Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Preview: The Touring Production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is 'Worth the Schlep' from the Coachella Valley and Inland Empire

BWW Preview: The Touring Production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is 'Worth the Schlep' from the Coachella Valley and Inland Empire
Derrick Davis and Eva Tavares as
the Phantom and Christine.

Occasionally, Broadway World's Palm Springs page publishes reviews of productions playing closer to Los Angeles or San Diego than local theatregoers would ordinarily venture. Informally titled "worth the schlep," these reviews have generally focused on THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (POTO), in various incarnations.

POTO's current national touring production is about to land in the Los Angeles area, possibly for the last time. It will play at the Hollywood Pantages Theater from June 6thto July 7th, and at the Segerstrom Center from July 10thto July 21st. The production is not a clone of the Broadway-West End version, although it uses most of the costumes. It is darker and grittier, which audiences who prefer the horror aspects to the love story will probably appreciate.

BWW Preview: The Touring Production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is 'Worth the Schlep' from the Coachella Valley and Inland Empire
Christine sees the Phantom in the mirror.

A previous touring Phantom, the fabulous Derrick Davis, whom I saw perform the part at the Smith Center in Las Vegas two years ago, has resumed the role. I may be viewing his performance through the lens of someone who got to meet Mr. Davis, and found out that he is a truly nice guy, but I see him as a kinder, gentler Phantom than some of the others who have played the Phantom on the tour. This apparently runs counter to the opinions of some who have spoken to associate director Seth Sklar-Heyn, who told me during Mr. Davis's previous stint with the tour that most people view Mr. Davis's Phantom as a cold, frightening individual.

Regardless of whether Mr. Davis's Phantom is deliberately cruel or merely uncaring, the production, as I alluded to earlier, is darker than the original, both literally and figuratively. The lighting is dim, making clear that the Phantom lives his life in a cold, depressing lair that cannot reasonably be deemed a home. As the lights come up for the final lair scene, we hear Christine scream, "No! No! No!" implying that she believes that the Phantom is about to rape her, whether or not that is the case, and at one point he throws her on the bed. The Phantom's actions are in stark contrast to the original version, where he can barely bring himself to touch Christine when she "chooses" him over Raoul.

BWW Preview: The Touring Production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is 'Worth the Schlep' from the Coachella Valley and Inland Empire
Masquerade (with an earlier cast)

The sets differ significantly from the originals, but they are equally stunning, although I do not agree with the decision to eliminate the grand staircase. The actual Paris Opera House has a staircase, featured in both the original Lon Chaney movie and the 2004 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, starring Gerard Butler; it's hard to think of POTO without it. Nonetheless, designer Paul Brown manages to create a breathtaking "Masquerade" scene. The famous travellator, which functions as a giant seesaw to simulate descending into the fifth cellar, where the Phantom lives, is also gone, replaced by an extraordinary tower with steps that move in and out as the performers descend. The tower also doubles as the catwalks where the opera crew works. The tower's high tech operation and imaginative appearance make for an exciting title number.

BWW Preview: The Touring Production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is 'Worth the Schlep' from the Coachella Valley and Inland Empire
Raoul (Jordan Craig) and Christine

The chandelier descends towards the audience at high speed and, at some performances, spews forth confetti and pieces of plastic to simulate flying glass. Even though it doesn't crash onto the stage, instead moving vertically and occasionally blinking ominously, it will undoubtedly terrify those seated nearby. I still scream, after having seen the tour five times. The change in the chandelier's operation - it is already raised at the beginning of the show - allows for a new scene at the beginning. Since the auction occurs in a flashback, this time with Raoul able to walk and Madame Giry in a wheelchair, the chandelier's opening position allows additional action on the stage instead of the audience's merely watching the chandelier rise. Raoul sees the opera house stage crew bustling back and forth in his mind as he thinks about the memories that the auction and his purchase of the music box have reawakened.

Although there are a few minor changes in the music, such as slightly different tempos and some lyrics that have been rewritten, these are unimportant - the music soars, and Mr. Davis's voice does it full justice, as does Eva Tavares's performance as Christine.

BWW Preview: The Touring Production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is 'Worth the Schlep' from the Coachella Valley and Inland Empire
Trista Moldovan (a Broadway Christine) as Carlotta

There is one tantalizing piece at the very end of the show that leaves people so intrigued that the performers apparently have a secrecy clause written into their contracts. (They are allowed to say that the trick is not done with a trap door). In the original version, the Phantom sits down in his chair, folds his cape around him, and disappears, leaving his mask for Meg to find. It's not hard to figure out that the chair is hollow. Here, however, the Phantom disappears from the middle of the room. I think I may finally have determined just how the trick is done, but I'm not certain.

Anyone who loves THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA needs to see this production, both to enjoy the familiar and to explore the new. The point is not to compare the two, but to view an old friend from a different perspective. If you've never seen THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, what are you waiting for? It's been running in London for 33 years and in New York for 31. Here's your chance to immerse yourself in the music of the night a few hours' drive from home.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy; Alistair Muir

[NOTE: The writer has substituted photos of the current cast for the ones originally used in this story.]



