Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

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Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  IamErik771 on Fri Jul 08, 2011 4:17 pm

Heh heh... I know Count-Alexiel-Ravenswood already began posting his review, but I thought it might be interesting to compare the views of a Vegas veteran with those of a first-timer (that would be me). And if I make any errors as far as cast or other details (especially because, as we'll see, the Carlotta situation at this performance got a bit confusing), our resident Meg or my fellow attendees can feel free to correct me. ^_^


*******

Monday, June 27, 2011 - 9:30 PM

Phantom:
Anthony Crivello
Christine: Sarah Elizabeth Combs (u/s)
Raoul: Andrew Ragone
Carlotta: Joan Sobel (Hannibal) / Arsenia Soto (Notes to end)
Andre: John Leslie Wolfe
Firmin: Lawson Skala
Madame Giry: Tina Walsh
Meg: Brianne Kelly Morgan
Piangi: Larry Wayne Morbitt
Auctioneer: Michael Lackey


Pre-Show

This was my first time seeing the Vegas production, and only my second seeing the show live anywhere (the first being the US Tour in San Francisco back in 2009). Prior to going to the Venetian, Sylent Phantom had been working on a sketch of Anthony Crivello as the Phantom, and so we planned to meet him after the show to give it to him. However, there was some confusion about who we'd be seeing; Anthony and Kristen Hertzenberg both appeared on a tv show in LA that morning, so we wondered if we might be seeing understudies Michael Lackey and Sarah Combs instead. We got to the theater quite early and were able to pick up some souvenirs, chat with some of the people (including Anthony, who was just arriving for his show), and listen to the matinee performance at which Michael Lackey played the Phantom. I thought he and Combs sounded quite excellent together, as did the rest of the cast, not to mention that it's pretty awesome that people standing in the lobby get to listen to the show in progress.

Finally, the time came to enter the theater. Though we weren't able to get front-row seats, we had seats in the fourth row and dead-center, so I was quite happy with it. I looked around at the place, noting the atmosphere of the whole setting -- it really did feel like an old, abandoned theater, and the chandelier pieces overhead gave the place a bit of a dangerous feeling even though none of them were directly over us (this time).

After some waiting, we heard Anthony Crivello's voice boom out through the theater warning everyone that cell phones, photography, recording devices, and such were forbidden. (How the Phantom knew about such things when he lived in the 19th century is another matter.) I did miss the more intimidating, Phantom-ish intro (complete with sinister laugh) that I'd heard on earlier recordings, though.


Prologue

Michael Lackey came across as a very dark, intimidating Auctioneer. The fact that he started off with Lot 664 and that it was the "Hannibal" poster only threw me off for a split-second. Andrew Ragone's portrayal of the elderly Raoul struck me as vocally very similar to Steve Barton's, and he was very credible as an old man.


Overture

Ahh, yes... the 20-foot tall, 4-piece chandelier. It may seem like a silly idea on paper and videos may make it look like a UFO invasion, but nothing compares to seeing it live. I also loved how as the pieces came together, we saw the old, dusty sheets come off to reveal vividly colored boxes with well-dressed mannequins in them (though I could swear I saw one move). There was even a stagehand visible who was pulling up the backdrop for the next scene. (I'm told that he was played by Ian Jon Bourg.) It was a magical scene with just the right mixture of beauty, danger, and mystery on top of the fantastic music reverberating through every seat in the theater.


"Hannibal" Rehearsal

Carlotta (Joan Sobel) had an ok voice and was a decent actress, but cracked a lot during her sections, particularly the opening cadenza. She seemed extremely nervous -- as we found out afterward, Arsenia Soto was supposed to go on for the whole show but got stuck in traffic, and so Joan was brought on at the very last second to do the scene. Larry Wayne Morbitt was hilarious, especially his gung-ho way of lifting the sword and then struggling to get off the elephant. The managers, Lefevre (who was an understudy), and everyone else were spot-on. Carlotta continued to seem nervous throughout the scene, though; during the show and before we found out the situation, I wondered if maybe she was an understudy going on for the very first time, but as Joan was the principal, I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps it was just the sudden nature of her having to do the scene when everyone had expected another performer to be on instead.


Think of Me

Sarah Combs was quite a nice surprise -- interesting acting choices and a singing voice that was nicely operatic without glottaling through the score like some other Christines I've heard tended to do. Although like most Christines, she started off hesitant, as she got into the song, she became very confident and seemed to be in the mindset of "Heck yeah, I can be a replacement for Carlotta!" During the instrumental break and Raoul's section, she even did an epic diva strut (which Carlotta later seemed to echo in "Prima Donna").

Andrew Ragone continued to remind me very much of Steve Barton vocally, though he had some unique touches acting-wise. I was highly amused at how as he was singing, the managers looked away as if to say, "We don't know this guy." Sarah's cadenza was excellent, and she got a well-deserved storm of applause at the end.


Angel of Music

Tina Walsh was an excellent Madame Giry; very authoritative with the ballet girls but also kind to Christine. I was quite eager to see what DP's favorite Meg was like live, and Brianne was certainly excellent in the role -- very sweet-voiced, and she was also great in terms of acting. Sarah and Brianne's voices worked really well together, and so the duet section was truly gorgeous. Also, there were some really nice additions to the orchestrations, especially pulsing bells during the instrumental break before Christine started singing.


Little Lotte / The Mirror

The managers played up the "They appear to have met before" line to leave as little doubt as possible about what they meant, and that made me and several others chuckle. Andrew played Raoul as sweet but naive and a bit uninformed on how to ask someone out. I thought that approach worked quite well, and he and Sarah had great chemistry together (though his sinister-sounding chuckle as he left the room was a bit off-putting... then again, he's far from the only Raoul who's done that).

When Tony first appeared in the mirror, I found it interesting that he was standing so that his masked side was more prominent to the audience and Christine -- John Cudia in the tour, as well as most photos and videos I've seen, had the Phantom simply stand so he was directly facing Christine. At certain points, Tony looked a lot like Colm Wilkinson in the role (especially when he stuck his chin out), but he also had some Lon Chaney touches in his posture and mannerisms. I liked how he seemed to maintain a "don't look at me" attitude for the whole scene, as if he was conflicted about how much he wanted to be seen by Christine.


The Phantom of the Opera

I noticed they recorded a new track for Tony's part of the song -- he sounded more confident and in-character than in previous recordings I've heard of him in this scene. The rockish orchestrations somehow weren't nearly as jarring to me as the ones for the Tour, the movie, or even recordings I'd heard of the Vegas show had been. Sarah's cadenza was quite nice. Although she didn't hold the end note very long compared to others I've heard in the role, her acting made it work; she seemed genuinely shocked that she was able to hit that note.


The Music of the Night

Vocally, Tony's approach to the song reminded me a lot of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s rendition, mixed with hints of Peter Karrie, Colm Wilkinson, and Mark McKerracher. Acting-wise, he was into the scene at all times; none of it felt like he was forcing it or going through the motions. He did some grand gestures, but all of it felt somehow natural -- it was like the Phantom, having lived in an opera house for so long, simply didn't know that such gestures were grandiose in real life. His "soar" and "be" were simply gorgeous, and the latter was really powerful.

