Saturday, August 14, 2010

Phantom of the Opera @ Majestic Theatre

For the past twenty-two years, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera has been dazzling audiences at the Majestic Theatre on a nightly basis, and it is not hard to understand why. With its lavish costumes, extravagant set, and breathtaking score, The Phantom of the Opera has become the longest running show in Broadway history and shows no signs of stopping. It truly is one of the best shows of all time.

A story of love and passion, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of the Paris Opéra House which as recently come under new management by Monsieur André (performed, at this performance, by Richard Poole) and Monsieur Firmin (performed by David Cryer). After only a few minutes, the two new owners are introduced to the mysterious Opéra Ghost when he drops a backdrop on the leading lady Carlotta Giudicelli (played, at this performance, by Michele McConnell) causing her to storm out and have to be replaced. Madame Giry (performed by Cristin J. Hubbard), who personally knows the Opéra Ghost, recommends Christine Daaé (performed, at this performance, by Marni Raab), a ballet dancer who has recently been visited several times by the Opéra Ghost. Christine’s stunning voice wins her the part, which is exactly what the Opéra Ghost had wanted all along. At her opening night performance, an old childhood sweetheart, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (performed by Ryan Silverman), recognizes Christine and instantly falls in love with her. Feeling threatened by Raoul, the Opéra Ghost finally reveals himself to Christine as the Phantom (performed by John Cudia). From here, the audience is taken on a journey as Christine is forced to choose between the man who gave her a voice and the man she loves.

The Phantom of the Opera was beautifully acted and sung with every single performer giving a top notch performance. John Cudia and Marni Raab worked wonders together at The Phantom and Christine. Both had amazing voices the completely filled the theatre and quite literally gave the entire audience goose bumps. Starring opposite of those two, Ryan Silverman held his own as Raoul. He delivered a powerful performance and brought the house down along with Raab when they belted the famous song “All I Ask of You.” Comedic relief was sent in the form of two managers and two diva opera singers. Richard Poole and David Cryer were absolutely perfect together as the two new owners of the Opéra House who soon realize that they are in way over their heads. Both had spot on comedic timing and both worked wonderfully together. At this performance, the understudy for Carlotta, Michele McConnell was seen. McConnell gave a wonderful performance and, in my opinion, stole the show. McConnell has a wonderfully powerful voice that commands attention just as any Prima Donna should. Her comedic timing was perfectly in line with Evan Harrington who portrayed the leading man Ubaldo Piangi. Harrington (a vet of Avenue Q) was absolutely perfect. His strong voice and brilliant comedic chops made him the perfect character actor to play Ubaldo.

Even though the show opened twenty-two years ago, it still holds its own in terms of scenic design, special effects, chorography, and direction. Of course, all of this is brought to life by the brilliant score penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and haunting lyrics written by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe). The only down fall of The Phantom of the Opera comes with the lighting design by Andrew Bridge. While there are many different elements to the lighting (for example the use of six spot lights), the show overall is very dark. There are several scenes in which the actors can barley be seen. While the overall effect is of dark and creepy is pulled off, it starts to get annoying not always being able to know exactly who you are looking at.

The Phantom of the Opera is a brilliant play that can be enjoyed by young and old. So, to all of my fellow college students, do not think that this is simply an old time show with nothing to offer. The Phantom of the Opera is a stunning work of art with a great story, a wonderful score, and brilliant special effects. Where else can you go to see a chandelier crash and a Phantom disappear in under 30 seconds? And, as far as what happens to the Phantom at the end of the play, well, something tells me that he might just go to Coney Island where love never dies.

Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti