The Phantom of the Opera
The tour of The Phantom of the Opera at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) is billed on posters as “Cameron Macintosh’s Spectacular New Production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.” The major differences between this production and the current production at the Majestic Theatre in New York, New York, are the sets and slight reblocking (actors’ movement on stage) to scenes in order to properly use the new set space.
The original production could now be considered minimalistic compared to the tour’s rotating wall and lavish decorations in the manager’s office and the Phantom’s lair below the opera house. The rotating wall still allows for the actors to be on different levels throughout the show and cuts out the need for a pair of lead doubles during the title song.
It is important to note that the sets and lighting of this show are phenomenal, especially during the title song, but it isn’t enough for a show to just be pretty. The vocals and stage presence of the actors must be at the same level of excellence, and with much disappointment, the current leads are not strong enough to make their characters believable.
Christine Daaé, the story’s heroine, came off as mousey and weak, even at the end when she takes her power back during the final number. Her growth is vital to the core of the show. The Phantom, the story’s villain, sounded like he spoke most of his lines rather than sang them and never once commanded the stage like the character should. Even Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, the story’s second protagonist, wasn’t convincing in his pursuit of Christine.
None of the leads conveyed real emotion or created a suspension of belief within the theatre. It was like watching the animatronics inside Walt Disney’s “Carousel of Progress.” The story is told, but there isn’t any life behind the characters on stage.
For most of the show, the ensemble’s energy was there, and the actors appeared to have more dedication to the quality of the show, but it was hard to watch them not hit the sharp movements during “Masquerade” at the top of act two. This part, along with the song “Notes,” are aspects taken out of a real opera and infused into the story of this opera ghost. When a company nails these scenes, it causes chills to bloom across the backs of those in attendance. It hurts to watch a performance and know the level it should be when it just isn’t there.
There are key moments that are never lacking, even if the leads can’t carry the show, such as the moment during the title song that a spotlight catches the Phantom’s mask and it is reflected out into the audience. That visual coupled with the driving beat of the bass is the reason why it is currently the longest running musical on Broadway.
Webber’s interpretation of Gaston Leroux’s classic tale is by far the most well-known, but after leaving the theatre with a sense of dissatisfaction, it might be time for a new inception to reign as supreme.