In Review: New Production of Webbers ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Casts Spell at Arsht

This week our city is once again hosting Andrew Lloyd Weber’s famous musical, The Phantom of the Opera. Since it’s opening in 1986 there have been numerous productions, the most recent fashioned by director Laurence Conor (Miss Saigon, The King and I, Les Miserables—the list goes on) and producers Cameron Mackintosh, The Really Useful Theatre Company, and NETworks Presentations. This new production of Phantom is memorable as the grandest of productions yet, with a cast and orchestra of 52 that inspire wonder, while honoring the magic of the original show.  

The mood is set by an enduring chandelier hanging over the audience, as soft and familiar sounds of tuning float out from the orchestra pit. Opening with a bang, the first scene closes with foreshadowing, the enormity of the chandelier dropping suddenly toward the audience. We are then thrown into the story and rapidly introduced to several main characters; so quickly, in fact, that a first time viewer of Phantom might be playing catch up throughout with the fast pacing of the show. Be that as it may, the aesthetic feast and production value ease any qualms about pacing.

The enticing darkness of production was amplified by the lighting, casting shadows over each face in a sharp and dramatic fashion. The Tony Award-winning costumes, designed by Maria Björnson, were enough to stimulate the senses. The rich colors and the fabulous fabrics made you feel as if you were really sitting in Paris’ Opéra Populaire.

It is safe to say that audience members both familiar and new to music theatre singing were captured by the talents of Katie Travis (playing Christine Daaé) and Storm Lineberger (playing Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny). The power and loveliness of their voices, combined with their acting inspired goose bumps. Their chemistry also played off an on-stage relationship, often overly sentimental, as genuinely passionate and romantic.

The entire cast sang magnificently and the main characters, for the most part, inspired emotions when necessary: Carlotta was funny and Firmin and André were delightfully trivial. The “Masquerade” scene was simply superb, complete with the lavish costumes, amusing choreography and thundering chorus of the cast—talk about goose bumps! The only disappointment was the Phantom himself. Played by Chris Mann, pop recording artist and finalist on The Voice, he indeed hit every note and displayed extraordinary talent in every song. However, his lack of acting experience was quite obvious and distracting. In consequence of this, much of the seductive darkness inherent in the Phantom’s character and his relationship with Christine was lost. It is worth noting that when the audience could hear the Phantom without seeing him on the stage, the electricity of his character was revived.

Any hesitation to see this rich production should be put to bed. The Phantom of the Opera is a classic not to be missed and this new interpretation is exciting and beautiful in summary. Phantom will be playing at the Ziff Ballet Opera House of the Arsht Centers from Wednesday, February 24th through Sunday, March 6th. More information and tickets are available on their website: http://www.arshtcenter.org/Tickets/Calendar/2015-2016-Season/Broadway-in-Miami/The-Phantom-of-the-Opera/

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