I have to say right off the bat that I’ve never been a big fan of the music from Phantom. In my other life as a theater practitioner (hey, some critics know what they’re talking about), I’ve had more than a few green room goonies thrust the Original Cast Recording in my face saying “hey, man, at least give it a chance!” Well, I did, and I was unimpressed. But I have to admit that it works better in the theatre that I had any right to expect.
It just goes to show what a difference a really good, experienced production team can make. Phantom was directed by Harold Prince, one of the greats of musical theatre—the man produced West SIde Story and directed the original productions of Cabaret, Company and Follies for goodness sake! Not to mention a ton of opera, which was the chosen field of the show’s talented set and costume designer Maria Björnson. Little surprise, then, that the opera numbers in the show have a richly authentic 19th century flavor.
Sir Lloyd Webber’s retelling of the classic story of loving the monster…well, it’s camp as can be, which only adds to the fun. Chandeliers crash, candelabras shoot up out of the floor, fire momentarily blinds you—it’s all like an old horror movie as shot by Stanley Kubrick.
Still, certain musical elements bug me: the sextets and such in the first act, where all the characters are operatically shouting their heads off, are muddled and difficult to follow. And the second act, well, pyrotechnics aside, it’s kinda boring. All in all, though, Phantom is worth seeing—if one of your out-of-town friends insists on dragging you to see it, you’ll survive.
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