Review: The West Coast Premiere of KILL THE EDITOR is Humorous, Serious, and Thought-Provo Photo
Desert Ensemble Theatre is presenting the Southern California premiere of Aren Haun's comedic drama, KILL THE EDITOR. As is usual with DET, the directing, performances, and technical aspects of the production are top-notch. What lowers the presentation from a 'must see' to a B or B+ is that, in my opinion, the script has some flaws.

Winners Announced For The 2022 BroadwayWorld Palm Springs Awards Photo
The winners have been announced for the 2022 BroadwayWorld Palm Springs Awards, honoring the best in regional productions, touring shows, and more which had their first performance between October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022.

Hollywood Comes To Palm Springs For UNSUNG MIDLER Photo
Popular (and most times infamous) podcaster, journalist, on-air personality, and former Palm Springs Pride Media Grand Marshal Alexander Rodriguez returns to the stage after a five-year absence (thanks to procrastination and COVID) for an irreverent night of storytelling and song with Unsung Midler, celebrating the great, lesser-known hits of the Divine Miss M from The Rose, For the Boys, and Beaches to her numerous albums and covers.

Fundraisers To Be Held In Honor of Cabaret Producer/Singer Les Michaels Photo
Les Michaels, a cabaret producer and singer in Palm Springs and Los Angeles who presented an ongoing popular Open Mic Cabaret Series at the Arthur Newman Theatre at the Joslyn Center in Palm Desert for many years, passed away unexpectedly on November 3, 2022 of a heart attack. Les Michaels is survived by his husband, Rick Valencia.


From This Author - Audrey Liebross


Review: The West Coast Premiere of KILL THE EDITOR is Humorous, Serious, and Thought-ProvokingReview: The West Coast Premiere of KILL THE EDITOR is Humorous, Serious, and Thought-Provoking
January 30, 2023

Desert Ensemble Theatre is presenting the Southern California premiere of Aren Haun's comedic drama, KILL THE EDITOR. As is usual with DET, the directing, performances, and technical aspects of the production are top-notch. What lowers the presentation from a 'must see' to a B or B+ is that, in my opinion, the script has some flaws.

Review: NUNSENSE A-MEN! at Desert Theatreworks is Heavenly (or maybe Hellacious) FunReview: NUNSENSE A-MEN! at Desert Theatreworks is Heavenly (or maybe Hellacious) Fun
January 17, 2023

If you’ve seen the original NUNSENSE, which consists of hilariously stupid (stupidly hilarious?) jokes and songs, you’ve seen NUNSENSE A-MEN! — same book and lyrics, same music, and same characters, but with a twist: The cast is entirely made up of men. DTW’s performers play their roles STRAIGHT rather than as if they were part of a drag show; if they wore stage makeup at all, they applied it with a light touch. Their earnestness adds to the hilarity, for example when rubber-faced, diminutive Raul Valenzuela glares at Charles Harvey’s Mother Superior, and the tall Mother Superior glares back. The even more diminutive Larry Martin, playing postulant Mary Leo, is a dentist in real life; he performs an excellent ballet routine. DTW veterans Mark Demry and Michael Hamlin round out the cast. They, too, are DIVINE; this ensemble cast works together seamlessly. They ace the singing and dancing (ballet, Broadway-style, and tap), and their chemistry is terrific.

Review: Desert Theatreworks Shows off Singing and Dancing with WHITE CHRISTMASReview: Desert Theatreworks Shows off Singing and Dancing with WHITE CHRISTMAS
December 18, 2022

There is a great deal of enthusiastic singing and dancing by a large, energetic cast in Desert Theatreworks' (DTW's) production of WHITE CHRISTMAS, with book by David Ives and Paul Blake, and songs and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Daniela Ryan directed this production, which features two choreographers - Stacy Casaluci-Grenrock, assisted by teenaged veteran DTW member Violet Feath (who also serves as dance captain) for the tap numbers.

Review: DO NOT REMOVE LABEL is a Hilarious, Brilliant Piece of TheatreReview: DO NOT REMOVE LABEL is a Hilarious, Brilliant Piece of Theatre
December 4, 2022

The audience had one heckuva good time at the opening night of Desert Ensemble Theatre's (DET's) DO NOT REMOVE LABEL, a hilarious world-premiere farce that also includes serious elements and political satire. The play achieves a humor trifecta: Laughs from the clever script by DET's artistic director, Jerome Elliott Moskowitz; laughs from the great staging by director Michael Pacas; and laughs from the top-notch cast members' rubber facial expressions.

Review: SOUTHERN FRIED NUPTIALS at Desert Theatreworks is a Must-See.Review: SOUTHERN FRIED NUPTIALS at Desert Theatreworks is a Must-See.
September 14, 2022

Desert Theatreworks (DTW) starts its 2022-23 season with a bang — its production of J. Dietz Osborne's and Nate Eppler's farce, SOUTHERN FRIED NUPTIALS, is a must-see. It is hilariously written, fabulously staged, and brilliantly acted.