BWW Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber's Score Shines Through New Staging of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Mirvish
There's a new chandelier, new sets, and new costumes! But new doesn't necessarily mean improved. Laurence Connor's updated touring production of Broadway's longest-running show, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, has arrived in Toronto. For a first-time PHANTOM viewer, you'll be immediately entranced by the spectacle - but those who have seen the show might just long for the original staging.
Out of all the new features, the immersive aspects that have been incorporated into this production work the best. Most impressively, an enormous chandelier has been installed in the Princess of Wales Theatre. If you know what happens at the end of Act I, you'll spend the first half of the show amused and a little terrified of what's to come. Characters also wander throughout the audience in scenes where they are literally supposed to be watching rehearsals or performances of productions at the Paris Opera House.
The entire set has gone through a facelift as well - don't worry, there's still a boat. The bulk of the set is focused on an drab charcoal tower that serves a multitude of purposes - stairs descend to the Phantom's lair, various rooms open at the base, and future set pieces can be set up behind the tower while the show continues downstage. It is functional - I just wish it wasn't so ugly. There are also added projections throughout the second half that are hilariously cheeky. However, all of these updates add another layer of excitement to the experience - fire shoots from the base of the stage, sparks fly, guns fire deafening shots.
The only aspect of this new production that struck a truly negative chord were the altered costumes. The main crime here is the Phantom's costume for the masquerade scene. Updated to look more like Gerard Butler's costume from the 2004 film, it is one of the cheapest looking creations I've seen on the professional stage - like something you picked up a few days before Halloween from one of those costume depots.
Luckily the cast rise above the challenges of the structures around them. The ensemble is not only beautifully diverse, but several have fantastic voices with a foundation in classical training!
Eva Tavares (Christine) studied at UBC Opera and has the vocal chops to prove it. I preferred her low-mid range, in sections like the beginning of 'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again', where her clear comfort allows for a more lyrical performance. As the Phantom, Quentin Oliver Lee suffers under the weight of the difficult vocal demands - especially when needing to transition between his belt and falsetto. Vocally, Jordan Craig (Raoul) gives an outstanding performance. Craig's voice is addicting to listen to - and his supreme control over his instrument ensures a memorable musical performance.
But the real winner in this touring production is not the production at all, but the show itself. The structure still feels very sound (except for maybe the reprise of 'Notes'), and the music is practically unrivaled in its popularity...there's a reason that this show has been running on Broadway for over 30 years.
If you've never seen PHANTOM - what are you waiting for? And if you're a PHANTOM-fan, go for the new production - the exhilarating chandelier-drop is worth the trip!
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Mirvish runs through June 30, 2018 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W, Toronto, ON.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit mirvish.ca