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Broadway San Jose's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is Spectacular Now Thru Oct. 2

San Jose opened their season with the reimagined production of Phantom of the Opera. For going on three decades this show has enthralled audience members young and old and has once again captured the minds of Bay Area audience members at the beautiful San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Playing now through October 2 this dramatically lush musical, featuring our favorite phantom specter, is spectacular.

The Phantom of the Opera takes place within the majesty and splendor of the Paris Opera House sometime around the turn of the century. From his dank quarters far beneath the opera house the phantom (Chris Mann) runs "his" opera house by keeping the owners (David Benoit and Price Waldman) and the company fearful of his every secret move. They fear that the opera house is haunted. When the story begins he terrorizes the cast and crew, forcing the lead soprano Carlotta (Jacquelynne Fontaine) to resign, paving the way for his protégé, Christine Daa? (Kaitlyn Davis), to be the star. He is known to her only as the "Angel of Music" and she believes that he was sent to her by her father, now dead. When Christine is reunited with childhood playmate Raoul (Storm Lineberger) and then falls in love with him, the Phantom's all-consuming love for her unravels them both. This story of a musically gifted monster feared by all, and yearning for human touch and the love of the only woman who has ever treated him kindly, has captured the hearts of sold-out audiences everywhere.

Chris Mann at 34 years old, represents a change in the original casting of the Phantom who Mann lives and breathes the role of the mesmerizing menace. His alluring power over her was palpable as he deftly manipulated Christine's budding desire for both love and music. But his vocal technique took some getting used to. He seemed to be slightly over pitch, but would inevitably finish a line with a lilting punch. The effect kept me on edge and seemed to fit the premise of his character.was always played by an older man. While this makes sense with the storyline (in that we surmise that since Christine's father knew him, he must be older) casting a younger actor sets up a decided new tension between the two men vying for the ingénue's love. They seem more like equals, making the choice that Christine must make all the more difficult.

Kaitlyn Davis created a lovely arc, moving from shaky new star and awe-struck ingénue, to a woman unafraid to claim love for herself. Her pure and clear soprano contrasted beautifully with Mann's ravaged Phantom and Lineberger's steady and calm Raoul. Lineberger brought in a strong performance as the childhood friend, turned suitor. I was struck by the idea that his character seemed to represent what the Phantom might have been had destiny not delivered such a cruel and twisted fate to him.

Thought the show is lush with dramatic tension, there were still comedic moments. David Benoit and Price Waldman as Monsieur Firmin Monsieur André respectively, were a delightful as the hapless new owners of the Paris Opera House. Though forced to deal with this unexpected phantom, they nevertheless rose the occasion. Jacquelynne Fontaine who played soprano Carlotta Guidicelli, and Phumzile Sojola as comic tenor Ubaldo Piangi, likewise injected levity. That said, their beautiful operatic voices brought authenticity to the show. In previous offerings the Carlotta character is an aging singer and it's almost a service to her when the phantom tries to replace her. But Fontaine's Carlotta has an amazing voice, making the phantom seem all the more maniacal as he seeks her ouster in deference to Christine.

It is a fascinating reimagining of set (Paul Brown) and focus (director Laurence Connor) and one that you will want to see before it leaves San Jose.

The Phantom of the Opera
Book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Charles Hart
Directed by Laurence Connor
Now through October 2, 2016
Photos courtesy of Matthew Murphy

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From This Author Linda Hodges