“The Phantom of the Opera” at the Orpheum Theatre: Phantom of the Apathy

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Several times in the past 2 days, people have asked me about my opinion on Phantom of the Opera. Each time, I attempted to explain to them that I appreciated it, I appreciated it rather much, and then they would make the fatal misstep in saying that I liked it. Which then would leave me saying that no, I did not like it, nor did I dislike it. What I was trying to say is that I appreciated the show with zero percent emotional investment. Not to say that the show was boring or hard to relate to, which I have no right to say because, to be frank, I did not try to connect to the show emotionally, and if I did, it was to the effect of a French Policeman trying to catch an alleged Opera house ‘Phantom’- it was to the point of the hilariously inept. Phantom of the Opera will be running (perhaps stampeding would capture it’s girth better) until January 5th, at the scale appropriate Orpheum.

The story is certainly operetta in scale, convolution, and element. Without spoiling anything, the story is of the tribulations of life and love of a young chorus girl with daddy issues-turned premiere alto in a French opera house with new management and a mysterious ‘Phantom’ who goes through the phases as ‘self named angel of music’, serial killer, poltergeist and playwright. I can’t speak to the potency of the story on the human heartstring, nor can I speak to how understandable it may be, due to some past experiences with the movie and a friend who cared to explain most everything to me as well as wink to foreshadowing when I came.

Perhaps I should be worried for the lack of emotional investment that I had for the show: it could serve as a warning to the borderline trite and cliched story, or a more disturbing inability in behalf of the author of this review to empathize with star-crossed young lovers who feel the urge to sing everything.

Now, much of this is in tradition of opera, which naturally leads to some lengthy climactic scenes, incomprehensible romances and, in my experience, several scenes worthy of eyerolls. One could question whether the common establishment of ‘love triangle with innocent female, courageous establishment male and alternative fringe male’ is a cliched portrayal of a severely unhealthy understanding of human nature and romance, or one could roll with the punches and try to have fun with it, which is something I would recommend to the enthusiasm of ‘French policeman trying to catch alleged opera house phantom’.

The sets and props ranged to the fantastic, by far the most intricate I have ever seen in my life. Live fire was common and prone to manipulation (fireworks, candles torches and a chandelier that was right at home at the orpheum), and the sheer scale was impressive, with numerous double leveled pieces of grand theatre architecture  which I still don’t understand how they managed to fit anywhere. I’m sure the budget for this would offend most anyone’s sensibilities, but I can’t help but feel as if somewhere, this was justified. The sets fit the scale of the theater and the story. It might seem a bit inflated, but the sets, props and fire were scale to the drama astage and the music afloat. In the process of pursuing a drink at intermission, I noticed that the show had advertised novelty beverages of the alcoholic nature (the tackily named Sparkling Phantom), which again should go to prove that this show does not believe in understating itself in how big it is.

To credit the credit of Phantom of the Opera, it’s not a jukebox musical, which is the most I can say before the apathy kicks in. I’m grateful it’s not a rock opera, tribute to the classics or disco feel-good marketing point.Everything about this show is big: the music, the singing, the set, the story, the length of the run. I did not find disgust in it’s excess. Sometimes you have to go grand or go home, which, in the case of the Phantom, home is the French sewers, and in the case of me, grand is the scale of my apathy