A boldly reimagined version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 West End and 1988 Broadway backstage musical, The Phantom of the Opera, will haunt the Durham Performing Arts Center, in the American Tobacco District, on Oct. 8-12 and 14-19. 2014 North American Tour director Laurence Connor and his creative team have “refreshed” the longest-running show in the history of London’s West End and New York City’s Great White Way by making its colorful cast of characters more realistic — more human — and its dazzling special effects even more eye-popping.
“It’s the same gorgeous music [by Andrew Lloyd Webber], the same beautiful costumes [originally designed by the late Maria Björnson]; but the show has an updated and truly dazzling set [by Paul Brown],” claims Oxnard, CA-born soprano and former beauty queen Jacquelynne Fontaine, who plays the temperamental Italian opera prima donna Carlotta Giudicelli, whom the shadowy Phantom who haunts the Paris Opéra House (portrayed by Cooper Grodin) hopes to supplant with his beautiful protégée, the exquisite but inexperienced Swedish soprano Christine Daaé (played by Julia Udine).
Fontaine adds, “When you are in the Paris Opéra House, you are truly in a grand opera house,” with magnificent lighting [by Paule Constable] and jaw-dropping opulence. By contrast, she says, “When you are backstage, it’s dark and looks like a backstage area…. The Phantom’s lair is the lair of someone who has stolen props from various operas….
“The overarching theme [of this new-and-improved presentation] is that this production is more realistic and more gritty,” explains Jacquelynne Fontaine. “The characters are more three-dimensional, more human…. Not only is it more gritty, but it’s more dazzling.” One example, she says, are the fabulous costumes for the show’s “Masquerade” production number.
The Phantom of the Opera features magnificent music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lively lyrics by Charles Hart and additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, and a brilliant book by Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber, based on the 1910 thriller Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by French journalist and crime novelist Gaston Leroux (1868-1927).
Set in and below the Paris Opéra House between 1881 and 1911, The Phantom of the Opera premiered on Oct. 9, 1986 in Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End. Directed by Hal Prince and choreographed by Gillian Lynne, the show starred Michael Crawford as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Christine, and Steve Barton as Raoul. Phantom featured sets and costumes by Maria Björnson and lighting by Andrew Bridge. It won the 1986 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical, presented by The Society of London Theatre.
The Phantom of the Opera made its Broadway debut, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company and directed by Harold Prince, with musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne, on Jan. 26, 1988 at the Majestic Theatre, where it has totaled more than 11,100 performances to date. The show also starred Michael Crawford as The Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Christine, and Steve Barton as Raoul.
The original Broadway production of Phantom won the seven 1988 Tony Awards®, including the Tonys for Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Crawford as The Phantom), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Judy Kaye as Carlotta), Best Direction of a Musical (Harold Prince), Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design (both Maria Björnson), and Best Lighting Design (Andrew Bridge).
The 2004 motion-picture version of The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Joel Schumacher from a screenplay that he co-authored with Andrew Lloyd Webber, starred Gerard Butler as the Phantom, Emmy Rossum as Christine, Patrick Wilson as Raoul, Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry, and Minnie Driver as Carlotta. It received three 2005 Academy Award® nominations, including a nomination for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart).
The 2014 North American Tour of The Phantom of the Opera is produced by London-based Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company and NETworks Presentations, LLC of Columbia, MD and directed by Laurence Connor, who also directed the 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables in 2010 on Broadway and at The O2 in London and the 25th anniversary presentation of Miss Saigon in London’s West End this past September.
The tour’s creative team also includes executive producer Seth Wenig, production overseer Matthew Bourne, choreographer Scott Ambler, costume coordinator for the late Maria Björnson Christine Rowland, wig creator Angela Cobbin, sound designer Mick Potter, projection designer Nina Dunn, musical supervisor John Rigby, artistic consultant Thomas Schonberg, and magic consultant Paul Kieve, production manager Spencer New, production stage manager Eric Sprosty.
In addition to Cooper Grodin as the mysterious facially disfigured musical genius Erik (a.k.a. The Phantom), Julia Udine as the impressionable ingénue Christine, and Jacquelynne Fontaine as Carlotta — the opera’s resident diva, and Christine’s principal rival for leading roles — the current tour of Phantom stars Ben Jacoby as Christine’s childhood sweetheart Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny; and Linda Balgord as the opera’s ballet mistress Madame Giry. Phantom also stars Hannah Florence as Christine’s best friend Meg Giry; Edward Staudenmayer as Monsieur André and Tony Award® nominee Brad Oscar as Monsieur Firmin, the managers of the Opéra Populaire; and Frank Viveros as Carlotta’s husband and the opera’s leading tenor Ubaldo Piangi.
Carlotta is commonly played as a diva who is past her sell-by date, says Jacquelynne Fontaine. “But she’s still in her prime,” the 32-year-old former Miss California 2006 argues. “When she’s replaced, it’s because The Phantom is obsessed with Christine.”
Born in the fall of 1982 in Oxnard, CA, Fontaine began performing in grade school. Her first song: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“I started taking piano lessons at age 12,” she recalls, “but it wasn’t until the last year of high school and the first two years of college that I did straight theater. I thought I was going to become a lawyer.”
When she was a junior in college, she says, “I thought that I was going to be an opera singer. I loved the challenge, the beauty of the music, and the languages….”
Jacquelynne Fontaine earned a BA degree in music, magna cum laude, from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks in 2004 and a Master of Music in Vocal Arts from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 2008. She studied at the International Lyric Academy in Viterbo, Italy in 2008; and is currently one year away from earning on her Doctorate of Musical Arts at USC. Along the way, she took five years of French, learned conversational Italian, took tap and jazz dance classes, studied Shakespeare and martial arts, and placed in the top 10 of the 2007 Miss America pageant, where she won a preliminary talent award for singing an operatic aria.
