Review: Broadway Across Canada presents “The Phantom of The Opera”
Have you ever been struck by sudden chill, goosebumps, or a shudder of emotion from a moment in a song, or a climax in a film? This aural or narrative induced thrill can be summed up by the French word ‘frisson,’ particularly in the genre of horror of the supernatural.
And let me tell you: Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Phantom of the Opera delivers payload after payload of frisson and excitement for its audience starting with the spectacular reveal of the iconic Lot 666 chandelier. With an enveloping blast of the organ, the stage hypnotically transformed into the first of many incredible, and almost supernatural scene changes.
First introduced in 1986, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom score extends far beyond being a cult classic, and has undoubtedly introduced a more general audience to the musical genre as a whole (including myself in high school). It’s hard to resist the powerful overture. Fueled by dramatic sweeping chords accented by a touch of 80’s rock guitar, it proves to be so catchy that folks were humming the signature tune in line-ups at the concession stand during intermission.
For hardcore Phantom of the Opera fans, some may favour the first phantom they’ve seen perform the role from the original Michael Crawford to Gerard Butler from the 2004 Joel Schumacher film, but regardless of having a favourite, there is no denying that Derrick Davis’ performance was not just engaging – it was wholly mesmerizing, swallowing the packed Queen Elizabeth Theatre into every lyric, every note. The nuance and range in Davis’s stunning performance can clearly be seen in his transformation from gentle to menacing in “The Music of the Night” to “Why So Silent,” and makes Davis the perfect Phantom, earning him the loudest standing ovation I have witnessed in the last few years. Consider him a contender for a new favourite, even for the hardcores. Davis is making history for the tour, as the first man of African and Latin descent to play the role. He is also one of the first three African-Americans to ever play the role.
Katie Travis played one of her dream roles as Christine Daae, relentlessly hitting impressive operatic scales throughout “Think of Me”, and her duet with Davis in “Phantom of the Opera”. Jordan Craig performed the role of Raoul, making the romantic connection with Christine genuine – any fellow Phantom-biased fans would be tempted to jump ship and cheer for during “Final Lair”. The actors really chewed the scenery, constantly breathing life to pantomime conversation and comedic visual easter eggs. One of my favourite interactions was Carlita delivering lines to the real-world conductor, who responded in character.
With a 52 strong cast and orchestra for the North America tour, Phantom of the Opera is one of the largest productions on tour. The newest version of the stagecraft is lush with detail: sets swiveled, extruded opened to reveal lavish, baroque set decoration. Smoke and mirrors doesn’t even begin to describe the special effects that Phantom utilized from ample pyrotechnics and bright sparks to perfectly projected silhouettes to a gorgeous mirrored ballroom set for the “Masquerade” sequence. Maria Björnson’s original Tony award winning costumes return, demonstrating a wide range of styles that perfectly fit the art directions color scheme including cinematic and evocative light design by Tony award winner Paule Constable. The entirety of the stage was utilized to the fullest, from towering sets with vertically staged blocking to crisp shadows of performers etched onto empty walls. Even the conductors pit, aisles, and of course, the chandelier dangling over the centre orchestra were stage to the immersive drama.
It’s impossible to leave the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to go home for the night without having Phantom of the Opera earworms for all remaining hours before heading to sleep. For those uninitiated to Phantom, this new production is a worthy introduction to the universe, and for hardcore fans looking for a fix of Phantom-driven frisson, this is one of the best productions to come to Vancouver in the last decade.
Broadway Across Canada‘s presentation of The Phantom of The Opera runs July 12 through July 23, 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Performances run: Week one – Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8pm and Sunday evening 7:30pm with 2pm matinees Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Week two – Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8pm, Sunday evening 7:30pm with 2pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets available by visiting Ticketmaster.ca or by calling 1-855- 985-5000. Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling 1-800- 889-8457.
Main image: Derrick Davis and Katie Travis in The Phantom of The Opera. Photograph by Matthew Murphy.