WOW! The chandelier explodes above you, flames appear, and you watch the leads rowing a boat through mists to an imagined fortress getaway of the reclusive title character Phantom. And the show has barely begun!
This is a new production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Cameron Mackintosh – Producer) that lacks for nothing—dazzling you every step of the way and in every moment. Every cast member delivers a top-notch performance, creating their characters in a blink.
For starts, of course, is the beautiful music from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (Composer, Book, Co-Orchestrator) that you may have heard before but that takes on added layers of depth in the context of the story. So many of these songs seem to be music staples since time began. Yet it was only three decades ago when Webber brought these tunes, now classics, to the world—the title song “Phantom of the Opera”, “The Music of the Night”, “All I ask of You”, “The Point of No Return”, among others. This is music that marries an opera aesthetic with Broadway volume. It more than works—it stirs your soul.
Some call the story a variant of the archetypal Beauty and the Beast fairytale that continues to inspire ever new theatrical expressions like the recent one on the Museum of Contemporary Art Stages. Some call it a love triangle. True enough, but this narrative goes several layers deeper portraying a shared lust for a musical muse.
The fine acting while singing of the two leads, Derrick Davis as The Phantom of the Opera and Katie Travis, his young soprano love object Christine Daaé, convey this music lust so aptly in their opening scenes together. They quake to feel the music that they can only hear in each other’s musical powers. It’s greed for music that drives them—with a more prosaic sexual heat actually a stand in for this love of song. In later scenes the plot action plays out in and around what seems to be a super-sized sculpture of Apollo, the God of Music, reminding us of music as an unquenchable thirst.
While the entire cast is superb, it’s Derrick Davis as the Phantom that injects this production with rock star charisma. His sonorous voice penetrates every millimeter in the grand performance hall. Even with most of his face hidden by a mask a good deal of the time, his magnetism and stage charisma is powerfully conveyed by his beautiful hands and regal bearing. Unmasked, his one wide eye is able to round into that of the iconic Scream. He brings a stage power that rocks you and grabs your core, infusing the story and music with that added oomph you always want to find in a live theater experience.
Sumptuous Costumes and Set
Truth to tell though, long before the Phantom comes to the stage this is a total treat. The costumes and set design are sumptuous (Set Design: Paul Brown; Maria Björnson Costume Designer). For an added tickle, pay close attention to the scene openers that make fleeting staging of iconic images from Degas of ballet dancers in their dressing room or a bacchanal Hogarth style that you might find in the Sir John Soanes Museum in London. You’ll also find yourself in a perfect-to-a-tee recreation of the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery of Paris, and gyrating to pyrotechnics galore. Whether intentional or not, the office of the two theater producers reminds of Gilbert and Sullivans in the movie Topsy Turvy.
For this reviewer movies do come to mind while digesting THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA experience. This production has all the ingredients of a blockbuster film: surround sound; a cinematographer type eye for staging; high quality special effects; and most of all, that ability to grab you into its world and tune out the everyday.
For music, for staging, for costumes, for acting‑HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Now through January 8, 2017
Cadillac Palace Theatre
151 West Randolph
$50 - $140
Visit one of the Broadway in Chicago box offices (24 W. Randolph, 151 W. Randolph, 18 W. Monroe, 175 E. Chestnut), a Ticketmaster location, or call the Broadway in Chicago ticket line 800 775 – 2000, or visit www.BroadwayinChicago.com
Photos: Matthew Murphy, unless otherwise indicated
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.