POTO School Edition - Punahou School in Honolulu, HI. 11/14/10

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POTO School Edition - Punahou School in Honolulu, HI. 11/14/10

Post  IamErik771 on Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:43 am

I wasn't sure whether this belonged in the "reviews" section or the topic on school productions. If anyone thinks it should be moved, please feel free to do so. Very Happy

Heh heh... so last Saturday, I saw a performance at my sister's alma mater, Punahou School in Hawaii. My desire to go was mainly due to curiosity and wanting to show my parents something to do with ALW's POTO that wasn't the movie. (Plus, I really needed a live Phantom fix of some kind since the US Tour had closed shortly before.)

I must say, when I went to get tickets, the line was amazingly long. The school doesn't sell tickets by phone or online, so everyone who wanted to see the show had to go there in person. The wait was about an hour (and I got there about 10 minutes before tickets officially went on sale the first day), and by the time I got to the ticket window, the last show only had about 20 seats left. I was fortunate enough to find 3 orchestra seats, though... but clearly, a lot of people were eager to see this production.


*****
The Phantom of the Opera - School Edition
Punahou School - Honolulu, HI
Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010 - 7:30 PM (Final Performance)

Names have been omitted to protect the innocent. If you're really dying to know, PM me.


Pre-Show:

Because of the aforementioned lack of seats, my parents and I weren't able to sit all together -- my parents got seats next to each other, and I was in the row behind them. I wound up sitting next to a couple who had seen the show in San Francisco just a couple days before I did, so we had fun discussing the cast. The posters and program were nicely done; they got to use the official logo (the real one, mind you, not the silly Photoshopped Phantom that's been used in the US the last couple of years). The program said that there were two Christines who alternated performances, but I have no idea how the other one compared to the one we saw. I was surprised to see a familiar name in the program -- the girl who played Madame Giry had played Kim in a community theater production of "Miss Saigon" I saw a couple years previously. I was also amused that I could pick out quite a few of the tunes that the various orchestra members were warming up with, most notably the flutist playing the "Il Muto" ballet section.

Finally, the time came. The drama teacher came out, thanked us all for being there, went through the customary thanking of the students who were in the cast and crew, and reminded us not to text during the show because apparently (to my amazement and disgust), that had been going on at previous performances. He also reminded everyone that no recording devices were allowed (Wink)... the standard stuff.


Prologue

Though the stage was blacked out, we could still see and hear everyone getting into position. The auctioneer (uncredited) had a good speaking voice, but didn't really deliver much acting-wise. Interestingly, this production had a female patron buy the pistol and skulls from Robert le Diable. (There was no indication that she or anyone else in the scene was meant to be Mme. Giry.) The monkey music box, which seemed to be a store-bought toy, was hyperactive. Like, seriously. It flailed around wildly as it clapped its cymbals, causing a fair bit of audience laughter (myself included). Thankfully, they didn't set it in motion during any of its scenes later in the show.

Raoul started singing and had a very nice voice -- I mentally put a checkmark next to him. Couldn't pull off sounding old at all... but hey, these are high school kids. Then came the chandelier bit. It was covered by a white, unlabelled sheet. I'm a bit unsure about how the orchestrations were done -- it seemed to be mostly keyboards, although violins, cellos, flutes, and percussion were also listed in the program.


Overture

Very nice rendition of the Overture (though I wonder if it was prerecorded, since it sounded almost identical to the "real" version). Two of the people onstage helped to raise the chandelier, and then they and the rest of the people slowly shuffled offstage as the music played. The chandelier was quite well-done and rose at a pretty good rate. The music, however, stopped after the organ bit -- no full-orchestra half of the Overture in this production.


Rehearsal of "Hannibal"

Enter Carlotta, holding what was clearly a dressing room mannequin head. Very nicely diva-ish acting, and they altered her cadenza (which I didn't mind all that much; I'd have been astonished if they had a high-school kid try to do it the same way as the professional casts. The sets were quite nice -- they had a great bunch of very elaborate columns and arches. The costumes were also pretty nice -- not as ridiculously garish as the ones in the movie.

The guy who played Piangi had a good voice and great comic timing, but was very small and slight. The managers also had great comedic talent, as did Reyer and Lefèvre, though pronunciation of names tended to be rather inconsistent. For this production, Box 5 was ground level, stage right. (I guess the upper tiers weren't structurally strong enough for people to be in them.) After the "accident" (and every other time the line was done), Meg sang "He's there, the Phantom of the Opera" very slowly. There were a few other weird things done with the tempo at certain points in the show as well. Carlotta had a good rant; nothing exceptional but still fun to watch.


