International Phantom Fans Week 2009

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International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Raphael on Wed Sep 23, 2009 1:58 am

International Phantom Fans Week: Day One - 16 September 2009

This should be a rather interesting review of the 5 days of Fans Week since I was escorting Amanda (phantomgirl110) on her very first commercial flight and her first trip to Las Vegas - so expect many events from our two perspectives.

Flight
Like you really want to hear about this, right? Verdict: Virgin America is Tony Stark airlines without the pole-dancing stewardesses. Cool pastel cabin lighting, spacious seating, young and professional flight attendants, and unique in-flight entertainment (like seat-to-seat chatting). Only downside was no free snacks. And even on a 1.5 hour flight, sometimes you need those peanuts. Oh, and Amanda was taking photos and video of absolutely everything in sight.

And as a bonus, Bryan (phantomfett) and Lindsey (PhantomOnABudget) came to pick us up at the airport since they'd flown in a day early and needed to rent a frikkin' minivan to transport the Red Death hat in. Much appreciated, you guys!

Check-In
Not wanting to pass up good seats for the week's performances, Amanda and I booked it straight over to the Fans Week registration desk upon our arrival at the Venetian. I'd forgotten that conventions often give you some free swag, so the registration process was a pleasant surprise - particularly since there wasn't much of a line when we arrived. In our complimentary Phantom Fans Week 2009 tote bag (with zipper-close and elastic handles for maximum comfort) were a Fans Week embroidered baseball cap, TAO cd, a signal mirror (the ladies apparently call it a compact), a sewing kit, lots and lots of discount vouchers, a Canyon Ranch SpaClub VIP card, and a PLV discount code good for a full year and open to friends and family. We were also alerted that the local Fox station was going to be doing some coverage about Fans Week the following morning at 6am in front of the Venetian and they were looking for convention guests to show up for the taping. Once we'd secured our seats for the week's performances, we headed back to the lobby and got checked in.

Amanda was in awe of the suite, even if we were situated at the back of the property and the view from our window was of the top of a parking garage. Big deal, we weren't here to stare out the hotel window anyway. This was Phantom Fans Week, biotch!

Choosing the Venetian would prove to be a wise investment considering the tight schedule for the week, however. There was barely time to do anything else besides sleep at night, eat between Insider Sessions, and jump back into the fray. Be sure to get on the hotel's mailing list, kids! You never know when a really good deal will come out!

Well, that's it for the prelude. Now on to the first event of the week…

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:33 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  operafantomet on Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:27 pm

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE! sunny

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International Phantom Fans Week: Day One - 7pm Performance

Post  Raphael on Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:41 pm

I'll keep the performance review as one constantly updated post. Here's the first bit:

Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Hertzenberg/Ragone - 16 September 2009 7:00pm

Fans Week went by in a bit of a blur, so my reviews may not be as extensive or coherent as I usually try to make them. But I'll do my best to hit the high points.

With Bryan still putting his Red Death costume together, he and Lindsey would be holed up in their suite, skipping out on not only the Wednesday night performance, but the two Insider Sessions with the cast the following day. This being the first time I'd see Kristen Hertzenberg as Christine, I brought along my 2nd Anniversary book as well as my Christine poster for her to sign, in addition to a new Meg poster I'd created for Brianne to sign, too.

Our opening night seats were row B center, which was a prime spot for Amanda to pop her Phantom Las Vegas cherry, so to speak. Fully immersed in the sights and sounds, sitting up front forces you to look all around you since the show isn't restricted to the stage itself. I particularly like to sit up front when I'm seeing a performer for the first time so I can get a good look at their facial expressions and subtleties in their acting, in addition to getting to look at the details of costumes, sets, etc.

To pass the time before the show started, I let Amanda flip though my book. Unfortunately, that completely outed me since the two women sitting next to us happened to be Vicki and Teresa, hosts of the BlogTalkRadio show, "All Things Phantom," and my artwork was a dead giveaway. So much for remaining incognito until after the Masquerade Ball!

Prologue:
Having read Madame Giry's review from a couple months ago, I made sure to look for Erina Noda's Prologue costume and sure enough, there she was sitting to Andrew's right, barely visible in the darkness. I also noticed Doug Carfrae standing behind them for the first time. Michael Lackey's Auctioneer was as creepy as ever, although I think I spotted the corner of his mouth curl up in a bit of a smile at one point. I also liked how he gestured to all the parts of the chandelier as he spoke the line, "in pieces."

Overture:
The overture blasted out LOUD. So loud that you could feel your chest reverberating with the bass. It was also very cool to be sitting in the second row and see the entire first row (and your own, and subsequently the rows behind you) turn around in unison to witness the assembly of the chandelier. Typically, many audience members here tend to just pay attention to the stage and the turnaround is rather sporadic. But all these phans knew what was coming and it was pretty neat to see so much participation on their part in looking around when required throughout the show.

Hannibal:
It was great to see Elena Jeanne Batman (pardon me, Dr. Elena Jeanne Batman. She just completed her PhD) again, and she brought lots of energy to the role. In fact, every single cast member brought a lot of energy to their respective roles that night, possibly because they knew that it was the inaugural performance of Fans Week and there were many phans in attendance that night. Typically bringing 110% to the show, they seemed to crank it up to 120% and the enthusiasm was appreciated. I took the opportunity to shift my gaze across everyone, picking up the little moments between characters and new elements actors brought to their roles. In my reviews of the Broadway company, I sang the praises of how each actor brought a nice, unique delivery to freshen up the lines we phans have heard over and over again. Well, Las Vegas company showed the same zeal in doing things a little differently than I remember in the past. Some of the things I noticed were Larry Wayne Morbitt nearly rolling *over* the elephant rather than just constantly slipping off it, he and Elena having a little aside at the announcement that Lefevre was turning the opera over to the new managers, John Leslie Wolfe's André literally cutting Piangi off before he could complete the word, "piacere" -- an excellent use of running over top another actor's line in order to compress the running time of the scene. I also liked how Doug, Larry and (I believe) Bruce Ewing as Reyer really portrayed Carlotta as the rightful prima donna of this opera company - the character given a great deal of respect as opposed to being an overbearing, past her prime diva -- an interpretation that the character can sometimes fall into. While she still could throw a mean tantrum, Elena's Carlotta was a talent to be reckoned with and perhaps one that didn't really deserve the Phantom's scorn. But of course, he already has her replacement in mind and interrupts her very nicely sung "Think of Me" with a falling sylvan glade.

Buquet's moment was even enhanced a bit via the other cast members. When he announced that he was not at his post, Lefevre and the rest of the company react in shock and anger since he's admitted to being a big fat slacker whose irresponsibility nearly did Carlotta in. Carlotta's rant was appropriately strong, and I liked how Brianne cringed as she let loose on Firmin and Andre. Doug also played up the comedy of Lefevre's departure by practically running offstage as he delivered his "Frankfurt" line. John followed up with a nice delivery of his "Carlotta will be back," injecting it with a little uncertainty where many Andre's I've seen seem more confident in their assertion. Tina Walsh's Giry (whose severe makeup always makes me think she's just come off the set of a Ed Wood film) also gave a nice deliver of her, "Perhaps you can afford more" line, a look in her eyes that made me think that maybe Giry's skimming a little off the top before handing over the Phantom's salary. Brianne also played Meg as being put on the spot and having to tentatively justify her outburst that Christine could play the lead.

Think of Me:
Kristen Hertzenberg's Christine started out with a VERY nervous intro to TOM, but once her voice blossomed, Meg looked so very proud of her and Reyer (who showed no confidence in her at the beginning - I LOVE how rude he is to her at first) agrees.

