Phantom still electrifies

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When someone talks about larger-than-life musicals, Phantom of the Opera definitely ranks at the top.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score of Gaston Leroux’s French novel Le Fantome de l’Opera delivers all the elements of the Gothic era: romance, mystery, prejudice, power struggles and dark intrigue.

The national touring production, now on stage at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium until Sunday, Aug. 6, is billed as British producer “Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production.”

The storyline is still very much the same as it was 30 years ago. A mysterious, love-crazed genius teaches Christine, a beautiful, young chorus girl to sing thereby sharing his love of music with her.

But Phantom is also horribly disfigured and hides in the secret passages and catacombs of the Paris Opera House fearful of others reactions to him. Whenever appearing in public, he wears a half-mask to disguise his deformities.

Phantom rapidly falls in love with Christine and she in turn reveals a spark of carnal desire for him. However Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, Christine’s old childhood friend renews their acquaintance and a fierce competition between the two men strikes up.

As Phantom orchestrates Christine’s rise to the top, anyone who tries to stop him faces grave consequences. The operative word is “grave.”

What is new in this incarnation is the production’s updated, lush costumes and props as well as the reformatted choreography.

Set designer Paul Brown has also outdone his previous works with a tall stage structure that rotates and pierces together like a giant puzzle. Built inside the wall are a variety of set pieces that magically pop out when needed.

It’s a set-within-a-set and the rotation brings it to life and keeps the action moving fluidly from one scene to the next.

At times it functions as a two-storey opera balcony, a dressing room, an office, stairs leading to Phantom’s lair, a grand ballroom and a graveyard.

Together with some superb pyrotechnics, spot-on video projections and pools of light guiding the audience to key components, a free-flowing quality is achieved.

The special effects are so spectacular they become a character and almost threaten to steal the show from the actors. Effect after effect I kept asking myself, “How do they plan to top this?”

The only disappointing effect was the one-ton chandelier that appears to sputter and fizz instead of explode and shatter. Although it dropped at the end of Act I, it did so hesitantly diminishing any potential for heart-clutching fear.

Through all these intricately designed scenic elements, it is Webber’s powerful, thundering, majestic score and spiraling melodies that captivate the audience.

Director Laurence Connor not only shortens the show by close to 20 minutes, but envisions the Phantom as having a more sensual-sexual interest in Christine. She is more than his muse. He craves her love, one that is never reciprocated and eventually leads to violence.

Derrick Davis as Phantom is a reactive actor responding intuitively to all the nuances around him. His magnetic, cape-swirling stage presence and tenor voice have all eyes on him from the get-go. He nails The Music of the Night, a gorgeous song about Phantom’s desires.

But it is the power of his acting and vocal phrasing that evokes pity, sadness, anger and finally tremendous heartache. His impact on the audience is daunting.

In a scene during Christine’s final rejection, as Phantom painfully crawls around his lair like a beaten and brutalized animal, one person seated not too far from me was wiping away tears.

Eva Tavares as the striking ingénue Christine Daaé is not only beautiful to look at, but reveals a sweet, clear classically trained voice that soars to the rafters with ease.

Two of her most touching pieces were All I Ask of You, a duet with Raoul and the poignant solo Wishing You Were Here Again.

As Raoul, Jim Hogan sang his part with clarity, yet remained a bland character that had me questioning Christine’s choices.

Trista Moldovan brings just the right amount of comic flair to the aging over-the-top diva Carlotta while Kristie Dale Sanders as ballet mistress Madame Giry is a bastion of common sense in a world of madness.

Judging from the lengthy standing ovation last Friday night, Phantom of the Opera continues to resonate with audiences – and then some.

Review

Phantom of the Opera
Broadway Across Canada
Runs until Sunday, Aug. 6
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
11455 – 87 Ave.
Tickets: Start at $35 Visit ticketmaster.ca

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.