Another thing I really liked was that when Tony's Phantom ran his hand over Christine during the "touch me, trust me" bit, he immediately seemed apologetic afterward, as if to say "Forgive me... I was too caught up in the moment and lost myself a bit there." The bride bursting through the cracked mirror was a really neat effect, and even though Tony didn't catch Sarah when she fell, I liked his reaction afterward -- kind of an "Oh dear, that's not how it was supposed to go!" look.


I Remember / Stranger Than You Dreamt It

Tony's Phantom was really into his composing -- the look on his face was one of total absorption in his work, and he definitely seemed to enjoy playing and writing out his score as well. When Sarah was woken up by the music box, she crept over next to Tony and tried to snatch away the mask but he kept dodging without seeming aware that she was there -- the whole thing was played very realistically, even though I'm not sure how he couldn't have seen her there. Maybe the mask interferes with his peripheral vision...

Tony's mannerisms, especially on the line "Is this what you wanted to see?", struck me as incredibly close to my vision of Leroux's Erik; he wagged his head and had a really sarcastic manner especially in that moment. Throughout the scene, he was very reminiscent of Lon Chaney's Erik. Although the scene was shortened, the Phantom's complex mixture of sorrow and self-loathing came through really well.


Notes / Prima Donna

The managers were both superb; excellent comedic timing and neat ways of making the roles their own even though so many other actors have played these characters in the past. I loved how John Leslie Wolfe's Andre seemed almost hesitant to use a mild expletive but ultimately found it unavoidable -- he phrased the line as "Who the... hell is he?" When Carlotta entered shortly afterward, it was obviously a different actress than the one who'd been in the "Hannibal" scene. She had a somewhat stronger voice and seemed more assertive.

Loved how the managers kinda edged away from Raoul and the others and shot them a "Well, they're obviously crazy" look before the line "Far too many notes for my taste..." And one of the comedic highlights for me in this scene was how the office doors opened again (as they had previously done for Raoul, Carlotta, and Piangi) and so everyone stood looking at it for a moment, only for the Girys to enter from stage left.

And during the line "I must see these demands are rejected," I love how Raoul, Meg, Piangi, and Giry did something that was halfway between a group high-five and a group flipping-the-bird -- I was in shock for a few seconds thinking "Did they just do that?"


"Il Muto"

Loved how Don Attilio did a "you are so dead" throat-slitting gesture when he realized that the "maid" was a dude (who happened to be played by a chick -- what is this, "Victor/Victoria?") He also raised his cane and looked like he was about to run up and whack Carlotta and/or the "maid" across the head when the Phantom's voice

Anyway, Carlotta had a somewhat underwhelming croak -- more a sudden, throaty gasp. Loved Tony's maniacal laughter, and the Phantom-dangling-from-the-chandelier bit was really neat (though I'm glad I knew ahead of time to look up; otherwise, I might have missed it).

Then came the ballet, complete with the Phantom's shadow play. There were a couple of really neat bits there that weren't in the Tour version (and I don't think I've heard them mentioned in reviews of any other production). For example, at one point, the Phantom shadow puts a noose around his own neck, as if to say "God, this is boring... Please kill me now!" Later, we see a shadow of him creeping up behind Buquet with the lasso... and then the screen pulls up and we actually see him strangle the stagehand and push him off the platform. I think it adds a lot to have an actual person dangling from the rope rather than just a dummy -- the actor was twitching pretty convincingly there, as opposed to the rag-doll physics you'd tend to get with a dummy.


Rooftop Scene / All I Ask of You

Loved how fearful Sarah seemed in this scene. She really did seem like someone worried that a serial killer was after her. Andrew played Raoul as somewhat jealous at the start, but then warming up somewhat until he was more inclined to indulge Christine -- the whole thing felt very true to Leroux.

When Tony appeared in the angel, a certain detail struck me -- his shadow reminded me a lot of Lon Chaney's... and also the promotional poster for the original production of Ken Hill's POTO. I found myself looking back and forth between Tony and his shadow. Other than that, his vocals and emotion in this scene were sublime. The great thing about his Phantom is that he makes you feel every syllable he sings or speaks. Also loved how he seemed to be in real, physical agony as Christine and Raoul sang. At the end of the scene, as Tony and the angel statue rose up to the ceiling, the way his cape billowed behind him made him look like an angel... Whether he's an Angel of Music or an Angel of Death is for the audience to decide.

Wow, the lightning and fireworks were awesome. And loud. And blinding. Yay, Vegas!

*******


More to come... Stay tuned!


Last edited by IamErik771 on Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:44 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  operafantomet on Fri Jul 08, 2011 4:45 pm

IamErik771 wrote:
"Hannibal" Rehearsal

Carlotta (Joan Sobel) had an ok voice and was a decent actress, but cracked a lot during her sections, particularly the opening cadenza. She seemed extremely nervous -- as we found out afterward, Arsenia Soto was supposed to go on for the whole show but got stuck in traffic, and so Joan was brought on at the very last second to do the scene. Larry Wayne Morbitt was hilarious, especially his gung-ho way of lifting the sword and then struggling to get off the elephant. The managers, Lefevre (who was an understudy), and everyone else were spot-on. Carlotta continued to seem nervous throughout the scene, though; during the show and before we found out the situation, I wondered if maybe she was an understudy going on for the very first time, but as Joan was the principal, I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps it was just the sudden nature of her having to do the scene when everyone had expected another performer to be on instead.
I thought it was the other way around, that Joan Sobel was stuck in traffic and her understudy Arsenia Soto went on. I guess Sobel was off due to cold or something then, since she seemed to crack on the notes? Interesting still to see two different Carlottas during one show. Closest I've been to that is that I once saw a Christine changing wig from Masquerade (shoulder length) to Notes II (loooong). Laughing

Andrew Ragone continued to remind me very much of Steve Barton vocally, though he had some unique touches acting-wise.
Very interesting. A Barton touch is a big plus in my book!


I was quite eager to see what DP's favorite Meg was like live, and Brianne was certainly excellent in the role -- very sweet-voiced, and she was also great in terms of acting. Sarah and Brianne's voices worked really well together, and so the duet section was truly gorgeous. Also, there were some really nice additions to the orchestrations, especially pulsing bells during the instrumental break before Christine started singing.
Brianne Kelly Morgan was the first US Meg I instantly loved. In a sea of nasal US Megs her voice was so light and sweet and delicate. Just gorgeous. I also liked her portrayal a lot. There's been a few US Megs I've loved after her, but she was definitely the first.


When Tony first appeared in the mirror, I found it interesting that he was standing so that his masked side was more prominent to the audience and Christine -- John Cudia in the tour, as well as most photos and videos I've seen, had the Phantom simply stand so he was directly facing Christine. At certain points, Tony looked a lot like Colm Wilkinson in the role (especially when he stuck his chin out), but he also had some Lon Chaney touches in his posture and mannerisms. I liked how he seemed to maintain a "don't look at me" attitude for the whole scene, as if he was conflicted about how much he wanted to be seen by Christine.
Another very interesting detail, I like the thought of this. Thanks for explaining it so well. To me Anthony Crivello has been a hit-or-miss Phantom from what I've seen and read, but this and other details you've added sounds very, very interesting. Have to check out more recent stuff, I guess.


