POTO - Paliku Community Theatre, Hawaii

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POTO - Paliku Community Theatre, Hawaii

Post  IamErik771 on Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:32 am

A couple weeks ago, I got to see a truly fantastic local community theatre production of the show. It was directed by a personal hero of mine, Ron Bright, who is something of a legend in our local theatre community -- among other things, he literally built my old high school's theatre program from the ground up and has directed a wide variety of plays and musicals around the state. This review is reposted from my blog, but with some minor edits.

The Phantom of the Opera - Community Theatre Edition
Palikū Community Theatre, Hawaii
Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 7:30 PM
Directed by Ron Bright

The Phantom: Miles Wesley
Christine Daaé: Lydia Pusateri
Raoul de Chagny: Kyle Malis
Richard Firmin: Doug Scheer
Gilles Andre: Leonard Villanueva
Carlotta Giudicelli: Jaime Craycroft
Ubaldo Piangi: Johnny Reed
Madame Giry: Marlise Ahuna
Meg Giry: Madison Eror


Before the Show:

I was attending the performance with my sister Mara and her husband Chris, who had just arrived from New Zealand the day before. Chris had never seen the show onstage, so I was interested to see what he'd think of it. To my surprise, we also met my next-door neighbors at the theatre, as well as a couple of people I knew from work and one guy from my Okinawan music group. I didn't know any of them would be interested in POTO, but I guess local productions attract all types. Especially productions that were in such high demand; within a couple weeks of tickets being available, they sold out completely, added nearly a month of extra performances, and sold out of tickets for those as well. (To anyone from RUG who might be reading this, if you have any doubts about whether there'd be enough demand to justify bringing a touring production to Hawaii, I present this as Exhibit A.) I was fortunate to get not only these three tickets, but also three more for the following month so I could take my parents to see it.

At this performance, we had seats in the third row of the VIP section (5th row overall; the first 2 were reserved for those who were elderly or physically handicapped, which was quite a nice service). The programs were quite professionally done. In addition to being directed by Ron Bright (a local theatre legend and personal hero of mine), I noticed that the orchestra was conducted by his son, which I thought was pretty cool. Also, there was no alternate Christine; however, the Christine understudy was Madison Eror (who usually played Meg), and then there was another understudy for Meg in the event that Lydia Pusateri was unable to play Christine. Since professional casts of the show tend to have lots of Raouls and Managers understudying or getting promoted to playing the Phantom, but relatively few cases of such "upward mobility" for the female leads, I found that really neat. Another interesting and amusing (or perhaps disturbing) thing was featured on the back cover of the program: There was an advertisement showing the Phantom and Christine from this production with the caption "All he wanted was to be loved... All she wanted was to escape." As it turns out, the ad was to encourage those who were tired of city life to "escape" to Kailua Town. Kind of an odd case of product placement, I thought.


Act I


Pre-Show Announcement:


Before the performance, they did what seemed to be a pre-recorded announcement <i>a la</i> the Vegas production, but with a couple of notable differences. It wasn't the Phantom's voice, and the announcement included both French and English, which I thought was pretty awesome. It ran as follows (though you'll have to forgive any misspellings; I'm not a French speaker):

Bonsoir, mesdames et messieurs. Bienvenue a l'Opéra de Paris. En Englés: Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Opera House of Paris. The management and staff thank you for your continued support, and we extend special felicitations to le directeur artistique contributors... ((names of contributors)), the Windward Arts Council as well as Les Amis du Fantôme, and several anonymous and generous donors. Tonight's performance is in two acts, with an interval of twenty minutes. Le toilette can be found on the second level, the ladies' down the house right hallway and the gentlemen's down the house left. During the interval, food, wine, and other beverages are available for purchase downstairs on ground level outside the entry lobby. At this time, we ask you to turn off all telephonic devices and remind you that the taking of photos and videos during this performance is strictly forbidden. And now, mesdames et messieurs, we proudly present "Le Fantôme de l'Opéra."