Kristen's vocals were very lovely, and a bit unique. I can't quite describe exactly how, but she sounds a little different for a Christine. Andrew Ragone's Raoul was incredibly enthusiastic - he practically leaned out of the box when he stood and applauded, shouting, "Bravo!" and was the first to applaud at the end of Kristen's cadenza.

Angel of Music:
Anthony Crivello's voice-over here was very ghostly and Kristen's reaction to it was like it was a warm embrace, something that comforted her. You could read into it as if the Angel of Music was her surrogate father.

Brianne's vocals continue to improve with each performance I see her in, and her acting is still top-notch, here her vocals are tinged with a bit of concern and fear as she and Christine speak of the Angel of Music. I also loved her bratty pout as she stomped off to rehearse per her mother's instructions.

Little Lotte/The Mirror:
I've commented on Firmins in this scene before, but this was the first time I've taken notice of an Andre. Here, I think I started to get a sense of how John portrayed Andre as being just a little slow on the uptake since he looked a bit confused by Firmin's innuendo-laced comment on Raoul and Christine. I'd see this again in the manager's scene when he read his note in full as if it were a fan letter before a quizzical look came over his face.

Andrew's vocals were as warm as ever, and he really projects a feeling of formality and friendship at the same time. I felt he and Kristen had good chemistry in this reunion of childhood friends.

Oh, and Brianne's final pose at the end of "Little Lotte" makes you go, "Rawr."

Anthony's voice-over here, was angry, but not quite furious. I'm not sure how far I like the anger taken in this scene, and don't think I've ever come across what I feel is the perfect balance. Now in the presence of her teacher, Christine's pulse began to quicken, exemplified by some heavy breathing ("Bosom Heaving!Christine"? "1-900-Hot-Ingenues!Christine"?).

Phantom of the Opera:
Even the doubles seemed to bring more to their small moments at the top of this scene. Christine looking around and pulling away, the Phantom pausing and peering into the darkness before them as if seeking something out, etc. The scene went off without a hitch, and as I've said in the past, it looks great when you're at "surface level" with the lake.

As Christine is doing her vocalizing, Anthony's Phantom seemed to *feed* on her voice - that's the best way I can describe it. He had a rather bold cape removal - flipping it over his head to remove it and then dropping it on the bed. I seem to remember D'Ambrosio doing something similar, but I might be misremembering. Anthony also did little things like adjust his cuffs and vest, moments I don't recall him doing in the past. It made his Phantom very much concerned with his appearance, as if his even the clothes he wore were a sort of mask that gave him the confidence and authority he may not have without them.

Music of the Night:
Kristen's reaction at the end of the title song was equal parts spent, exhausted, and surprised at what she did vocally. Her Christine was somewhere between the submissive Christines like Kristi Holden's and the in-the-moment ones like Elizabeth Loyacano, which I guess puts her somewhere among the ranks of the Lisa Vroman Christines: in complete submission under his voice but still registering a fearfulness over his influence over her.

Anthony's Phantom had changed significantly from the beginning of the run. It was definitely more romantic than his original interpretation that was more svengali-like. He was more suave, even with his Chaney-esque mannerisms (Sexy!Chaney, shall we say?). His "turn you face away" choreography seems to deliberately bring Christine in very close to tease a kiss before stepping back. Oh, and before I forget, there was a way he sang that reminded me of Robert Guillaume. Can't pinpoint it, but it echoed Guillaume to my ears.

Kristen broke into a run after the portcullis near-kiss, which I really like. Vroman always did that but the previous Vegas Christines never seemed to. Again, Anthony stressed the romanticism in the signature MotN pose before guiding her over to the mirror. When Christine fainted, he became very panicked and seemed to fumble a bit as he grabbed his cloak and placed it over her. A nice change there, I thought, if a little bit overplayed. And he held the final note very nicely to close out the scene.

Stranger Than You Dreamt It:
Anthony brought more enthusiasm to his composing, mouthing along with the notes as he played them and seeming quite pleased with what he was coming up with. Kristen seemed to have her head pulled as far back as possible, reminiscent of Mary Philbin in the 1925 film's unmasking scene. I liked the way she cringed as they paused at the portcullis before she ran off. Anthony was doing a nice furious Phantom and as he fell to his knees, he did that hand gesture to his heart that Madame Giry talked about in her review (is anyone else reminded of Herbert Lom when he does that?).

The return of the mask was in interesting moment in that I wasn't quite sure where Anthony was going with it. He seems grateful when she holds the mask out to him, after slipping it on, he seems to smile at her, but his expression suddenly hardens and he takes her hand and practically drags her out of the Lair. Now, I know that's how it's always staged, but it gave me the impression that he was suspicious of her rather than putting a little distance between them in order to fully take back control of the situation after appearing so vulnerable before her.

Notes/Prima Donna:
Lawson Skala's Firmin appeared very jovial throughout the scene, a far cry from some rather dour Firmins I've seen in the past. Maybe not as perky as Bruce Winant's Firmin, but pretty close. I also liked how Elena's Carlotta seemed more of a victim here. Sure, she was angry at the letter she received, but she felt genuinely hurt at a perceived insult by Raoul. It was only after the Phantom's voice-over that she really started to get angry, stomping around like an angry bulldog pup (that's what I always think of when I see her in that black and white dress).

Ah, Brianne's Meg. What can I say? She may not be the focus of this scene, but she totally OWNS the whole number in my opinion. From the smug look on her face when Carlotta brings up the "little ingénue" that suddenly turns to, huh?!? when the managers say the world wants their original diva to rolling her eyes as they lay the compliments on thick, Brianne silently gives voice to what the audience feels at the obvious cow-towing Firmin and Andre are doing. Her Nancy Drew skillz are in full effect as she takes every opportunity to look at the notes from the mysterious Phantom and seems to make a connection between the Opera Ghost and the Angel of Music that Christine spoke of. She's got a character arc, people!

And this question has been vexing me for years, actually. Does Carlotta (in all productions) keep her Hannibal makeup on in this scene? The black and white dress with multicolored eye shadow is an incredible distraction!

Il Muto:
Kristen's Serafimo ass volcano was a good respectable speed, and I liked how she turned in surprise at Don Attilio's remark. Other moments that stood out were Elena's delivery of "Your part is silent!" (very curt) and "You cannot speak" (half in-character as the Countess and half as Carlotta). I also enjoyed how the phans started looking all around when the Phantom's voice came out of nowhere.

There were lots of smiles from the ballerinas and Solo Dancer in the Il Muto ballet (one that is performed much better than any of the other US productions in terms of personality that the dancers give their characters). The hanging was wonderfully violent with how casual, yet menacing the Phantom released the rope that finally did his victim in. And hey, I noticed that the stagehand didn't look like the Buquet we saw at the top of the show. Is it still supposed to be Buquet or is it now just an anonymous worker?

All I Ask of You/Reprise:
Christine was in near hysterics when the scene opened as she went on about the Phantom to a confused Raoul. Both Kristen and Andrew brought a lot of earnestness to their parts throughout this scene with nice moments sprinkled in for each of them - in particular how Christine appears touched by Raoul's sweet words and when he suddenly drops to one knee she literally takes a step back in happy surprise.

Anthony's reprise seemed to almost go into falsetto at points, signifying the pain he felt at hearing Raoul and Christine moments before. He began to touch his hand to his heart again, looking very hurt but that ultimately gave way to an angry cry as he vowed vengeance for his plans being thwarted.

Masquerade:
Nice, bright spotlight on Andre when he reveals - I believe Sam Fleming, the Associate Costume Designer, called it the skeletard. He was standing right next to the seat Bryan would be occupying the following night as the Red Death, so I was anxious to hear how that would turn out.