Then came the ballet, complete with the Phantom's shadow play. There were a couple of really neat bits there that weren't in the Tour version (and I don't think I've heard them mentioned in reviews of any other production). For example, at one point, the Phantom shadow puts a noose around his own neck, as if to say "God, this is boring... Please kill me now!"
This is a detail I've seen elsewhere, I thought it was quite common, but I guess it's up to the double? Actually seeing him strangling Buquet is unique to Vegas.

Looking forward to the rest of the review!!

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  meglett on Sat Jul 09, 2011 1:19 am

operafantomet wrote:
IamErik771 wrote:
"Hannibal" Rehearsal

Carlotta (Joan Sobel) had an ok voice and was a decent actress, but cracked a lot during her sections, particularly the opening cadenza. She seemed extremely nervous -- as we found out afterward, Arsenia Soto was supposed to go on for the whole show but got stuck in traffic, and so Joan was brought on at the very last second to do the scene. Larry Wayne Morbitt was hilarious, especially his gung-ho way of lifting the sword and then struggling to get off the elephant. The managers, Lefevre (who was an understudy), and everyone else were spot-on. Carlotta continued to seem nervous throughout the scene, though; during the show and before we found out the situation, I wondered if maybe she was an understudy going on for the very first time, but as Joan was the principal, I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps it was just the sudden nature of her having to do the scene when everyone had expected another performer to be on instead.
I thought it was the other way around, that Joan Sobel was stuck in traffic and her understudy Arsenia Soto went on. I guess Sobel was off due to cold or something then, since she seemed to crack on the notes? Interesting still to see two different Carlottas during one show. Closest I've been to that is that I once saw a Christine changing wig from Masquerade (shoulder length) to Notes II (loooong). Laughing

To help clear things up, NO ONE WAS STUCK IN TRAFFIC. It was a two show day and everyone, except Tony, was there already. Joan called out sick after Hannibal and Arsenia stepped in last minute through the end of the show.

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  IamErik771 on Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:24 am

Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification... I had been going by what the woman at the souvenir table told us the following night.

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  Raphael on Sat Jul 09, 2011 4:07 am

IamErik771 wrote:
Andrew played Raoul as somewhat jealous at the start, but then warming up somewhat until he was more inclined to indulge Christine -- the whole thing felt very true to Leroux.
Just had to chime in and say that this sentence just gave me the CRAZIEST idea for a tiny, throwaway creative piece (and considering it's me talking, that's really saying something) Very Happy

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  meglett on Sat Jul 09, 2011 4:32 am

IamErik771 wrote:[color=green]There was even a stagehand visible who was pulling up the backdrop for the next scene. (I'm told that he was played by Ian Jon Bourg.)
Actually, there are three "stagehands" that "pull" the Hannibal scenery up, two of the stunt guys and our Buquet, John Paul Almon. They are all on the Travelator when Buquet does his "Please M. don't look at me." bit also.

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  Raphael on Sat Jul 09, 2011 7:40 pm

IamErik771 wrote:Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification... I had been going by what the woman at the souvenir table told us the following night.
Lesson learned folks. Just as Fezzik says people in masks cannot be trusted, nor can women at the souvenir table Wink

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  musicalfan on Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:44 am

I am a great phan of Ian Jon Bourg. Does anybody know if he actually is in the Phantom cast in Las Vegas?
Thanks in advance for an answer.

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  meglett on Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:52 pm

Ian has in fact come back to the Vegas company. He actually went on for the phantom last night.

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  musicalfan on Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:15 am

Thanks a lot! Ian is an awesome performer with a fantastic opera voice and a very kind person. Tomorrow it's his birthday and I wish him all the best. He's my favourite singer and actor, I often hear and see him performing the Phantom. He was always amaizing.

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  IamErik771 on Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:14 am

Part 2 of the June 27th show... Hope you're buckled in!

Masquerade

I love the Opera House façade that comes into view as the entr'acte plays. The managers were great, and I thought it was awesome that they actually came out into the audience area for their scene. I was staring in open-mouthed wonder as the Masquerade staircase and dancers rotated into view. Though I do miss the orchestrations and some of the extra choreography from the longer version of the scene in other productions, the Vegas Masquerade was superb in its own right -- not a single person there was off-key or missed their cue, and the costumes were breathtakingly gorgeous. The principals were all fantastic as well, and did a good job of being jovial without seeming out-of-character for a second. I thought it was rather cute that during Christine and Raoul's scene, the Monkey Girl took Christine's mask and was curiously examining and pawing at it.

One interesting thing I noticed here (not sure if it's unique to Vegas/this particular actress or if I just didn't notice it going on elsewhere) is that near the end of the instrumental interlude, Mme. Giry took Raoul's and Christine's hands and "gave" them to each other, almost the way that a bride's parent would give her to the groom at a wedding. That added a really interesting dynamic; clearly, even Mme. Giry was convinced that the Phantom was gone for good and wouldn't have a problem with this.

But of course, the Phantom was most decidedly not gone for good. I loved how as his theme played, the crowd parted before him, leaving just one person right in front of him who took a bit longer to realize what was happening and move out of the way. Also really liked how the Phantom would lunge at people in the crowd, who would then take the hint and back off. He also seemed much more mobile than many other Phantoms; when he beckoned Christine to him, he actually crouched down and extended his arm rather than just standing rigidly. The disappearing trick at the end of the scene was also fantastic; I understand why other productions stopped using the trapdoor, but it does add a lot to the scene.

After that was the little scene between Raoul and Mme. Giry. Not a lot to say there, except to note that it seemed to be entirely spoken rather than some of their lines being sung. Also thought it was cool that they ran out into the audience area at the end of that bit, only for Raoul to be called back to the stage by Christine.


Notes / Twisted Every Way

The managers and Raoul were at the top of their game here; the managers kept their humor but also had a tone of desperation, as though they normally wouldn't go for such a crazy plan but realized that they had no choice. Sarah's acting was superb -- frightened and desperate but never edging into over-the-top territory. Her inner turmoil was palpable and came across very realistically.


Graveyard Scene

Although I do somewhat miss the musical transition from the magic piano to the strings in the original version, the transition here was still very effective and moving. Sarah's rendition of "Wishing..." was absolutely superb in terms of both vocals and emotion; I find it hard to imagine anyone not being at least a little misty-eyed after seeing her in that scene.

After much well-deserved applause for Sarah, the Phantom appeared by coming out of the cross on top of the grave. I don't recall how it was done in the US Tour version since I was still watching Christine at that moment, but anyway... Tony was great here -- very soft, enticing, and believable as someone trying to comfort a distressed child. One neat thing I noticed was that rather than singing "Far from my far-reaching gaze" (as is typical) or "fathering gaze" (as has also become fashionable), Tony rendered the line as "fatherly gaze." Rather an interesting take on it, I think. Then, when delivering the "I am your Angel of Music" bit in classic, intimidating, Phantom-y fashion, the gate in front of Papa Daaé's grave opened up. I thought that was a really cool touch.

