Put aside thoughts of this story's more famous cousin, the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, and enjoy this classic on more human terms, ones that align completely with the original Gaston Laroux novel, "The Phantom of the Opera." The music is lovely and the love story between Christine and Erik (the Phantom) yields greater depth.

We're talking about Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's Phantom, the greatest musical never to run on Broadway.

Maggie Sczekan as Christine Daee
Maggie Sczekan as Christine Daeé
Maggie Sczekan, a recent Oberlin Conservatory graduate in classical vocal performance, shines as Christine Daeé; after all, operatic quality is high on the Phantom's wish list, and Sczekan's soprano comes with all the bells and whistles (range, warmth, and coloratura), which we enjoy from the opening number, "Melodie de Paris," to the finale, "You are Music" (reprise).

Markus Warren as Erik, the Phantom
Markus Warren as Erik, the Phantom
The Phantom, Erik (Markus Warren), hears this lovely voice and joins her in a delightful duet. Erik then offers to train her to bring her voice to full maturity. Warren captures the complexities of man whose life encompasses the heights of song and the lows of a physical challenge that requires him to wear a mask to avoid frightening others, the pathos of which is captured in "My Mother Bore Me," a poignant piece in Warren's hands.

Joanie Brousseau as Carlotta
Joanie Brousseau as Carlotta
The biggest obstacle to Christine's success is Carlotta (Joanie Brousseau), the wife of the opera's new owner, who is both the antagonist and the comic relief, as we hear in Brousseau's wonderfully rueful, "This Place Is Mine."

The key to this tragedy is the relationship between Count Philippe de Chandon, "the Champagne King" (Brian Jackson), and Christine. If it is overemphasized, as in Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, then the relationship between the Phantom and Christine can, at times, seem like an impulsive misadventure; but if the Count's playboy nature and noble manners are taken more fully into account, as they are in Phantom, this paves the way for real tragedy, with the Phantom's one chance at happiness spoiled by a frivolous and jealous world.

Maggie Sczekan as Christine and Markus Warren as Erik
Maggie Sczekan as Christine
and Markus Warren as Erik
Jackson finds a wonderful balance between the Count's sincerity and a whif of aloof nobility in the delightful "Who Could Ever Have Dreamed Up You," creating a sharp contrast between the cool Count and the passionate Phantom. When, instead of disappearing like the Phantom in Lloyd-Webber's version, Erik dies in Christine's lap as she sings to him, we experience the full import of what is lost, as well as a measure of Greek-quality symmetry, since Erik's mother, to whom Christine bears a resemblance, sang to him as a babe. Voila! Catharsis.

Director Scott Beyette, choreographer Matthew D. Peters, and costumer Linda Morken make the most of the talented ensemble as a rich, melodious chorus and colorful, swirling crowd of Parisians. The only disappointments were the audio mix in the first act and the undermanned and over-synthesized, but gifted orchestra.

Boulder's Dinner Theatre's production of Phantom runs through February 18th, 2012. Call 303-449-6000 for tickets.

Bob Bows


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