In my humble opinion, I don't think Masquerade has looked better than it does in Las Vegas. The lighting, the enhanced set design, the costumes, everything (if only they hadn't truncated the scene by pulling the majority of the bridge). I noticed a little bit of business during Raoul and Christine's "secret engagement" aside wherein Meg whispered into her mother's ear and then went to whisper into another masquerader on the staircase, turning Snoopy Meg into Gossip Girl for a moment. I also noticed that Christine doesn't really dance at all in this scene, just goes over to this spot, then over to that spot and reunites with Raoul and pow, they're on the staircase for the finale.

Wow, this number goes by fast.

Anyway, Kristen projected fear in Christine's eyes as the Phantoms' signature chords blared out of the speakers and she even tried to go to him while he was still far up the staircase if Raoul hadn't grabbed her and held her back. I hadn't noticed this bit before, but when the two finally met at the base of the stairs, Red Death actually stroked Christine's chin with a finger before grabbing the chain around her neck and yanking it off.

Giry's Confession/Notes II/Twisted Every Way:
Is there any point discussing this scene, really? I think the general consensus is that it's rapid-fire exposition and plot setup. Kristen went quite far with Christine's reaction to Raoul's plan, she was practically crying as she dropped to the steps on the opposite side of the stage.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again/Wandering Child:
Kristen was very active in this scene, entering holding her scarf as if for reassurance, and she also went up and touched the gates of the mausoleum at two key moments in the song. Despondency seemed to be the thread Kristen latched onto, a girl who trusted her father and had faith in his stories only to have them turn out to be nothing but make-believe. She held no feelings of betrayal at this fact, marking her as a Christine who for the most part was passive, allowing all these men in her life to dictate terms while she merely floated along at their whims.

Wow those are giant Phantom gloves.

Wandering Child was quite nice in that Kristen chose to have her Christine fight against the Phantom's control over her - slipping further and further under his spell but attempting to resist before she's pulled in completely. One thing I didn't like (and I think this is the first I'd seen it) was how she slowly walked toward the mausoleum with her arms straight out in front of her. It made me think she was either sleepwalking or a zombie. When Raoul came on the scene, Kristen kept far away - practically standing next to the proscenium - as the Phantom and Raoul confronted each other. It conveyed a feeling that while Christine didn't want the confrontation to take place, she was too meek to physically interfere until the last moment when she ran up to Raoul and convinced him that they should run.

Before the Premiere:
Again, great interaction with the audience looking around for the Phantom as his voice jumped all around the theatre.

Point of No Return:
Hey, is that a female monk? I took notice of Michael Lackey's character in this scene, too. What a playa. One lady leaves his lap and another one steps right in. And Brianne keeps steaming up her little moment, this time looking at Passarino with these sexy bedroom eyes and saucily pursing her lips to blow him a kiss just before twirling and skipping offstage.

Excuse me; I'm going to need a moment…

(walks into a meat locker and immerses himself in a tub of ice cubes)

(dries himself off three hours later) Now where was I?

Kristen's Aminta was a happy one, with a minor in sensuality. Like I've said before, Vegas PoNR goes by so fast, there's not much to report on. No real apple porn to speak of, although she did lightly run her fingers across her chest and up to her cheek, which was kinda nice. But then, wham bam thank you ma'am, don't look at me just put the cash on the dresser and leave, it's over.

Anthony's plea started off soft and gentle, eventually rising in forcefulness as he took Christine's hand and forced his ring onto her finger. Kristen's reaction was that things were spiraling out of control and she couldn't let it continue so she grabbed his mask and yanked it off. I've seen this moment played many different ways depending on the relationship established between the two characters and I felt this was a nice choice.

And everybody turns around to see the chandelier death drop! Woohoo!

Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer:
There were a serious number of twirling ballerinas at this performance. It was like watching the 1925 film playing out in front of me.

Final Lair:
I liked how Anthony kept looking back the way they came and up at the portcullis as if expecting the mob to be right on his heels. It gave you a sense that things were spiraling out of his control and you weren't sure what he'd do next. Kristen showed a little backbone in this scene (when the Phantom tried to take her hand in his as he sang, "which poisons our love," she quickly yanked free of his grasp), although still remaining primarily a more passive character. I enjoyed how Anthony shifted the Phantom's mood shifted after recalling the way his mother treated him - from the Colm Wilkinson-esque falsetto to a cold growl as he sang, "Pity comes too late" - rounding on Christine and shoving the veil on her head.

Hey, the Christine dummy looks a lot like Dale Kristien.

Sorry, got a little distracted for a second. Anyway, upon Andrew's arrival and fervent pleas, the meat of the show can get underway. Andrew had a gentler temperament than Ryan Silverman in this scene, who would slam his palm against the portcullis in frustration and grip it tightly, enhanced by the light glistening off his flexing biceps -

Sorry, got a little distracted again.

Okay, so trio. Kristen played the scene out with Christine strong and pushed to her limit but still not having the courage to do anything significant, instead trying to plead or reason with the Phantom rather than having to face the choice put before her. Only at the very end, when the Phantom gives her that final, angry ultimatum, does she assert herself and in doing so free them all. That moment is a nice payoff for how Kristen plays her arc through the show. And hey! No touchy Christine, Mr. Phantom! You know the rules!

After the kiss, Anthony pulled back in shock at what Christine had just done. Stumbling over to his organ, he gesticulated and was clearly not happy about freeing Raoul from the cage, but did so anyway. After chasing them out of the Lair, he stood center stage, doubled over and weeping, his spirit broken. It was a far cry from how the Phantom was throughout the rest of the show and a part that I'm glad he retained from his early interpretation. When Christine returned, he leapt up, surprised that she came back, even straightening his clothes a bit to make himself more presentable. But you could see his heart sink when she took the ring off and gave it back to him. Reaching out to hold her hand in both of his, Kristen slowly stepped back, gently pulling free of his grasp and left, turning back once in tears before running off.

Anthony's final notes were spot on and strong, and he did something similar to Howard McGillin in that he spotted the mob coming down the portcullis and quickly went to his throne and covered himself with his cloak - in something of a fearful manner. Anthony's wasn't as fearful as Howard's, but I generally prefer a Phantom to exit with more of his dignity intact, so to speak.

The throne trick works without a hitch, Brianne picks up the mask, aaaaaaaannnnnnnd scene.

Curtain Call:
Pretty good reaction from the audience (definitely better than the 9:30pm crowds) and Brianne got quite a bit of applause when she stepped out. The standing ovation started there and kept building and building until Anthony came on. But what's up with that quick gesticulation he does with his hands before he steps back to join hands with the rest of the cast? It's like he's doing a magic act. Weird…

And that, my friends, is the end of Day One.

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Sun Nov 29, 2009 3:58 am; edited 4 times in total

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Blind Phan on Thu Sep 24, 2009 6:51 am

Exclamation Exclamation Exclamation

Aaaahhhh! Pweeeease don't leave it there! More more more!

My only regret so far is that, from what you describe, her Christine seems very R/C - inthralled by the Phantom, but with no hint that she might actually love him and just not be able to admit or deal with it. Darn! But other than that it sounds awesome!

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  phantomgirl110 on Thu Sep 24, 2009 7:46 am

Raphael wrote:Oh, and Amanda was taking photos and video of absolutely everything in sight.
I have no idea what you're talking about.

In other news, everyone, this is my orange juice on the plane:


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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  phantom10906 on Thu Sep 24, 2009 7:58 am

Its not like we didn't all do it afro


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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Raphael on Thu Sep 24, 2009 5:46 pm

Phantom Shadowwalker wrote:Exclamation Exclamation Exclamation

Aaaahhhh! Pweeeease don't leave it there! More more more!

