Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

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Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

Post  Raphael on Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:41 am

Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

With the demise of Fans Week 2010, some friends and I decided to have a mini-gathering of our own in Las Vegas. Centering it around the Hope 3 benefit concert Brianne and the other Phantom dancers were putting on the 28th, we made arrangements for a long weekend of hanging out and enjoying everything the Strip had to offer. Naturally, that included multiple trips to see the Las Vegas production.

From the far corners of America (and even Canada, too), Phantomfett, Phantom on a Budget, phantomgirl110, MasqPhan, and I converged on Sin City on Thursday, August 26th. The first show of the gathering was, of course, Phantom. We had intended to see Kristen Hertzenberg perform that night, but as you will find out, dear reader, this particular performance was full of surprises of all sorts.

Pre-Show:
The title of this review actually has multiple meanings. The first being the fact that Phantomfett and I switched seats once we arrived at the theatre. Somehow, the arrangement of the seat numbers were reversed in my mind and I wound up not in the spot that I’d intended. You see, everyone has moments in the show that that are their favorites. Those moments of such incredible beauty and overwhelming loveliness that you simply have to be in the prime position to witness them, no matter the cost. And I’m no different. But on the plus side, had we not switched seats, we would not have inadvertently triggered an amusingly awkward “reunion” between Phantomfett and Mark Andrews, Company Manager of the Phantom Las Vegas production.

Prologue:
The second meaning of the title of this review comes from the fact that throughout the show, I noticed actors playing parts they typically don’t play. I believe that’s called “swinging.” First up was Marc Cedric Smith as the Auctioneer. Now no offense, but the second I saw him in the Auctioneer makeup, I immediately thought of this guy:



His Auctioneer was fine, nothing really stood out about it. Apparently no one can out-creep Lackey.

Andrew Ragone did a good job as old Raoul, his voice weak and feeble as he called out to the porter to bring the music box to him. He also fell back in his chair with a defeated air after he sang the word, “dead.”

Overture:
We cued the audience to turn around to witness the Dance of the Glass ‘n’ Brass UFOs above them. Kinda cool to see a wave of people start to turn around once you do it. In fact, we wound up cueing the audience to turn around whenever necessary.

Hannibal:
Danielle White is the current Las Vegas Carlotta, and she was the same fiery pit bull pup that I remembered from 2007. And once the ensemble began to enter and the scene unfolded, the “musical chairs” really began as I started to notice familiar faces in roles I wasn’t prepared to see them in: Bonnie Fraser (didn’t she leave a few months ago?) as the Wardrobe Mistress, Jason Forbach (didn’t he leave a few months ago, too?) as Reyer, Scott Watanabe as Lefevre, Maureen Dodson as the Princess, and finally, Sarah Elizabeth Combs as Christine.

I don’t think we’ve seen any reviews of Sarah, the new Christine understudy, so as much as I’d wanted to see Kristen to better gauge her interpretation of Christine, it was a happy accident that we’d get to see Sarah on this trip. Unfortunately, I have to start out my thoughts on Sarah with the fact that her makeup rather heavy and made her look like Madame Giry was playing the role of Christine.

Hang on. At this point, Brianne did the Vegas slavegirl pose right in front of me. Mmmm…

</drool break>

Think of Me:
Sarah’s Christine was very earnest, and while she did a great job at “Think of Me,” her cadenza was a little weak – but that might be due to the fact that she went on at the last minute (as she told us after the show), and wasn’t completely warmed up. Otherwise, she had a very lovely voice and I’m sure she will improve as she gets more experience in the role.

Angel of Music:
Brianne continues to impress me with her vocals with each passing performance. She easily held her own against Sarah in “Angel of Music,” and held the last note of her line, “But the words aren’t yours” very nicely – setting off the little pleasure centers in my brain like Brightman and Crawford often do.

Little Lotte/The Mirror:
Andrew came off with a rather suave air as he left the managers to speak with Christine privately (And hey! An unfamiliar face tonight as Fifi Firmin!). For me, Sarah was unique in how she played the reunion between the two childhood friends: it was much more subdued (read: very Victorian) and not the enthusiastic embrace that is typically seen. As well, she played the relationship with the Angel of Music as a young child being scolded by her parent once his voice started to boom from the rafters. On a technical note, just enough smoke was used to cover up the mirror effect than I’d seen previously. Well done!

Phantom of the Opera:
But perhaps they have a quota of fog and smoke to meet each performance, because there was a surfeit of it in the journey to the lair. I couldn’t even tell if the candles had come up or not.

