Though not as well known as Andrew Lloyd Webber's version, many elements of Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's Phantom surpass it, particularly the relationship between Christine and Erik (the Phantom) and the human scale of story, which is much truer to Gaston Leroux's novel. The musical numbers, too, are quite lovely. Indeed, its worldwide success has made it the greatest musical never to have played on Broadway.
And although there are many fine moments in Country Dinner Playhouse's current production, the overall effect does not live up to the play's potential. Specifically, the two areas that fall short are the love triangle between Christine, Erik, and the Count, and the music.
Tracy Venner-Warren is a superb soprano, dazzling us in the opening number, "Melodie de Paree," with the beauty of her instrument and the ease at which she sings. Later after Christine has taken lessons from Erik, she astonishes us and all the patrons of the Bistro with "Christine's Obligato/As You would Love Paree." Venner-Warren's acting is heartfelt, too. She is enraptured by Erik's accolades ("You are Music") and blushes at the Count's attentions ("Who Could Ever Have Dreamed Up You"). We feel her attraction to both men and her resulting dilemma.
|Tracy Venner-Warren as Christine Daeé|
and Randy St. Pierre as Erik, The Phantom
Erik Bryan makes a handsome and suave Count Philippe de Chandon, the Champagne mogul and boulevardier, who convinces us that he is honestly in love with Christine and willing to give up his flirtations and dalliances with a bevy of Parisian lovelies.
As a tenor, Randy St. Pierre can sing with anyone in town and has done so admirably for many years. He is also a handsome guy who has no trouble looking the part of the lover. But St. Pierre's challenge has always been to connect with his leading ladies, and the lack of palpable chemistry with Venner-Warren dissuades us from his melodic professions of love.
The missing connection is doubly troublesome to this particular storyline, because Kopit's book actually explores the psychological basis of Erik's attraction to Christine, unlike Lloyd Webber's storyline, which colors their dynamic as animal magnetism between an angel and a disappearing phantom.
It takes a great voice to sound like a diva gone south and Dee Etta Rowe has that and more as La Carlotta, the tonally-challenged villainess. Greg Price, as her bumbling husband, Alain Cholet, joins her in an ongoing melodramatic subplot that serves as the story's principle comic relief.
|Dee Etta Rowe as La Carlotta|
and Gregory Price as Alain Cholet
As always, the house band—Mitch Samu, Tag Worley, and Harry Grainger (alternating with Jeremy Wendelein)—is loaded with talent, unfortunately keyboards, percussion, and synthesizer can't to do justice to Maury Yeston's charming score. If only Equity and the American Federation of Musicians and Samuel French, Inc. had some rules to protect the integrity of a score and the audience's investment.
Director Paul Dwyer gets yeoman's work out of his talented ensemble, and choreographer Kitty Skillman-Hilsabeck does a terrific job with the dance segments, keeping the action swirling before us.
|Robert Hoppe as Young Carriere|
and Natalie Jensen as Belladova
Country Dinner Playhouse's Phantom runs through January 14th, 2007. Call 303-799-1410 or 1-800-630-1026 for tickets.