Enter Raoul, and moments later, enter the fireballs! I'm not sure whether I prefer the skull staff from other productions, or having the Phantom launch them from his hands like they did here; both have their merits and do a nice job of depicting the Phantom as being a talented magician with a theatrical streak. Tony was nicely devious here -- though I tend to be irked by Phantoms who clearly aren't even trying to aim for Raoul in this scene, Tony made it clear that he was missing on purpose and was just toying with Andrew rather than going straight for the kill. He made it seem as if he had other tricks up his sleeve, so to speak, for that purpose. At last, Raoul and Christine ran off, leaving the Phantom to fume and make us all feel his wrath (and possibly cause the first row or two to lose their eyebrows). Gotta love those pyrotechnics!


Before the Premiere / "Don Juan Triumphant"

I thought it was cool that the cast had made use of the whole theater by coming out into the aisles in scenes prior to this one so that it wouldn't feel like just a "once-in-a-show" novelty. I also loved how when Tony's voice came from different parts of the theater, everyone in our area (myself included) looked in the direction the voice came from. In fact, I was so absorbed in the whole experience that any time a character pointed somewhere at any point in the show, I found myself looking there even if I didn't expect to see anything. That said, it was awesome that the Phantom popped up -- not in Box 5, but next to it.

At last, the Phantom's masterwork began. A lot of Phans tend to be very divided on what they think of Webber's interpretation of "Don Juan" -- I know a few people who despise it, but I actually rather like it. It's not really something I can picture Leroux's Erik writing, but it works for the purposes of the story and feels appropriately like a composition that's ahead of its time without seeming totally out-of-place. I loved how "gung-ho" the ensemble was here; much like they were in "Hannibal," and yet darker in a way. Piangi and Passarino were great and really seemed to be having fun with their scene.


The Point of No Return

Of course, as Sarah began singing, someone had to come along to ruin Piangi's cheerful attitude. Sarah began sensually polishing the apple with her dress, even bringing it up to her chest and neck at one point in a way that reminded me of how Elizabeth Loyacano handled the scene when she was in the Broadway cast (and also in Vegas, judging by reviews). Sarah and Tony had great chemistry here and operated very much as equals, with each trying to seduce the other first but without going overboard in terms of physicality. I've heard that because the Vegas version of the scene is a verse shorter than in other productions, it tends to be rushed and therefore "less sexy"... but the way Tony and Sarah played it, it felt just as steamy as the scene ought to be without overdoing it.

At last, the Phantom and Christine separated as the forces of law came in to ruin their moment. Tony sang his bit with heartbreaking passion and a theatrical edge as he offered the ring; this was meant not just as an act of proposing to her, but also to prove to the audience that she was his. But then, Sarah removed the mask calmly and assertively, as if she knew this was the only way to keep him from getting captured. Tony yelled in what came across as literal, physical agony when his mask was taken away, similar to how he did when he heard Raoul and Christine singing in the "All I Ask" reprise but taken up to the next level. Fantastic scream from Brianne when she found poor Piangi's body, and then... "Bring down the chandelier!"

As I looked back to witness the destruction, the chandelier jerked and started slowly coming down -- for a moment, I thought, "Damn... it's not going to fall!" But then, with an excellent sound effect and accompanied by glorious screams both onstage and off, down it fell at breakneck speed. That's sure to leave a mark...


Final Lair Scene

After much onstage chaos, the curtains opened to reveal the Phantom furiously paddling the boat onward as poor Christine lay there helplessly. Tony's singing in "Down Once More" was superb; his anguish and fury came across really well in every note. Especially notable is how he sang the "Hounded out by everyone, met with hatred everywhere..." bit -- very rigid and furious, not stopping for breath at all. Nicely done final moment between Raoul and Mme. Giry before the former took his plunge into the lake.

As the lair scene came into full view, Tony stormed into the scene grumbling incoherently with Sarah in tow, and then flung her across the stage. Sarah defiantly sang her bit; she came across as one of the stronger, angrier, more assertive Christines here. Tony was having none of that, though -- he sang his first section quickly and very matter-of-fact, and it came across clearly to me that this was decades of bottled-up pain and fury finally boiling over in this moment. Then he took the "This face..." section up an octave, something I really love when the Phantom can pull it off well. I find that generally, actors tend to play up either the Phantom's sorrow or his anger at the world in those lines, but Tony was one who managed to get both of those aspects across extremely well.

When Raoul entered, Tony's manner changed, and this is where I truly fell in love with his portrayal; up until then, I considered him to be a Phantom I liked a lot, but his gleefully sarcastic mocking of Raoul was what may have put him at the very top of my "favorites" list (though everything he did afterward certainly worked as far as keeping him there). I don't think it would be a stretch to say that his delivery of "Sir, this is indeed an unparalleled delight" and "Your lover makes a passionate plea" weren't just dripping in sarcasm; they were marinating in it. I know a Phantom has to be awesome when, if he goes for a "gleefully mocking" approach in this scene, I feel like laughing right along with him. Andrew got Raoul's desperation across very well, making up for the fact that Raoul in this scene seems like the worst hostage negotiator ever. ("Do what you like, only free her"? Seriously?!)

As Andrew walked in and got caught in the Cage of Doom™, Tony seemed to alternate between sadistic glee over Raoul's predicament and desperation over what Christine would do. Sarah's acting was superb here especially -- she conveyed Christine's conflicted feelings about the Phantom and fear of losing Raoul extremely well. Her Christine was strong (especially here) but without going about it in a way that would seem too modern for the period the story was set in. The trio section was magnificent; it was clear that all three performers were putting everything they had into it.

Sarah's "you deceived me" came across as really sincere and heartfelt, and Tony got up and shouted his lines in response to that. It took Sarah a few moments to regain her composure for the next bit. The kiss was superbly done; Sarah kissed Tony once, then hugged him tightly, then followed up with a second kiss. Tony's Phantom was deeply affected, but couldn't bring himself to embrace her... at least, until his arms went loosely around her during the second kiss. Afterward, he appeared to be in a state of shock and hobbled somewhat, hitting his chest as if to try to stave off an imminent heart attack. His "Go now and leave me!" was sung, but a bit more akin to the Japanese Phantoms (who didn't sound awkward singing that bit) than to a certain movie Phantom (who kinda did). His "Masquerade" reprise was utterly heart-wrenching as well.

When Christine returned the ring, Tony's Phantom seemed desperate to hold onto her as long as he could; their hands touched for a long while before Sarah finally exited and Tony wept openly. His final lines were heartbreaking, and he got a storm of well-earned applause as he walked over to the throne and draped the cloak over himself. Then, our favorite ballerina came into the lair to examine the throne, find the mask, and end the show. Yup, it's good to be in Vegas.


Curtain Call

Thunderous applause for the whole cast, plus standing ovations for the leads. My hands were quite sore after all that clapping, and I wasn't sure if I could physically handle another show that was that superb... Then again, a good night's rest cures all, right?


After the Show

The night wasn't over yet, though -- heavens, no! We had asked the usher/tour guide Daniel to let Tony know we had a gift for him, so after a few minutes talking amongst ourselves and digesting the show (and watching the stagehands break down the chandelier for the next night's performance), we were invited downstairs to the makeup room where Tony had just gotten the last of the gore taken off his face. (That was some quick makeup removal, I must say.)