Prologue:

This scene ran fairly normally. The Auctioneer was an older, silver-haired man with a high voice; after getting used to Michael Lackey and other, deeper-voiced Auctioneers, it was kind of unusual, but not bad (though the obvious American accents from him and everyone else tended to throw me off a bit). The three human skulls were life-sized and looked like they might have been models from the college's anatomy or anthropology departments. The monkey music box didn't move (though it looked fairly close to the ones from the "official" productions), and it was clear that the music was coming from the pit orchestra below rather than the box. Our Auctioneer pronounced it as "paper maché" rather than the more accurate "papier," though. Raoul, interestingly, was sitting in shadow with his face hidden by his top hat, probably to cover the fact that he wasn't made up to look old (though the way they did it still worked for me). According to the program, the person who played Raoul's nurse also played Madame Firmin... so she got to cover two roles, but only said one word in the show.


Overture:

Very nicely done chandelier -- they clearly tried for an accurate replica of the one in the Palais Garnier (or at least as accurate as one can get with a small budget). It was interesting to see that the chandelier reached the ceiling by the end of the pre-recorded organ section, and so the orchestral half of the piece was accompanied by the set for "Hannibal" being put together onstage before our eyes, much like in the Las Vegas production. For a smaller orchestra made up of amateur musicians, I was quite impressed at how big their sound was and how technically spot-on they were not only here, but throughout the score. This, folks, is how do put on a production of POTO on a small budget without skimping on talent.


"Hannibal" Rehearsal:

As the Overture ended, though, Carlotta didn't begin her cadenza right away -- I was surprised to see they added a short, comedic bit where a stagehand was hammering something on the set, Carlotta yelled for quiet, and the stagehand delivered one final hit with the hammer (earning him a death glare from the diva). At last, Carlotta was able to sing her cadenza, which started on a higher note than is typical, but she still ended up on the high C. The set was quite nice and looked like a Roman-era palace. The costumes, however, varied; while most, like Carlotta and the ballet girls, were less ornate versions of Maria Björnson's costumes from the replica productions, some of the women in the chorus wore glittery gowns that looked like they might have been more appropriate for a show like Mamma Mia! or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Carlotta had a great voice, and acting-wise, she seemed to base her portrayal on Minnie Driver's performance in the '04 movie. Piangi was excellent except for going a bit harsh on his high C (singing "Your army has come home"). He was superb at acting outraged at having to do his section again, as well; very much the "primo tenor" who hated to be corrected. Lefevre was decent but not very consistent in how he pronounced French words and names. Also, at one point, he flubbed and introduced Piangi as "Signor Ubaldi." The Managers were excellent; Firmin was a great "straight man" in the comic duo, and Andre (played by an actor I had seen as the Engineer in Paliku's production of "Miss Saigon" a couple years prior, also directed by Ron Bright) acted effeminate and androgynous, managing to make that work for the character. Reyer was good, though he was wearing a white wig that seemed a tad too big for his head. Madame Giry, unfortunately, imitated Miranda Richardson's over-the-top faux French accent from the movie; however, she still had a good and commanding presence, especially when dealing with the dancers. I found it interesting that when the chorus was singing, Reyer and Giry joined in... Was the sound of the ensemble not big enough without two extra voices, or did the director feel that those characters didn't have enough to do? Regardless, the chorus sounded great.

When the dancers entered for the short ballet scene, I noticed that Christine joined in a few measures late and seemed to be out-of-step with the others for most of the scene... Good for showing that she often has her head in the clouds, but I'm not sure that I'm fond of the idea of her being a klutz. The elephant was great (and blue), and turned out to be a wooden set piece carried on by stagehands, which I found to be a cute touch. Carlotta's "Think of Me" was quite nice, so I was glad they let her sing as much of it as they do in the regular stage version, rather than cutting her off early like in cast albums and the movie. Buquet, other than sounding very young, was great for his short scene.


Think of Me:

Christine had a superb voice; I think that at least vocally, she could handle the role in a professional production without too much more training. The fact that she was young, petite, and blonde also worked for evoking the Christine of the original novel. Acting, though, was where she faltered. Part of the problem was the blocking; although the costume was more or less "Björnson lite," she stood still and sang, so it felt more like the movie's take on the scene than the stage version. Also a little bugged to see that, like the movie, they switched around Box Five and the managers' box. Raoul's verse in the song was great in terms of both vocals and acting, though, and Christine sang an excellent cadenza that thankfully was the standard stage version rather than the altered one used in the movie. The production used "reverse tabs" like the official stage version, and did it quite fast -- basically, after Christine finished singing, the lights went out, and a second or two later, lights came on from backstage and she took a bow facing that direction as curtains closed between her and the imaginary "second audience."


