A-Team: 3 Full Rave Reviews for Phantom

A Golly-Gee-Wow-Oh my! ‘Phantom…’

* * * * *

Stop! Do not pass “Go.” Instead, break into your piggy bank. Liberate momma’s “egg money. Raid your stash of mad cash. Search the seat cushions for loose change if you have to, or hock Uncle Luther’s railroad watch.

Spring for the best seats you can afford and don’t, by any means, miss the “Texas Farewell Tour” performance of Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Phantom…” and Charles Hart’s wonderful lyrics at UT’s Bass Hall. This is as good as professional theatre gets. This long-running, proven, crowd- pleasing musical is not only a “spectacle,” but Friday’s opening performance was spectacular in all respects.

The leads – Tim Martin Gleason as the Phantom, Trista Moldovan as Christine and Sean MacLaughlin as Raoul – are consummate singers and actors, beautiful and handsome and talented. Gleason had already played Raoul 2,600, times, an American record, before assuming the role of the mysterious, subterranean-dwelling opera house composer.

Kim Stengel, who portrays the tempestuous senior diva Carlotta, holds the world record for that role – more than 5,000 performances! Other supporting actors Nancy Hess, D.C. Anderson, Bruce Winant, David Gaschen, even the “Hannibal slave master” played by KFir likely have their own fan bases. Every character is imminently watchable and entertaining.

In fact, the entire cast is obviously a tightly-knit ensemble with ludicrously deep credentials on stage, in films, in television, dance troupes, etc. So, arrive early and study the program in depth.

Unbelievable? Alright, then take this tip. Bring your opera glasses – bought, rented or borrowed. (I did.) Closely study every character’s face and gestures. No one, not even down to the exquisite ballet troupe, falls out of character or seems to miss a cue or movement.

Okay, so you wind up in the balcony with Uncle Bob’s field binoculars. What you will discover, however, are the most exquisite costumes – many seemingly changed in seconds; wonderful period (1890s) and contemporary make-up; and eye-popping sets, props, carvings – unexpected attention to the tiniest details. (Okay, just look at their shoes, worthy of any die-hard fetishist.)

Oh yeah, your jaw will drop again and again as the curtains and scrim, painted scenes, opera boxes, mechanical elephant, “floating boat” and elaborate, flickering floor candles move flawlessly into place in a matter of seconds. The designers and stage hands deserved a standing ovation, too! One can also wax eloquent about the orchestra, under the baton of Jonathan Gorst.

Can’t get your sugar daddy, your hubby or your boyfriend off the couch and away from “March Madness” for this delicious 2 ½-hour extravaganza? Just tell him it’s in the shadow of Royal-Memorial stadium. Assure him there are thrills, chills, smoke and mirrors (literally), abductions, chases, spookiness, secret notes, pyrotechnics, macabre jokes, even laughter and guffaws plus memorable tunes.

Treat him and yourself to the third floor Cafe of the “new” Bass Hall. Offer him this bonus: A mini-art education by viewing 11 modern and contemporary sculptures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then there are the artworks by the members of the Capitol Art Society, particularly Martha Paisley Ruth’s “Slice of Summer” acrylic and “Blue Willow” water color.

But also warn him that romance and drama aside, “Phantom…” is a little like seeing his two favorite teams matched up in the Final Four. He’ll be somewhat torn for whom he wants to cheer. And while this show deserves a big No. 1 foam finger, “Phantom…” scores with better souvenirs and memorabilia than a basketball game.

Preston Kirk

A-Team Reporter

Spicewood TX USA

Mesmerizing Perfection

* * * * *

Amazing, glorious, exquisite . . . Even Roget doesn’t have enough superlatives in his thesaurus to adequately describe this touring production of “Phantom . . . .”

Audiences will enjoy the superior singing, dancing and acting of the entire cast, but special praise goes to the set designers, craftsmen and stage personnel who combine their own talents to transport attendees back to late 19th Century Paris.

Ornate, detailed, beautiful set pieces, curtains and painted back drops (scenes) make one’s eyes move quickly to take it all in. The scene changes are smooth, quick, almost noiseless, seamlessly transitioning the action.

Then there are the costumes! Gorgeous, rich, colorful – numerous, eye-popping creations capable of repeatedly distracting one from the storyline.

Choreography may seem to be secondary to the romance, drama and mystery in the foreground, but certainly deserves attention and appreciation. Special effects are particularly noteworthy, and the sound quality (dialogue, singing, orchestra) is outstanding in Bass Concert Hall.

You may know the music, and the “Phantom…” story has been around for decades, but don’t miss this magnificent production. I wish I could give 10 stars instead of only five.

Ronda Dale Kirk

A Team Reporter

Spicewood TX USA

Phantom: A beginner’s guide.

Friday night’s performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Texas Performing Art Center Bass Concert Hall was a show to remember. If you’ve never seen the show, like myself, sit back and be prepared to be transported from 2010 to 1911, and then dive straight into Paris in 1881. With the proscenium draped in black parachute clothe and the stage filled out in muted rich tones, the opening, at the auction house does exactly what it was intended to do-intrigue the viewer enough to want to know the back story behind the music box monkey and the infamous chandelier.

One question that generally arises, can the Broadway mega-hit be effectively pulled off by a traveling show in Austin? The short answer, Yes! The transformation of the Bass Concert Hall was complete. The feeling was such that when the voice of the phantom was present, you couldn’t help looking around to see if there was a balcony seat that he was appearing in. An excellent performance by the orchestra, led by Jonathon Gorst, queued the dramatic events and gave a riveting thrill ride through the story.

The marvelous spectacle of the stage production is fully realized in this production. The symbology is paramount in the architecture, from the eerie shape of the opera box seats-reminiscent of the phantoms mask, half draped and staring at you and the use of half draped curtains that bring you to a part of the Paris production not meant for the audience. This is a splendid treat for the eyes. The riveting and elegant Labyrinth underground scene clearly transports the mind to the underground of Paris.

In this production, two performers shine brighter than the rest and are worth particular praise in their own right. Sean MacLaughlin, playing Raoul, the love interest of Christine, was one such performer. Whenever he was on stage, his connection with the characters he interacted with was evident. He pulled off this connection within the story line, whether he was courting Christine, or when attendant at the Masquerade ball. He purpose, needs and goals were communicated in action and dialogue, an excellent performance.

Also of special notice was Paloma Garcia-Lee who played Meg Giry. While not a large role, when Ms. Garcia-Lee was on stage, the audience could feel her presence. She was always in the moment and if she was there to do something, all eyes were on her. She connected with the audience with grace and poise.

If you can drag yourself away from SXSW for a moment, leave behind the culture of Austin and immerse yourself in another century for a couple of hours. You will feel rewarded for it.

John Medberry

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