Think of Me

This production's Christine really surprised me. For a high-school girl, she had a very trained voice. In some ways, she reminded me of a friend of mine who was studying to become a singer and whose voice I really liked. Although the actress clipped a few notes, she did the song in the same key that the stage version uses (rather than the way the OLC and movie did). She also pulled off a great cadenza.

During the transition between the beginning and the gala performance, some of the stone columns were moved around to create a new scene. Raoul and the managers were in a ground-level box, stage left, and Raoul's bit was nicely done as well. After the song, as the audience applause was dying down and much to my amazement, they did the "reverse tabs" from the original production!


Angel of Music

Kind of an underwhelming "Brava" from our Phantom... Meg and Christine did the number quite well (even doing the current stage lyrics rather than the OLC/movie version), but seemed to sing it mostly "as written" instead of acting the song. Interestingly, with this scene change, "Box 5" at stage right became Christine's dressing room while Mme. Giry and the dancers took center stage. When Raoul and the managers came by, there was a "Mme. Firmin" -- or at least a woman who said "Greedy," though she wasn't listed by name in the program.


Little Lotte / Mirror

Other than the issue of them constantly pronouncing it as "Little Lotta" (which Christine also did later in the graveyard scene), this scene was done fairly well, again with the dressing room being in the "Box 5" area. (I'm just glad they didn't pronounce it as "Little Latté" -- that would have given me major coffee cravings. Laughing)

Our Phantom, sadly, was very underwhelming. He could barely be heard for most of this scene, and didn't appear in the mirror until the "I am your Angel..." bit. Not sure if that was an accident or not. At the end, Raoul simply called out "Christine!" (No "Angel?", which I didn't mind so much.) The transition to the next scene took a while, so the bass line was thumping out for a good 30 seconds as the next scene came into view. I was intrigued to hear some "dripping water" sound effects as the underground labyrinth was setting up.


Phantom of the Opera

Ok, the intro bit (and possibly much of the track) had to have been a recording provided by RUG -- the opening riffs sounded exactly like the version on the cast albums. The set was quite nice; it again made use of the columns and arches from "Hannibal," but arranged differently. A couple sets of doubles passed over the arches, and then when Christine started singing, the actors were already in the boat. An article about the production said that they had used a mobility scooter for the boat, but I couldn't see where that was; they covered it really well. Christine did her verse well, but the Phantom again left me unimpressed -- he did his verse an octave lower, similar to the original Vienna and Hamburg Phantoms, but even then, he struggled a lot with the notes.

The "He's there..." bit after the third verse, interestingly, transitioned right into Christine singing that bit in the 4th verse key (F minor, for all you music buffs), and then starting the cadenza in its normal key. The cadenza was shortened quite a bit and she didn't sing the E... just the organ playing that chord, and then some time for the audience to applaud before the Phantom sang "I Have Brought You." He started both stanzas out an octave lower and then jumped up to the proper key halfway through.


Music of the Night

Whoa, Nelly. They took this song at warp speed! Seriously, I don't think I've ever heard it sung this fast. The Phantom, unfortunately, didn't improve much -- though he didn't need any random octave changes for this song, he was still shaky in the upper range and his acting was nonexistent. They didn't use the standard blocking for this scene, either -- the Phantom was pretty much just pacing around Christine for the whole thing. What little vocal acting he attempted seemed to be an imitation of Gerard Butler.

The interesting thing about the lair set is that it also made use of the theatre boxes. The managers' box on the left became the area for the Phantom's organ, and Box 5 was where the mirror bride and the bed were set up. This made the "fall" very convenient to stage; when the bride turned its head (rather than lurching forward), Christine passed out right onto the bed, and then the Phantom covered her with his cloak (which he'd been wearing straight up to that point).


I Remember / Stranger Than You Dreamt It

Interestingly, the organ solo (extended in this version) began while the stage was still dark, as the Phantom was getting his outfit changed and slowly making his way to the organ. It also didn't sound remotely similar to any organ I've heard (more like a piano and synth strings playing in harmony), but hey. When the lights came on, the Phantom was in an outfit similar to the Asian-esque one he wears in this scene in the regular version of the show. Oddly, after the music ended, he went over to a desk in the middle of the stage to scribble down his masterpiece as the music box played.

