Phantom las Vegas 17 July 2007 (Barrett/Holden/Gleason)

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Phantom las Vegas 17 July 2007 (Barrett/Holden/Gleason)

Post  Raphael on Sun Dec 13, 2009 4:03 am

Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular - 17 July 2007 7:00pm: The "Chandelier Seats Ought To Come With A Pair Of Adult Diapers" Edition

At this performance, I had the opportunity to see Brent Barrett, whom I'd missed the last time I was in Las Vegas, and newcomer Kristi Holden.

When I had purchased my ticket for this particular show, I had presumed that it was on the outer edge of the "chandelier zone." So I was surprised to find that I was just one seat to the right of dead center. Sitting under the large base, you can really see the detailing on the glass beads and ornamentation.

PRE-SHOW:
Nothing really special. I was running a little late so I only got there 15-20 minutes before curtain. And Lisa the usher recognized me from the previous night Smile And the woman sitting next to me came in with a beverage. I prayed that she'd finish it before the chandelier dropped. Wasn't looking forward to getting my suit wet.

Overture:
Now if you *really* want an immersive Phantom experience, you have to sit under the chandelier. In this case, the chandelier is so massive that as you watch it reassemble (along with the blue beams of light shining down on you), the auditorium's transformation is obscured so that once the chandelier rises and your eyes readjust, you're suddenly back in the restored opera house circa 1881. It's a definite "must-do" for any phan.

Hannibal:
Feeling a little more free that night to focus on more actors, I found quite a bit of my attention drawn to Lawson Skala. His is a wonderfully business-minded Firmin, which was much to my liking. Throughout the scene he would count seats and boxes, the wheels turning in his head to see how best he could generate revenue from this new enterprise. On the other hand, John Leslie Wolfe's André, being the creative side of the partnership, showed a lot more interest in the actors, Carlotta in particular. Not quite the groupie as D.C. Anderson's André, but still very much the art-lover.

Understudy Danielle White played the part of Carlotta at this performance. Far from being physically imposing in stature, Danielle's Carlotta was more like a pitbull pup, tiny but feisty and ready to overrun anybody who stood in her way (which she nearly did as she exited the scene). It was a fun, diva-esque interpretation. One nice moment that I remember was her reaction to André's "These things do happen." While most Carlottas play their reaction with a sort of incredulousness to hearing his words, Danielle had more of an exasperated quality to her line read that was refreshing in its originality.

Think of Me:
To me, newcomer Kristi Holden felt like she was still trying to find herself in the role. At the moment, her Christine seemed much like the "standard" Christines in that I couldn't quite pick out a unique approach that she used to make it her own. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy her performance, because she has a very lovely voice. Maybe I'm just spoiled on seeing Christines like Lisa Vroman and Elizabeth Loyacano who really emphasize the acting.

During her cadenza, I took the opportunity to glance up at the manager's box. When Kristi hit her high note, Tim turned back to the managers with this big grin on his face as if to say: "she did it!" And since I'm talking about Tim Gleason, I noticed on both nights that he seemed to be milking his first few lines, holding notes to the point that it sounded like he was adding another syllable. I'm quite sure he didn't do that last year, so I assumed he was trying something new this time around.

The Mirror:
First impressions of Brent Barrett? I didn't feel as much authority in his voice as I did with Anthony, but instead there was a "smoothness" to it - sort of like Hugh Panaro if memory serves. It was certainly easy on the ears.

Phantom of the Opera:
I love the little things added here (the second portcullis, the "extended" lake, etc.). This trip I noticed that the cast seemed much more inclined to time their movements to the music. Just as Anthony and Elizabeth timed their PoNR tugs to the beat, Brent punctuated a cymbal clash with a quick flick of the pole before he resumed punting it across the lake. Kristi also introduced a rather sensual hip swing as she walked to her mark during her cadenza. An interesting choice, I thought.

Music of the Night:
Brent's smooth tenor made his Phantom very much a seducer -- but thankfully not in a "hot seducer with a rose" kind of way. He also incorporated the grand hand gestures of many early Phantoms like Crawford and D'Ambrosio. Very old-school, I'd say, which I found nice. Kristi's Christine, like Sierra before her, was one of the half-mesmerized Christines and she played that interpretation well (I don't mean for that to sound like a criticism, because it isn't). One moment of note between Brent and Kristi was after the business at the portcullis when she moves back to her mark downstage. This may be a rather bizarre analogy, but if you were to think of the Crivello/Loyacano dynamic like the visible aroma of a cartoon pie that wafts down the street and causes the sleeping dog or cat to float bodily in the air when it catches a whiff, then the Barrett/Holden dynamic at this particular moment was like an invisible hand snatching at her as she flees, constantly slipping out of its grasp.

Yeah. Reading that even *I* think I must be on something.

Another really unique moment was after Christine falls to the ground and the Phantom places his cloak over her. Brent looked down at her and tilted his head from side to side as in analyzing her curiously. Sort of how my dog looks at me when I'm rambling on about something to him while he has no clue what I'm talking about. Actually, you're probably doing the exact same thing right now. Anyway, I thought it was rather unique.

Stranger than You Dreamt It:
Brent's Phantom is hands-down the most active at the organ. Laughing to himself, writing furiously, scribbling things out and rearranging papers. It really got to the point that it shifted my focus to him rather than Kristi while she was singing her lines. There was a nice bit here when Kristi fell prone on the floor and she hid her face completely
as Brent raged on – a palpable sense of fear which was terrific. And Brent's snake-like crawl was pretty spiffy as well.

Notes/Prima Donna:
Danielle White continued to be a real spitfire in this scene and the comedy, again, was quite good – from the domino-like wave of head turns to Larry Wayne Morbitt's singing straight into Lawson's face and his cross-eyed reaction to that. I also took the opportunity to watch Tim get Sherlock Holmes on the Phantom’s notes and Brianne's "Curious Meg" peek over shoulders and eavesdrop on conversations in an endearing way.

Il Muto:
There was a slight gaffe here when Danielle's quick-change took longer than the usual alloted time. But she sang her lines per usual (only from behind the bed) and was out by the time Don Attilio entered the scene. Kristi showed a great deal of nervousness once the Phantom made himself known -- I thought that was a nice take since it isn't played up as much by other actresses I've seen. John also emphasized André's nervousness – knees knocking and shoulders shaking as he fumbled with his (very nice and more elaborate) programme. Again, playing the humor more broadly this time around.

All I Ask of You:
Random observation #1: Have the clouds always moved like that?

Hey, did Tim just ad-lib? When Kristi sang the line "Promise me that all you say is true," you could actually hear Tim mutter/whisper "It is" through his mic. There was a nice earnestness in his vocals just like the previous night that was good. Unfortunately, the dip and kiss was back as well, but shorter this time. Tim also broke the "Hitch" rule and did the whole 100% - which made Kristi's Christine all that more innocent, I guess. I also noticed that the orchestrations threatened to overwhelm their vocals; it seemed as if they were straining to make themselves heard toward the end of the song. Tim kissed Kristi's hand as they descended the stairs -- another nice touch.

Rooftop Reprise:
Brent's reprise was sad, but not completely devastated, but it did pick up some after we heard Kristi and Tim. Good, but it didn't stick with me as others have.

Masquerade:
Of the now twelve times I've seen PotO, this is the first time I've witnessed a technical problem that forced the show to a stop. In this case, the staircase failed to rotate into place. The cast bravely soldiered on -- almost up to the point where Raoul and Christine come out -- before the show was halted. It didn't take all that long before the problem was fixed (ten minutes tops, which I put to good use by thumbing through and cleaning up my notes) and the announcement was made that they were starting up again.

The curtain rose to the staircase completely assembled and the cast immediately jumped into "Masquerade" with an invigorated energy that swept the audience along. I tried to pay close attention to the choreography this time around, resulting in:

Random observation #2: The way Meg's jacket flares out really emphasizes the one-two hip swish thing she does at one point (I *swear* I wasn't staring, Brianne!)

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again:
"Wishing" gave Kristi a chance to shine and she really stepped up to the plate. She opened the scene by holding the scarf up to her cheek as if trying to draw strength or comfort from it. She gave a very moving (quite literally) performance throughout in which she approached the mausoleum and touched the gates a couple of times during the song.

Wandering Child:
Another nice bit by Kristi here was how she handled the first section of "Wandering Child." As it began, she was walking out in a rather sullen mood but as the music reached a crescendo, her expression changed to one of joy -- as if she'd willingly and completely given herself over to the Phantom again. It's the most joyous interpretation I've seen and was quite a pleasant surprise. The graveyard sequence is probably the strongest part of Kristi's performance.

Don Juan Triumphant:
Can't say enough how much I like Brianne's signature little kick at the top of the scene. It gives Meg's character that extra bit of flirtiness. Do any other Megs do that? Vegas has been the only place I've seen it.

Point of No Return:
Compared to the last several performances I've seen, Kristi's Aminta was pretty tame. Coy, yes; but much more conservative than other Christines. Sort of like Lisa Vroman or Teri Bibb. She did do a few unique things with the apple, though. Breathing on it… um… "manipulating" it, I guess you could say. Also, Kristi seemed to play the bench choreography (once they'd switched positions) as if she recognized that it was the Phantom much earlier than usual but then got back into the scene before realizing it was him again by feeling the mask. The way it played I wasn't sure if she just got ahead of herself or it was a conscious choice. If it was the latter, I don't think there was enough time in-between realizations for it to sell properly. Her struggle to break free of Brent's grasp was especially violent, though. Quite convincing.

"Bring down the chandelier!"
Okay, the chandelier. I swore to Brianne the previous night that I wouldn't flinch when it came down. And I'm proud to say that I didn't. I looked straight up at it and like Firmin Richard's concierge in Leroux's novel, didn't move a muscle as it suddenly dropped. Now, despite that, and despite knowing that it's perfectly safe, it doesn't stop your heart from leaping into your throat as that 2,000-pound lighting fixture comes crashing down on your skull. And if you don't blink, your mind's eye can project in the second or so that the lights are out, the velocity of the chandelier taking it the remaining few feet to the floor below. I can sum up the actual experience like this:

"Wow!"
"Cool!"
"Oh SH--!!!!!"

Final Lair:
Brent really impressed me here with an intriguing take on the scene. His Phantom is rather schizophrenic -- recalling a bit of Peter Karrie, I thought, only not as intense. "Slightly unhinged" may be a good way to describe it. At turns vengeful and self-pitying, he really runs the gamut of emotions beyond the obvious line-reading. And for you smut-lovers out there, once Tim was up in the air and Brent clutched Kristi tightly to himself, his line: "buy his freedom with your love" was emphasized by running his hand down the side of her torso while she struggled. I wouldn't go as far as to say it was groping, but it was definitely in the realm of pawing.

Kristi did a good job expressing the anger and desperation her character feels in the scene. Again, it was what's on the page and there wasn't anything in particular that I felt made her Christine stand out among the others I've seen. Hopefully should I see her again, she'll be more comfortable in the part and find her own spin on the character.

Onto the kiss. Oops, spoke too soon, Kristi. There was some rather unique interaction between Brent and Kristi here. After the first kiss, Brent seemed so weak-kneed that Kristi had to help hold him up. There was no embrace from the Phantom here, though. His arms shook then started to reach around before he stopped, his hands balling into tight fists then falling to his sides again. Finally, Brent pulled away really forcefully, wrapping an arm around his torso while the other shielded his face; his breath labored like he was crying. I don't think I've ever seen that done before, but I loved it immediately. Jumping ahead slightly, there was a great deal of monkey-touching after Raoul and Christine left. Brent knelt down and hugged it, his head resting on its furry little shoulder. When Kristi entered to return the ring, Brent took it but offered it back to her with his "Christine I love you…" and even took a few shuffling steps after her -- still holding the ring out to her -- as she ran off. It was a very, very touching moment. His follow-up, kneeling on the floor and crying while his face was buried in the veil was a bit much, but it didn't sour things in the long run. A flawless disappearing act, Brianne displayed the mask, The End.

Curtain:
Just a brief note here. The standing ovation started with the ensemble. I actually stood up when the ballet corps came out, regardless of ruining the view for the patrons behind me. But the audience really seemed to enjoy and appreciate the performance by the actors since more and more people began to rise from their seats even before the principal cast came out.

All in all, a great show despite the technical problems. The cast gave more than 100% and it resulted in a memorable night. Both Brent and Kristi are distinct in their portrayals of their characters as compared to Anthony and Elizabeth so I can't imagine why any phan (besides the expense) wouldn't take the opportunity to see both casts while they were in town. Brent himself is a very good Phantom and Kristi definitely has the beginnings of being a fabulous Christine given a little more time to explore the part.

POST-SHOW:
I'm ashamed to say that I monopolized all of Brianne's post-show time, particularly because while I was standing in the lobby afterwards, I noticed a young girl obviously waiting around in order to get autographs from the actors. It was only much later that night that the thought occurred to me that she may have wanted to meet Brianne and we probably could have helped point out other cast members. Bad Raphael! Only thinking about yourself!

Brianne and I talked at length afterwards -- about far too many things to cover now. But here are some highlights:

- Meglett's Excellent European Adventure (turns out she's a big a shutterbug as my sister)
- The cast and crew's professionalism when things go wrong
- Reyer singing folk songs backstage
- Apu from "The Simpsons" as the Auctioneer
- The new sexy ad campaign (that completely snubs this photogenic cast) and the state of PLV advertising in general
- This thing that Brianne and Elizabeth do backstage before Hannibal that keeps me warm at night (which made for a rather sleepless night since my room at the Sahara was uncomfortably warm to begin with. It sure ain't no Venetian!)

To sum up my two-day trip, I'd have to say it was probably the best Phantom experience I've ever had -- definitely on par with attending closing night of the San Francisco production in terms of energy, enthusiasm, and fantastic memories of the cast members both onstage and off.

R.

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Raphael

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Join date : 2009-09-22
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