We gave him Sylent Phantom's sketch, and he was just as impressed by her artistry as we had been. I got to shake his hand, get my Playbill signed, and let him know I'd been a fan of his since first hearing him as Grantaire in Les Misérables. We also chatted about a bunch of other stuff, including the new LM tour that was (and, I believe, still is) playing in LA, and his optimism that the economy would rebound and help the Vegas show have continued success. I noticed someone I'm pretty sure was Sarah Combs walking by, and a while later, I spotted Brianne and waved... think she probably recognized us.

In all, it was a wonderful night and a fantastic performance... but our Vegas Phantom adventure was far from over. The next chapter will be posted soon!

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  meglett on Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:24 pm

IamErik771 wrote:I thought it was rather cute that during Christine and Raoul's scene, the Monkey Girl took Christine's mask and was curiously examining and pawing at it.
I love the monkey choreography. She's suppose to be curious and mischievous, so when she grabs the mask from Christine, I always like to peak and see how each girl does it.

One interesting thing I noticed here (not sure if it's unique to Vegas/this particular actress or if I just didn't notice it going on elsewhere) is that near the end of the instrumental interlude, Mme. Giry took Raoul's and Christine's hands and "gave" them to each other, almost the way that a bride's parent would give her to the groom at a wedding. That added a really interesting dynamic; clearly, even Mme. Giry was convinced that the Phantom was gone for good and wouldn't have a problem with this.
It's part of the choreography. Masquerade is one of the rare moments when Mme. Giry "let's go". So when she sees the "fight" between Raoul and Christine, she decides it's up to her to keep them together. So during the waltz, she invites them to join together and dance with us. It's a really nice moment that connects them all.

Also really liked how the Phantom would lunge at people in the crowd, who would then take the hint and back off. He also seemed much more mobile than many other Phantoms; when he beckoned Christine to him, he actually crouched down and extended his arm rather than just standing rigidly.
Our Red Death's are awesome. Very Happy

After that was the little scene between Raoul and Mme. Giry. Not a lot to say there, except to note that it seemed to be entirely spoken rather than some of their lines being sung.
Yeah, our company doesn't sing any of it. I actually prefer it that way.

One neat thing I noticed was that rather than singing "Far from my far-reaching gaze" (as is typical) or "fathering gaze" (as has also become fashionable), Tony rendered the line as "fatherly gaze." Rather an interesting take on it, I think.
I like the Fatherly Gaze myself and I do believe that all three of our Phantom's sing that version.

...though I tend to be irked by Phantoms who clearly aren't even trying to aim for Raoul in this scene.
LOL! You would be doubly irked if you were standing in the wings and one of the fireballs tried to kill you. Wink Every now and then one goes off course and lands in the wings.

As I looked back to witness the destruction, the chandelier jerked and started slowly coming down -- for a moment, I thought, "Damn... it's not going to fall!" But then, with an excellent sound effect and accompanied by glorious screams both onstage and off, down it fell at breakneck speed. That's sure to leave a mark...
Our chandelier automation is fantastic. I love watching the audiences reactions as it comes down on them. The first "lower" of the chandelier is awesome, because it does tend to frighten the audience and make them believe it's not coming down all the way. We know we have done our job when the chandelier crash gets an applause in the blackout.

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  IamErik771 on Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:44 am

meglett wrote:It's part of the choreography. Masquerade is one of the rare moments when Mme. Giry "let's go". So when she sees the "fight" between Raoul and Christine, she decides it's up to her to keep them together. So during the waltz, she invites them to join together and dance with us. It's a really nice moment that connects them all.
Nice! It's a neat new take on Mme. Giry, especially since in most productions, she doesn't really get to have much personality besides being the stern ballet mistress.

LOL! You would be doubly irked if you were standing in the wings and one of the fireballs tried to kill you. Wink Every now and then one goes off course and lands in the wings.
Laughing Wow, that's actually happened? Now you've got me curious. Bwahahaha!

Our chandelier automation is fantastic. I love watching the audiences reactions as it comes down on them. The first "lower" of the chandelier is awesome, because it does tend to frighten the audience and make them believe it's not coming down all the way. We know we have done our job when the chandelier crash gets an applause in the blackout.
Indeed! The second time we saw it, Count-Alexiel had me sitting directly under the chandelier. My reaction to that... well, you'll have to wait for my review of that performance. (You won't have to wait too much longer, I promise! Wink) Thanks so much for your insights, Brianne -- 'tis fun learning about all the little details of this production.

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  IamErik771 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:45 am

Please forgive the double-post, all...


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Phantom:
Anthony Crivello
Christine: Kristen Hertzenberg (alt)
Raoul: Andrew Ragone
Carlotta: Joan Sobel
Andre: John Leslie Wolfe
Firmin: Lawson Skala
Madame Giry: Tina Walsh
Meg: Brianne Kelly Morgan
Piangi: Larry Wayne Morbitt
Auctioneer: Michael Lackey


Pre-Show

On our second night seeing POTO in Vegas, we had another gift prepared by Sylent Phantom for the cast -- she drew a really awesome sketch of Kristen Hertzenberg as Christine. When we got to the theater, we bought a few more souvenirs to take home (and possibly also get signed). This time, we sat a few rows further back, right below the chandelier. The biggest piece was hanging pretty much right over my head as we got to our seats -- no doubt Count-Alexiel-Ravenswood planned it that way. I just looked at Sylent Phantom and said, "We're dead." XD

To pass the time before the show began, we started chatting about previous Phantom viewing experiences. Naturally, as I'd only seen the show once prior to Vegas, I didn't have a whole lot to go on. But then, I guess I have time to build on that. Very Happy One regret I have is not going up to the balcony to see what the view was like from up there -- I'm told there's no bad seat in the house, so it would have been interesting to see. Ah well, perhaps next time.


Prologue

Right after Tony's intro, a cell phone went off just behind me. Dear lord, how difficult is it to obey the Phantom's instructions? Thankfully, they shut it off before the Prologue began. This time, I noticed what Count-Alexiel mentioned to me before about certain scenes having their own distinct smell; the auction scene smelled kind of like an old, abandoned library but with a hint of incense. Michael Lackey was again our Auctioneer, and again gave the scene a nicely creepy atmosphere. After reading what Brianne wrote about Hal Prince's explanation of the auction scene and her own thoughts on it, I have a new appreciation for the way this company handles it; Lackey and Ragone are just perfect in their respective roles as the Auctioneer and Raoul, or perhaps as Death and the old man facing it.


Overture

Yup, directly under the chandelier is the place to be for this scene. It was amazing to see the chandelier sections moving all around us as they assembled, and the lighting effects during the scene were just spectacular. It was also rather interesting in that the lighting made it harder to see the curtains over the box seats being removed, so a first-time viewer sitting in our section might wonder how the Opera House magically restored itself during the lightshow. Pretty awesome, I think.


"Hannibal" Rehearsal

Joan Sobel was back as Carlotta, and her voice sounded stronger this time. She didn't seem to be as big and bold as the character needed to be, though, either vocally or acting-wise. Then again, she may have still been recovering from the cold she had the previous night. Larry Wayne Morbitt was just as fun to watch as before; I think he may be my favorite Piangi now that I've finally gotten to see him.

