“The Phantom of the Opera” at the Orpheum Theatre

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The Phantom of the Opera is about a phantom who haunts a Paris opera house. The phantom becomes obsessed with a young dancer Christine to whom he gives singing lessons. He becomes increasingly possessive of her and eventually winds up terrorizing the opera house to insure she gets a lead role. Overall, the plot unfortunately was not the high point of the show and has caused me to have to redefine the word ‘melodrama’.

The fantastical story of The Phantom of the Opera is based on a book written by Gaston Leroux in the early 1900s. The book in turn is based in part on real events. For example, in 1896 a chandelier really did fall in a Paris opera house, killing a construction worker. Another seemingly implausible plot device that has roots in actual historical fact is the lake at the bottom of the opera house, which actually does exist.

The sets were very elaborate and intricate. The main part of the set was large brick cylinder that rotated to reveal other sets behind it. There was a distinct contrast between the ‘underground’ lair of the Phantom and the garish, if slightly decayed world of the Paris Opera. When the opera was actually being performed two seat boxes would come out of either side of the stage, and they added a nice atmospheric touch.

The lighting was for the most part used to enhance the sets and contribute to the overall atmosphere. However, in the beginning, when the chandelier first made an appearance there were fluorescent strobe lights on it which took away from the mood. Another element that contributed to the overall aesthetic of the show were the costumes. Particularly in the number ‘Masquerade,’ the semicircle of artfully smudged mirrors highlighted the color and intricacy of the costumes.

The Phantom (Mark Campbell), and Christine (Julia Udine) were both quite good. The rest of the cast also did fine jobs in their roles. Know one was exactly outstanding, however, everyone was adequate, and they all had nice singing voices. The thing I was most impressed with in the performance was the way the actors continued on through several technical glitches as if nothing had happened.

Many of the individual elements were very good but with everything happening at once it was sometimes overwhelming. Some of the focus on the technical aspects of the show should have perhaps been focused on the story and characters. The story was sometimes overshadowed and ignored in favor of the spectacle.