My only regret so far is that, from what you describe, her Christine seems very R/C - inthralled by the Phantom, but with no hint that she might actually love him and just not be able to admit or deal with it. Darn! But other than that it sounds awesome!
Oh, don't worry. I've got plenty more to tell Very Happy

As for Kristen's Christine, yeah, I guess you'd say she's rather R/C, but her breathing always got hot and heavy whenever she was in the Phantom's presence, so there was definitely some connection there.

R.

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International Phantom Fans Week: Day Two - 17 September 2009

Post  Raphael on Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:49 pm

International Phantom Fans Week: Day Two - 17 September 2009

If I may take a page from the libretto of Mamma Mia! -- September 17: What a night!

Morning Session: Anthony Crivello Q&A
When we walked into the Phantom Theatre for the first Insider Session of Fans Week, it was a bit strange to not see the prologue set and the dustcovers in place. Instead, the bare stage held only a single chair, small table, and bottle of water - instantly making me think we were going to see Bill Cosby do one of his comedy shows. But no, we were here to see Anthony Crivello, and I was curious to hear what he would be talking about.

One of the surprises for me was that Anthony's never read the original Leroux novel -- not wanting any outside source to influence him. Instead, he worked only with the libretto and Hal Prince's direction in order to shape his interpretation. I found this intriguing since from the very beginning, I'd seen quite a bit of Leroux's Erik in his portrayal. Oh, and he also said that he didn't watch the movie, which caused a good number of us to break out into spontaneous applause *LOL* He did say he may read the book sometime down the road and see if that affects his interpretation, but for the moment, he goes by what's in the libretto, Hal Prince's direction, and things in himself that he can bring to the part.

I was glad it didn't devolve into a love-fest as I've seen that happen at actor Q&As in the past at other conventions. The audience has some very insightful questions to ask about acting in general, Anthony's process, and how he handles the rigors of being a singer in a region that is terrible for singers in terms of climate.

Sadly, once the session was over, it was over. No opportunity for the audience members to get autographs or photos with Anthony afterwards. Definitely something I'd mention in the survey about how to improve things next year.

Afternoon Session: Cast Q&A

The second Insider Session of the day was a Q&A with the rest of the principals. Mark Andrews, the company manager for PLV and served as our emcee for many of the insider sessions, introduced each cast member as they came onstage. Brianne looked particularly smashing in a lovely black dress, just very… mmmmmmm… *shiver* And the others... meh, they looked okay. Wink

Aside from the my initial drooling due to the above, again this session wasn't about fans geeking out over the actors and asking the same old questions they probably are asked over and over again. We wound up getting a lot of insight into them as actors, who inspired them (Brianne got teary-eyed when she recounted the things her mother did to help her daughter reach for her dreams), how they take care of themselves physically and vocally in the desert, how they deal with being far away from husbands or wives or other family, and the occasional Phantom family insider info (like there was a Giry actress in a production whose backstory for her character was that the Phantom had her hooked on morphine). I myself had a very kooky question lined up for Brianne, but another audience member's question about if they'd ever had a crazy phan experience sorta nipped that in the bud.

Oh, and the final question went to Andrew Ragone from a male phan who was totally not coming on to him with his compliments on Andrew's looks. Seriously, the phan even stressed that in the course of asking his question.

Having missed Kristen after the previous night's performance, I was doubly disappointed that there was no opportunity for the audience to get autographs or photos with the cast. And I was hearing whispers concerning that as we exited the auditorium, so it wasn't just me.

With only three hours between the end of the afternoon session and the performance, there was only time for a quick bite to eat (in this case, with old school phan Kathryn, aka Goblins or Shoes) and then back to the suite to get my costume ready.

Up until the very last second, I was debating on whether or not to wear my complete costume to the performance or not. Sure, there was half-hour between the end of the show and the official start of the Ball if I didn't, but would I be able to see or hear anything in full Venetian garb? Not to mention my tricorn hat might be an annoyance to the people sitting behind me and since the temperature in the auditorium varies throughout the show, I might get a little too hot. Ultimately, I decided just to wear my tuxedo and cloak and save the rest for the Ball.

After helping Mandy out with a few minor adjustments to her costume (and wolfing down a box of $13 cashews from the minibar since we wouldn't be having dinner that evening) we headed down to the theatre a little after 6:30pm.

R.

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International Phantom Fans Week: Day Two - 7pm Performance

Post  Raphael on Fri Sep 25, 2009 7:22 am

Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Holden/Ragone - 17 September 2009 7:00pm

Now I've been to opening nights for Star Wars and Star Trek movies, so I'm used to seeing fans show up in costume. But seeing it at a Phantom performance was something else entirely, particularly when the rest of the audience doesn't have a clue that there's a Phantom convention taking place. There weren't all that many costumed revelers when Mandy and I got to the theatre; I saw a Masquerade Raoul and some generic formal ball outfits plus masks here and there. But as curtain time got closer, there came a tuxedoed Raoul (Phantom10906 aka Andy), a Queen of Hearts, a Red Death (but not THE Red Death that I was keeping an eye out for), and others. Since I was sitting in row C center and had a cumbersome cloak on, I stayed in my seat as Mandy, Ashley and Andy loitered next to the orchestra pit and entered and exited the auditorium in search for other costumed phans. And to catch a glimpse of Hal Prince, I imagine. For this was the performance Mr. Prince said he would be attending. I was particularly interested in seeing how the cast would perform considering the director would be watching them that evening.

When Bryan and Lindsey finally made their entrance, it caused a bit of a stir amongst the audience members around me. And well-deserved, too. Of course with such grand costumes came the inevitable problems. Like the Queen of Hearts' giant white wig in the front row. Oh, the poor ushers who had to deal with complaints from people sitting behind such costumes. They obviously knew this might be a problem but seemed a bit perplexed as to how to deal with it. And hey, those Fans Week people must have known it would be a issue, too, so they shouldn't have acted all surprised that it happened. Seriously, do you think Red Death isn't aware that his giant feathered hat would be a problem for the people behind him? Of course he's going to take it off. Heck, that's half the reason I didn't come in full costume and my tricorn hat's miniscule compared to Bryan's. The Queen also sank down in her seat so her wig wasn't that much of an obstacle for the woman sitting behind her to have an excuse for another exaggerated conniption fit.

And who is this new Phantom announcer, by the way? Doesn't sound at all like Michael Lackey.

Prologue:
Mood: somber. Auctioneer: creepy. Monkey: musical. Raoul: old. Sparks were a split second behind Michael's gesture with the electrical cords and I nearly had a heart attack at the thought that the chandelier wouldn't go up (as if the Auctioneer actually had control of powering up the chandelier effect. Oh, silly Raphael…).

Overture:
Always a blast. And again, fun to see all the people in front of you turn around to watch the assembly sequence. The woman sitting next to me, however, seemed more interested in her cup of coffee. A casual backward glance to see what everyone was looking at and then back to looking straight ahead. Way to bring the enthusiasm down, lady.

Hannibal/Think of Me:
Again, the cast was bringing their A+ game to the party. Just an aside, much was as I'd seen it the previous evening, so I'll only be bringing up things that were unique to this performance. The first of which was that I felt Kristi Holden was bringing a lot more energy to the part this time around. I've seen her a few times before and that night I felt her Christine was a little more vibrant and active than I'd seen her in the past. She performed a very lovely ToM and worked the scarf very nicely.

And honestly, I spent the first couple of scenes seeing if any of the actors were sneaking a peek at the costumes in the first few rows.

Angel of Music:
Again, Kristi brought a lot more energy to this scene as she enthusiastically told Meg about the Angel of Music. Brianne's Meg was great per usual, and you could see a slight difference in her interaction with Kristi's Christine. They were pretty subtle, but they were there.

