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The Phantom of the Opera Is Bigger Than Ever. Better? Maybe.

When musicals make the trek from the Great White Way to the silver screen, it's likely they'll find a way back to the stage. There is no better publicity than a 21/2 hour blockbuster film. Currently in the Arts District, the Dallas Theater Center mounts a reinterpretation of Les Miserables - just years after Russell Crowe butchered the notes on film - and a tour of The Phantom of the Opera plays at the Winspear Opera House through August 24.

Of course, The Phantom never left the stage. At 26-years-old, Andrew Lloyd Webber's bombastic musical is the longest running show on Broadway. But the touring production you'll see at the Winspear Opera House has been lavishly reimagined - by some of the same designers - with costumes and a set to match the ostentatious music.

Everything's a little bit bigger in Cameron Mackintosh's new production. The costumes by Maria Björnson are flashier; the choreography more grandiose; and the set is impossibly large and intricate. It's been a decade since the film version hit theaters. This new stage production is comparably elaborate. And necessarily so. Certainly The Phantom wasn't in need of fixing, but Mackintosh would never be confused for a cheapskate. Although this Phantom may make the Broadway production -also a Mackintosh show - look chintzy.

The show itself is the same show it's always been. Sweet ballerina Christine Daae receiving mysterious voice lessons from her "Angel of Music," who just so happens to have multiple personality disorder, a deformed face and lives in the bowels of the Paris Opera. The Phantom wants his pupil to succeed so he spooks the company's lead soprano, Carlotta, giving Christine the chance to show off her newly polished pipes. The monster loves the ingenue, who also has a suitor named Raoul. The ingenue needs more time to decide. And so the Phantom kidnaps girl and breaks a chandelier. That's pretty much the entire musical.

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And if you loved it the last time you saw it, or are just in to over-the-top 80's musicals, you'll love it this time too. The singing is beautiful and the set is a captivating merry-go-round of theatrics (there are even some explosions!). Cooper Grodin plays the Phantom as a bit of a basket case, which is a fair interpretation, but runs counter to Gerard Butler's hunky ghost.

But if you don't like musicals, this one won't be changing your mind (you'd best scoop up those last tickets to Les Miserables across the street). After all, Lloyd Webber was sued for plagiarism over songs in Phantom. And to save his ass, his lawyers pointed out that all of his music is just him plagiarizing himself. The Phantom of the Opera is completely unoriginal, wildly excessive, and a hit with audiences around the world. With this new production at the Winspear Opera House, popular taste predicts Mackintosh has yet another success on his hands...with a show that was still successful.

The Phantom of the Opera continues through August 24 at Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Tickets are $30-$125 at attpac.org or the box office, 214.880.0202.

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