Now Broadway’s longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera is a classic that every theater nerd knows well. Revamped by Cameron Mackintosh, the musical theater-producing legend, this year’s North American tour is a fresh take on Broadway’s classic. The cast and 52-piece orchestra are here thanks to the Dallas Summer Musicals until Jan. 6 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.
If you have never seen The Phantom of the Opera, it's simple: Go see it. It’s essentially the example of classic musicals. Watch the movie first if you must (though you should watch it live eventually), but seeing Phantom in any form is an essential notch on your musical theater belt.
This version's sets have been reimagined, providing the iconic imagery of the beloved musical while also being smartly crafted to give more realism to the story as well as becoming portable for touring purposes. There is no disappointment with the legendary chandelier and its special effects. The backstage scenes of the musical are more realistic, and even the Phantom’s lair is more believable and less theatrical. But don’t worry, this new Phantom added a few fun party tricks. There are some optical illusions worthy of excitement, and the “Masquerade” scene is decked with ornate mirrors to simulate a crowded ballroom. The lighting is designed by a Tony Award winner, Paule Constable.
The costumes are the original Tony Award-winning designs. The music is as beautiful and epic as ever. The choreography is new and improved, with the chorus members barely standing still, ensuring there is always something new to look at.
The cast was good, but it’s hard to impress when you have a musical so iconic that every musical theater enthusiast has heard these songs sung by the best of the best for years. There were no problems with the supporting characters. Carlotta was the diva we needed, Meg Giry was great, Madame Giry and the two theater managers were straight out of the movie, with a bit more comedy added.
The romantic leads Christine (played by Eva Tavares) and Raoul (played by Jordan Craig) gave a fresh spin on their characters, but vocally they performed well. Though Tavares gave Christine an innocence in the first half of the musical that provided for a better character arch, her vocals were a bit mousy and lacked strength. She was good, but the entire plot of the movie is based on Christine’s phenomenal voice. Perhaps it was because Tavares chose to sing more in an old-opera style with sharp vibrato, which is old fashioned, but it can be argued to align more with the musical.
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Craig, though a good actor, didn’t have the smooth voice you would expect, and he and Tavares lacked chemistry.
The Phantom himself, played by Quentin Oliver Lee, was the most impressive cast member of the night. He's only the fourth African-American actor to play this iconic role across all productions of The Phantom of the Opera in history. His voice, especially in lower ranges, was captivating with just the right amount of vibrato and feeling in every note he sung. He also gave a sense of humanity to the role that was refreshing to anyone familiar with the musical. He made the audience really believe in the Phantom. Even though his voice cracked during one of the Phantom’s signature belts, it didn't subtract from his performance. In fact, his performance alone would be reason enough to see this year’s production.
Besides some minor technical vocal critiques, this year’s production of the beloved The Phantom of the Opera is worth seeing whether you're a Phantom virgin or expert. The changes made to the classic musical were fresh, reasonable and creative. Whether you’ve memorized its masterful score or aren't even sure who the Phantom of the Opera is, you’re sure to laugh, gasp and be enthralled by the show.