Cameron Mackintosh’s new incarnation of the musical of musicals, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera US Tour, has arrived to Atlanta in what Mackintosh calls ‘a production for the 21st century.’ The massive tour — with rotating stages, mirrors and pyros, as well as new lighting, surround sound and sound effects, new lyrics, new costumes and a brand new chandelier — runs at The Fox until this following Sunday, November 2.
The music is certainly immortal. Its melodies have captured the hearts of audiences around the world for almost 30 years. One can see and hear the influences of Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Bizet as the stage plots move from a Hannibal scene bearing the name of Verdi’s Aida to a hybrid caricature right out of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni in the opera composed by the Phantom. There are ensembles reminiscent of Mozart’s sextets, Puccini’s La Boheme and Verdi’s Rigoletto. The Mascarade scene makes us recall Verdi’s Masked Ball and it could be said that in a Point of No Return Verdi’s Rigoletto meets Bizet’s Carmen in what could be considered a foster child of the Habanera. Not to be forgotten is the controversial tie of Music of the Night to Quello que tacete from Puccini’s Fanciulla del West.
Those Phantom of the Opera virgins and neophytes are sure to be swept away by Cameron Mackintosh’s lavish vision as was the audience this past Friday, October 24 at The Fox, where the beautiful architecture of the venue complimented the production despite the differences in style.
The hard core fan base will find subtle and not so subtle differences in direction, blocking and music that — in order to not deliver a spoiler — will not be revealed here.
It is difficult to say if the score has been revised as some of the lyrics have, but the music certainly felt more fluid from scene to scene than in the original production. Andrew Lloyd Webber being the animal of reinvention as he is, this would not be surprising. Case in point — shared by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman in interviews through out the years — Music of the Night (titled Married Man in its original incarnation) was composed for Sarah Brightman while Andrew Lloyd Webber was working on the musical Aspects of Love and was inserted in Phantom of the Opera at the last minute.
The role of Phantom of the Opera in this production was in the hands of Cooper Grodin who portrayed a believable Phantom, though less intense than other interpretations. The Manhattan School of Music alumnus demonstrated particular skill in delivering sustained pianissimi, particularly in the favorite Music of The Night, to the delight of the audience.
Christine Daaé was played by tour debutant Julia Udine. Her beautiful soprano voice moved with ease across registers, demonstrating unusual strength and core in the lower portion. Her interpretation of Wishing You Where Somehow Here Again inspired one of the biggest ovations of the night.
Worthy of mention was Hannah Florence’s interpretation of Madame Giry, whose presence on stage was not only strong but imposing.
Few know the details of or pay attention to the monstrous machine that lives behind the artistic illusion and enables the story to be told. Kudos to all those talented ghostly souls that helped create two enjoyable hours without a flaw.
It is no secret that The Fox does not have an acoustically rich environment. Hence, a more classical style singing is somewhat at a loss, despite the use of the best sound equipment, as the voices are not able to travel and mix in the venue. The technical difficulties in sound engineering are many and, although the performance was flawless in this respect, the result was a harsher tonal quality that lacked the warmth an acoustically viable venue can offer. One can’t help but wonder what sound quality would be achieved if this musical — which is considered by many an opera — and its talented cast found hospitality in one of those great houses as the one in the story. Maybe it could be the very one at the center of it in the city of love and enlightenment, while adding back some of the mysterious and more dramatic qualities of the original production. The possibility is certainly food for though and music for the imagination…