Stunning ‘Phantom’ perfect for the holidays


Magnificent voices, dramatic set design and fabulous costumes match Andrew Lloyd Webber’s brilliant score of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ in a new production now playing in Chicago.

The company of The 'Phantom of the Opera' in 'Masquerade' Photo by Alastair Muir
The company of The ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in ‘Masquerade’ Photo by Alastair Muir

You know the voices will be a treat right at the start. Katie Travis as Christine Daaé sings “Think of Me” with Raoul ( Jordan Craig) and Carlotta (Trista Moldovan), followed by Travis doing “Angel of Music” with Meg Giry (Emily Ramirez).

Travis was Cosette in the St. Louis MUNY production of ‘Les Misérables’ and Ramirez was with the BalletMet and was Sally Bowles in a regional production of ‘Cabaret.’ Craig has sung with the Houston Grand Opera and Moldovan played Christine on Broadway.

Then there is the signature “The Phantom of the Opera” gloriously sung by Derrick Davis (The Phantom) with Travis as the pair make their way through the creepy labyrinth of the Paris Opera House.

Their route wows us thanks to Paul Brown’s creative set design. Stairs appear to jut out from a central core just as the pair needs them to descend to The Phantom’s hideaway.

Once there, Davis’ voice soars as he sings the beautiful, magically trance-inducing “The Music of the Night.”  Before coming to ‘The Phantom,’ Davis was Mufasa in ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway.

Later, on the Opera House roof, Christine realizes she and Raoul are meant for each other. They sing the beautiful “All I ask of You.”

All the character’s voices contribute to the production. If you listen carefully, you catch the fine voice of Phumzile Sojola as the opera singer, Ubaldo Piangi. Sojola appeared in the Broadway productions of Cinderella and ’The Gerswhin’s Porg and Bess.’

Managing the opera and trying to keep audiences in the seats and The Phantom away, are David Benoit (Broadway and tour of ‘Jekyll & Hyde) as Monsieur Firmin and Price Waldman (‘Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ on Broadway) as Monsieur André.

Anne Kanengeiser is Madame Giry, the strict ballet mistress. Kanengeister was in the Broadway productions of ‘Ragtime’ and ‘Little Women.”

Maria Bjornson’s elaborate costumes set the grand opera mood and the skillful direction of Laurence Connor, co-director of the just ended Les Misérables Broadway revival, made all the scenes important.

The dress rehearsal of ‘Hannibal’ and the manager’s office arguments and notes from the Phantom foretell of dangers to come. So does the New Year’s Eve “Masquerade” in the Opera House’s Grand Ballroom.

Derick Davis as The Phantom leads Katie Travis (Christine) to his underground hideaway. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Derick Davis as The Phantom leads Katie Travis (Christine) to his underground hideaway. Photo by Matthew Murphy

But perhaps it is the sexy, scary “Point of No Return” duet of The Phantom and Christine in the Phantom’s version of ‘Don Juan’ that pulls together his obsessive motivation and the desires of Christine, his talented vocal student who wants her own life.

Phantom’ is an ideal match for holiday vacation time. A new presentation by Cameron Mackintosh with a 52 member cast and orchestra, this touring production is impressive. Along with its principals, the show is also populated by singers in two opera production scenes, ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Il Muto,’ and a ballet company.

Charles Hart did the lyrics with additions by Richard Stilgoe. Webber and Stilgoe coauthored the musical’s book. The show is based on Le Fantome de l’Opéra  by  Gaston Leroux, first published as a serial from 1909 to 1910..

As an aside, the French novel was inspired by 19th century events at the Paris Opera House known as Palais Garnier. Built for the Paris Opera from the 1860s to the 1870s, it did house the Opéra de Paris and the Paris Opera Ballet. Click here for more information and pictures of Palais Garnier.

A new opera building was finished in 1989 at the Place de la Bastille, called Opéra Bastille. Palais Garnier is now primarily used for ballet productions.  It is an opulent building worth visiting for its Grand Staircase and Grand Ballroom. Guides will point out the box supposedly used by The Phantom.

The opera house’s actual chandelier that figures in the musical is quite a bit more elaborate than the one traveling with the Phantom tour. Designed by Garnier, It is a five layered, seven- ton brass and crystal fixture that did cause a problem when a counterweight broke free and killed an audience member in 1896.

Details: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago,  now through Jan. 8, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago or call (800) 775-2000.

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