Christine sang her bit well, and interestingly, when she was about to unmask the Phantom (who was hunched over his writing desk), she pulled him in close as if she were about to kiss him -- neat idea. His tantrum was done pretty well, but then came what I thought was the biggest blocking blunder of the show: he put his mask back on before singing the main part of the song. In other words, that touching moment afterward where Christine would give him back his mask was no more; instead, he just walked over to his desk, looked at his music for a few seconds, walked back to Christine (who was huddled over by the organ) and delivered his line pretty blandly. It should be noted, though, that "Come, we must return..." was the only line normally sung that was spoken in this production. As he said it, the Phantom opened a large trapdoor on the left side of the stage, and he and Christine went down into it.


Magical Lasso

After a very slow musical transition in which the columns and such were moved offstage, Buquet and the ballet rats did their thing -- Buquet was quite good here. Then the same trapdoor the Phantom and Christine disappeared into in the previous scene opened up, and they came out, scaring all the poor dancers away. As Madame Giry warned Buquet to keep his big mouth shut, the Phantom stood in the middle distance, pointing at our favorite stagehand in what I'm sure was supposed to be a threatening manner. Unfortunately, this Phantom just couldn't pull off "threatening."


Notes / Prima Donna

The managers were both great here; Firmin was a bit over-the-top, and fell majorly out-of-rhythm during the "Diva tenders resignation" verse, but other than that, they pulled it off. Raoul, Carlotta, and Piangi were also good (though Piangi's lack of girth was still very noticeable). They did all of "Notes," including Carlotta's Italian rant near the end of the scene, which impressed me. The Phantom's reading of his note, though... not so much. I was more intrigued by Firmin's almost-perfect mouthing of the Phantom's words.

"Prima Donna" was shortened a bit -- they went from the second verse straight into "Light up the stage with that age-old rapport." Also, in the second verse, Andre and Firmin sang along with Carlotta instead of adding in their own interjections; she didn't have the voice to pull off singing her section solo, but I didn't really mind this change. Raoul and the Girys still sang their own bits, and the Phantom seemed to come in with his line a bit early; the descending chords were still going for about a measure after he finished.


Il Muto

The opening of the scene was played pretty normally, except that Raoul didn't say "There appear to be no seats available other than Box 5;" he just says "Don't worry, Andre." The Confidante and two fops were good, though interestingly, one fop was a bass and sang his line an octave lower. Don Attillio took his "observe her" up an octave; I suppose not many teens could sing that ultra-low note. Carlotta's "croak" was more of a "shrieking gasp," and oddly, the Phantom was laughing before she "croaked." The managers climbed out of their box and were pretty hysterical as they made their announcement to the audience, and seemed to take a while to decide what to do instead. Andre was miming random things while Firmin shook his head, and then finally Andre did a twirl, to which Firmin said, "...the Ballet! Yes!" Laughing

They did the truncated, OLC recording version of the ballet -- just the ending bit with the flute, and there was no Phantom shadow. The ballet itself looked ok -- I'm no expert on such things, so I'd probably only notice if someone tripped or something. Buquet swung in from backstage, and the dancers noticed and screamed appropriately as the curtains closed. The managers rushed in, saying it was all an accident, and then Firmin chimed in: "This is... highly unusual! We don't normally hang people!" Biggest laugh of the night.


Rooftop / All I Ask of You

Back to the columns and arches, and now with some stairs as well! They also brought down a very bright blue scrim for the sky, so bright that it almost looked like a TV screen. Raoul and Christine did the first bit really slow -- I guess slowing it down makes it easier to follow the music. Christine had a nice "soar," but when the Phantom chimed in later with "Christine," his voice was so nasal that it sounded almost comical; indeed, Christine sounded like she was trying (and failing) not to laugh when she asked, "What was that?" "All I Ask" started with just the 5 chords -- no extended intro. The song itself went quite well, except that Raoul couldn't project nearly as well as Christine. There was a blackout as they kissed, and when the lights came back on after some time for applause, the pair were still in the middle of their kiss. This time, though, the Phantom was clearly visible toward the rear of the stage, making Raoul and Christine look kind of dumb for not noticing him as they turned to leave.