Little Lotte/The Mirror:
Not much to say here. Andrew was then same warm Raoul as the previous evening and Kristi was nice and panicked after Raoul left. That's about it.

Phantom of the Opera:
I'd say same old same old, but the scene's far too impressive to be so dismissive. Suffice it to say it looked beautiful and Anthony and Kristi sounded great.

Music of the Night:
Confidence sums up the attitude Anthony's Phantom projected. Same interpretation as the previous night, so there's not much to comment on regarding his part. Kristi, as I've said before, is one of the more (for lack of a better term) zombie!Christines in this scene, but she did show a bit more awareness this time around. In fact, it looked like she actually put an arm around the Phantom's waist when they were at the portcullis before rushing off to her next mark.

Oh, one thing to mention about Anthony. What's up with the squeaky shoes?

Stranger than You Dreamt It:
I liked how terrified Kristi acted in this scene, curling up into a ball and cringing as he berated her for being so foolish. She also sat up and scrambled backwards a bit when Anthony began to crawl towards her. It's nice to see that visceral reaction in Christine until the last moment when she feels pity and offers him his mask back.

Notes/Prima Donna:
The cast sounds great together, Brianne rocks. 'Nuff said.

Il Muto:
Hey, Kristi's been taking ass volcano lessons! She had it set to ludicrous speed that night Very Happy Brava!

All I Ask of You/Reprise:
Great chemistry between Kristi and Andrew, a pretty convincing mime of a French kiss there folks, and Anthony started abusing his fedora again.

Masquerade:
To their credit, I didn't notice John or Lawson take any notice of the Red Death sitting less than a foot away from them. I also tracked Brianne throughout the entire number, so I got to see the hip swish again. Nice. Very, very nice.

I have to say that the final verse of "Masquerade" in this particular performance was THE best I've ever heard (including all the cast recordings). The music and voices all came together so beautifully, it sent a shiver down my spine. Even thinking about it now gets me all verklempt; I've got shpilkis in my genechtagazoink. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: Cold, unfeeling light is neither cold nor unfeeling. Discuss.

Giry's Confession/Notes II/Twisted Every Way:
Kristi had a hopeful look in her eyes when Raoul said he had a plan and then her look turned to shock and dismay when he laid out the details of that plan. Her subsequent reaction was also played in a less hysterical manner than Kristen's.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again/Wandering Child:
Kristi and Kristen's choreography was very similar, but I'd give Kristen the edge merely because when their Christines hold onto the gates of the mausoleum, Kristen would spread her arms so that her silhouette made it clear what she was doing. Kristi, on th other hand, would simply turn towards the gate and due to fact that her cloak envelops her, you couldn't tell what she was doing. Sorry, that's just the animator in me coming out. We're very picky about silhouettes. Kristi also didn't have her Christine struggle against the Phantom's hold over her during "Wandering Child," which is a shame in my opinion. Same zombie!Christine arms, though.

But in a more positive vein, I liked how Andrew practically took no notice of the first fireball directed at his back and absolutely no fear in confronting his rival. Very gallant.

Before the Premiere:
More heads looking about as the Phantom's voice moved from place to place. And Andrew played Raul as very concerned that no one be harmed unless absolutely necessary.

Point of No Return:
Kristi plays with that apple for almost the full length of the song. Far more than Kristen, but overall less sensual. But she did do that tease wherein Aminta holds the apple out for Don Juan but then pulls back.

In other news, I finally noticed the second marksman. And Brianne delivered the loudest and longest scream of the week.

Final Lair:
You could hear Kristi skid across the stage when Anthony threw her down. Sounded painful, actually since you knew the sound was coming from her hands and not the dress. But sadly, really not much else to say here Anthony's performance hit all the same beats as the previous night, as did Andrew, and Kristi (while high on energy) didn't play things in any sort of standout manner. Anthony wrapped his arms around Christine during the second kiss, Kristi did the same ring return and exit that Kristen did. That's not to say it wasn't a moving scene, because it was, just nothing jumped out at me this time.

Wow, what a lame ending to a review.

Oh! One thing I noticed that I never caught before. When Raoul kneels down on the bed as they pass out of view beyond the portcullis, he and Christine kiss. Which puts to rest any shenanigans my mind would have come up with had I not known that.

And now, off to the Ball!

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:47 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : finishing off the 19 Sept 7pm review)

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  operafantomet on Fri Sep 25, 2009 7:29 am

Great reading your reviews and experiences!

Ha-ha about the wig/hat incident... I can see how the ushers might have felt insecure on how to deal with it. Laughing

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International Phantom Fans Week: Day Two - Masquerade Ball

Post  Raphael on Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:52 pm

The Masquerade Ball

Leaving Bryan and Lindsey to the mob of tourists surrounding them in the theatre lobby, I made my way back upstairs in order to don the rest of my costume. Shortly thereafter, Mandy and her new friend Ashley arrived, proclaiming that they'd chased Hal Prince (unbeknownst to him) from the theatre lobby to the Grand Luxe Café at the edge of the casino floor. Even documented it in a very "Blair Witch Project" manner, which I find endlessly amusing. Consequently, Mandy's Meg costume was a bit… disheveled, and she and Ashley had come up to reset Mandy's costume for the Ball. Once ready, we headed back down to St. Mark's Square, possibly catching the attention of a tourist or twenty as we made our way from the elevators and through the shoppes.

The section reserved for the Ball turned out to be merely the two bridges that crossed the canal and the path alongside that joined them. And in hindsight, while it would have been nice to have all of St. Mark's Square for the Ball, you would have actually had to shut down two major restaurants and a few shops in order to do so and you know that wouldn't fly with the Venetian management. So we made due with little tables lining the bridges and mingled there, snacking on desserts and drinks.

To say it was crowded is putting it mildly. But I managed to spot Michael Lackey and made a beeline over to him after checking in at the table. Many of the cast members were in attendance, mostly wearing dressy clothes and painted masks that (I believe) the costume department had made up for them. Only Brianne, to my knowledge, had come in an actual costume: a cream-colored dress reminiscent of Keira Knightley's from "Pirates of the Caribbean" that she had made herself. Scott Watanabe (one of the PLV swings) was working a billowy-sleeved number too, but for the most part is was evening dresses for the ladies and dressy/dressy casual for the gents. I didn't get to do as much networking as I'd hoped, partly because the din of noise made it difficult to make myself heard through my mask (no wonder the Venetians kept silent while wearing these things) but also due to the fact that Michael Lackey and I were sort of pinned down at our table by a reporter from BroadwayWorld.com. Pleasant enough conversation, but it went on for quite awhile. I also missed out on the second opportunity to have Kristen sign my 2nd Anniversary book and Christine poster. I did manage to get a photo of Kristi with the poster, though, as the ball was winding down. And best of all, a photo with Brianne, as you've seen posted in the Vegas Phan Week thread.

Anyway, the ball was fun, and I got to chat a bit with other phans who were there like Vicki and Teresa, and even participated in a group photo with Kristi, Mark Andrews and the two Red Deaths that has subsequently popped up on the RUG website. I'm already exploring how to upgrade the costume for next year. I got to meet a few other cast members as well: Donald Williams and Danielle White, who both signed my book (and amusingly had to explain that I was the person who created it in the first place). I didn't get to meet the ballerinas, but apparently they were curious as to what says on the side of my mask (it says whatever you want it to say, baby). Truthfully, I hadn't thought about it in a long time. I do know that the maskmaker I bought it from in Venezia didn't even know what it said, only that it was in a dead Italian dialect. Any linguistic experts out there? Here's the quote:

"Ge pati tormenti e affanni sopporteli con rason perché un omo de tanti anni con amor no ha conclusion."

