Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-Winning Musical The Phantom of the Opera, the longest running musical in Broadway history, returns to Atlanta’s Fox Theatre in grand fashion with all new staging after its 25th Anniversary.
The much beloved musical tells the story of the Phantom’s unrequited love toward Christine (or a love triangle if you would like to acknowledge the critically maligned sequel Love Never Dies). A ballet dancer, Christine, who has been tutored by the Phantom, is turned into an Opera star after the theater’s prima donna refuses to participate after strange incidents plague the opera house. After Christine’s debut performance, Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, rekindles a childhood love for her. The Phantom’s jealousy turns into rage as Christine rejects him.
As Christine, Julia Udine enthralls the audience with her innocent demeanor and incredible vocal talent. Listening to her sing “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and “The Phantom of the Opera” makes the show worth seeing as she sings the lyrics with impeccable finesse. Likewise, Ben Jacoby plays the handsomely debonair Raul well. Also deserving notice is Jacquelynne Fontaine, who captures the diva Carlotta wonderfully and skillfully, quickly endearing herself to the audience in ways that others playing the role have not.
On other the hand, Cooper Grodin’s Phantom will leave many long-time fans longing for another actor to play the role despite his outstanding vocal delivery. He handles the intricate score beautifully and makes it sound easy. With flawless vocals, it is almost easy to overlook his lackluster acting. Other Phantoms have a sense of mystery and fluidity to their movements; Grodin’s movements are clunky and forced.
Featuring a revolving wall that can split in the middle, the new set, designed by Paul Brown, works well for the touring production and brings in features that will delight audiences. But, some of things that made the Tony Award-winning staging great have been lost, mainly the vastness and foreboding atmosphere that the original displayed.
The staging of “The Phantom of the Opera” and the journey into the Phantom’s lair provide the most noticeable changes. It features a fantastic concept with magic stairs, but everything takes place close to the edge of the stage, and it loses the feeling that the pair is journeying deep into the catacombs below the opera house.
While the new staging does lose some of the original’s charm, it does allow for new and more modern effects. The chandelier has more grandeur, and there are new projection effects that are entertaining. The grandest of the new additions are pyrotechnics that are reminiscent of the popular Las Vegas production.
The Atlanta engagement also features an orchestra of mostly local talent, and the musicians make Webber’s lush score sound enchanting and engrossing. The overture is powerful and the intensity never lets up.
A definite must see for those who have seen before or haven’t yet to experience it, The Phantom of Opera at the Fox Theatre plays through November 2, 2014. It is part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta series. For more information on the show or the series, please visit http://www.broadwayinatlanta.com/. Tickets are available at the Fox Theatre box office, by phone at 1-855-285-8499 or online. The show’s runtime is two hours and forty minutes with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton