What is the biggest entertainment phenomenon in history? The highest grossing film, show, or performance in the world? Three guesses. Avatar? Nope. Star Wars? Still no. Teletubbies? Good guess, but no. The answer? The Phantom of the Opera. Directed by Laurence Connor, Phantom is now showing at the Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Minneapolis through January 5. The musical, based on the 1925 novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, is the classic story of a masked Phantom and the young soprano Christine Daaé, his obsession. He uses all methods in his power (i.e. threat of sabotoge of the theater) to make sure Christine succeeds. Then he kidnaps her and the countdown to disaster begins. Renvisioned by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Phantom of the Opera took flight when it became a musical in 1986. As of today, it has made $5.6 billion dollars worldwide (Avatar, the highest ranking film, grossed $2.8 billion). This story is not one to miss. This is all I ask of you: please go to see Phantom.
The music of Phantom is nothing less than iconic. In fact, it is timeless. Even today the original Broadway cast recording is the most popular in history. Here is the confirmation: This music is just as good as the classic recording. These performers match their predecessors, especially the fantastic orchestra. For a bonus over other shows, Phantom includes music from three other shows within the show: Hannibal, Il Muto, and Don Juan Triumphant (the opera the Phantom himself wrote). But it the stunning classics that steal the show. Watch for The Phantom of the Opera and All I Ask of You. The music will carry you away.
Is it possible to defy the laws of space and simply make a larger space out of a smaller one? Apparently so, because Phantom does just that. There is more set than space on the stage, or so it seems. Each scene arrives with a revolution of a central column and suddenly the audience is transported to the Paris Opera House. Or a nighttime courtyard. It is simply magical. Or a mysterious underground lair with retracting staircases. Some recurring themes to watch out for: “Gold, gold, and more gold,” “Dirty Mirrors are Authentic Mirrors,” and “Candelabras.” These are amusing, but they surprisingly add greatly to the ambiance. Overall, nothing compares with the ingenious set design of Paul Brown, who deserves a round of applause of his own.
Be prepared to be dazzled by these performers. They have the kind of talent that can let them sing even the most complex music and make it seem easy. Oh, they make it seem so easy. This is especially true for the spectacular Julia Undine (Christine Daaé). Her command of operatic and musical theatre singing styles was unparalleled in the production. Undine also had a way of conveying emotion that reverberated through the fourth wall. Her musical talents are certainly matched by the experienced Mark Campbell (The Phantom), whose “Music of the Night” was breathtaking. His anger and anguish throughout the story was powerful and haunting. Other notable performances were Jacquelynne Fontaine (Carlotta Giudicelli), who provided some much-needed comic relief, and Linda Balgord (Madame Giry) who the audience could tell was a character with a history.
This show is more than a must-see show. It is a portal to the real story, music, setting and characters of Phantom. Hardly ever does a show feel more real. If there is one production to see this year, it is Phantom. So pick up your calendar and find a date between now and January 5. You will not regret it. This, in the words of Christine, is all I ask of you.