Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I Try My Hand At A Theater Review With The Phantom Of The Opera (February, 2009)
The Good: Great costumes/effects, Nice theater, Generally good story, Good music
The Bad: Parking, Ticket price
The Basics: For my first Broadway play in years, we saw The Phantom Of The Opera, which was good, but lacked some spark one assumes it once had to make it so enduring.
As part of my recent - February/March 2009 - trip to New York City where I became engaged to my partner, I took in a show on Broadway and she had the chance to cross another thing off her "bucket list." As the trip was a gift to her, we did many things that were very much designed to keep my partner happy and full of wonderment; it was her very first trip to New York City, so this was a huge deal. As a result, when it came to picking out a show to go see, the choice of The Phantom Of The Opera was very much her choice.
In fact, it seems one of the common threads over past partners has been a love of The Phantom Of The Opera. Before seeing it on Broadway, I had seen the film version of The Phantom Of The Opera (reviewed here!) and largely been underwhelmed. Still, it was important to my partner to see the play and so on our very first night in New York City, we went to see the play. And, amidst her eager hand-squeezes of delight, I came to enjoy the play all the more.
The Phantom Of The Opera is playing on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre. The multi-story theater is located at 247 West 44th Street, which is at 44th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. This is actually just a few blocks over from Times Square, which can make for a delightful few hours of wonderment for anyone visiting the City for the first time. This is very easy to find as it is in Manhattan's theater district.
Ease Of Local Transport/Parking
New York City is a pain in the butt to get around in, at least in a car. We parked at a little parking garage almost immediately after we got onto the island (I believe it was between 10th and 11th, around the vicinity of 56th). New York City is a good place for people who can and enjoy walking. Getting to places like the Majestic Theatre, especially around showtime, is hellish and there are only expensive places to park when parking may even be found. It is much easier to park away and walk in than find a parking space anywhere within ten blocks of the theater district within two hours of showtimes.
We arrived for an evening showing of The Phantom Of The Opera on a Friday night at the end of February (2009). As a result, we were looking at a performance long after any recognizable actors were in the play. Our tickets were purchased ahead of time and we found ourselves at the front of the upper mezzanine level.
The Phantom Of The Opera is a musical about the theater. In 1911, artifacts from the famed Paris Opera House are being sold off and one person recognizes several of the artifacts from a fateful time, near the end of the Opera House's history. He recalls events of 1881 where the theater company at the time was producing Hannibal. During the rehearsals, one young ballerina/actress is highlighted - Christine - and soon the quality of her performances is growing in leaps and bounds. After the rehearsals, Christine is being tutored by a mysterious stranger, who is the Phantom of the opera house. Soon, the Phantom is not content to merely tutor the young Christine.
When the Paris Opera House changes owners, the Phantom begins to exert his influence, insisting that Christine be given a lead in the new performance, after Christine bailed out the performance of "Il Muto." But before the premiere of "Don Juan Triumphant," the Phantom's will is challenged, there are murders and opera house looks like it will fall into complete chaos. The reason for the spiraling chain of events is simple; while Christine has been professionally tutored by the Phantom, she has been personally wooed by Raoul and the Phantom, who has taken a shine to Christine, becomes jealous.
The performance of The Phantom Of The Opera we took in starred Howard McGillin, Marni Raab and Paul A. Schaefer, as the Phantom, Christine and Raoul, respectively. I suspect that when I have more theater experience and write more theater reviews I shall divide it out more, but for this performance, the acting was homogeneously unremarkable. McGillin, Raab, Schaefer and key supporting roles played by Polly Baird, Patricia Phillips, George Lee Andrews and David Cryer were unremarkable, but not bad.
The singing illustrated a fine command of vocals with all of the performers utilizing the appropriate ranges for each character. While all of the actors could - and did - hit the notes, none seemed extraordinarily invested in the work. Indeed, I recall McGillin's body language at some parts being more slouched than seemed appropriate, as if he were bored with his own performance. That said, Raab actually looked like she was having fun at some points with a gleeful expression on her face when she danced, for example. The on-stage chemistry was mixed, though in some of the key scenes, there was enough passion to keep me interested in happily believing the performances.
The Phantom Of The Opera is very much an effects-based stage work. There are numerous scenes where mist is created (using dry ice), lightning is fired, candles burst to light and other illusions of magic. Here the company producing The Phantom Of The Opera adequately created stage magic that was beautiful and exciting to watch. The reality of the fictional world of the Paris Opera House and the drama occurring there was truly spectacular.
The costumes in The Phantom Of The Opera were similarly extraordinary and it is worth noting that throughout the play there are many costume changes, but everything appears beautiful and ornate. One suspects that many of these costumes are works of art up close and they appear to be remarkably well-maintained for such a long-running show.
Musically, The Phantom Of The Opera was rich and this is actually a decent musical for those of us for whom the musical is a baffling and not terribly exciting theatrical experience. Indeed, having the setting be an opera house makes the constant bursting into song make sense. The musical - vocal and instrumental - effects are well presented, universally audible and create and enhance the play's mood perfectly.
There is a cart in the lobby of the Majestic Theatre filled with various swag for The Phantom Of The Opera. These include the $10.00 deluxe collector's program, the original broadway recording of the play on compact disc and shirts featuring the Phantom logo. Everything is appropriately priced for milking tourists and many of the same items are available elsewhere for less money.
There is a bar in the Majestic Theatre and all I recall was that water bottles were ridiculously expensive and we weren't supposed to be allowed to take them up the stairs to our seats (we did anyway). The only free souvenir from this play is the usual Playbill.
The Phantom Of The Opera is fun, if uncomplicated, and seeing it now is to see it after many of the people involved have gotten familiar with it and the performances are more hit-or-miss than ones that the actors seem truly invested in. The story, effects and experience make up for the occasional lethargy of the performers, though technically they are not bad at all. Still, this does seem like it is a play somewhat after its prime and the people involved know it.
For other musicals, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Across The Universe
The Broadway Melody
For other travel reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.