Reinventing a classic piece of work, while still maintaining its original authenticity, is a difficult job. Even more testing is taking on the longest running Broadway show in history that has grossed more than five billion dollars worldwide. Just ask Cameron Mackintosh who presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera at the Orpheum. The show, running until January 5, is a must-see for all theater aficionados and novices alike. Though starting out a little slow, the show combines classic musicality with modern flares that will captivate any audience.
The story centers on a budding performer, Christine Daaé (Julia Udine), who is trained vocally by a mysterious, masked man known as the Phantom (Mark Campbell). After Carlotta Guidicelli (Jacquelynne Fontaine) steps down as the female lead due to unexplained incidents at the theater, Christine is given the chance to display her talent. Her beautiful voice incites Raoul (Ben Jacoby) to fall in love with her. Eventually the two become engaged and this causes the Phantom to become jealous and vengeful. He tries incessantly to bring down the theater and to win Christine’s love.
The singing and music highlight the drama of the show. Julia Udine carries the cast with breath-taking, spine-chilling vocals. Her emotion is raw and radiates up to the balcony. Accompanying her is Mark Campbell who plays the Phantom. Though straining his voice on some of the higher notes, overall, he carries the enigmatic role perfectly. The two work together beautifully, exemplified during their duets. The title song, “Phantom of the Opera,” sung by the two, embodies the mystery and darkness of the show. This element is enhanced by the orchestra. The intense and suspenseful music adds seamlessly to the drama of the play.
The music and the acting are excellent, but the true star of the show is Paul Brown. He will not be found on stage or anywhere in the pit. However, his ingenious set design propels the show into extraordinary. The use of a revolving set allows the audience to see different vantage points and magnifies the intensity and suspense of the show. Most notable is the appearing staircase that runs along the set wall. As the actors walk down the wall, steps slide out of nowhere to meet their feet. Also noteworthy is the imposing chandelier that hangs over the main floor. The glimmering fixture shoots out electrical sparks and plummets to the ground when the Phantom casts his treachery over the theater. Pyrotechnics add additional energy when the Phantom tries to kill Raoul during his campaign to win back Christine.
The classic musical combined with modern technology explains why Phantom has been so prominent on the Broadway scene. Regardless of your theater knowledge or expertise, everyone will find something to enjoy in the show. Though the plot may be a little slow at the beginning, you will leave, if nothing else, in awe over the incredible set design.