My rudimentary Italian picks up something about suffering and torment and reason and love, but I can't identify enough to get the gist of what it's saying (although it definitely sounds Italian just based on that). Anybody want to take a stab at it?

Apparently, Lindsey, Bryan, Mandy, Kathryn, Andy and I shut down the party since by the time we were ready to head back to our suites, all the tables and decorations and partygoers had vanished. Scott Watanabe was still around, though, so we took a few more shots of Lindsey and Bryan, Lindsey did a video recap of the event and then we headed off to see how much of a stir we could cause wandering around the hotel. Highlights of that included being stopped for photos by a couple of drunk guys, a video recording of Red Death descending the escalator, and being stopped by photo-happy tourists in front of the guest elevators while we tried to decide when to meet up for breakfast the next morning.

And thus, Day Two ended with a sigh of relief as I took that blasted costume off in a nice, cool hotel suite.

R.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  phantom10906 on Sat Sep 26, 2009 6:51 am

Toward the end of the Ball they were giving us the evil eye.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Blind Phan on Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:21 am

Raph. You've been to Star Wars openings? Awesome!

That's so damned cool, though, having all the Phans in costume for the shows! We used to do that for the anniversary performances of the Toronto Production and it rocked, but I'd love to see it on that scale! Well, experience... whatever!

Anyway, this is totally inspiring me to start making plans to go next year!

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Scorp on Sat Sep 26, 2009 1:11 pm

Raphael wrote:Oh, and he also said that he didn't watch the movie, which caused a good number of us to break out into spontaneous applause *LOL*

Mwahaha...awesome. Twisted Evil

Raphael wrote:Definitely something I'd mention in the survey about how to improve things next year.

Wow, they gave you a feedback questionnaire to complete? Impressive commitment to the fans!

Raphael wrote:
Oh, and the final question went to Andrew Ragone from a male phan who was totally not coming on to him with his compliments on Andrew's looks. Seriously, the phan even stressed that in the course of asking his question.

Laughing

Raphael wrote:I didn't get to meet the ballerinas, but apparently they were curious as to what says on the side of my mask (it says whatever you want it to say, baby). Truthfully, I hadn't thought about it in a long time. I do know that the maskmaker I bought it from in Venezia didn't even know what it said, only that it was in a dead Italian dialect. Any linguistic experts out there? Here's the quote:

"Ge pati tormenti e affanni sopporteli con rason perché un omo de tanti anni con amor no ha conclusion."

My rudimentary Italian picks up something about suffering and torment and reason and love, but I can't identify enough to get the gist of what it's saying (although it definitely sounds Italian just based on that). Anybody want to take a stab at it?

"If you suffer from torments or anxiety, you rightly bear them because a man of many years cannot die of love."

Not particularly flattering about your age, Raphael, but I'm sure there's a compliment in there somewhere...

Phantom Shadowwalker wrote:That's so damned cool, though, having all the Phans in costume for the shows! We used to do that for the anniversary performances of the Toronto Production and it rocked, but I'd love to see it on that scale! Well, experience... whatever!

Yeah, Toronto's the only other production I can think of that's been similarly fan-orientated. On the 5th anniversary didn't they hold a week of fan events? And when the production finally closed they had all those cool auctions of props etc.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Blind Phan on Sat Sep 26, 2009 6:49 pm

Yeah we had a week-end of events for the 5th, and then a full week of events for the 10th. (Actually it was the 9th - the year before it closed, so I don't know what math they were doing.) And of course, there were lots of us in costume on the actual 10th anniversary and on closing night!

Actually, come to think of it, they had week-ends of events on some of the other anniversaries too! God those were the days!

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Raphael on Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:04 pm

Scorp wrote:Wow, they gave you a feedback questionnaire to complete? Impressive commitment to the fans!
Yup, they said this year was a bit of an experiment, so they're interested in knowing what worked and what didn't.


"If you suffer from torments or anxiety, you rightly bear them because a man of many years cannot die of love."

Not particularly flattering about your age, Raphael, but I'm sure there's a compliment in there somewhere...
So THAT's what it says. Thanks, Scorp! Must be one of those backhanded Italian compliments Laughing

Still working away at Day Three's reviews. Back with more later...

R.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  operafantomet on Sat Sep 26, 2009 9:18 pm

OK, odd question.. but who was behind the event in Vegas?

I mean, I know it was an official event. But are we talking Really Useful Group? UK office? The US office? Was it The Venetian slash Phantom Las Vegas? Was it ALW himself (ha-ha-ha!)?

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Raphael on Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:46 pm

I believe it was BASE Entertainment in conjunction with The Venetian.

R.

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International Phantom Fans Week: Day Three - 18 September 2009

Post  Raphael on Sun Sep 27, 2009 5:06 am

International Phantom Fans Week: Day Three - 18 September 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, there is such a thing as a Phantom hangover. I've experienced it. It's a good thing I decided to take the evening off from Phantom.

Lindsey, Bryan, Mandy and I reconvened for breakfast and regaled in how good it felt not to have those costumes on anymore. Afterwards, we had just enough time to head down to the theatre for the first Insider Session of the day: Wardrobe and Makeup.

Morning Session: Costumes and Makeup
While we weren't allowed to take photos during the actor Q&A sessions, we were given free reign to take photos and video at the wardrobe session. There were four costumes set up near the boxes (Sylvan Glade Ballerina, Red Death, Countess, and the Dressing Gown), and the fans were not stopped from taking photos of these incredibly detailed pieces.

Mark introduced us to Ms. Sam Fleming, Wardrobe Supervisor and keeper of the costumes for all productions of Phantom of the Opera. The first thing she did was read two names: Jason Hammond and Ashley Yarbrough, the two fans who would be missing the entire session, but have the rare opportunity to be transformed by the costume and makeup team into the Phantom and Christine. She then gave us a little insight into her background before proceeding into a PowerPoint presentation abut the logistics of creating the costumes for a production of this size as well as showing us many photos of the original Las Vegas cast during their fittings (Anthony Crivello in a muslin version of the Phantom's costume screams "Beauty School Drop-out" to me). She went through each character one at a time, giving us some juicy info about each, such as:

• The Phantom's Angel Reprise cape being made of chiffon due to weight concerns
• Tim Martin Gleason never smiles when fitting photographs are taken
• Raoul's Masquerade costume includes a padded chest (I wonder if he pads anything else…)
• They removed the tail of the Fish Girl in Masquerade because no one ever wants to stand next to her otherwise
• Madame Firmin's first name is Fifi (and was formerly "Bunny")
• Even the Conductor wears a costume
• If a fabric can be described in less than three words, it can't be in the show.

Both Kristen Hertzenberg and Maureen Dodson modeled the Christine wedding dress and Fifi Firmin's (I'm never going to get tired of saying that) opera gown, respectively, as Sam explained the details of each costume. As it turns out, the skirt of the wedding dress is like a giant suction cup and sometimes makes it difficult for the actress to stand up after being thrown to the floor in the Final Lair scene. Kristen demonstrated by lying on the ground in what Sam referred to as, "The cleavage shot. That's what sells the tickets" and kicking a leg out in order to gain the leverage to stand back up.

Sam also talked about the "Eternal Audience" as the mannequins occupying the side boxes are referred to. Originally, the side boxes were going to be working boxes for audience members, but that was vetoed because the Venetian felt that no one would want to watch the show from the boxes. Then the boxes were going to be filled with animatronic mannequins (think Disney's Hall of Presidents) that could move their heads and arms. This proved prohibitive due to the amount of cables required. So they ultimately went with plain old mannequins dressed up in retired costumes from the show. Sam said only one mannequin head was modeled after an actual person (a U.S. president, I think - the one with smoking a cigar), but I could have sworn I saw an Al Pacino head in there (Say hello to my little friend, Erik!).