Angel of Music:

The ballet girls were enthusiastically fawning over Christine kinda like a fan posse -- nice touch. Madame Giry was again nicely authoritative (silly accent notwithstanding), and seemed a bit cold and distant with Christine... kind of an interesting approach, especially compared with Tina Walsh's much warmer portrayal of the ballet mistress in the Las Vegas production. Rather than take up most of the stage as in replica productions, the dressing room set took up a small portion of the right side, leaving the majority of the stage to be used by the dancers as they rehearsed.

The Phantom sang "Brava, brava, bravissima" (Thank you, grammatically correct Italian!) with a really nice echo effect on his voice. Meg (who was dark-haired in this cast -- yay, possible nod to Leroux!) was very sweet-voiced and harmonized well with Christine, though since she seemed to struggle a bit with the higher notes, I wonder how she'd be when understudying Christine. Thought it was interesting that in addition to changing from the Elissa costume into the white dressing gown, Christine also put a little white ribbon in her hair during this scene. At the end of the song, Madame Giry came in and made her presence known in the usual way, by slamming her cane on the floor. Even when addressing Christine to give her Raoul's letter, she seemed to maintain some distance; her tone of voice suggested she really didn't want to be giving Christine that letter, but felt she had no choice for whatever reason.


Little Lotte / The Mirror:

Raoul was really sweet in terms of both vocals and demeanor. Despite his best efforts, though, there was still a bit of distance between him and Christine mainly due to her somewhat wooden acting. Interestingly, she enunciated Raoul's name as "Rah-ool" distinctly each time she said it. Though that tends to be my preferred way to pronounce the young viscount's name when reading the novel, it sounds a bit odd in the context of the musical. That may just be because I'm so used to actresses saying it as "Raul" or "Rawl," but whenever the name is sung, it seems like the lyricists tried to fit it into one syllable each time. Her over-enunciation of "Angel of Music" when talking irked me a bit (sounded kinda like "Angel of Mule-sic"), though she (thankfully) didn't do that as much when she sang the phrase. Anyway, I found it rather neat that both this production and the high school version I saw last year added a bit where Christine said to Raoul, "Things have changed," and he replied, "You must change... I must get my hat." Kind of a clever addition, methinks, although she then repeated "Things have changed" again after he left.

Vocally very impressive entrance from the Phantom -- I was relieved to see that he was going to be a much better fit for the part than the kid I saw in the previous year's high school cast (not to mention a certain movie Phantom). His anger at Raoul was clear without seeming over-the-top. Though clearly a youthful-sounding tenor, he had the vocal presence the role demanded. His appearance in the mirror was superb and timed perfectly with his lines. His look was neat; he's probably the first Phantom I've seen to have a ponytail, and he also wore a large, ruby ring in all his scenes. Although I was a bit disappointed at the lack of a fedora, his physical presence was at least as strong as his vocal presence in this scene. It was clear that the mirror was sliding open to let Christine in, but then again, it often is in official productions as well. Raoul came to the door and sang "Who is that voice? Who is that in there?" rather slowly. After Christine went through the mirror, Raoul called "Christine!" and then the door opened, he ran in the room and called "Angel!"


The Phantom of the Opera:

Interestingly, Raoul and the dressing room set were still visible as the Phantom and Christine doubles crossed the stage and went down into a trap door. Then the dressing room set blacked out, and then the real Phantom and Christine appeared on a platform above the stage. (I'm sure that's how it was done, since the Phantom and Christine were in full view during the whole rest of the scene, leaving them no other possible time to switch out.) As the song progressed, they walked across the bridge and then went down a winding, wire staircase to the boat -- simple yet elegant design for the journey to the lair.

Christine's vocals were very good throughout the scene, and her cadenza was excellent. The Phantom... well, he went even more rockish than Ramin Karimloo tended to do in the original London production, which really surprised me since I wasn't sure such a thing could be done without it sounding like the Nightwish version. Yet, despite the fact that I'm normally against rock-ifying the song too much, this actor really surprised me with how well he pulled it off. If I were to describe his voice, I'd say it was like combining Ramin and Rob Evan, adding James Barbour's lower range, and topping it off with a touch of Michael Ball's vibrato and phrasing. Sounds like an odd combination, but it worked for me.

