The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera is finally saying goodbye after 17 continuous years on mesmerizing audiences with an incredible cast, memorable songs and a beautiful yet haunting story. In this production, the main female roles, Carlotta (Kim Stengel), Christine (Trista Moldovan) and Madame Giry (Nancy Hess) rule this production. The combined efforts of these leading ladies’ strength and vulnerability make this “Phantom” an unforgettable event. The story begins with possessions being sold at a crumbling theater. People surround the once beautifully structured Paris Opera House, where only the best performed, in hopes to get a treasure keepsake from the House’s glory days. As the auction gets going, a 3-tier gold ruffled chandelier crashes down. Then, he appears. The half- masked Phantom’s (Tim Martin Gleason) voice comes out from the shadows and into the life of the beautiful soprano Christine. Secretly, she’s been under his tutelage in taking singing lessons. And before you know it, Christine ousts the vivacious, garish-wearing Carlotta, and is now the star of the show. And then, the Phantom comes in to make sure that Christine stays in that newfound light. Suddenly, things start falling from the ceiling, valued pieces are missing, and the Phantom’s commanding voice permeates throughout the opera house. Madame Giry is one of the few people who know it’s the Phantom causing the havoc. Christine is both scared and intrigued by the man who wears half a mask.
Just as a spiritual connection is about to happen between the two, Christine’s childhood friend Raoul (Sean MacLaughlin), enters the picture. He gives Christine an alternative search for love. The Phantom won’t hear of this. He transports her into his world, which is behind the mirror in Christine’s dressing room. She sails on a gondola with the Phantom alongside. Everything about this ride is both beautiful and haunting. There are grand statues of maidens and angels, the fog is thick but manageable to see, and the ride creates a more ethereal look. All these fixtures represent all that is beautiful and all that will be destroyed. Christine goes back and forth between the two men in her life; one who can share her life and the other who wants her to join him in his darkness. Romantic? Absolutely. Realistic? Hell no! Moldovan is great as the naïve Christine. She’s able to be vulnerable one minute and powerful in the next. As a heroine, she comes across as gentle and people can empathize. The audience wants her to find true love and both suitors have distinct qualities that appeal to her.
The two women who don’t have a problem saying what’s on their minds are Nancy Hess as the no nonsense choreographer Madame Giry and Kim Stengel as the fiery Carlotta. Hess, dressed all in black, commands attention by her authority and the cane she stomps on the floor. The younger ballerinas fear her but the managers both adore and are afraid of her. As the stern teacher, Hess didn’t flinch. Her job is to make sure the nubile dancers do their job. And they work it, hard. Stengel brings out the craziest diva into life. Carlotta is arrogant, voluptuous, demanding, a great soprano and a sad joke. She doesn’t understand that though she’s the star, she’s not the only one in the show. Congrats to Stengel for making an insufferable character into someone likable.
The set and design team did a phenomenal job creating works of art. There are beautiful structured statues of maidens and angels. The chandelier, the floating gondola and the fog behind it gives it a more ethereal look to the scene, the balcony where the Phantom hides himself was all done with a masterful stroke of the hand. The costumes were amazingly colorful and sparkled. All the actors shone in their own light coming across as having a good time, which, makes the audience enjoy what is before them.
It’s passion that moves the story. It’s that urgent need to be with someone so badly that common sense is quickly thrown out the window. The Phantom isn’t a monster who’s a misanthrope. He’s a man with passion for the theater and easily becomes irritated when others don’t feel the same way. When he sees what the new owners of the Opera House tend to put on as theatrical debut, he lashes out at them and Carlotta. The Phantom simmers down a bit to express his admiration for Christine in the reprise version of “All I Ask of You.” When he meets the ingénue, he sees hope and a chance to bring back the love of theater. As the Phantom works his magic on his beloved Christine, his magic has all ready taken effect with the audience. Don’t miss this remarkable and triumphant performance. You won’t forgive yourself if you do.
The Phantom of the Opera plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sundays at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and wraps up Sunday October 31st at the Pantages Theatre located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd. Tickets available online at www.broadwayla.org or call 1-800-982-2787. For more information visit www.ThePhantomOfTheOpera.com.