And did they change the track again? It sounded like there was an entire choir singing, “He’s there... The Phantom of the Opera / Beware... The Phantom of the Opera”

And what the hell happened to your fedora? The crown was all dented and misshapen, and the brim floppy. With the cloak on, Anthony looked like a sinister version of the Gordon’s Fisherman.

Music of the Night:
Anthony Crivello’s interpretation of the Phantom is certainly different than what it started out as over four years ago. It feels a bit softer and he’s added a number of his own signature bits to it. One thing I really noticed this time around was that Anthony was using a lot more of the Crawford-esque grand arm movements coupled with a number of hand gestures with his index and middle fingers both extended. This was both good and bad in that while it’s nice to see him more physically expressive, early in the song he swooped his hand up as if tracing in a “j” in the air and all I could think of was how many years away was I from having to regularly visit the proctologist.

Nap-time for Christine; more to come later.

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:43 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

Post  Raphael on Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:42 am

Stranger than You Dreamt It:
Anthony’s still doing the spastic artist thing at the organ. I get that the Phantom’s an enthusiastic artist, but can we dial it back a little bit?

Sarah did well in this scene, with a moment that stood out for me being when she returned the mask. Many Christines have a pitying expression on their faces during this, but Sarah still kept a hint of fright that counterbalanced it. Unique take – I liked it.

Notes/Prima Donna:
I do enjoy how John Leslie Wolfe’s Andre is just the slightest bit clueless about everything – reading the Phantom’s note in its entirety like it’s a fan letter and only afterwards pausing to realize what’s been said.

Andrew’s “What is it now?” line directed at Carlotta played up the irritation moreso than usual as if Carlotta had been pestering him since day one.

And, of course, there were Brianne’s “Curious Meg” antics which were downplayed a bit this time but still significant enough that the character didn’t disappear into the background as lesser Megs so often do.

Il Muto:
Bullet points version:

  • Bonnie Fraser’s Confidante is a pixie of a thing
  • Jason Forbach’s Jeweller makeup looks different than before
  • Sarah’s Serafimo ass volcano gets 5 stars
  • We helped cue the audience to turn around and see the Phantom hanging from the chandelier, a stunt that often gets overlooked, I think.
  • Carlotta’s aren’t doing the “ribbit” anymore, thank goodness.


All I Ask of You/Reprise:
It was at this point in the show that I started to have some issues with the sound. The mic levels were going up and down in a seemingly random manner (one line would be clear as day and the subsequent line by the same actor was barely above a whisper), but once AIAoY started, the vocals were amped up to the point of sounding obviously processed. This ain’t “Glee” people – everyone on stage is a trained singer, they don’t need the technological help to bring the quality of their vocals up.

That aside, I thought Andrew and Sarah played the scene nicely – the two of them definitely channeling Barton and Brightman – with the only moments of note being Sarah nearly tripping on the hem of her dress (I wonder what the cover for that particular mistake is?) and the second kiss being the greatly exaggerated – with Andrew doing a half-twist to turn Sarah’s back to the audience.

And now, I’m going to pause for the Hidden Plot portion of my review. Only Platinum-level Hidden Plotters are authorized to read this portion of the review. The rest of you talk amongst yourselves.

Spoiler:
Are they gone?

Okay, now that the ignorant folk aren’t listening, I can reveal to you what I’m sure you’ve suspected all along. The horses that Christine refers to in her line, “Order your fine horses,” is actually a symbol for Trojan condoms, clearly laying the groundwork for her true nature as a little hoochie who sleeps around – but only to the sharp-minded audience member like you and me. Obviously, Lloyd Webber put this into the show all the way back in 1986 because he had already known the TRUE nature of the characters and what would happen in the sequel that he would premiere decades later.

Man, if we were any smarter, they’d put us in straightjackets.

We now return you to our regularly-scheduled review.

R.


Last edited by Raphael on Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:21 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

Post  operafantomet on Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:04 am

I love your reviews, Raphael. LOVE!

Glad to hear they had toned down the smoke in the mirror scene. I've always found it strange that they drown the whole set when they have the possibility to do one of the most convincing mirror scenes with just a puff of smoke. It's like they don't trust that the silhouette cutout is subtle enough - or like you said, it's like they have to use a certain quanta per show... Too bad the boat scene was drowned instead.

John Leslie Wolfe sounds like the perfect André. For some reason, I like it so much when André is slightly nevrotic and confused, and Firmin the grumpy one. Wolfe seems to play it to perfection.

