless it's as good as what people have read about, with the same lighting and the same sound." After seeing the Jan. 5 performance, I believe Mackintosh lived up to his promise. Though I was seeing the show for the fourth time, a delightful new cast and the additions to the show make this version standout from the one I saw in 2014.
Tavares emerges from a shy chorus girl to a confident ingénue in her opening notes of Think of Me, the show's opening number. Tavares conveys the conflict being torn between her love for Raoul, a boy from her past who re-enters her life, and her loyalty to the Phantom, who has given her everything he has to give to make her a star.
Raoul also undergoes a transformation from a brash and arrogant wooer who can't understand why Christine drop everything to go out with him to a sympathetic fiancée who follows her wishes even though he doesn't always understand them.
Lee's powerful voice is matched by a slew of special effects. One of the nice touches to this year's installment of the show involves the sound board. While the Phantom is singing off stage, his voice appears to be moving through the theater. At times, he seems to be singing in the back of the house or from the balcony.
The highlight of the show was the performances of David Benoit and Edward Staudenmayer as Monsieur Firmin and Andre', who buy the theatre and are determined to soldier through whatever difficulties the phantom brings their way. Without their comic relief, the show would become a tedious melodrama.
In addition to outstanding casting, PHANTOM often relies on spectacle and magic to bring the show to life. Some have survived the test of time. Even though most of the audience knew it was coming, the crashing of the chandelier at the end of Act I remains one of the best special effects out there.
There were some misfires. At times, there seemed to be a two-second delay on the Phantom's theatrical gestures and the fireworks on stage and his gondolier ride with Christine at the bottom of the theatre looked about as believable as the PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN ride at Disney World. However the addition of the disappearing, winding staircase restored some of the show's mystique.
Flaws aside, THE PHANTOM is one of those shows one can see over and over again and still appreciate its beauty. Whether you are seeing the show for the first time or the 18th time, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is always a breathtaking experience.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will be performed through Jan. 14 at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street in downtown Columbus) with 6:30 p.m. performances on Jan. 7 and 14; 7:30 performances Jan. 4, 9, 10 and 11; and 8 p.m.