This past Friday, the bitterly cold night and 40 mph wind gusts that cancelled flights out of RDU did not deter the couple thousand brave and lucky souls who flocked to the Durham Performing Arts Center to see Cameron Mackintosh’s awe-inspiring new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic 1986 West End and 1988 Broadway musical, The Phantom of the Opera. Perhaps, this was a perfect atmosphere for watching this dark and thrilling masterpiece.
The Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running Broadway musical in history; and if you have not seen this show live, it should definitely be on your bucket list! This production is a sumptuous feast for the senses in the same way a three-star Michelin buffet would be to a person who had only ever eaten string cheese; overwhelming, but deliciously so!
Everything about this show is remarkable, and it’s hard not to just sit in your seat wide-eyed muttering, “Wow … wow” over and over to yourself. The costumes by Tony Award® winning costume designer Maria Björnson are gorgeous, with the baroque pieces updated to include a “glitteriness” that works with Tony Award winning, Paule Constable’s genius-level lighting to create an frenetic energy.
Quentin Oliver Lee gives a powerful performance as The Phantom, a horribly disfigured musical savant who lives in the sewers and “haunts” the Paris Opera House. The Phantom falls for the beautiful soprano Christine Daaé, played by the notably talented Eva Tavares.
Plucking the orphan Christine from obscurity in the chorus, The Phantom trains her to sing in a series of nighttime lessons, aided smoke and mirrors that hide his facial disfigurement. Christine, for her part, is a willing pupil, because she respects the music in the same way that her odd and demanding teacher does and because she takes him to be the “Angel of Music” that her beloved father promised to send her before he died.
The Phantom is probably not what her dad had in mind though. He is not just horrible in visage, but in spirit too; and things quickly turn stalker-kind of scary when Christine’s handsome childhood friend Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, played by the dashing Jordan Craig, enters the picture — and Christine’s heart — arousing the jealousy of The Phantom.
The Phantom, as they say back home, “comes by it honestly.” Disfigured from birth and abandoned by a mother who was frightened and repulsed by him, The Phantom is treated brutally as a sideshow attraction before he kills his tormentor and escapes his cage. He sets up residence in the sewers and begins “ruling” the Paris Opera House and company through threats and extortion, while longing for love to ease his terrible isolation. He really is terrible, but Quentin Oliver Lee takes the character from killer, to vulnerable so well, that by the end of the show you really do feel kind of sorry for The Phantom.
This is a great musical. Opera is not my favorite genre, but Phantom has something for every musical taste from the electric guitar driven to ethereal. The orchestra is top notch and handles everything this score throws at them.
As the comically awful opera house managers, Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur André, played by David Benoit and and Mark Emerson, are delightful to watch. Trista Moldovan and Phumzile Sojola, who play the diva Carlotta Giudicelli and her leading man, Ubaldo Piangi, are not only the real deal as singers; but they are also very good comedic actors, easing some of the considerable tension that builds throughout this show.
Have I mentioned the dancers? There are real honest-to-goodness ballet dancers who can also sing opera and act! How do they find these people!?!
When you put a production together at this level, it is always amazing and everyone involved is great, but this cast and crew are something special. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sets and the scenic design of Paul Brown, which you have got to see to believe!
The sets are expansive, technologically advanced, and ever-changing, with a depth and realism that defies description thanks to some impressive lighting. The opera house is colossal and ornate; and The Phantom’s lair is gothic and daunting — even the small dance studio looks like an Edgar Degas painting come to life. Every set no matter how small, creates a new and distinct world that draws you in so completely that you are lost in them.
The best thing I can say about a show that warrants so many good things said about it, is that it makes you feel like you are right there on the stage in the story. The effect is thrilling.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 4, 7:30 p.m. March 6-8, 8 p.m. March 9, 2 and 8 p.m. March 10, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 11 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $35 and up, plus taxes and fees. (Note: There will be a limited number of single $20-$30 rush tickets available at DPAC‘s Blue Cross NC Ticket Center, starting at 10 a.m. the day of the performance).
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1116096.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://www.youtube.com/thephantomoftheopera.
U.S. TOUR: https://ustour.thephantomoftheopera.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/the-phantom-of-the-opera–500558, http://www.facebook.com/ThePhantomOfTheOpera, https://twitter.com/PhantomOnTour, and http://www.youtube.com/thephantomoftheopera.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: https://ustour.thephantomoftheopera.com/our-people/the-creative-team/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, March 10th, performance.
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), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/gaston-leroux-11074 (Internet Broadway Database), 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), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-phantom-of-the-opera-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), https://www.britannica.com/biography/Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-Baron-Lloyd-Webber-of-Sydmonton (Encyclopædia Britannica), https://ustour.thephantomoftheopera.com/our-people/the-creative-team/ (tour bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/andrew-lloyd-webber-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), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/charles-hart-12947 (Internet Broadway Database), 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), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/richard-stilgoe-8326 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stilgoe (Wikipedia).