And I totally agree about Brianne Kelly Morgan. She's the only US meg I've immediately liked and thought has had a gorgeous singing voice. US Megs, though they might be cute as pies, have a tendency to sing nasally or flat. Not so with this gal.

Is Danielle White permanently the new Carlotta? And the only one?

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Re: Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

Post  Raphael on Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:30 am

operafantomet wrote:
Glad to hear they had toned down the smoke in the mirror scene. I've always found it strange that they drown the whole set when they have the possibility to do one of the most convincing mirror scenes with just a puff of smoke.
Yeah, there's still enough to surround Raoul when he enters the room, but a lot less than I remember them using in the past.

Is Danielle White permanently the new Carlotta? And the only one?
Yes, according to the Playbill, Danielle is the current (and only) Vegas Carlotta.

R.

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Re: Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

Post  Raphael on Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:33 am

Masquerade:
With respects to “Sweeney Todd”:

There was a hip swish on stage right
And it was beautiful
A figure eight of pure delight
That both inspires and excites
And it was beautiful…


Giry's Confession/Notes II/Twisted Every Way:
Bleh. Kinda just happened. Although we’d trained the audience around us to make them turn to see what Raoul was pointing at at the end of the scene. Which was in this case, nothing.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again/Wandering Child:
"Fatherly gaze"is still in there! But Zombie!Christine arms are, too.

Before the Premiere:
Hey! The Marksman’s gun misfired and we were immediately treated to Raoul’s alternate line: “You fool! I told you to shoot when the time comes!”

Hmm. Anybody else think that makes Raoul a little too eager to kill the Phantom?

DJT/Point of No Return:
PoNR is still short and it still feels short. And speaking of short, you could see Anthony’s ankles peeking out from beneath his Passarino cloak.

Sarah was short on the apple porn, too, although she compensated by holding the goblet to herself and swirling the contents by pivoting her upper body in circles from the waist. I think I once saw a girl do something similar with a tequila shot just before firing a ping pong ball across the room. She did that without using her hands, too.

Umm… moving right along, we all spun around on cue, causing heads to turn en masse to witness the chandelier shake, shudder, and plummet down into the audience.

Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer:
Gaffes galore! First off, Anthony’s lines as he exits stage left couldn’t be heard unless you were in the front row due to his mic level being dropped prematurely. Then, Andrew took off his coat, hung it over the travelator railing, looked down… and promptly ran off the way Madame Giry left. That’s right, Raoul didn’t go jump in a lake (despite the desire of many an E/C shipper that he do so). The mob, however, stormed off in the opposite direction, which begs the question: exactly how did Raoul end up in the lake n the next scene?

Final Lair:
In a new addition to the role, Anthony now makes incoherent noises as he enters the lair. They’re impossible to describe outside of being similar to the sounds my 15-month old nephew makes around the house. Meanwhile, Sarah, in her posture, acting, and expression, immediately earned the title of Pissed!Christine here, as she let the anger flow through her. This was a Christine that had been pushed to her limit and it definitely showed. And once Andrew army-crawled into position and wound up getting caught in the Cage o’ Doom, Sarah really kicked it up a notch with her line, “tears of hate!” You go girl! Kick him in the nuts! Yeah!

Of course, we all know how Christine ultimately finds that compassion is the only way out of this dilemma. Anthony did the shaky-to-flaccid hand thing during the kiss and all proceeded as per usual. Sarah’s exit was subdued – run a few steps, turn around with a sad expression, and then run off. Anthony did the slappy hand thing again (ugh) before singing the final lines of the night, the last being so amplified that it not only stood out as being manipulated, but also managed to fill the entire auditorium.

The verdict? One of the most interesting performances I’d seen in a long time. Sarah did a great job, Brianne remains untouchable as the best Meg Giry out there, and we came out with a ton of things to submit to the “A Lamentable Mess”website!

R.

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Re: Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

Post  Callie Daae on Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:52 pm

Great review! I thought Sarah's voice was beautiful. And she has to be one of the prettiest Christines ever. My motto is the more makeup, the better. lol

She was also fabulous as the Hannibal Princess and the Triangle Girl as well.


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Re: Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

Post  Viscountess on Sat Sep 04, 2010 5:49 pm

Agreed about Sarah's make-up, Raphael. She's so super pretty, but put on far too much blush.

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Re: Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Combs/Ragone - 26 September 2010 7pm: The Musical Chairs Edition (or "I’ve got this seat and it’s f$%#*%$# golden!")

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