Just a few weeks ago the city rocked out to the Broadway musical “School of Rock” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The stage was filled with ambitious, impressionable preteens armed with mature voices, guitar fingers, and dance moves that made you smile. Now, “The Phantom of the Opera” creates a more solemn, morbid mood, though the musicals are penned by the same composer.
Lloyd Webber is famous for many Broadway hits and Belk Theater is giving him even more shine with this current tour. Though it’s a new production, if you’re not a die-hard Phantom fan, you won’t notice the differences between the two. In 2016, producer Cameron Mackintosh, said in an interview with Tim Smith of The Baltimore Sun, “What we wanted was something more dark and brooding. We can show more of the backstage of a 19th-century opera house. You see the Phantom crawling and disappearing. And the journey to his lair is completely different. The production is more realistic. It’s like an Advent calendar in 3-D. This is more visceral — that’s the word. It has heightened the story in some ways.”
To a Phantom virgin, the performance is like having a laminated pass to watch behind the scenes footage up close and personal. It teeters on the brink of mythic and gothic, almost elusive of where one ends and the other begins.
Quentin Oliver Lee plays the passionately mysterious masked phantom who lives beneath the floors of the Paris Opera House. His 6’6 stance is daunting, as is his booming voice and lurking movements. Those characteristics make his mere presence intimidating. But admirer and protege, Christine Daae’ (Eva Tavares), doesn’t shy away from him and his deformity. His musical IQ draws her closer, aching to know more from the genius. But she’s torn – In love with her childhood friend Raoul (Jordan Craig), who is handsome, successful, and charismatic.
The trio each fill up their characters equally. Eva sings her heart out, reaching notes unattainable by some.The men lustfully battle for Christine’s affection, even willing to commit murder to have her.
The music is robust, not allowing for even a moment of inattentiveness. The orchestra matches each segment with fervor and purpose.The set is hearty and bold as are the costumes. Rich golds and reds grab your attention as grimy blues and purples set the tone around much of the stage. Christine Rowland, Costume Coordinator for the original designer Maria Bjornson, decides to keep her florid garb in tact, even after Bjornson’s passing in 2002.
To make this show a little more appealing, Emily Ramirez, a Charlotte Ballet veteran, plays a major character and helps solidify the Queen City’s place to produce theater talent. With many more shows scheduled in the Broadway Lights series, I’d say we’re pretty solid.
For more information visit www.blumenthalarts.org.