Scott Watanabe was on as Lefevre this time, and he and the managers were all excellent. Joan's rant was nicely done as well; not as over-the-top as some Carlottas, but it was still clear that she was very used to getting her way. One thing I didn't notice in the Tour but which was clear in this production was that Lefevre would give Christine just a second or two to look over the "Think of Me" score before shutting it in front of her in a rather snooty way -- kind of a fun little touch showing just how little enthusiasm he had for her taking on Carlotta's role.


Think of Me

When Count-Alexiel-Ravenswood and Sylent Phantom saw the Vegas production last year, they got to see Kristen Hertzenberg as Christine twice and raved to me about her. Alexiel, who's seen the musical over 380 times (and nearly every production, to boot) told me that Kristen was the best Christine he'd ever seen. Now, I try to avoid having ridiculously high expectations before going to a show, but I was quite keen to see her in the role, really glad that I was getting the chance, and just the tiniest bit apprehensive -- after all, it's rather hard to hear such high praise for a performer and not have a certain level of expectation. I needn't have worried, though; whatever expectations I had, Kristen surpassed every one of them. Seriously. Wow. Anyone who likes to see a good Christine (and really, who on this board doesn't?) should run, not walk, to Vegas and see Kristen in the role. Except for those of you who'd have to drive, fly, sail, or teleport, anyway... but I'd still recommend running to the ticket booth. Wink

In this scene and at many other points in the show, I had a bit of a mini-freakout; I kept wanting to ask, "Did my mental picture of Leroux's Christine just appear in real life, put on a brunette wig, and come to perform the show?" Really, though, Kristen was pretty much exactly as I imagined Christine when reading the book in terms of voice, acting, onstage demeanor, and appearance. Vocally, she reminded me a lot of Elisabeth Berg from the Swedish cast album, with touches of Joke de Kruijf from the Dutch and Austrian productions -- very pure tone and a warm, appealing sound to her voice. In short, she truly had the kind of voice than an Opera Ghost (or any music aficionado, really) could fall in love with.

There were also quite a few acting choices I really liked from Kristen. While she noticeably gained confidence after Mme. Giry prompted her and again after the full orchestra came in, she still maintained a certain degree of seeming unsure about her performance, as though even she was surprised by her vocal performance. During the line "If you can still remember, stop and think of me," she actually looked up at Raoul, echoing what Christine said in the novel about having seen Raoul at the Opera House before but not daring to speak to him. Andrew Ragone's response was quite well-done as well; he was clearly hanging on every word Kristen sang. That little part of the scene also had the nice effect of kicking off Raoul's rivalry with the Phantom a bit early, which suited me just fine. After a glorious cadenza, she got perhaps the loudest applause I've heard for a Christine in this scene, and all of it was definitely earned. I also love how as the reverse tabs go into effect and the canned audience applauds, Reyer kisses Christine's hand in congratulations.


Angel of Music

Tina Walsh's Mme. Giry was again very authoritative and commanding, but still kindly to Christine -- while many say that the musical version of Giry combines elements from both Leroux's Giry and the Persian, I think Tina brought a touch of Madame Valerius to the role as well. Tony's voice was again ghostly (though, like many of you, I wish the American productions had the Phantom say "brava" instead of "bravi"), and Brianne was again adorable as Meg. She had a sweet voice that worked very well opposite Kristen's, and her acting in this and other scenes went a long way to making Meg more than just a named extra within the context of the show.


Little Lotte / The Mirror

The thing that hit me about Andrew and Kristen in this scene was that they had such natural, easy chemistry together. They were totally believable as childhood sweethearts who hadn't seen each other in years, and Kristen brought across Christine's superstitious and emotionally vulnerable nature really well. Still not fond of Andrew's possibly creepy-sounding chuckle, but what can ya do?

Enter Tony Crivello as the Phantom (or, as I'm tempted to call him after reading a certain outstanding humor Phanfic, "ghosty-boy"). Once again, Tony made a powerful and dramatic entrance (angled so that his masked side was more prominent), and Kristen was superb in her sections. One thing that caught me was that when she sang out to the audience with arms outstreched after Tony appeared in the mirror, her reflection in the mirror was in just the right place so that it looked like she was embracing him. I'm told that was the intention behind that choreography all along, but this was the first time that came across really clearly to me. I suppose if I'd been sitting somewhere else, it might not have worked so well, but that night, it was just perfect. As the scene came to a close, there was an incredible amount of fog on the stage -- it completely hid the mirror from view so it looked like Kristen was simply vanishing into the fog. (That had also happened the previous night, but I neglected to mention it there.)


The Phantom of the Opera

Again, I noticed the fact that the scene smelled different -- as the doubles were moving along the travelator, there was a dank, moist, cellar-like smell. As the boat travelled across the lake, though, it changed to give the impression of an actual lake smell. Count-Alexiel noticed me sniffing and grinned at me as if to say, "No, you're not crazy... I noticed it too." In addition, the theater became noticeably colder in this scene -- sitting somewhat further back, we were able to pick up on that more. It made for a really immersive experience that really enhanced the whole production.

Tony and Kristen were again excellent, and I love how the Vegas production has doubles who actually look and act like the actors they're standing in for! Kristen's cadenza was amazing -- as I recall, I was sitting there with my mouth wide open, looking a bit silly... but it really was that awesome. Though Kristen didn't touch her throat after the E, she still seemed shocked by the notes she had hit.


The Music of the Night

This performance of the show, I noticed, had a different orchestra conductor from the previous night. This conductor was more inclined to take certain songs (mainly the Phantom's) a bit slower, and that was especially true here. I do tend to prefer it when they play the song more slowly; especially after discovering Alexander Goebel's Phantom, I've felt like many casts rush the tempo too much. Here, though, it was just right for me.

Tony played the Phantom somewhat differently with Kristen compared to how he performed with Sarah Combs the previous night. There was a bit more tender awkwardness, as though he was thinking, "I have the woman of my dreams right here, in my lair... Now what? Oh yes... use the voice." Rather a neat way to play the scene, I thought. I also like how both times I saw Tony, he did the "Turn your face away..." choreography really gently and without touching Christine. I'm not fond of Phantoms who look like they're about to break Christine's neck during that part, so Tony's approach was a nice change.

There was one bit in particular where what could have been a really obvious flub in the hands of less capable performers worked so well for this cast that I almost thought they did it on purpose. After Tony sang "The darkness of the music of the night," Kristen hurried away from him as usual, but then she tripped over her dress. However, she happened to fall in the same place and the same way that she would again after unmasking the Phantom in the next scene, creating a really interesting dynamic. Tony, meanwhile, played that moment so that you could clearly imagine the Phantom thinking, "Oh no, I've scared her... I need to tone it down a little bit so she won't try to run away." He still sang the next lines powerfully, but with a bit more tenderness than he had in the previous performance, trying to win her back and calm her down. Naturally, it worked, and Kristen played a great transition from being almost in a state of panic to finally being so enchanted by his voice that she seemed almost ready to fall asleep in his arms. Then came the mirror bride bit, and Tony played the moment when she fainted as sort of "Damn... That was tonight's second screw-up. Well, maybe I'll try again tomorrow." And again, that approach tied into the next scene and the rest of the show extremely well.


