Happy Birthday Matinee

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Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Paula74 on Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:53 pm

Last night was really the best Phantom experience ever, surpassing even the record-breaking show.

Before I headed down to Manhattan, there were some serious concerns about the weather. I knew if I beat the snow getting into NYC, I was going to ride right into on the return trip. A night-time bus ride on the NYS Thruway in bad winter weather is something I'd rather avoid. But I decided to go and it was so worth it...even though the ride home was a nearly four-hour crawl.

On the way into the Majestic...as I was waiting to get my ticket scanned, I heard a woman behind me telling someone "And my favorite Phantom is back in the show! He's played the role three times now!"

I had a ticket for the right rear mezzanine. Not great, but I've sat there before...and I was able to move down to an empty seat in the first row of the section and that turned out to be a rather cool angle. Only missed one moment of The Phantom on the catwalk and the first moments of Red Death. And I had a good view of The Rat Catcher. I haven't seen the show in far too long so just seeing the stage set for The Auction was like seeing an old friend. I was very curious about the new sound system. Overall, I liked it. It added a greater sense of power to the Overture and the title song, though its one flaw is that some of parts between songs weren't amplified enough...at least not up in the nosebleed seats. But, on the other hand, the voice-overs for the Notes and bits like the securing of the doors and "I'm here, I'm here, I'm here" sounded better than ever. Also, the whole look of the show seemed very fresh and brilliant...the costumes, sets, etc..

Now for some reviewing...

The Auction/Overture - I'm so used to Carrington Vilmont's eerily stoic Auctioneer, but really enjoyed John Kuther's more melodramatic take on it. This was the first time I didn't hear any audience chuckles when the three skulls are displayed. As for the Overture...I've always gotten a thrill from it and always loved to see the chandelier rising, but this time, I cried.

Hannibal - I always love this scene because it's so busy. So much happening everywhere. The Slave Master helping the ballet girls with their technique, the mix of street clothes and costumes on the ensemble members, the seamstress trying to fix Carlotta's skirt, the stage hands in the elephant. Liz McCartney is a fabulous Carlotta. Hammy and flamboyant and bitchy, but not so over-the-top that she ever becomes one-dimensional. Evan Harrington is a very likable Piangi and his swinging legs as he struggles onto the elephant were hilarious.

At this point...before I go on...I have to say I loved Cristin Hubbard as Madame Giry. There's an undercurrent of sarcasm and it adds a nice edge to the usual stoicism. In short, this Madame Giry totally rocks.

Think of Me - I like the song, love the costume and blocking, but it's never been my favorite scene. But this time, I loved it. Sara Jean Ford was wonderful. Hesitant at the beginning, then gaining confidence and really letting them see just how well she's been trained by her mystery tutor. Lovey cadenza, too.

Angel of Music/Little Lotte - This scene was marred by a pair of very rude girls. They were chatting with each other as if they were in Starbucks. I don't know why they bothered to buy tickets to a show that they weren't going to watch. The ushers had to scold them two or three times during Act I. Disruption aside, I have to say that I liked Heather McFadden better than I did previously.

The Mirror - I was a little concerned that I'd have a bad view of this scene because of my seats, but it turned out to be fine....good thing because I was really anxious for that moment when the white masked face first appears. Hugh's "Insolent boy" always used to make me jump in 2005, no matter how many times I saw him. This time, his "Insolent Boy" was powerful...commanding, chilling, and compelling. His "Look at your face in the mirror, I am there inside" was hypnotic, but with a hint of menace.

The Phantom of The Opera - I had a great vantage point to see the doubles on the travelators this time. Sara's voice here had a lower, ever-so-slightly huskier tone here with was an interesting contrast to "Think of Me." Hugh sounded awesome and the disembodied voices singing "He's there, the Phantom of the Opera" were clearer.

I have mixed feelings about the revamped orchestrations here. Part of me felt the screaming electric guitars were a bit too much. But, at the same time, it also made me think of the Steve Harley video...but in a surprisingly good way...it was like a link to the musical's early stages. The only serious complaint that the orchestrations were just a bit overpowering during Sara's terrific cadenza.

To be continued...because there's no coffee in the house and I can't cope with that!












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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  MasqPhan on Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:38 pm

Loving what I'm reading so far. Looking forward to the rest after you've succeeded in your quest to get some coffee in the house. Important to have a happy and wide awake review.

So great that you got to get to this important show and had such an awesome experience(read some of the stuff you posted elsewhere). Also glad you made it home safely in the storm.

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  SenorSwanky on Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:15 pm

The title song orchestrations are too guitar-heavy during the cadenza. I don't have a huge problem with them otherwise (I do miss the original orchestrations, though I kind of like the clapping now). But the guitar wailing should not overpower the vocalization.

Look forward to hearing about the post-show experience.

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Cape Twirl of Doom on Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:18 pm

Sounds great so far! You're gonna keep us in waiting before sharing your thoughts on MOTN, heh. tongue
You mentioned the three skulls during the prologue, and something I caught last night that I hadn't noticed before is that Andre is the one who wins the skulls in the auction.

The new sound system has definitely made a big improvement for all the sound effects/songs/recorded bits, though yeah there were a few times when someone was speaking that it was a bit low. Although, I was in the front row so it sounded fine to me, I heard those parts coming straight from the actors rather than through the speakers. The costumes are gorgeous! They were redone recently so they are all new. My favorite is what Kris Koop wears during Hannibal and as Mrs. Firmin, I don't know if there are any pictures of it, but it's this beautiful purple/blue/green gown, so extremely detailed.

The blizzard last night was a doozy. You actually missed the worst of it. It really started to come down during the evening performance and by 11:30 last night it was practically a whiteout on the streets. (My trip home in it was fun, as it involved getting stuck in a snowdrift in a car with a Phantom, lol! Twisted Evil )

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Paula74 on Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:17 pm

Cape Twirl of Doom wrote:Sounds great so far! You're gonna keep us in waiting before sharing your thoughts on MOTN, heh. tongue

Of course!

You mentioned the three skulls during the prologue, and something I caught last night that I hadn't noticed before is that Andre is the one who wins the skulls in the auction.

I've never actually noticed who won the skulls! I remember I didn't realize who the people at the auction were until the fifth or sixth time I saw the show and it just *hit* me.

The new sound system has definitely made a big improvement for all the sound effects/songs/recorded bits, though yeah there were a few times when someone was speaking that it was a bit low. Although, I was in the front row so it sounded fine to me, I heard those parts coming straight from the actors rather than through the speakers.

It definitely sounded better up in the "cloud club" seats...I noticed the difference compared to the 1/9/2006 performance.

The costumes are gorgeous! They were redone recently so they are all new. My favorite is what Kris Koop wears during Hannibal and as Mrs. Firmin, I don't know if there are any pictures of it, but it's this beautiful purple/blue/green gown, so extremely detailed.

I seem to remember some article or interview that mentioned how darned expensive that particular dress is. When Hal Prince was talking about why the show has lasted so long, he mentioned how they always keep working on it...and specifically mentioned that they redo the costumes.

(My trip home in it was fun, as it involved getting stuck in a snowdrift in a car with a Phantom, lol! Twisted Evil )


Oh, lordy! Laughing


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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  SenorSwanky on Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:08 am

I never knew who bought the other items at the auction either. How can you tell it's Andre? I honestly never paid attention at all. Though I've only seen it four times. Wink

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Paula74 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:41 am

O.K...back to my review.

The Music of The Night - First, another detail I've never noticed for myself. I knew the eyes and mouths of the statues on the sides of the proscenium light up, but I've never actually seen it before. This time, I saw it during this scene and the end of Act II. Even though it's not something you'd really notice if you didn't know beforehand, it does add an eerie touch to the Phantom's lair. It's another reason I love the show's design...details that, as Maria Bjornson said, you might not see, but you'll still feel.

Now, I expected at least a little difference between Hugh's past MOTN and this performance, but it was even more different that I'd anticipated. Much more powerful...more operatic, yet with a distinct raw edge to it. Acting-wise, he definitely still makes it very sexy...but, whereas it was more sensual before, this time, there is also a predatory undercurrent that adds a little menace and just a hint of creepiness to the sexiness. His body language when he gestured for the portcullis to lower had a very powerful raw edge to it that matched his singing. That was almost as good as the portcullis sprawl...and said sprawl was Evil or Very Mad But, while he was more powerful and predatory than back in 2005, he also seemed more vulnerable after Christine faints. The creepy predatory aspect was gone and there was a confused tenderness.

There was also something *very* subtly Crawford-esque. So subtle I couldn't put my finger on it, but definitely there.

Sara's chemistry with him here was great...her Christine is fascinated and half-enchanted by him, but at the same time, you can see she knows that she's been drawn into something that makes no sense. That she's trying to process all that's happening at the same time she's drawn in by this powerful, compelling music.

Stranger Than You Dreamt - I had a pretty good angle to watch Hugh crawl across the stage here. He was much angrier than I'd previously seen, but you could see the anger transition from the instinctive rage at Christine to utter self-hate. He dragged himself with his arms and, if you didn't know how the scene played out, there was a real instability...you almost didn't know what he was going to do once he reached Christine.

He still gets the mask back on so darned fast that I almost blinked and missed it.

To be continued...again


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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Cape Twirl of Doom on Fri Jan 28, 2011 4:34 am

SenorSwanky wrote:I never knew who bought the other items at the auction either. How can you tell it's Andre? I honestly never paid attention at all. Though I've only seen it four times. Wink
I was sitting in the front row with a clear view of that side of the stage and it was George Lee Andrews who bids on that item. I never noticed before! I always thought the only people at that auction from the rest of the show were Madame Giry & Raoul.

Paula74 wrote:He still gets the mask back on so darned fast that I almost blinked and missed it.
Seriously! I am always in awe of that, it's almost like a magic trick how he gets that thing back on so damn quick! I love how simply putting on that one piece of costume completely changes his character from the sobbing wreck on the floor back into the suave and debonair Phantom.

(My trip home in it was fun, as it involved getting stuck in a snowdrift in a car with a Phantom, lol! Twisted Evil )
Oh, lordy! Laughing
Well, it involved said Phantom getting out and digging out the car while I was in the backseat bonding with a sweet and lovable dog. Twisted Evil


Oh, and re: the portcullis sprawl, even since watching that documentary on Phantom, I can't help but have Gillian Lynne's infamous comment in my head every time I see that scene. Embarassed

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  SenorSwanky on Fri Jan 28, 2011 6:45 am

Oh, so it's not necessarily Andre's character, just that Andrews plays that role during the auction. The only time I saw it at the Majestic, I was in row B left (or maybe C or D, but one of the first five rows), so I was very close, yet I didn't think to notice who was playing the roles other than, of course, Raoul and the Auctioneer (and I think one of the porters at the time was Greg Rahming, and he obviously stands out Wink ).

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Cape Twirl of Doom on Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:09 pm

Here is a video of the entire curtain call speech from the matinee!
http://broadwayworld.com/videoplay.php?colid=205058

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Paula74 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:14 pm

Cape Twirl of Doom wrote:Here is a video of the entire curtain call speech from the matinee!
http://broadwayworld.com/videoplay.php?colid=205058

I was really hoping they'd post the whole thing! I had permission to film it, too, but my video camera died ages ago. I was right next to their camera guy so I knew they'd filmed all of it.

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Paula74 on Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:04 am

Back to reviewing...I swear I'm not dragging this out to be Twisted Evil

Notes/Prima Donna - This scene was great fun. George and David were very funny and have the best chemistry. In fact, I kept thinking that the merchandise stand needs to sell a pair of Andre and Firmin plushies! And here's where I finally had a chance to pay attention to Sean. He comes across as being very accustomed to his wealth and status and the privileges that come with it, but never arrogant or overbearing. Again, Cristin as Madame Giry was a real standout. The Phantom's voice-overs were clearer than before and I could pick up hints of Hugh's normal speaking voice there, too.

Il Muto - The mock opera was very bright and fun. The costumes looked very vivid, especially Christine's maid outfit...and Sara was just so cute. The ballet was as lovely as ever...and I still love the Sylvan Glad costumes.

All I Ask of You - Best version of this scene I've experienced so far. First, Sara's "And through music my soul began to soar" was just exquisite. She and Sean had the best chemistry of any Christine/Raoul pairing I've seen. There's something about Sean here that - vocally, at least - reminds me of Steve Barton. The scene was wonderful because it makes you completely believe that Raoul genuinely loves Christine and isn't just some rich guy chasing a chorus girl for kicks...and that Christine genuinely loves Raoul and isn't just running to a rich aristocrat as a way out. Which is interesting in light of Sara's interview where she mentions that she feels The Phantom is Christine's true love. Oh, and when Raoul drops to one knee and she imitates the gesture, it's the sweetest thing ever. The whole scene is just so romantic.

When The Phantom emerges from the angel, this was the first time you got a glimpse of the Phantom's painfully immature side in the way he covers his ears to drown out their voices in denial...like a very young child who thinks if he doesn't hear or see something, it will go away.

The chandelier is as slow as ever, but I honestly don't mind that. If I want really crazy aerial stuff, I'll go see "Spider-Man." This was the first time I've actually seen Raoul applauding Christine as she takes her bows and then running to pull her clear of the FALLING LIGHT FIXTURE OF DOOOOOOOM. Laughing

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  SenorSwanky on Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:00 am

That was a great video. So cool to see everyone so happy to be a part of it, including Hal and George Lee Andrews. Loved Hugh's comments about it being a family, and that he'd held some crew members as babies. I know he was first in the show 20 or 21 years ago, but that's amazing.

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  operafantomet on Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:08 am

SenorSwanky wrote:Oh, so it's not necessarily Andre's character, just that Andrews plays that role during the auction. The only time I saw it at the Majestic, I was in row B left (or maybe C or D, but one of the first five rows), so I was very close, yet I didn't think to notice who was playing the roles other than, of course, Raoul and the Auctioneer (and I think one of the porters at the time was Greg Rahming, and he obviously stands out Wink ).
Hard to tell what they've intended. In the script I think they call the bidders by the name of the character the actor usually is. I know for sure Madame Giry is called Madame Giry. I think the same applies for the managers and Piangi (often easy to recognize by his RED hair and grey beard), but I'll have to check to be sure.

At this point...before I go on...I have to say I loved Cristin Hubbard as Madame Giry. There's an undercurrent of sarcasm and it adds a nice edge to the usual stoicism. In short, this Madame Giry totally rocks
I love the little I've seen of her, and by your description she sounds very, very good!

The chandelier is as slow as ever, but I honestly don't mind that. If I want really crazy aerial stuff, I'll go see "Spider-Man."
Laughing Hahaha! Still, I think the Broadway chandelier is the slowest one of them all. They could definitely speed it up, if only just a notch.


Thanks a lot for a great review! Looking forward to the last batch.

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  MasqPhan on Sat Jan 29, 2011 6:44 pm

operafantomet wrote:
SenorSwanky wrote:Oh, so it's not necessarily Andre's character, just that Andrews plays that role during the auction. The only time I saw it at the Majestic, I was in row B left (or maybe C or D, but one of the first five rows), so I was very close, yet I didn't think to notice who was playing the roles other than, of course, Raoul and the Auctioneer (and I think one of the porters at the time was Greg Rahming, and he obviously stands out Wink ).
Hard to tell what they've intended. In the script I think they call the bidders by the name of the character the actor usually is. I know for sure Madame Giry is called Madame Giry. I think the same applies for the managers and Piangi (often easy to recognize by his RED hair and grey beard), but I'll have to check to be sure.


In the script I have it just lists Auctioneer, Bidders, Raoul & Porters. Then where it has the pistol/skulls someone has penciled in "André".

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Paula74 on Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:15 pm

Personally, I just assume that it's indeed meant to be Andre bidding simply because it would be pretty easy to just have an ensemble member play a random buyer at the auction instead of specifically having it be the same actor who plays Andre.

Now...Act II.

Masquerade - The audience clapped and cheered as soon as the curtain revealed the scene. It looked simply gorgeous; the costumes seemed brighter than the last night. The Man/Woman costume was definitely redone and looks gaudier, but not in a bad way. Wonderful energy from the whole company...and definitely Sean. Raoul never really stands out for me in this scene except when he's actually singing with Christine. But Sean's Raoul is young, rich, in love, and happy to be at this festive party.

The only time I've seen a better Masquerade was at the record-breaking performance and that was mainly because they'd flown in the tour cast to fill in the scene and it worked even better with a larger ensemble on the stairs.

I usually try to blink when I know Red Death is about to vanish because of the flash, but my timing was off and I pretty much blinded myself for a minute. During Raoul's scene with Madame Giry, all I could see was a green blobby glow in my field of vision. Laughing

Notes II/Sitzprobe A couple of thoughts here...one, Sara looks so lovely in the blue gown and I've always loved the blocking here...the way Christine slowly pivots while reading the score. And, while it's just one tiny line...I really liked how Liz handled "She's mad!" Like Christine's behavior really made her more uncomfortable than angry at this point. Always love the Sitzprobe and the magic piano...it sounded better than ever. Both the piano and the singing.

More soon...because I can't wait to get to the cemetery scenes!

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Raphael on Sat Jan 29, 2011 10:19 pm

Loving it! Very Happy

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Paula74 on Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:15 am

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again - First of all, I love this scene. The set and lighting just so full of atmosphere. I always get the feeling of a chilly, damp cemetery at nightfall. It just establishes the mood so perfectly.

Sara's WYWSHA is just stunning. Vocally, it's exquisite and her acting here in the best I've seen from any Christine yet....it's poignant, very contemplative, wrenching...as if Christine is frustrated at herself for not being able to let go of her grief and angry that this inability to let go of her grief has made her so vulnerable. This song along is worth the trip to NYC and the price of the ticket. Seriously...go see the show just for Sara's "Wishing." It's that good.

Wandering Child - Such a short scene, but one I always love. The violin as The Phantom emerges from the cross is so very Leroux. Hugh's voice at the beginning is so unbelievably tender that it's downright creepy. Creepy because it's beautiful and gentle, but by this point, it's been well established that, as sexy as he is in MOTN and as pitiful as he is in STYDI, the Phantom has also committed acts of violence and is capable of more violence.

And it's not really normal to try to lure nice young women into her father's mausoleum!

Now, since I've only heard the Wandering Child trio on the original cast recording, I'm used to not hearing it in the show itself. But this time...because Sean is just so good, I found myself really, really, really wanting to hear him sing the trio. I love those lyrics, too.

Loved the bratty frustration in Hugh's "Don't go!"

I'll admit I missed sitting in the first row or two for this scene because I'm Twisted Evil and enjoy seeing people jump when the flames shoot up.

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  SenorSwanky on Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:18 am

Paula74 wrote:Now, since I've only heard the Wandering Child trio on the original cast recording, I'm used to not hearing it in the show itself. But this time...because Sean is just so good, I found myself really, really, really wanting to hear him sing the trio.
When he was giving me a tour of the stage and showing me the cemetery scenery, he told me that when he first got the part on tour, he learned the role by listening to the OLC, and started learning the trio. Then, come to find out, he wouldn't be singing it, which really disappointed him. We both thought it should be reinstated.

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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Paula74 on Sat Feb 05, 2011 2:34 am

Sorry to make everyone wait for the review to continue - it's been a pretty tough week.

Seal My Fate - Not a lot to say here except it's one of the times when the new sound system is very effective...especially when you hear the doors slam with the voices calling "Secure" and with the Phantom's "I'm here, I'm here, I'm here!" Also, from my seat, I had a neat view of the Phantom appearing in Box Five. And, again, I was able to pick out hints of Hugh's normal speaking voice in the voice-over.

Don Juan Triumphant - Liz's Carlotta is particularly vivid here. As if, despite being given a lesser role than Christine and the whole bizarre circumstances leading to the Phantom's opera premiere, she's going to really give it her all...completely with a defiant and awesome hip swish. Always love Meg's Gypsy costume and, on a random note, I found myself admiring Piangi's boots, too! The whole ensemble sounded very energetic and acted it.

Point of No Return - I still love the whole look of the Phantom's robe...it really calls to mind the pleurant statues on old French and Spanish tombs. Hugh still does the slight Italian accent at the start - though it's not as heavy as before - and lets it gradually slip as the song goes on. Always loved Hugh in this scene and still do. Sara is, once again, outstanding. Her chemistry with Hugh is very tense and delightful...especially that tango-like bit where he'd backing her towards the curtained bed. Sara's Aminta is sassy, but in a dark way that's extremely effective. And this was the first time I was watching any Christine instead of the Phantom during her verses. Her fear when she feels the mask is very abrupt...like an electrical shock and the tension really builds during the final verse. Hugh's "All I Ask of You" reprise has always been another favorite moment of mine and I was definitely tearing up.

I had to suppress a little giggle when Piangi's body is found because I remember seeing the broken tongue from the Piangi dummy for sale at the BC/EFA Flea Market (along with some broken fingers from the Mirror Bride dummy).

Down Once More - For some reason, the lighting for this scene seemed crisper. Definitely a lot of rage in Hugh's voice here.
Due to the angle of my seat, I had the best view of the rat catcher on the bridge to date. I love that there IS a rat-catcher with his dead rats...it's another one of those tiny details that just add depth to the show. And it was a fun angle to watch Sean jump into "the lake."



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Re: Happy Birthday Matinee

Post  Scorp on Sat Feb 05, 2011 4:39 pm

Paula74 wrote: I was very curious about the new sound system. Overall, I liked it. It added a greater sense of power to the Overture and the title song, though its one flaw is that some of parts between songs weren't amplified enough...at least not up in the nosebleed seats. But, on the other hand, the voice-overs for the Notes and bits like the securing of the doors and "I'm here, I'm here, I'm here" sounded better than ever.

I've heard the new sound system in London and Vegas and for some reason I preferred it in London. The overture doesn't sound as happy and poppy as it seemed to do in Vegas, which is what I was worried about when they installed the new system into London. But yes, overall I like it, but it's weird that in London they don't seem to have noticed that some parts have been messed up since the installation. Has the double Red Death's laughter been messed up because of the installation on Broadway? That really bugs me when I see the show in London... I'm surprised they still haven't noticed/bothered to fix it -- it is barely audible.

Re the 'Wandering Child' trio, does anyone know FOR CERTAIN whose idea this was to make it a duo in America and all subsequent productions? I keep hearing that the decision was made by one of MC, ALW or Hal Prince, but no-one seems to know exactly which of those three it was. Unless it was all of them. Anyone know?


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