By Jack O’Dwyer
A new rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous “Phantom of the Opera” has made it to the Boston Opera House. It has been reworked by Cameron Mackintosh, a man with nearly 50 years of experience producing musicals, for the production’s 25th anniversary. This particular production is currently touring around North America and will be in Boston from Sept 13 to Oct 1. It features Derrick Davis in the role of the Phantom and Eva Taares in the role of Christine Daaé, though the performance I attended had Christine be performed by Jordan Ensign.
This version seemed to want to go for a comedic approach wherever it could. Trista Moldovan, playing the role of Carlotta Giudicelli, accomplished this very well and stole the show quite a few times with simple gestures. She had great onstage chemistry with Phumzile Sojola, Ubaldo Piangi, which is always a pleasure to see between these two characters. Edward Staudenmayer in the role of Monsieur André also had a knack for making the audience laugh with what appeared to be impeccably timed ad-libbed lines.
One of the biggest criticisms “Phantom” gets is its overtly operatic style, which this performance seemed to try to avoid. This, unfortunately, is a major drawback. The tempo of the whole production from music to dialogue was uncharacteristically rushed. The leads didn’t hold their significant notes, whether they were instructed not to or decided upon it. Such a change makes the music lose much of its power and thus the story loses a lot of emotion. Much of “Phantom”s appeal comes from its trademark way of playing out. Altering any part of this while maintaining its impact is incredibly difficult and often fails in one way or another.
This adverse effect played out during the cemetery scene in which Christine goes to visit the grave of her father. After singing “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” the Phantom appears to Christine and attempts to abduct her. Much of the Phantom’s character is reliant on an appearance of mysterious untouchability. He is supposed to be an imposing, intimidating specter. However, during this scene Raoul, Victome de Chagny, played by Constantine Pappas, punches the Phantom and pins him against one of the walls of the scene. It was something that completely broke the immersion of the performance and nearly destroyed the dynamic energy that the Phantom has. I audibly called out “what” when it happened and my good friend, an aficionado for this production, looked absolutely floored.
Another example of this is during the final scene where the Phantom abducts Christine and tries to force her to marry him. He puts a ring on her finger, dresses her in a wedding gown, and then attempts to kill Raoul when he tries to rescue her. After the Phantom releases the pair, Christine turns to leave, but returns to give the Phantom back his ring. It’s arguably one of the most powerful scenes in the entire production. Their final goodbye is something that holds so much emotion because it’s an action that they perform to each other. Christine hands him back his ring and he sings his final line to her: “Christine, I love you.” However, in this production Christine doesn’t even look at him when returning his ring. She places it on a stack of books behind him and leaves without a word. The direction the scene took here completely misses the point and ruins their final farewell.
Mackintosh’s new take on Phantom deserves points for effort, but destroys much of what the original stood for.