The lair set was quite interesting. It featured candelabras that looked a lot like those from replica productions, being brought in from the sides much like the US Tour. There was a pipe organ (rather than the Hammond organ used in replica productions) brought in from stage right that faced backstage. And there was also a narrow set piece lowered from the rafters -- at first, I thought it might be a window, making me think they were actually trying for the "house on the lake" look. But alas, no; it turned out to be a rather narrow portcullis. The Phantom conducted Christine singing the cadenza very realistically. I found it interesting that he waited until after Christine finished her cadenza before whipping his cloak off.


The Music of the Night:

Brilliantly done, both vocally and acting-wise. Despite being a young Phantom actor, this guy had clearly read the book and understood a lot of the character's subtleties. I think this scene was the key to why I liked this Phantom's performance even though I'm generally not a fan of "rock star" Phantoms; even though he had a very rockish singing voice, his performance felt a lot more like what I imagine Erik should be. Rather than the "stunning sexual master" portrayed by Gerard Butler in the 2004 movie (and also by some stage actors), this was a Phantom clearly inexperienced in seduction. He wasn't confident and didn't seem like he was used to having a beautiful, young woman falling under his spell; thus, his interaction with Christine seemed awkward, as if he feared doing the wrong thing at any moment and losing her. Though there were some '04 movie touches in the blocking (especially his movements on "Turn your face away" and "Let your mind start a journey...", the actor clearly understood why he shouldn't be doing the Butler choreography entirely. Superb high notes (though he sometimes trailed off on them in the way that many pop tenors do).

When the mirror bride was revealed, she appeared to reach right through the glass without breaking it, causing Christine to faint. Really neat effect; I'd love to know how that was done. When Christine passed out, the Phantom caught her (yay!) and carried her to the boat bed in the center of the stage, much like Phantoms in the UK productions do. Nicely done finale to the song, and well-timed fadeout on the Phantom (no spotlight on his mask, though).


I Remember / Stranger Than You Dreamt It:

Interestingly, this production altered the Phantom's organ solo a bit to make it much less jarring -- it was still loud and sudden, but sounded downright pleasant rather than dissonant. I also suspect that it was either played live by the actor or very well-rehearsed; I could see the actor's hands on the keyboard, and the keys he hit matched up exactly with what the solo sounded like.

Christine woke up thanks to the music box (though she didn't seem to react to it beyond that). As she sang, she walked over to the Phantom and felt up the masked side of his face a la the '04 movie -- in my mind, I was yelling, "No... don't do the movie! Don't do the movie!" Despite my dislike of the interpretation that the Phantom knew Christine was there and intended to take off his mask and he just let it happen, this Phantom played the following bit well. He was believably furious after the mask came off, and interestingly kept some of that anger throughout the main part of the song (though managing to avoid reminding me too much of Gerard Butler). My favorite bit in this scene was undoubtedly the "Fear can turn to love..." section, where the Phantom made a really neat acting choice. He started crawling toward Christine even faster and more intensely than he had before, and Christine backed away from him, terrified. That was where I thought her acting was most convincing, and she was also great at showing Christine's compassion for the Phantom developing as she returned his mask.


Magical Lasso:

This scene wasn't done on the stage as in replica productions; I'm guessing they needed more time to change the set. Instead, Buquet was sitting in Box 5, demonstrating the lasso to the ballet girls standing on the side of the stage. The advantage to having Buquet in Box 5, of course, is that it gave the Phantom yet another reason to want him dead -- inwardly, I was chuckling and saying "Mr. Bright, you mad genius, you!" The Phantom emerged from the wings along with Mme. Giry, and appeared to whisper something to her before she went to confront Buquet. She still kept the silly accent and slapped him like in the movie, but thankfully stuck to the regular stage lyrics for her bit.


Notes / Prima Donna:

The Managers were a superb comic duo; Firmin was again the "straight man" of the team, while Andre was more than a tad effeminate. One additional thing that struck me was how much they resembled two friends I have in the Phan community (at least in looks and some of their mannerisms, though not really in terms of vocals); I kept picturing my two friends playing the Managers that way, which made the scene even funnier to me. Raoul, Carlotta, and Piangi were also superb in their sections; however, the Girys seemed to fade into the background. Carlotta's rant at the end of the scene was done the OLC way (random Italian rather than "You thus insult the honor of your Prima Donna!" and so forth.) "Prima Donna" was done excellently as well, and I was glad to see that they kept all the harmonies and counterpoints intact. One issue with the scene, though, is that it felt like it lost steam towards the end of "Prima Donna" -- I'm not sure if it was the orchestra, the actors getting tired, or simply a perception of tiredness due to the number of times I've heard/seen different casts do this number. Nonetheless, very well done.