The Phantom sang pretty much his whole bit in a lower octave, and I swear, I've never heard a more emotionless delivery of that part. Plus, Raoul and Christine offstage could still be heard a lot more clearly than he could. He finally jumped up to the "regular" octave during "...all that the Phantom asked of you!" He didn't hold the last note very long, but a second later, I saw why -- he ran offstage and climbed a ladder to where the chandelier was. He pointed at it (no shouting "Go!"), and it fell at a good speed, passing over the audience and swinging toward the onstage actors, who screamed and ran out of the way. A few minutes into the intermission, the Phantom actually jumped from his platform onto the stage, so that was pretty impressive.


Masquerade / Why So Silent? / Mme. Giry's Tale

Sadly, there was no Entr'acte, not even a shortened version. Instead, the act started with Andre and Firmin scaring each other silly in their skeleton costumes. They played the bell intro as the lights came up on the staircase and the masqueraders, who performed quite well although there wasn't much choreography. The costumes were all very nicely detailed and colorful -- we certainly didn't have a monochromatic Masquerade like the movie version gave us. There was no instrumental break after Christine and Raoul reprised "Think of Me;" instead, it went right into the next bit of "Masquerade" proper, followed by a blackout and the Red Death's entrance.

The Red Death costume was very well-done, closely modeled after Lon Chaney's (even down to the mask). I wish I had a photo, because it really was that good. He looked very imposing... and then he started walking, and the illusion was destroyed. He didn't even walk in time with the music, and his voice did nothing to convey the menace the Phantom should have in that moment. (Phantom Menace, get it? Laughing) He walked over to Christine and said his line in a monotone. Then there was a blackout, and when the lights came back on, Red Death was again at the top of the stairs. Everyone onstage screamed, then the curtains closed and Raoul chased after Mme. Giry. Their scene went well, though even in the professional productions, I don't think it has the impact it should.


Notes / Twisted Every Way

Oh yeah. They did "Notes II." All of it! Mme. Giry finally got a fair bit to do here, and pulled it off quite well. The chaos bit and Christine's section were very well-played. Oddly, though, Raoul waited a bit before making his declaration against the Phantom at the end.


"Don Juan" Rehearsal

Hehe, I was quite giddy to see that they did this scene too, odd pronunciation of "gasconade" aside. Though it kind of irked me that Reyer and Carlotta kept cutting Piangi off before he got to the "tan." The transition to the graveyard scene was done quite nicely -- the curtain closed with Christine standing in front of it, and as she was singing, the Phantom's shadow appeared on the curtain, reaching out to her. (He was standing next to the stage in front of the light, but it was still a cool-looking effect.)


Wishing / Wandering Child

The cemetery set again made use of the stairs, columns, and arches. During the song, Christine climbed a couple of the staircases and delivered the final stanzas standing on top of an archway. She did quite a good rendition for such a young performer; she certainly topped a certain performer from the film who was of a similar age at the time.

"Wandering Child" went quite nicely, especially because... they did the trio! When I saw Raoul walk out onstage during Christine's stanza, I thought to myself, "Oh my god... they're actually going to...?" And they did! Christine easily had the strongest voice of the trio, though, and it was especially evident here.

After a little bantering between Raoul and the Phantom (seriously lacking intensity), the Phantom (who had been standing on one of the arches) walked off stage left, and then a few seconds later, entered from stage right with a sword. They did a pretty good duel; I think whoever choreographed the swordfight in the movie could learn a thing or two from these guys. The ending also made a lot more sense than the movie -- Raoul still won, but by knocking the Phantom's sword out of his hands so it fell offstage. The Phantom ran offstage to get it, and in the meantime, Raoul grabbed Christine and ran. There was a blackout, and then the Phantom was back onstage to declare war upon them both or some such.


Before the Premiere / Don Juan

Apparently, while the previous scene had been going on, someone in the theater crew opened the doors so the guards would have something to close. Rather than be in the orchestra pit, the marksman was on a platform above the audience, right in front of my row. The sound techs did a good job of making the Phantom's voice come from different locations, and Raoul had a bit added in -- he said "You idiot! You'll kill someone! I said only when the time comes."

The "Don Juan" scene was done in a rather interesting way. The portcullis from the Phantom's lair set was used here, and most of the ensemble were trapped behind the gate, desperately reaching for a bowl of fruit set on a table between their cages. Carlotta entered on the "Poor young maiden..." line, and the gates opened so all the "prisoners" could scramble toward the table. Piangi and Passarino entered and did their bit fairly well, though they took the whole "Furtively we'll scoff and quaff..." section down an octave. At the end, Piangi went behind the curtain to deliver his last lines as his hand reached through to give Passarino an orange vest... which the Phantom wore an identical version of when he came out (though sadly, the rest of his outfit was clearly movie-inspired).


Point of No Return

Alas, there was no bench, so this whole scene was done with the Phantom and Christine standing up. At the start, Christine took a green apple out from the bowl of fruit, but then put it back -- no sensual polishing or playing with it in this production. The Phantom was pretty much just standing still for the whole scene, though he did the Gerik "hush" pose on "that wish which, till now, has been silent..." Christine was bolder, running her hands all over his shoulders, arms, and chest during her verse. Also notable was the fact that no policemen went onto the stage at any point, and Raoul was nowhere to be seen.

During the "Say you'll share with me..." section, something interesting happened: the Phantom's voice started cracking in a way that seemed almost like he was actually emoting! It could have been fatigue, but his body language finally made it seem like he was really feeling something there! Couldn't really see the ring from where I was sitting, so I can't tell you whether they went with an onyx ring, a diamond one, or something else. Then the moment came... The Phantom sang "Anywhere you go, let me go too" an octave lower, but jumped up to the proper octave for his last line of that scene. Christine snatched off his mask, and...

Nothing. There was absolutely nothing on his face that I could see. No cracked skull, not even a lumpy sunburn; except for maybe some slight redness on the right side (and it only looked like that later on in the lair scene when the light hit him just so), we had a completely normal-looking Phantom. He stared out blankly at the audience for a few seconds, and then when a shot had been fired, he "woke up," grabbed her, and ran offstage. There was a blackout, and then when the lights came up, poor, dead Piangi was lying in the middle of the stage while everyone else ran about hysterically. Good times.


Down Once More / Track Down This Murderer

Ah, the return of the scooter-boat and lair set! The Phantom was finally attempting to act, but not achieving much. He couldn't hold "...Hell!" for very long, either. Giry and Raoul entered, and Raoul seemed to constantly need to be reminded where to keep his hand. After Giry left, Raoul waded into the lake as the mob appeared.


Final Lair

The lair set was pretty much the same, though this time, there was a curtain hiding the mirror bride and bed from view. There was no throne, leading me to wonder whether and how the disappearing trick would be done. The Phantom reached through the curtain to get the bridal veil, but didn't leave it open to reveal the mannequin. He had flashes of acting attempts, but most of his performance retained the blandness he had earlier. Christine's acting was fairly ok. When Raoul came into the lair, I noticed that they were able to make different sections of the portcullis open independently of the rest, which is a pretty cool concept.

The noosing, sadly, was a bit hard to see. Raoul didn't struggle very hard against his bonds. The kiss was short but interesting -- Christine kissed the Phantom on the lips, then the forehead, then the lips again. When the Phantom "evicted" them from his lair, they went out through the same part of the portcullis that Raoul had entered through (and been tied to) previously. The monkey music box was sitting next to the mirror bride, and thankfully stayed still. After the Phantom's last line (which had yet another odd octave jump), he went over to the organ and closed the curtain around the theater box. When Meg came in with the mob, she reached in and took out the mask (though since she didn't open the curtain, the Phantom might have still been there for all we know).


Curtain Call

The whole cast got lots of applause, and the three principals took their bows together, accompanied by an instrumental rendition of the title song. So what did I think overall? Certainly, I think the Phantom was seriously miscast -- I have a strong suspicion that the only reason he was picked for the part was his height; he was easily the tallest person in the cast. That didn't make up for his total lack of any kind of presence, though, or his inability to hit many of the notes even after they'd been transposed so they'd be easier to sing.

Aside from him, though, I actually rather enjoyed the performance. They had some unique and interesting ideas, most of the sets and costumes were quite well-done for a low-budget production, and there were some performers with real potential. The school version, of course, is never going to come close to equalling the professional productions. But if I'm sorely in need of a Phantom fix and can't get to a city where the official productions are performing (and if the cast albums, YouTube, and other sources aren't enough)... well, for my money, a high school version like this still beats the hell out of the '04 movie. Wink

IamErik771

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