(ed. I'm probably misremembering the part about the Eternal Audience since I believe Paul Davis also talked about them during the Phantom Theatre session and I'm getting my facts misplaced. Lindsey's videos will probably prove this.)

Sam closed up the presentation with a short dedication to Maria Bjornson, who, as it turns out, was a huge Elvis fan. When they were constructing the theatre, they salvaged an Elvis bust and gave it a hardhat with Maria's name on it. Once the presentation was over, the red curtains parted to reveal the Phantom's Lair and standing center stage were our two audience members in full costume and makeup:



It was an astonishing sight, to be sure. You could tell they were giddy with excitement. Jason even sang a few lines, completely taken by the moment. Sadly, it was time to leave so we didn't get to hear anything about their experience or have Ron Wild discuss the makeup process. But Jason did wind up wearing the makeup for the rest of the day, for we saw him not long after in the Venetian food court having lunch in full disfigured glory!

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:15 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : a visual)

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  SenorSwanky on Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:17 am

Raphael wrote:Once the presentation was over, the red curtains parted to reveal the Phantom's Lair and standing center stage were our two audience members in full costume and makeup. It was an astonishing sight, to be sure. You could tell they were giddy with excitement.
That would be the thrill of a lifetime. Can't imagine.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  meglett on Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:31 am

The smoking cigar head is Churchill. lol! Wink Keep them coming Raph. I'm enjoying reliving the weekend.

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International Phantom Fans Week: Day Three, Part Deux - 18 September 2009

Post  Raphael on Tue Sep 29, 2009 2:42 am

Wow, I was completely off the mark on that one, huh? Laughing Oh well, that's what I get for writing in chicken scratch...

Here's the balance of Day Three:

Afternoon Session: Chandelier Experience

Dana Bartholomew of Fisher Technical Services and a Phantom Las Vegas crew member whose name I can't remember at the moment led the Chandelier Experience Session in which we learned the secrets of the Las Vegas chandelier. When I'd first heard that there would be a 90-minute session about the Chandelier, I was concerned as to how they'd fill up the time (This is how it falls at full speed. Now let's see it again at half-speed… And now at three-quarter speed… and now at three-quarter speed under show lights…), but as it turned out, I needn't have worried. We were treated to a complete and fascinating explanation of how Fisher Technical designed one of the most astounding technical effects on the Las Vegas production.

The first big surprise for me was that the dome above the audience's heads isn't solid but actually composed of painted fabric covering the trusses of the dome. Because of the requirements of the chandelier (assembling above the audience, the crash and subsequent removal from sight afterwards), the designers had to come up with a way to actually pull it all off. Wires connected to the ring at the base of the dome could accomplish some things, but would not be able to lift the chandelier up and out of sight within the stovepipe at the center of the dome (which is only visible when they lit the dome for us to take a peek). The wires holding up the four pieces of the chandelier connect to gears and pulleys within the ribs that allow the technicians to manipulate each piece's position in space. On their initial test, they had one piece moving in a wide circle on a horizontal axis while another piece moved up and down on a vertical axis (sorta like patting your head and rubbing your stomach). When that came off without a hitch, they realized it might actually work.



For the assembly sequence, one of the pieces (Piece 2) sits onstage. But with the other three pieces suspended above the audience, that's a maze of wires strung all over the place. To place Piece 2 onstage required the wires for it be let out entirely and another line that comes out of the stage to be attached to it in order to pull it into position (one of the wires for another piece is let out entirely as well so that when their wires intersect, it has enough slack so as not to create any undue tension on the wires. For some reason, it was kinda nerve-wracking to see those wires pulling on each other. When the assembly sequence begins, the stage pullback line is given slack so that the wires can move Piece 2 off the stage and once it's in position, the pullback line is released and the rest of the chandelier pieces are given the green-light to start moving. We were allowed to see them in-flight with the house lights up and it's a strange, beautiful ballet they do. There's also good reason why the Overture is so loud in Vegas: the pulleys create a great deal of noise as they move the chandelier pieces around. We were also told about the safety protocols that automatically stop the sequence should any one piece malfunction. The assembly sequence was shown to us again under show lights with Scott Watanabe leading us into it as the Auctioneer (an audience member recited the Auctioneer lines for the house lights run-through).

We were also told about the crash sequence. It comes in two parts: the pre-crash and the crash. In the pre-crash, the chandelier drops freefall (18 ft/sec) for five feet before coming to a dead stop and shaking. In fact, we were told that the entire auditorium shakes from that sudden stop. It then drops another 30 feet to stop 11 feet above the audience and then is whisked back up over 35 feet into the stovepipe and hidden from view for the rest of the show. All in a matter of seconds. For the show lights demonstration, we were given the opportunity to assume the crash positions underneath the chandelier to experience it firsthand outside the context of the show itself, complete with music cue and Meg scream!

Two other tidbits that came out of the session were how the Phantom gets into position hanging from the chandelier during Il Muto (a very intricate and dangerous-sounding procedure undertaken by the stuntman), and that there is a plate on Piece 2 bearing the Chandelier's name: Maria.

Dinner
Since I didn't attend the performance that evening (although I was intensely curious as to how the cast would be performing after a notes session with Hal Prince), I took the opportunity to get a little rest and wander around the Palazzo. In my favorite Italian suit, I was mistaken for an employee a total of four times as I strolled through the Venetian and Palazzo properties. You'd think my Christine Daae Testosterone Brigade tie would have given me away.

After the show, I caught up with some friends who had attended the show had a very pleasant late dinner. It was probably the best time I had all week, but I can say no more, for as they say, what happens in Vegas (and that goes for any of you in attendance, too)…

A great way to end the evening and recharge the batteries for the last full day of Fans Week.

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:25 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : a shot of the stovepipe)

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Blind Phan on Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:06 am

Wow! Just, wow! What a week! I think that would be a lot like having died and gone to heaven! And the two who got the Phantom and Christine make-overs were so damned lucky! Talk about the chance of a lifetime!

Ok, I definitely have to try to go to this next year!

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  phantomgirl110 on Tue Sep 29, 2009 4:09 am

Raphael wrote:
Scorp wrote:Wow, they gave you a feedback questionnaire to complete? Impressive commitment to the fans!
Yup, they said this year was a bit of an experiment, so they're interested in knowing what worked and what didn't.
Does that mean you've already gotten your survey? I haven't gotten a thing.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Christine's Shadow on Tue Sep 29, 2009 4:47 am

Wow, with all that information on the Chandelier, I think I'm still going to freak when it falls... I'm excited! Very Happy

My grandpa said he loved the "new" chandelier fall, and he prides himself on being a pretty big Phantom buff -- without being as hardcore as you guys Razz but enough that he's seen a majority of bigger sit-down productions.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  phantom10906 on Tue Sep 29, 2009 6:00 am

phantomgirl110 wrote:
Raphael wrote:
Scorp wrote:Wow, they gave you a feedback questionnaire to complete? Impressive commitment to the fans!
Yup, they said this year was a bit of an experiment, so they're interested in knowing what worked and what didn't.
Does that mean you've already gotten your survey? I haven't gotten a thing.

Neither have I. Evil or Very Mad

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Raphael on Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:26 am

Phantom10906 wrote:
phantomgirl110 wrote:
Raphael wrote:
Scorp wrote:Wow, they gave you a feedback questionnaire to complete? Impressive commitment to the fans!
Yup, they said this year was a bit of an experiment, so they're interested in knowing what worked and what didn't.
Does that mean you've already gotten your survey? I haven't gotten a thing.

Neither have I. Evil or Very Mad
Nope, haven't gotten anything yet. I'm checking my spam folder just in case, though.

R.

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International Phantom Fans Week: Day Four - 19 September 2009

Post  Raphael on Sat Oct 03, 2009 9:51 pm

International Phantom Fans Week: Day Four - 19 September 2009

Morning Session: Phantom Theatre
The final full day of Fans Week started with Production Designer Paul Kelly's Insider Session about the Phantom Theatre. Paul began with a little bit about his background and how he got involved with Phantom. Having seen the show in London, he wrote to the show (I believe possibly to Maria Bjornson herself) to say how he loved it and would love to be a part of it in some way. Lucky devil soon found himself serving as Maria's assistant on the Broadway production and later working on the European productions before moving on to film work. He then told us that he had hear early on about plans to stage Phantom in Las Vegas but merely found it curious and wondered how they'd accomplish it. Later, as the project began to develop, complete with many key members of the original creative team, he knew he had to be a part of it.

While they had permission to expand and/or improve upon the original production design, the credo of the Las Vegas production was to maintain the integrity of Maria's work. One of the first things Paul brought up was the auditorium. Originally the boxes were intended to seat actual audience members until the Venetian vetoed that idea. So they decided to expand the set design to stretch out into the auditorium and recreate the boxes from the Opera Garnier. The proscenium arch was even upgraded with all the female figures decked out in glittering jewelry. As far as the show itself, Paul went back to Maria's archives and her original concept sketches for inspiration. In explaining that, we were treated with samples of these little-seen black and white sketches via computer. Candles on the boat, sculptures floating in the lake, the Phantom riding the chandelier down - it was all fascinating for me.

Paul then went through the show scene by scene in mostly chronological order pointing out the changes that were made for the Vegas production. Hal Prince ("OMGHALPRINCE!!!") apparently wanted to give the audience more of a backstage peek of the opera house so the first change was the addition of the fly floor. Introduced during the overture, it makes its key appearance during the hanging of Buquet (a stunt included since the original Buquet dummy never was very convincing and sometimes confused the audience). Hal -- pardon me, Mr. Prince -- didn't care for the hard edge of Christine's dressing room mirror when it slides back as the Phantom takes her into his domain, so the new mirror effect was developed (I still wish there was some way to suck out some of that smoke before Raoul enters, though). For the labyrinth, they tired to give the scene as much depth as they could, considering they only had an additional three feet of depth compared to the stage at The Majestic Theatre in New York. As those who have seen it for themselves, they accomplished it through forced perspective using three stone arches and a mirror at the rear of the stage. Paul also informed us that the boat itself comes in from a point that is actually beyond the back of the stage. I'm not exactly sure how that works, but I'm along for the ride. This scene also has - or doesn't have, as the case may be - the first new element that was cut from the Vegas production: the Phantom and Christine descending the last steps and boarding the boat on stage. Since it didn't really add anything to the scene, no one missed its elimination.

"Why mess with perfection?" was Paul's comment about the Phantom's Lair, so very little was changed in this scene, save for the additions of the breakaway mirror and the boat's "headboard." The manager's scene finally got itself a grand set of doors based n those at the Paris Opera (improving on the plain black wall the characters come though in the original production). And that brought us to the first *major* upgrade for Vegas: the Il Muto set.

I don't know why, but I wasn't expecting them to show us the sets live, but sure enough, after showing us the newly conceived set in model form, they opened the curtains to show us the real deal. Detail-geek that I am, I eagerly started snapping photos of everything I could focus on as Paul talked about the new designs (such as including his dog in the painting behind the Countess' entourage). I sometimes feel that this set is a bit overwhelming, especially compared to the empty stage Christine sings "Think of Me" on, but it does fit with the baroque pseudo-opera. We were disappointed when Paul had them close the curtains so he could move on to the next scene, but he assured us that there would be more to share.

Moving along, Paul jumped to the Don Juan scene, another part of the show that got a bit of a makeover: The Don Juan scene. Now Anéa may disagree with Sam Fleming's talk of elevating the styles of the Don Juan costumes beyond peasantry (and it's true, there isn't much of a difference), but there was no denying that the backdrops took a few steps up the social ladder. The new set, while keeping the traditional banquet table and curtained bedchamber, took the peasant tavern and turned it into a castle with great stone arches and its own chandelier. And again with me being a shutterbug.

Paul then backtracked to the rooftop set, something that was first added with the Broadway production. He indicated that the film "Moulin Rouge" and its rooftop vista of Paris was an influence, so he added to the set in that manner (and also the clouds. Pretty sure the Broadway and tour don't have the clouds).

The transition between the Rooftop and the Masquerade Ball was another scene where they did a lot of new stuff, and some of it got cut out. Via slides of the model, Paul said that originally, there were going to be three stages to the transition: 1) the Opera House façade, 2) the Grand Foyer (ultimately removed) and 3) the Staircase. "And fireworks!" Hal Prince apparently suggested, so they threw those in too. Fireworks? Indoors? Uh, sure. No problem J

The Graveyard scene only had the addition of a crypt on either side of the central one for Christine's father to help pad out the set. To be honest, I hardly notice them.

The Final Lair, of course, has the Raoul Roach Motel (aka the Torture Cage) as its new feature. As we know from previous reports, it was intended to be in the original production but was ultimately cut. The intention behind it was to have something that was more menacing, dangerous and evil. I don’t know; I still love the part where Christine puts herself bodily between the Phantom and Raoul while he's got the Punjab lasso around his neck and the moment after the kiss when the Phantom is standing next to Raoul and holding the candle and you're not sure what he's going to do. You just don't get those dramatic opportunities with the torture cage.

Jumping back to the Transition, the Opera House façade was raised for our viewing pleasure and its forced perspective (something Maria enjoyed using as a device), was demonstrated by Paul walking up next to its tiny doors. As for the staircase, the Vegas version was made a little glitzier and the steps themselves filled out. In explaining this, Paul said that Maria originally made the steps partially see-through (ie: like bleachers at a sports stadium) so that it wouldn't look like one giant lump onstage. In upgrading the staircase, Paul's team circumvented this possibility by making the steps black and gold on the top and bottom of the steps and put little stars in for some sparkle. The handrail was also recreated with inspiration in wrought iron and gold. Even the newel post was blinged up a bit.

For the curtain call, Paul said that the producers wanted a little extra magic kick at the end of the show so they added the Phantom's magical appearance out of thin air for his bow. Have to admit, it's a nice little "pop" to cap off the evening.

Next up: Mr. Hal Prince!

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:40 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : finishing off the morning session review)

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Blind Phan on Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:09 pm

See, that's why the Vegus version works whereas the Gerik doesn't - the fact that Vegus stayed faithful to Maria Bjornson's original designs and even brought in some of the original creative team. And of course, because they had Hal Prince directing! Now granted, I know that some modifications would have to have been made for the film just because of the differences in medium between it and stage, and I know Hal Prince isn't a film director. But they still should have stayed faithful to the original vision and at least had Hal in some kind of advisory role! The whole thing would have been so much better for it! Then we might not have had some of the casting, musical, plot, and just general taste disasters that plague so much of the movie!

IMHO.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

Post  Raphael on Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:34 am

Just a side note: Hal Prince actually has directed a couple of feature films (and by a couple, I mean two) so he does have the experience, but he is predominantly a theatre director.

But I most definitely agree with you that a film adaptation should have included more input from the original creative team since it is clear ALW let Schumacher take the reins and run wild with it. Maintaining the integrity of the original production was one of the primary aims of the Michael Crawford Phantom Movie Campaign.

R.

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Re: International Phantom Fans Week 2009

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