I Remember / Stranger Than You Dreamt It

Tony again played the Phantom as a very enthusiastic organist and composer. Kristen played the unmasking bit really earnestly, much as I imagined it in the novel as simply an act of naive curiosity. Tony's portrayal of the scene struck me as very true to Leroux and also, as I mentioned before, tying into the previous scene really well. He again wagged his head during "Is this what you wanted to see?", but also played the scene with a good dose of regret mixed in with the anger and self-loathing, as if he was saying to himself, "Well, now I've done it -- she may have let my last 2 blunders slide, but now, she'll never come back to me willingly, so I'll have to imprison her." It gave his Phantom a really believable arc, so that even someone who wasn't familiar with other versions of the story might be able to see how he ended up going down that path.


Notes / Prima Donna

The managers were again brilliantly funny. John as Andre again stuttered on "Who the hell is he," but this time, I got a somewhat different vibe -- it was almost like he was about to use a worse word than "hell," but stopped himself, which made for possibly even more humor potential just with that one line. Joan's Carlotta seemed a bit more confident and diva-ish than she had in "Hannibal." She was alright in the role, but during "Prima Donna" especially, it was hard to hear her voice over the rest of the cast. I can't really decide whether I prefer her or Arsenia Soto, but I guess once one's seen Kim Stengel in the role, not many others will do the trick. Then again, maybe I just need to see them when they're feeling 100%, or when they haven't been called on to sub in mid-show.

This time, I really paid attention to Brianne as Meg. As others have posted in their reviews, she brings quite a lot to the part. Even though she didn't get many lines in this scene compared to the managers, Carlotta, and Raoul, her facial expressions and physical acting were superb and made Meg stand out more than I've noticed in other casts.


"Il Muto"

The confidante and two fops were hilarious in the first bit, and Kristen got quite a few laughs as the girl-playing-a-dude-dressed-as-a-chick, especially when she played up the implied sleeping-with-the-Countess bit. Being directly under the chandelier made the bit where the Phantom double dangles from it so awesome and thrilling to watch -- I do hope the folks in front looked back to see it.

To my left were two girls who I assume were having their first night at Phantom. They couldn't have been older than 11. When the Phantom hangs Buquet, they both gasped in shock and horror (and it was especially compelling because that night's Buquet, who was a different actor from the previous night, was twitching in an even more ghastly way). It was such a great moment... or maybe I'm just strange. Very Happy


Rooftop Scene / All I Ask of You

This scene again had a noticeably different smell; it really did feel like we were up on a rooftop, with that fresh air smell that you can rarely get in a city, let alone in a hotel theatre in the middle of a city. Kristen played such a believably terrified and vulnerable Christine, and it was fascinating to watch her arc in this scene; she started out simply fearful of her or Raoul being killed, but it evolved into her wondering if this whole experience might actually drive her mad. Andrew did his best to be reassuring, and this time, seemed to become more and more convinced that this "Phantom" guy might actually exist after everything Kristen told him; his "What you heard was a dream and nothing more" was clearly meant to reassure Christine, but he didn't seem all too convinced by it himself.

Their duet was gorgeously sweet, and it morphed from a promise of protection and devotion to all-out romantic giddiness, as would befit two young people experiencing first love. But alas, that couldn't last forever; as they left the stage, Tony's Phantom appeared and delivered his heartrending lines. Again, his shadow reminded me a lot of certain scenes from the Lon Chaney film, and again, his cape billowed out like the wings of a fallen angel rising up to take his vengeance. And I do so love that thunderclap -- oh, how I love it!


Next bit coming soon -- I promise it'll be a shorter wait than it was for this one!

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

Post  IamErik771 on Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:18 am

Gah, triple-post... Mods and Admins, please forgive me. ^_^;

All righty... Here, at last, is part 2 of show 2! (So would it be part 4 then? I'm not sure.)


Masquerade

I love the pyrotechnics in this production, and the use of the Opera House façade was genius -- I almost wish every production could have something like that, but then again, that's one of the things that makes Vegas so special.

I know the extended intro to "Masquerade" was just put in for practical reasons, but I really do like it musically. The ensemble was superb here as well, and Andrew and Kristen had excellent chemistry. Red Death was again awesomely intimidating and was clearly the one in control for his scene. One thing that caught my attention was how completely under his spell Kristen was -- she was clearly trying to resist, but found herself compelled to go to him, even though she probably knew it wouldn't turn out well once he saw the engagement ring.The disappearing trick was also excellent; Daniel told us during the tour that it didn't go quite as it should have that night, but I didn't notice any problems. The scene between Mme. Giry and Raoul went well -- I agree with Brianne that it seems to work better when it's spoken rather than certain lines being sung, and I also like that the musical transition to the next scene uses the "I Have Brought You" leitmotif.


Notes / Twisted Every Way

Andrew Ragone plays a very "take-charge" Raoul in this scene, which is nice to see -- I think whatever an individual Phan may think of Raoul's character, Andrew is probably one of the least likely to be referred to as a "fop." Kristen's portrayal of this scene was realistically conflicted, and she did a great job of getting across how traumatic these events were to her. Andrew was nicely reassuring, but of course, Christine didn't really find it all that helpful here. I loved how as he announced his challenge to the Phantom, the managers took a few steps back as if to say, "Uh-oh... you're asking for it now!"


Graveyard Scene

This time, I noticed that the set had kind of a flowery scent -- pretty cool. "Wishing" was beautifully done; Kristen owned this song in a way that few if any other Christines I've watched or heard managed to, and got me teary-eyed. Because of how well both Christines I saw in this cast handled the song, I actually didn't notice a stanza was cut until I talked about it with Count-Alexiel and Sylent Phantom the next morning. This was another scene where it was clear that the conductor for this performance was much more inclined to take things slowly than the previous night's conductor had been, so Kristen was able to hold a few of the "money notes" quite a bit longer.

The duet in "Wandering Child" was gorgeous once again (though I do still wish productions outside of the UK were allowed to do the trio), and the fireball scene was just as thrilling as the previous night. Fortunately (or not, depending on where you might have been sitting), no fireballs went into the audience. Laughing And even sitting farther back as we were, we could definitely still feel the heat from the wall of flame. Though that's probably the one special effect that wasn't redone to be bigger and bolder for the Vegas production, I do still love it.


Before the Premiere / "Don Juan Triumphant"

One more thing to be said for sitting farther back (i.e. with the "general audience" rather than in front with the regular attendees who know all the ins and outs of the show) is that there was a lot of tension in the audience during this bit. I'd venture a guess that a good number of the people in that night's audience were seeing the show for the first time, which made this scene in particular really fun, especially when the Phantom appeared next to Box 5 and the Marksman took his shot.

"Don Juan" was nicely done once again, with great gusto by the ensemble. Brianne's bit was great; though she had less to do than Megs in other productions during this bit, she did well in making Meg an important part of the scene. Larry Wayne Morbitt and their Passarino were again fantastic as well.


The Point of No Return

Kristen played this scene rather differently from Sarah Combs -- rather than an experienced performer who seemed to have a good idea at least of how to play a sexy moment onstage, Kristen's Christine was still very much the ingenue trying to play what she thought would look "sexy" without really having an idea of what that would actually be like. It fit her version of the character really well, I thought. She again had superb chemistry with Tony despite the fact that the scene was shortened. It was very much a case of a creature of the dark trying (and perhaps succeeding, depending on your perspective) to corrupt a creature of the light.

Then Tony sang the "Say you'll share with me" section (again with great passion and a theatrical edge) while the police surrounded the pair onstage. Kristen played up Christine's inner conflict as she tore his mask off, giving the impression that perhaps she did it in order to distract the police and give the Phantom time to escape. Of course, that ended up working and backfiring at the same time, and then our Super!Meg gave another superb scream upon finding the recently deceased Piangi. Then came the moment Count-Alexiel, Sylent Phantom, and I had all been waiting for.

At first, the chandelier seemed to slowly lurch down towards us, and I thought, "Well, this isn't so bad." Then, as we heard the sound of a chain breaking above us, the chandelier went into freefall. Now, I consider myself a rather jaded horror film fan, but when the chandelier fell, I admit I screamed. (I have to admit it, or my fellow attendees will come in and set the record straight, naturally. Laughing) Count-Alexiel and I laughed at my reaction as the onstage chaos gave way to the next scene.


Final Lair Scene

The lake came into view as Tony furiously sang and paddled the boat, and again, I noticed the dank cellar/lake smell. Tony seemed to play up the tragic side of his character in this scene more as a plea for Christine to understand him than merely the bitter, angry edge. Kristen, meanwhile, played Christine as a woman who had been somewhat afraid to grow up but was now pushed to a point where she knew she had to find the strength to stand up to the Phantom. When Andrew's Raoul showed up, Tony once again played the Phantom as very gleeful and sadistic. After Raoul got trapped in the Cage of Doom™, Kristen played Christine's desperation over Raoul's predicament as well as her conflicted feelings about the Phantom extremely well. All three performers were at the top of their game in this scene and succeeded in bringing out the emotion required for the scene (and the show in general) to work really well.

The kiss was excellently performed and every bit as emotional as the previous night's. Afterward, Tony's heartbreak as he let Christine and Raoul go was plain to see. He again hit his chest as if he was suffering from a heart attack -- I'd almost be tempted to say that was a bit of influence from the Kay novel, but I'm not sure if he's read it, especially since he told us he's only read certain bits of Leroux (which really surprised me; very few other Phantoms I've encountered have done such an awesomely true-to-Leroux portrayal). When Kristen came back to return the ring, it was clear that she was considering staying; that despite everything the Phantom had put her through, it still tore her apart to see him so heartbroken. Their embrace lasted several moments, and both seemed reluctant to let go. Tony's final lines were beautifully sung and packed with emotion. And again, Brianne came onstage to find the mask and give us a perfect conclusion to the show.


Curtain Call

Again, thunderous applause for the whole cast. Count-Alexiel, Sylent Phantom, and I were on our feet to applaud the entire company. I also have to complement the orchestra because even their rendition of the playout at the end was done somewhat differently from (and, IMO, even better than) other productions I've seen and heard.


After the Show

But the fun definitely wasn't over yet! Since it was a Tuesday, the VIP tour was being conducted, so we and the other audience members who were going on the tour went to the stage area to meet Daniel, the usher who would be our tour guide for the evening. Half the group split off and went with Andrew Ragone, who was, strangely enough, wearing a hat and coat exactly like what Oliver Thornton of a former London cast wore in a backstage photo we had seen. Daniel took us up on the stage, where the three of us briefly separated from the group to say hello to Kristen Hertzenberg. Sylent Phantom had drawn a fantastic portrait of her as Christine, so we got to give that to her and also take photos and congratulate her on her portrayal. We also got to meet dance captain Courtney Combs, who, as we found out, was not related to Christine understudy Sarah Elizabeth Combs.

After that, we took the elevator down under the stage to rejoin the tour group in the wig room. We got to see and take photos of several of the wigs used in the production -- I loved how everyone, including understudies and alternates, had their own personal wigs for each role they'd be playing. It made for a refreshing change after hearing how the US Tour had begun to lose that; for example, the fact that Richard Todd Adams didn't even have his own Phantom costume and was given John Cudia's suit even though it was a poor fit. I also loved that we were allowed to take photos, whereas that wasn't allowed when I went backstage in the US Tour. (Are backstage photos allowed in the Broadway production?)

As we left the wig room, we bumped into Anthony Crivello, who had apparently been looking for us. We chatted for a bit, and he thanked us for dealing with a few people on Facebook who had never actually seen him live but were bashing him based on some video clips from when the production first opened. (I admit I did some of that as well, though nowhere near the level those people on FB did; in fact, on another POTO board, I recently posted a retraction of a post I'd made a couple years ago where I criticized Tony's Phantom based on recordings.) Live theater is live theater, and I doubt any recording will really do the stage show justice, especially when it comes to this production. Even if RUG actually decides to authorize a professional film recording of the show and release it in movie theaters, I don't think it will be anywhere near the same (though I'd certainly love it if they did anyway! Wink). The Vegas production works so well at keeping you "in the moment" that things that bug the heck out of me on recordings (like cuts to the main songs, or the "handclaps" during the title track) flew by without me really minding them at all. Anyway, that's enough preaching from me. *puts soapbox away*

Count-Alexiel and Sylent Phantom went off with Tony to chat about other things while I continued on with the tour. We got to see all the computers and machinery under the stage that keep the show running smoothly day after day (though Daniel told us about several occasions when things haven't gone quite so smoothly -- everything from the chandelier not falling to performers breaking nails or losing teeth has happened; thankfully nothing that severe when we were there). Just for fun, I brought up some mishaps that had occurred in other productions, many of which I learned about on A Lamentable Mess. (Is that site still accepting submissions, by the way?) I was amazed at the level of detail -- on each candle in the lair set, the flames were all hand-carved, even though nobody in the audience will be able to see it. The Cage of Doom™ was there for us to examine, as were the areas where the actors have to quickly change costumes (especially the ensemble members, who often have to play several different characters each night).

After that, we went up to the stage to look at the "Masquerade" staircase, the boat, and the places where candles would come up, flames would shoot out, or the Cage of Doom™ would trap unsuspecting French noblemen. (I half-jokingly asked Daniel if any stagehands had ever stayed after the show to catch unsuspecting tourists in the cage. Apparently, they haven't... so maybe it's a good thing I'm not in the crew. Laughing) Around then, Count-Alexiel and Sylent Phantom returned. Apparently, Tony had given them gum... and you definitely don't want to refuse a gift from the Phantom! The tour wound down, and Daniel and all the attendees swapped stories about Fans Week (hoping there will be another one in the future), mourning the Phantom shop that used to be right next to the theater, and dissuading the other guests from going to see a certain musical sequel. In all, probably the most fun I've had seeing a stage show... I hope to return and catch the magic again next year! Very Happy

IamErik771

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Re: Phantom Las Vegas: June 27 and 28, 2011

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