Thursday, August 5, 2010

Playhouse Square: Phantom of the Opera

Tonight as a relatively spur-of-the-moment decision I found myself at PlayhouseSquare for a fantastic evening of Phantom. Now, I will admit I was full of reservation--I wasn't sure how the intricacy of the Broadway set would translate to the roadhouse stage, and for a tour that's one stop from ending an 18-year run I was a little concerned that I may find myself using the adjective threadbare, not to mention a event-filled* week threatening to procrastinate my way the run of the show in Cleveland.

Back during my trip to New York in January I saw Phantom for the first time. Waiting for the prologue tonight I realized that while it wasn't my first musical, or my first Broadway show that was the first musical that I attended "on" Broadway. I was impressed by the level of detail in everything and I enjoy the music (Wishing you Were Somehow Here Again and Masquerade being my favorites).

Walking up to the box office window this evening, I pushed the concerns aside and asked for One, Best Available, please--almost a reflex by now--and walked away with G210. I don't think I could have asked for a nicer seat, dead center and about 5 rows back. As the prologue and overture began, I realized my concerns had no foundation whatsoever.

The incredibly high level of detail and complexity in the touring production at least equals the New York show--making it that much more impressive, considering that--for example--the chandelier, weighing in at over a ton, is moved in and out of a new theater every few weeks. Far from threadbare, the company felt fresher than some 'new' shows I've seen and during the curtain call the actor's facial expressions conveyed genuine appreciation.

As is to be expected for a show with this tenure, there's not much in the way of performance to critique: By this point it's pretty well nailed down and there for the audience to enjoy. The one mark I have against the show was a crackling mic throughout, but I may be the only person who was distracted by it.

I continue to be baffled, however, by people who feel the need to text in the middle of a musical number. That's irritating.

Following this evening's performance was a talk-back session with the ASM and roughly a dozen members of the cast -- an unusually large number based on similar events -- and was quite informative. To wit: One of the questions was about the "hands at eye level" comment that I nearly missed during the show. The answer--because the Phantom could drop a noose at any time and by having one's hand at eye level would give you the ability to slip out before the noose tightened--provided a great indication of how well these actors understood their roles. Another interesting tidbit is that the boat is driven by infrared control, not radio frequency due to some problems with RF when the show opened in London [yes, I'd kill to be backstage during a show, but that shouldn't suprise anyone who knows me]

Phantom is up at PlayhouseSquare's Allen Theater through August 22, though if tonight's performance was any indication you'd be advised not to wait too long to buy tickets. Following the close of Phantom, work will begin to convert the Allen to house the Cleveland Play House and CSU in a variety of performance spaces. (If anyone has an in for construction tour(s)... drop me a line-I have my own hard hat!)


*- Wade Oval Wednesdays last night, Phantom tonight, probably Verb Ballets tomorrow night, meeting someone at Blossom for an orchestra concert Saturday night, cheering on a frient in a triathalon Sunday morning...I dare anyone to say there's nothing to do in Cleveland to my face.

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