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Phantom of the Opera: An evening of enchantment

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“The Phantom of the Opera” is not only Broadway’s most popular, longest-running musical, it is a classic tale of love and desire that has enraptured millions. Now you can experience the famed production first hand.

Producer Cameron Mackintosh and Really Useful Theatre Company have brought “Phantom” back to the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas for a limited engagement through March 14.

Tim Gleason leads a 36-member company as The Phantom, with sopranos Miri Raab and Trista Moldovan sharing the role of Christine Daaé. Sean MacLaughlin is cast as Christine’s viscount suitor, Raoul.

Contrary to some popular misconceptions about touring companies, the one presented in Dallas is of equal caliber to the one playing on Broadway. I saw a performance at the famous theatre district in 2006 that had the same energy and professionalism found in the Mackintosh show. I can tell you the actors are every bit as daring in their portrayals as their counterparts in New York.

The production is enormous, with an array of fantastic actors, singers and dancers who fill the stage in wonderful harmony. Miri Raab shines in the role of the confused but talented Christine, singing with an incredible range but making it seem completely effortless. The test of fire is always at the beginning of the musical, when Christine is introduced and sings “Think Of Me,” a song about youthful love. As the song reaches its grand finale, Raab performs the difficult acapella slide up and down the scale in astounding form.

Any teacher could be proud of such a brilliant performance, and so is the case for Christine; the Phantom of the Opera emphatically congratulates his student. As a reward, the Phantom reveals himself as her teacher and takes her to his home on the subterranean lake under the opera house. After the dazzlingly well-staged descent to his lair, the Phantom serenades Christine with “The Music of the Night.” The Phantom’s song is beautifully complex and staggering musical feat to perform, and Gleason hits every musical and emotional note as scrupulously as his character would.

Other highlights of the musical include the ensemble scenes like the vibrant masque ball number, “Masquerade” in act two. People in colorful costumes stepping and singing perfectly in sync on an expansive staircase provide a delightfully thrilling effect.

The standout scene of the seven-time 1988 Tony Award winning musical is the final portion of act one, set on the rooftop of the Opéra Populaire. It is the catalyst to the Phantom’s final rapture of Christine and his hate of Raoul, leading to the most memorable stunt in Broadway history.

“I’ve seen him. Can I ever forget that sight?” Christine sings to Raoul atop the opera. “Can I ever forget such a face so distorted, deformed – it was hardly a face. In the darkness.”

Christine has survived a face-to-face encounter with her elusive lifelong teacher, the Phantom, in the night of her operatic debut. In a spark of curiosity, Christine unveiled the deformed face that lies behind the Phantom’s mask – an image that has haunted her ever since.

“But his voice filled my spirit with a strange, sweet sound. In the night there was music in my mind,” sings Christine,  entranced - even in memory – by the Phantom’s mad, musical brilliance and the glances at the goodness that lies buried deep inside his sinister being. “Through music my soul began to soar! And I heard as I’ve never heard before.”

Raoul hushes his sweetheart, breaking the Phantom’s spell, by asking her to stop thinking of the darkness and join him in the light as his bride. Roul is Christine’s white knight, where the Phantom is the champion of darkness. As Christine and Raoul leave the rooftop professing their love for one another, the Phantom emerges from the shadows to proclaim war upon them both.

In a stellar depiction of jealousy and rage, Gleason steers clear of anything remotely camp when he sings: “You will curse they day you did not do all that the Phantom asked of you!”

One still marvels at the elaborate set design, especially the Phantom’s lair and the famous chandelier that provides the explosive ending of act one. What must have been incredible technical advances in theatre in the 1980s still instill the same awe and wonder in  today’s audience. That is certainly one of the many reasons why “Phantom” is a Broadway classic.

The only complaint of the incredible “Phantom” experience is the muddled sound the acoustics of the Music Hall at Fair Park provide. Numbers like “Prima Donna,” led by the formidable and hilarious Kim Stengel as fading diva Carlotta Giudicelli, lose the complexity of its layered vocal composition. Some effects, such as the Phantom’s omnipresence – his voice jumps out from every corner of the theatre – and duets and solos pass over just fine; but when more than four people are singing different parts in a scene, the sound begins to teeter into cacophony.

Sound issues in no way ruin the experience, but they do make those sitting farther back in the theater have a hard time following the scene. However, the energy on the stage certainly makes up for it.

Don’t miss out on the incredible experience by watching the Phantom try to understand love by terrorizing Christine and her beau. Live the romance, the spectacle and the mystery of “The Phantom of The Opera” in Dallas through March 14.

Tickets range from $21-$86.


Remaining Shows:
Saturday, March 6 -  2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 7 -  2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Tuesday, March 9 - 8 p.m.
Wednesday, March 10 - 8 p.m.
Thursday, March 11 - 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Friday, March 12 - 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 13 - 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 14 - 2 p.m.
For tickets and more information, visit the Dallas Summer Musicals’ website:
www.dallassummermusicals.org/2010/shows/phantom.shtm or
call 214-631-2787.



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