“I grew up singing to the soundtrack of The Phantom of the Opera,” Fontaine recalls, “playing it on the piano and trying to sing it at home.” So, it was a real treat when she went with members of her high school French class to see the musical in the fall of 1997 at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, they lingered too long in the ladies’ room and missed the performance of her favorite song, “Masquerade,” at the top of the second act.
Jacqueline Fontaine says, “It will be a dream come true to go back and perform at the Pantages Theatre” from June 10-July 26, 2015.
When it came to auditioning for the role of Carlotta, Fontaine says, the facts that she had studied and performed opera and lived in Italy and learned the language served her in good stead. “Carlotta is an extremely difficult role to sing,” says Fontaine. “Opera singers get two to three days off between performances; Broadway singers have eight shows a week.”
So, she had to build up her vocal stamina and take ballet and jazz dance classes, so that she could keep up with the fancy footwork in “Masquerade.” “My pageant experience helped me, too,” says Fontaine. “You need that poise and the ability to command a room. Carlotta has that larger-than-life personality….
“I am not very much like her [in real life],” says Jacquelynne Fontaine. “She throws tantrums. She doesn’t handle anger very well.” So, to emulate that aspect of Carlotta’s personality, Fontaine watched videos of Maria Callas and other divas throwing tantrums onstage.
But it was an on-the-job accident, after she won the role, that filled in another important element in Carlotta’s dramatic arc — the terror that grips her heart with an icy hand as The Phantom plays a series of increasingly nasty (and potentially lethal) tricks on Carlotta to drive her from the stage. “There was one time,” Fontaine says, “when a sandbag fell a couple of measures early. It didn’t hit me, but it got very close!”
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 5, 2014 Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/10/04/4203630/refreshed-phantom-back-at-dpac.html; Sept. 26, 2014 Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with actress Linda Balgord (Madame Giry), conducted by Jeffrey Karasarides: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interviews-Linda-Balgord-of-THE-PHANTOM-OF-THE-OPERA-National-Tour-20140926; and Jan. 9, 2014 New York City Playbill.com preview by Adam Hetrick: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/cooper-grodin-takes-over-starring-role-in-new-tour-of-the-phantom-of-the-op-211839 and Nov. 27, 2013 preview by Adam Hetrick: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/re-imagined-tour-of-phantom-of-the-opera-with-mark-campbell-and-julia-udine-210366.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9, 8 p.m. Oct. 10, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 11, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14-16, 8 p.m. Oct. 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 18, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $57.83-$179.31 (including fees)
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1116096.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services.
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/phantom-of-the-opera and https://www.facebook.com/events/859661600717844/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHDO_3CufQ0 and http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwaUf3AyJd4FiPuKT7tb9MPhDeN8KQBrL.
THE TOUR: http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/, https://www.facebook.com/PhantomOnTour, https://twitter.com/PhantomOnTour, and http://www.youtube.com/user/thephantomoftheopera.
THE TOUR CAST: http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/people/cast/.
THE TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/people/creative/.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/the-phantom-of-the-opera-at-dpac-goes-on-sale-this-saturday.
SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
CONTENT ADVISORY: DPAC warns, “[This show is] Not recommended for young children.”
PARENTAL ADVISORY: DPAC advises, “All guests require a ticket, regardless of age. Children under the age of 6 will not be admitted to the theater. Children must be able to sit quietly in their own seat without disturbing other guests. As a further courtesy to our guests, DPAC recommends one parent or chaperone for every one child in attendance.”
The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l’Opéra) (1910 French novel): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phantom_of_the_Opera (Wikipedia).
Gaston Leroux (French author and journalist, 1868-1927): http://www.gaston-leroux.net/news.htm (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaston_Leroux (Wikipedia).
The Phantom of the Opera (1986 West End and 1988 Broadway musical): http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ (official website), http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/shows/?show=The%20Phantom%20of%20the%20Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber web page), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=7062 (Internet Broadway Database), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phantom_of_the_Opera_%281986_musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Andrew Lloyd Webber (music and book): http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=12073 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lloyd_Webber (Wikipedia).
Charles Hart (lyrics): http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/people/creative/charles-hart/ (tour bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Hart_%28lyricist%29 (Wikipedia).
Richard Stilgoe (additional lyrics and book): http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/people/creative/richard-stilgoe (tour bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stilgoe (Wikipedia).
Laurence Connor (2014 tour director): http://www.globalartists.co.uk/main/artists/artist.php?aid=3 (Global Artists bio) and http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/people/creative/laurence-connor (tour bio), https://twitter.com/LaurenceConnor1 (Twitter page).
Cameron Mackintosh (London producer): http://www.cameronmackintosh.com/ (official website), http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/people/creative/cameron-mackintosh/ (tour bio),
The Really Useful Theatre Company (London producer): http://www.reallyuseful.com/ (official website) and http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/people/creative/rug/ (tour bio).
NETworks Presentations, LLC (Columbia, MD producer): http://www.networksontour.com/ (official website).
Jacquelynne Fontaine (Oxnard, CA-born soprano playing Italian opera diva Carlotta Giudicelli): http://jacquelynnefontaine.com/ and http://jacquelynnefontaine.net/ (official websites), http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour/people/cast/jacquelynne-fontaine/ (tour bio), https://www.facebook.com/jacquelynnefontaine (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/JacquelynneFont (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacquelynne_Fontaine (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)