"Il Muto":

There were some none-too-subtle winks at the audience at certain points in this scene when Raoul said "There would appear to be no seats available other than Box 5," and again with the managers' glee over every seat being sold. It's always nice when the actors are able to say those lines and have them be 100% true. (RUG, are you listening? I'm telling you, a Hawaii stop for a touring production would be totally worth it!)

The Confidante and two fops were great. Interestingly, Piangi played Don Attillio and thus sang certain lines an octave higher. Carlotta was great, and her croaks were superb. Sadly, no evil laughter from the Phantom... but the chandelier blinked and trembled at his command.

After Carlotta's croaking episode, the managers announced the ballet from Act 3, and then they did a great comedic bit as the ballet was starting, where Andre couldn't climb into his box seat and one of the fops had to push him up into it. And then they had to yell at the fop to get offstage; the guy seemed to be having way too much fun for his own good. Interestingly, there were no Phantom shadows on the floor backdrop (sorry; "Les Mis" moment Embarassed) at any point during the ballet, and no evil laughter. I wondered why, but it didn't take long for me to get my answer -- Buquet's dead body (most certainly a dummy) fell to the floor suddenly with an incredibly loud "thud," making pretty much everyone in the audience jump. Sometimes, less is more. To make sure everyone could tell what happened (which I find to be a problem in some official productions), Firmin yelled "Buquet!" It was kind of similar to what some productions do after Piangi's death later in the show.


The Rooftop / All I Ask of You / Reprise:

The rooftop set was gorgeous; they were clearly going for kind of a blend of the classic Björnson set and the actual Palais Garnier, so it looked mostly like the Garnier but with a large angel statue facing backstage and no Apollo.

Raoul was superb throughout this scene; very protective and seeming to make an honest effort to understand what was going on. Oddly, Christine seemed more angry than scared for the first section. I guess it could have worked if they were playing it as her being angry that Raoul wasn't taking her seriously, but Raoul came across as really nice and sweet here, so Christine seemed like she was just in a bad mood for no reason.

Once "All I Ask of You" began, though, she came across as much more gentle, and the chemistry between the pair was excellent. Vocally, they were both superb and very compatible; in this song, at least, Christine's voice seemed matched up better with Raoul than with the Phantom in the scenes they'd had together. The blocking seemed more or less the same as in replica productions, complete with Raoul picking up and spinning with Christine after their first kiss.

After they left the rooftop, lights came up on the Phantom, who may very well have been standing in shadow next to the angel statue the whole time. He sang his bit with heartbreaking passion, and his vibrato on certain notes reminded me a bit of Steve Barton. Since the angel statue didn't rise up, they simply had the curtains close and then open again to reveal the "Il Muto" cast with Christine in front, dressed in the Countess costume. No "Go!" from the Phantom, but in its place were some superb sound effects of a chain being pulled to breaking point and then snapping. The chandelier fell to the stage pretty quickly, and instead of a blinding flash, there was another great sound effect of it shattering as it hit.


Intermission

The three of us left our seats to get some air -- the theater had a really nice outdoor balcony. We also had the option of getting drinks, but decided against it. We talked a bit about the performance; my sister and Chris agreed that Carlotta was their favorite so far, and they also liked the more rockish Phantom a lot more than they expected. They also agreed with me that thus far, Christine seemed to be a better vocal match for Raoul than the Phantom. After a quick bathroom break (since I'd been holding it since before the show... nowhere near as crazy as what I did for Pirates of the Caribbean 3, though!), we went back in to kick off...


Act II


Entr'acte / Masquerade:


Unlike the performance of the US Tour I saw back in '09, this production waited until everyone was settled into their seats before starting the Entr'acte, which I liked. The Entr'acte was played quite well (though, as with most orchestras, they took the "Music of the Night" section a bit faster than I generally like). The Managers entered from the emergency exits on either side of the stage with their respective dates for the evening -- neat touch. After each figured out who the other was, they started laughing for a moment before starting to sing. Interestingly, Firmin sang "...what a charming party" rather than "splendid." Andre did a hilarious little dance move during his line, whipping off his cloak to reveal his skeleton outfit and dancing in a manner kinda like Bonejangles from Corpse Bride.

