“The Phantom of the Opera” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ June 4, 2015


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

“The Phantom of the Opera” still entertains but a lackluster cast, an ill-reconceived staging, and disappointing new sets will never erase the brilliant perfection of Hal Prince’s dynamic and stunning initial staging that audiences practically know by heart.  Why did “Phantom’s” original producer Cameron Mackintosh think the wildly successful musical needed to be rethought in a “spectacular new production”?  You would think a wise, seasoned, and knowledgeable producer like Mackintosh is aware that whenever a well-known production is presented anew, you better do something revolutionary or audiences will clamor for the old as they compare it unfavorably to the supposedly improved new version.

“The Phantom of the Opera’s” new production disappoints in every way.  The new sets aren’t as grandly spectacular and since this production “is easier to tour” that equates to a show that looks cheaper and this “Phantom” sure does.  The lush, melodic score still soars through the theater using an improved sound system that makes it possible to hear each lyric clearly and distinctly.  Laurence Connor’s new staging looks ramshackle and sloppy in comparison to the pristine first production.  The second act opening, “Masquerade,” a grand New Year’s Eve ball, now appears cramped and crowded as the cast executes choreographer Scott Ambler’s trite and random movements to this once grand musical number.  It now lacks the original version’s sweep, grandeur, and stylish flow.

The original costumes are back but they don’t look good with the classless new sets.  In the original production, the costumes revealed character traits and important bits of the musical’s action and story but not here.  Who doesn’t know the show’s plot about the deformed Phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House’s basement as he pines for young soprano Christine Daae who rejects the evil Phantom in favor of the more dashing Raoul.

Both Chris Mann’s oily Phantom and Katie Travis’ flighty Christine aren’t of the stature to hold audience interest or attention and neither performer sings with the soaring grandeur required by Lloyd Webber’s beautiful tunes.  The rest of the performers fade into the scenery as this production places emphasis on spectacle as opposed to telling the story.

Yes, the new “Phantom of the Opera” entertains but it lacks the original’s panache, beauty, and shining brilliance.  It would have been better to just remount the original production.  This new “Phantom” continues at ASU Gammage through Sunday, June 7 although I’m told the show is sold-out.  For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: C