BWW Review: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Is Here With A Striking Cast And Glittering Production
It's one of the most well-known musicals, but THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA continues to surprise, featuring a stellar cast, design, and dozens of special effects that all add up to a massive spectacle of a show.
Presented by Mirvish, Cameron Mackintosh's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA makes its return to Toronto. Set in the Paris Opera House in the 1870s, the story is centered on the opera house's Phantom (Derrick Davis), a genius who lives below the theatre and wears a mask to conceal a facial deformity, and his twisted love for dancer-turned-singer Christine Daaé (Emma Grimsley) who ends up falling for her childhood sweetheart Raoul (Jordan Craig) instead.
It's a classic love triangle set to some of the most well-known music in the musical theatre catalogue, and this cast delivers exceptional performances that don't just sell their characters, but the world as well. As the titular Phantom, Davis is a complete scene-stealer - his rich voice and expressive acting don't hide the atrocities that the character commits, but he manages to make a deeply flawed character extremely sympathetic. Grimsley makes Christine a true heroine, forced into difficult circumstances but with a desire - and willingness - to maintain her own morals throughout. Craig is a sturdy Raoul, serving as the voice of reason with just enough edge to make the darker aspects of the character work.
The supporting cast are just as evenly matched, with ballet master Madame Giry (Susan Moniz) balancing the new and comically out-of-their-depth opera house owners Monsieurs Firmin (David Benoit) and André (Rob Lindley), both of whom land the few jokes in the story with perfect timing and chemistry. Prima donna Carlotta (Trista Moldovan) is a classic mean-girl antagonist, and her impressive range only makes her catty attitude that much more hilarious against her tenor husband Piangi's (Phumzile Sojola) easygoing nature.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA's touring production features static and local musicians in its orchestra and is conducted by Jamie Johns. Despite its smaller size, Webber's score booms through the theatre. Not only can the sweeping strings and intimidating organs be heard, but they can be felt, too.
Right down to the smallest details, PHANTOM is nothing short of spectacular. Something as simple as having stagehands don costumes and operate in plain sight makes it even more immersive - after all, the story takes place in a theatre, and director Laurence Connor leans into the meta-ness of it all wonderfully. This PHANTOM wisely maintains the original Broadway production's lavish costume design (Maria Björnson), and the elaborate set (Paul Brown) shifts between the opera house stage, complete with boxes on the sides, and a massive cylindrical piece that houses several locations within the theatre. Lighting (Paule Constable) and projection (Nina Dunn) create gorgeous silhouettes off the sets' many angles and manage to convey several settings with ease, from a brightly lit stage to a dark, damp underground lair.
While there are plenty of chances taken in terms of creativity, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA sees a great return on all of them. Its innovative approach to live theatre, and a cast that maintains a relentless pace, ensures a spectacle from the moment the organs blare and the chandelier rises right through to curtain call.
Mirvish's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA runs through February 2 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King Street West, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.mirvish.com/shows/the-phantom-of-the-opera-2020
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy