Phantom 3NT 7 December 2008: The "Full-Contact Phantom Edition (Cudia/Grant/Barisch)

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Phantom 3NT 7 December 2008: The "Full-Contact Phantom Edition (Cudia/Grant/Barisch)

Post  Raphael on Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:35 am

PotO US National Tour Cudia/Grant/Barisich - 7 December 7:30pm: The "Full-Contact Phantom" Edition

This could also be called the "Never Attend PotO on an Empty Stomach" Edition, particularly if you have the metabolism of a 5-year old. As a consequence, this review probably won't be as in-depth as my previous ones. Lack of energy will sap quite a bit of your concentration and muddle the experience overall. It's probably the first time I've stagedoored and seriously considered skipping out just to get a bite to eat.

But again, getting ahead of myself.

Pre-Show:
A busy day for me. I had a couple of items that I had to get printed up in order to take them with me to the show, so the morning was spent at my local Kinkos getting things ready. Thankfully that went smoothly and I was ready to go on that end. A very early dinner (or late lunch depending on your point-of-view), and I left to pick up my friends at around 3:30. We headed up to San Francisco at 4pm. The show was at 7:30.

We arrived in San Francisco at 6:15pm. I hate Bay Area traffic.

We had a quick bite at the burger joint down the street before heading across the street to the Orpheum. I wasn't feeling that hungry, so I just had the apple fries. That's right, I said *apple* fries. Predictability, thou art me.

I met up with phantomgirl110 outside as we had planned and after she signed the card I'd made, shown here:



we headed inside; assuming the rest of our group had already arrived.

Prologue:
A couple of things that would be working against me became apparent once the show started. One, I need another eye exam. My contacts didn't seem to make up for he distance from the mezzanine to the stage. And two, big 80s hair apparently decided to make a comeback that night in that the bulk of stage left was obscured by a patron sitting in the row ahead of me.

All that aside, being eye level with Maria, the chandelier, gave me a nice overall view of the stage. In this case, I got a good look at two of the bidder standing next to the Auctioneer's platform behind the drape. The Auctioneer (Sean MacLaughlin) was more somber than scary, and was the first cast member to milk some foreign-language dialogue, really drawing out the "Ro" in "Rrrohhh-behr" de Diable. Kyle Barisch's Old Raoul didn't sound quite elderly or feeble. Older, maybe, but not by much.

Overture:
Heavy on the percussion, particularly at the end. Very much like the Broadway overture I heard recently. No hiccups here, although it seemed to take Maria awhile to get up and running.

Hannibal:
Kim Stengel had a great intro, played with broad strokes, maybe moreso than the last time I saw her. The understudy Piangi (Michael Scott Harris) should be mentioned here. Quite obviously a thin man in a fat suit, he nevertheless brought a great deal of originality to the role, starting with a rather superheroic pose upon his introduction. Harris also played up the "Rome/Roma" banter to great effect -- overstressing the "M" at every opportunity until the very last when Piangi flubs it again. Harris also sustained the note in Piangi's last line prior to the ballet sequence as I've heard some do. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Sure, it's an opportunity for the actor to show off his vocal chops, but in my mind it undermines Christine's sustained high note at the end of her cadenza in "Think of Me."

Thomas Schumacher's Reyer wasn't as domineering as others I've seen, but he did get very pushy with Lefèvre and the managers at the end of the ballet sequence, shushing and scooting them back into the wings as the rehearsal continued. I was pleased with how receptive the audience was at this performance. They were very responsive to the humor in this scene, which the cast played up to great effect.

Speaking of which, some words must be said about Bruce Winant's Firmin. Throughout the show he added little bits here and there that made his character quite unique. While he was still the "money" side of the duo, he was a lot more comic and less the straight man than the other Firmins I've seen. He was practically pulling on André (D.C. Anderson - whose Carlotta-groupie manager is always a winner)'s sleeve saying, "What the h€ll are you doing? Could we wrap this up PLEASE?!?" I usually find Firmin to be a stodgy, money-hungry character, but Winant really made him a *likeable* stodgy, money-hungry character.

Think of Me:
Kim's momentary pause to gather herself before singing got a nice chuckle from the audience, and the chaos that erupted when the backdrop fell was sufficiently frantic, although Meg's (associate dance captain/swing Joelle Gates) line was lost in the noise.

Kelly Jeanne Grant's Christine took some time to stand out for me. Due to the fact that she spends a good deal of the scene at stage left and I couldn’t see her in her moments when she wasn't the focus of the scene, I didn't get a complete fix on her interpretation. I did like her interaction with Anne Kanengeiser's Madame Giry at the beginning of "Think of Me"-- Giry prompting the choreography to her.

Initially, Grant sounded a bit breathy and her high notes sounded a little screechy -- although I attribute the latter to the mixing board since it didn't occur later in the show. Grant's Christine is youthful, exuberant when called for, and for the most part played by the book, but with a little more depth. Again, if I could have seen he better, I might have a clearer take on how she approached the character -- I feel like I'm understating what could very well be a very nice interpretation due to poor circumstances.

Angel of Music:
It was nice to see Joelle again, having seen her as Meg on Broadway back in June 2003. Nice, pouty, "Rehearsals. Always rehearsals" from her, too. Again, the issues of obstructed view cropped up to detract from my truly getting into the scene. And the ballerina bending straight over at the waist didn't help matters.

Little Lotte:
Winant's Firmin played generally by the book, but he really emphasized the word "before" at the end, clearly insinuating something to his wife as they walked off.

This was really my first impression of Barisich's interpretation of Raoul. It was very… formal. Typically, I find this scene one where Raoul is more himself and not as "aristocraty", so it's a good scene to measure what the actor's angle is on a rather thankless role. But I didn't feel his Raoul was letting his hair down here. He stood mostly in the same spot and Christine did all the approaching for the embrace. Barisich has a nice voice to listen to, but I couldn't get into his Raoul at the moment -- he felt far too stuffy.

The Mirror:
I guess this is rather common, or I must be spoiled by the OLC, but there was nothing done to Cudia's voice when he was behind the mirror. It sounded just the same as everyone else's -- nothing unique or "ghostly" or "echoey" about it when now was the prime opportunity to play around with it.

First impression of Cudia was that he has a very nice voice - quite pleasant to listen to. He exuded authority and a controlled anger.

Phantom of the Opera:
Some unusual things I noticed in the orchestrations of the title track, and had a few elements that I don't recall hearing on Broadway or in Vegas. There seemed to be less electric guitar than either (at least until the end), and in the moment of transition between the travelator doubles and the reveal of the boat, there seemed to be some very fervent strings added. Could just have been quirks from this particular orchestra (cymbals were heard in abundance at this performance as well), but I'm not positive.

I prefer the candelabra rising up out of the lake rather than sliding in from the wings, but that just a sacrifice the touring production has to make.

Music of the Night:
Grant's Christine walked the line between completely aware and entranced, the sort of Christine I really like for this scene. After belting out the final note of the title song, she turned to the Phantom sharply, shocked at what she'd just done or perhaps at the control this masked man had over her in commanding her to sing like that.

Cudia really shines in this scene. His Phantom is in control, but not a Svengali. He's smooth, but not a seducer. While not distinct in these traits, he displayed an authority that projected the character's power very well. The scene was not without its gaffes, however. In this case, there was only one wherein Cudia got his cuff caught in a lock of Grant's wig at the end of the "turn your face away" choreography. But a quick step back in and a snap of his wrist (and possibly a snip of some hair), he was free.

Other moments that stood out for me were Cudia's "soar" (wonderfully smooth), "be" (incredibly strong), "savour each sensation" (in which he firmly ran his palm up Grant's thigh, her chest, and arm; the first hint of things to come), and Cudia's mirror bride bit. An awkward scenario for any actor to retain the romanticism of the scene while keeping the prohibition on catching the actress and carrying her to the boat/bed (or in a nutshell, not look like a heel), Cudia probably succeeds with retaining the sympathy of the character better than any actor I've seen previously by reaching out when she faints, swiftly crossing over and kneeling next to her with concern, looking around quickly around before choosing to cover her up with his cloak. Cudia's final note also produced a whispered "wow" from an audience member nearby -- and rightfully deserved, too.

Stranger than You Dreamt It:
Have the candelabra and lake candles always been lit and I somehow never noticed? It makes for a very lovely detail with the warm points of candlelight contrasting against the cold props and overall lighting. Grant hit the snooze button on the monkey and proceeded to get the scene started. Unfortunately again, the organ and any business Cudia was doing over there was completely obscured so I don't know what his take on this part is. When he was unmasked, I believe Grant gave a pretty frightened scream and she began running, barely out of the Phantom's reach until she fell (in a controlled way, but for safety's sake, I 'm okay with that) and Cudia straddled her body as he berated her -- and I'm quite sure he used the original line, "you little viper" when he did so -- before stumbling away and collapsing on the opposite side of the stage.

Grant didn't move all that much from her position, mostly just lay there turned away from him until he began his paraplegic drag towards her. I prefer a little more fear so that we can see the contrast between that and the turn of emotion when she gives his mask back.

Magical Lasso:
Andrew Varela's Buquet stood out to me as a person who enjoys telling scary stories and frightening kids. The creep J

Notes I/Prima Donna:
Another standout scene from Bruce Winant, as he did a number of interesting things here with his character. For one, he did a jaunty (Jaunty. Never thought I'd ever use that word in association with Firmin) arm movement with his famous grammar gaffe and repeated it when he corrected himself. He also added to his reading of the Phantom's final note, saying, "I has sent you several… *ugh*… notes" (as an aside, Kanengeiser had a nice alarmed lurch back when everyone grabbed for the note she held).

A couple of moments that stood out for me here were Winant's flat, uninterested, "We need you too," and Piangi, Andre, and Firmin lined up like the Pips to Carlotta's Gladys Knight. On the flip side, the cast's voices sounded muddled when they sang altogether and I had difficulty differentiating who was singing what this time. Not that I ever clearly hear each line, but I'm used to hearing the voices more distinctly. Again, probably a sound issue.

Il Muto:
"That's a pretty girly fella," I thought to myself in reaction to Grant's Serafimo, who balanced on one foot as she looked around one side of the bed then the other. She also kept her featherdusting in time with Don Attilio's lyrics (moreso than others I've seen in the past). And when she did her -- what do the kids call that posterior-shake dance move? "ass volcano"? -- it was very nice and garnered a good laugh from the audience.

Don Attilio (Gregory Emanuel Rahming) had no extremely long low note to awe and amuse us with (sadness), but he did a good job playing up how upset he was at learning of the Countess' affair. Which makes me wonder, is he upset because he's been cuckoled or 'cuz he suddenly realizes that was hot for a dude?

No shake or light flicker out of Maria, but we did get a good view of Cudia up in the proscenium catwalk! Oh, and Kim's croak is still tops J As for the ballet, like on Broadway, the ballerinas reacted little to the Phantom's shadows and not at all to the hanging one, so I suppose the choreography's changed in recent years.

All I Ask of You:
You know how that one YouTube video of a woman demonstrating how redundant the lyrics of "All I Ask of You" are? I think it must have rubbed off on me because nowadays I can't tell if the actors are singing it properly or switching the lines around. For instance, I could have sworn Barisich sang the line "to guard you and to guide you" twice in the first verse and without looking at the libretto, I can't say for sure if that's correct or not.

Anyway, not really much to say here, even though I typically enjoy this song. There were lots of wet smooches, and Cudia's reprise (again, nice reaction from some audience members when he first reveals himself) was good, although perhaps a little over-the-top towards the end. When the scene returns to the auditorium and the cast's curtain call, I finally noticed Raoul applauding from off to the side. And did they just barely get out of the way of Maria's decent to the stage!

Entr'acte:
If I wasn't using all my willpower to keep my stomach from growling, I probably would have enjoyed this part more. Why didn't I go down to the concession stand and grab an overpriced snack, you say? Well that would have made too much sense, now wouldn't it?

Masquerade:
Seemed like there were very few actors onstage, in that the staircase didn't seem as populated as usual, but I'm sure it was just delirium on my part. There also seemed to be eleven fewer polka dots on Meg's tights (hey, stop that snickering), but you can't expect the costumes to be identical across productions. While we're on the subject of legs (Were we? Well, we are now), the strangest thing happened when the ensemble danced across the stage. Dual-Sex felt up the Butterfly. Seriously. He (or she) bent over when they were center-stage and ran his (or her) palm up the Butterfly's leg from ankle to just before No-Man's Land.

What's up with that? Were they getting a bit punchy at the end of the work week?

Anyway, on to the principals. All around a great job. Winant and Anderson delivered a very nice introduction, and Grant played up the "Christine's unnerved by the Phantomy guests" bit. One thing that stood out about Barisich this time was the level of concern he expressed for Christine just before the Red Death's introduction. As the Phantom's theme played, he moved close to Christine, placed a hand gently on her shoulder and leaned in close as if whispering, "What's wrong? Are you okay?" I don't think I've seen other Raouls do this, and it's a nice addition.

Giry's Confession:
In my Broadway review, I pondered if the Giry Confession took place while the curtains stayed up and the Masquerade staircase was deconstructed (sometimes loudly). As it turns out, that's standard practice.

Notes II/Twisted Every Way:
Grant had a really different take on this scene. Most Christines, once things get a bit heated, tend to throw a minor hissyfit before going into "Twisted every way." Not so with Grant. Firstly, her, "I can't. I won't do it," had no trace of alarm or rising emotion. On the contrary, she seemed very calm and resolute in her decision -- the lines were delivered in a quite firm and matter-of-fact way. Later, when the interrupts the cacophony of voices with her "If you don't stop, I'll go mad!" line, she really just walks upstage and tosses the libretto aside as if an afterthought. But once she's in the chair, the emotions start overwhelming her, and she even did the "dead arms" bit, too.

Don Juan Rehearsal:
The laughing chorus member remains in this production (a welcome thing), although I don't recall who was playing him in this cast. The ensemble also played up the humor with their leaning into Piangi like the cast of Clue around Eileen Brennan when they thought she was poisoned, and humming the note altogether before his third and final attempt to get that darn "tan" right.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again/Wandering Child:
Another chance for a Christine actress to shine and Grant did not disappoint. She conveyed the character's pleading and frustration admirably in her solo. Cudia's "Wandering child…" was nicely haunting, although the fireballs were so feeble in size that it took a lot of convincing on Grant's part to make it seem that it was a dangerous situation and on Barisich's part to seem like he was incredibly brave to try to confront the Phantom. Which he did, by the way. He was incredibly protective of Christine, pulling her all the way to the wings to protect her from the sparklers and definitely felt like he wanted to confront his nemesis then and there but left only because Christine insisted and even then, he paused, looking at the Phantom before fleeing.

The flashpots got a reaction out of the audience. But with age comes wisdom and I knew the moment to look away (plus all the extra light allowed me to get a better look at my notepad and how I was scribbling gibberish one atop another for this entire scene).

Before the Premiere:
Do you recall in my McGillin/Loyacano/Gleason NYC review that sometimes you can change the meaning of a line just by how you phrase it? The only thing I want to mention here is that the Marksman's (Sean MacLaughlin) line reading carried the underlying message of, "Why the h€ll do I have to take orders from this guy?"

Point of No Return:
It goes without saying I'm fond of this scene. Well, maybe "fond" is an understatement. More like, "I wanna get naked and roll around in a vat of applesauce" with this scene, but that's neither here nor there. The intense scrutiny I afford it allows me to see every last similarity and difference each actor brings to the choreography. While all the basic beats are there, Cudia and Grant added a number of completely original (at least to me) moments that truly made this a "hands-on" experience.

Grant's entrance was very girlish in both vocals and body language. There was something rater innocent abut her Aminta in that sense, and her apple interaction reflected that. A couple of sniffs and some rubbing against her collar was about as hot as it got. But once the action returned to the bench for a second time (ah, ha! Christines *do* sit facing the audience at the start) things started to heat up. Firstly, Grant's Aminta took on a more playfully seductive turn, posing herself on the bench as if she was completely naive girl attempting to behave in a way she thought to be sexy. It was at this point that Cudia did something I'd never seen any Phantom previously do. As she leaned back against him, he suddenly wrapped his arms around her and turned his hands into a cross-your-heart bra. Or, at least, that's what it looked like -- his wide sleeves covered up her entire torso. Grant's gasp was hard and sharp (but that could have been the collective gasp of the audience that I heard) and a moment later they were back to the standard choreography.

For Christine's verse, Grant allowed her to be a little bolder, but still rather chaste in her movements as she and Cudia were on opposite sides of the stage. Cudia's echoing of her hand movements was a nice touch I don't recall seeing before (although to be honest, I'm usually not paying attention to that side of the stage at this point). Grant sauntered back to the bench and did the foot on bench bit, but without it being as bold and forward as someone else did in the past.

*splash cold water in face*

Once their hands were intertwined, Cudia proceeded to use hers like loofas; and apparently his right inner thigh was *particularly* dirty. Of course, pulling her arm that far down caused her cheek to brush against his and we all know where that comes of that.

Cudia's "Say you'll share with me…" was wonderfully plaintive -- not too weepy, not too controlled, pretty much right where it should be. The unmasking was bold and broad and drew a reaction from many audience members (did I mention many in my group had never seen the show before?) As the Phantom fled with Christine, I took notice of the marksman carefully leveling his pistol for a shot (cue Darth Vader's "I have you now" line) only to have the Vicomte muck up his shot (but you know; if a second stagehand fell from the flies immediately afterwards, that would have been awesome). Joelle screamed, and while nice and loud, no one holds a candle to SuperMeg.

Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer:
I liked how Kanengeiser kept her had right up next to her ear the entire time. I can't believe I haven't noticed Girys doing that before. Also, after having learned how the Raoul death plunge is done on tour, I've finally noticed the subtle difference in the sit-down production and the tour version.

Final Lair:
Oh this is a good one. Grant's Christine was truly frightened in this scene, and her "Am I now to be prey to your lust for flesh?" was delivered with horrific realization, eyes wide and a hand to her mouth. For his part, Cudia's Phantom was off his rocker, quite dark in the opening moments of the scene until he laments about his past, and that lowering of his guard allows Grant to give her character a little more courage when she tells him that it is his soul (and she nearly spits it at him) that the yadda yadda yadda.

Another good moment was Cudia's mocking of Raoul once he had him in the noose. "Raise your hands to the level of your eyes" has never been said in a more childish and sarcastic manner J Barisich wasn't all that convincing at being an inch away from being hung, though -- legs too firmly planted and not much struggling at all. But few if any Raouls are convincing at this that I can't hold it against him.

The scene proceeded as it does to the ultimate conclusion with Cudia leaping to his feet and very angrily saying those famous lines, "You try my patience! Make your choice!" Grant's reading of her lines were nicely acted, as if as she was saying it, she was realizing what she had to do to end the standoff.

Nice kiss, and the second one was surprisingly long and deep (you guys coming up for air anytime soon?). Cudia's arms came around but never touched, though.

There were no "I love you"s from Cudia at the end, but he ended strongly (and I did see Barisich kneel down to kiss Grant as the boat sailed offstage, so now my mind is at ease after seeing Gleason look like he was going to lay on top of his Christines in the past). Joelle slipped under the portcullis, pulled back the cloak, and found…

Only the mask. Hah! Gotcha! You thought I was gonna say the throne trick went wrong, huh? Nope, everything went perfectly smoothly.

Applause, applause, applause, and…

Curtain Call:
I typically don't include this in my reviews, but the sight of Grant giddily running upstage with a huge grin on her face deserves mentioning J

Post-Show:
Despite the numerous actors who I recognized, it was a rather lackluster stage door event due to my low energy level. Not even enough energy to pull out my souvenir programme and get it signed *shakes head*

I talked briefly with Bruce Winant (but mostly enjoyed listening to his conversation with phantomgirl110, who had, I imagine, a fantastic stagedoor experience), shook hands with John Cudia and gave him the greeting card several members of my group had signed, managed to get in a brief chat with Kelly Jean Grant wherein I had her be the first Christine to sign a special Toon!Christine poster I had printed earlier that day, and butted into the tail-end of a lengthy conversation phantomgirl110 and a first-timer friend of mine were having with Joelle Gates. So aside from a few brief words with several actors and one autograph (and that not even on my souvenir programme), that was about it. Kinda pathetic when you think about it. I must do better.

Maybe I'll carry an apple in my pocket next time.

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Sun Jan 10, 2010 1:45 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Phantom 3NT 7 December 2008: The "Full-Contact Phantom Edition (Cudia/Grant/Barisch)

Post  Raphael on Sun Jan 10, 2010 1:43 am

Whoops. Sorry, 2008. Let me go fix that...

R.

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Re: Phantom 3NT 7 December 2008: The "Full-Contact Phantom Edition (Cudia/Grant/Barisch)

Post  phantom10906 on Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:45 am

Thanks for reposting this R. Brought back some great memories. Smile

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Re: Phantom 3NT 7 December 2008: The "Full-Contact Phantom Edition (Cudia/Grant/Barisch)

Post  Blind Phan on Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:10 am

Sweet! I love John Cudia! And I love your detailed reviews. They really give me a good sense of what's happening on stage!

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Re: Phantom 3NT 7 December 2008: The "Full-Contact Phantom Edition (Cudia/Grant/Barisch)

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