The Phantom of the Opera

Photo of Gary Mauer as The Phantom and Marie Danvers as Christine Daaé
Gary Mauer as The Phantom
and Marie Danvers
as Christine Daaé
Photo: Joan Marcus
As Aristotle said, one of the fundamental elements of good theatre is spectacle, and more than any of its other qualities it is this that sustains Andrew Lloyd Webber's splashiest show, The Phantom of the Opera. Yes, there's the romance, but Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston's Phantom mines more love and humanity from Gaston Leroux's novel than does Webber's version—anyone who saw Boulder's Dinner Theatre version a few years back can attest to this. And, yes, Webber's music for this show is grand and in a few instances memorable, which puts it far ahead of most contemporary musicals, but here again, the other, lesser known musical version has duets that outdo its famous cousin.

But nothing before or since—including the helicopter in Miss Saigon, the magic of Angels in America, the barricades of Les Miserables, or the set of Sunset Boulevard—outdoes The Phantom of the Opera for sheer spectacle, which goes a long ways toward explaining why it's Broadway's longest running show. Everyone talks about the chandelier, which is something to behold, but that's only the beginning. Then there's the extravagant gilded proscenium, the image of the Opera Ghost in the mirror, the Degas-like tableaus of the ballerinas, the three lavishly costumed and appointed opera scenes, the gondola ride across the candlelit underground lake, the masquerade on the steps of the Paris Opera, and the Phantom's final disappearing act to name a few.

In the current national touring show at the Buell, all these effects are done to perfection as usual, and for the first-time audience member, the production will certainly leave a memorable impression. But having seen this extravaganza on three other occasions, I was disappointed by the sound mix (as I often am with amplified orchestration).

As is so often the case, the voices are overwhelmed by the music, sending us to our Broadway cast CD for further elucidation. Whether this is just a ramification of the stone-lined Buell, or whether it's an industry-wide affliction of traveling soundmen, I cannot say. I also admit that I didn't fall in love with Marie Danvers as Christine Daaé. She is certainly convincing in the role, and her voice is pleasing, but she is not what Lloyd Webber had in mind when he wrote this for his then wife, Sarah Brightman.

Photo of Gary Mauer as The Phantom and Marie Danvers as Christine Daaé
Gary Mauer as The Phantom
and Marie Danvers as Christine Daaé
Photo: Joan Marcus
However, Gary Mauer, as The Phantom of the Opera, obviously begs to differ. When the two of are finally alone in Scene 5, "Beyond the Lake," we witness one of the sexiest seductions in Phantom memory, set to the story's most beautiful song and, indeed, its theme, "The Music of the Night." Mauer's hands tell us the whole story of his passion for Christine, as they glide over her entire body, while Danvers shivers under thoughts of surrender. Thereafter, it's easy to see why Christine is transformed every time she senses the masked man is near. All this would be a done deal if it weren't for Christine's other suitor, the handsome Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, played by the ardent and steadfast John Cudia, who dives into the lake pursuing the final abduction.

Denver Center Attractions' presentation of Cameron Macintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera runs through December 4th. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows


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