First Look review of Phantom of the Opera: The reimagined classic shines as brightly as ever
Whether it’s a fresh experience or an old favorite, the new North American tour will not disappoint
By Corey O’Day
When: Running through Sunday, March 2, 2014 with the following performance schedule (subject to change): Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com
History: The Phantom of the Opera has enjoyed more than 25 years on Broadway and is still going strong. The brand-new North American tour joins five other productions of Phantom currently running around the world. The show has been seen by 130 million people in 29 countries, 150 cities and 13 languages. Phantom has won more than 70 major theatre awards.
What to expect: Paul Brown’s set moves with the agility and grace of the Corps de Ballet. From a bright, elaborate opera set to foreboding catacombs in moments. The set changes occur before our eyes, but the illusion is never shattered.
This production of Phantom is also expertly lit — or rather, expertly shadowed — by Paul Constable. It is as visually dark and mysterious as the Phantom himself, with most scenes in half-light and portions of the story told entirely with shadows from the past.
What stood out: Julia Udine in the role of Christine Daaé is entirely captivating. She floats and melts across the stage — a human cloud — ever interesting, new and beautiful. She is the axis that the entire show turns around. Dynamic, relatable and authentic, Udine’s Christine is not just some frightened waif, but a strong, capable woman struggling with feelings of grief, fear, compassion and love.
The audience hangs on every word of Raoul (Ben Jacoby) and Christine’s duet, “All I Ask of You,” as the passion between them becomes palpable. Cooper Grodin’s vocal talents as the sometimes sniveling Phantom particularly shine in his devastating echo of the same ballad.
Final thoughts: As one of the longest-running musicals of all time, Phantom has fans who have some expectations. I walked in with misty childhood memories of catacombs and crashing chandeliers, and I was delighted by this reimagined production.
From the breathtaking masquerade scene showcasing the Tony Award-winning original costume design of the late Maria Björnson, to pyrotechnics in the murky bellows of the opera house, this production of Phantom contains enough of both the familiar and fresh to satisfy any audience.