"Masquerade" was very much like the replica productions in terms of the sets, choreography, and most of the costumes. The orchestra again sounded really big and full, which I loved. And for a neat little Phan treat, there was one person in the ensemble who was dressed just like Claude Rains' Phantom from the 1943 film, blue mask and all. There was also someone who had a Herbert Lom-style one-eyed mask, but with a completely different outfit; and another wearing a mask similar to Charles Dance's from the 1990 miniseries. They were the ones to dance with Christine during the part where she was surrounded by people who might possibly be the Phantom, which made for a fun "a-ha" moment for those who've seen multiple versions of the story.

Speaking of Christine, hers was the only costume that didn't seem to fit the scene. In fact, that's a bit of an understatement -- she was wearing a white outfit that seemed to be halfway between a 1920s flapper dress and a '50s era poodle skirt. I'm not usually a stickler for historical accuracy (especially since I haven't studied the period enough to know the difference most of the time), but when it's that blatant, it kinda breaks the illusion.

Red Death's outfit, on the other hand, was superb. It seemed to be almost the perfect middle ground between the Red Death costumes of Lon Chaney and Robert Englund -- Chaney-esque mask and cloak, but the rest of the outfit was very Englund-inspired. He had a great, intimidating stage presence (and interestingly, still had his ruby ring on to contrast with the diamond one Raoul had given Christine), and at the end, a narrow stream of fog shot up from the stage to neatly cover up his disappearing act.

Madame Giry's scene with Raoul was played more slowly than in traditional productions. Somehow, though, I think I liked it better when it was done that way. There seemed to be more tension when it was done slower, and so it felt more like an actual scene rather than just filler to cover up a set change. Despite Giry's silly accent, her singing was quite good as well.


Notes / Twisted Every Way:

Some extra repeated measures/vamps, particularly at the beginning, probably to help the scene change go more smoothly. This scene went quite nicely, and unlike the "Notes" sequence from Act I, didn't seem to lose energy toward the end. The Managers did a great job of acting increasingly desperate without losing the characters' humor potential. Raoul was wonderfully brave and "take-charge," and Christine was quite good here as well -- she seemed to do better with scenes where it was obvious what emotion she was supposed to be feeling. Raoul was nicely consoling, and seemed to be going for what he saw as the surest way to protect Christine; his thought process could probably best be described as "better to have Christine sing and then be rid of the Phantom forever, rather than spare her the trauma now but risk worse things happening down the road."


"Don Juan" Rehearsal:

This part began with the chorus tuning to the piano playing a dissonant chord -- not sure if it was to help the singers get the right pitches in their heads, or to get the audience used to the style of music in the Phantom's composition. The scene became a veritable gold mine of laughs mainly due to the interaction between Reyer and Piangi. Piangi was visibly very irritated at having to be corrected in front of everyone else, and seemed especially outraged that the chorus was allowed to rest while he had to keep working on singing that troublesome section. Eventually, he completely lost his temper and angrily corrected Reyer's pronunciation of his name. Carlotta, Giry, and Christine seemed to fall into the background, but interestingly, Giry and Reyer again joined in with the chorus when they all sang both at the beginning and end of the scene.


Graveyard Scene:

Here was another scene where Christine was quite good. Interestingly, they used the "Three long years..." lyric in the second verse instead of the more common "Passing bells..." one. The set was quite a bit like the traditional one, but with the addition of a stone bench for Christine to sit on during the instrumental bit before the finale for "Wishing."

The Phantom was excellently seductive in "Wandering Child," and I was very pleased to see that, like the high school version, they did the trio -- I hope this is a sign that the version available for school / community theater productions includes it by default. The "fireballs" were done in quite an interesting way; the Phantom had a skull staff that fired what seemed to be a jet of smoke illuminated by an orange LED light so that it would look like a quick stream of flame. The Phantom finally got to throw in some evil cackling here, and seemed generally very gleeful in threatening Raoul. After Raoul and Christine left, the Phantom made his threat against them and then the area filled with orange smoke until the curtains closed. It looked quite cool, and I suppose it's the best we can hope for when theaters don't have the equipment to do the "fire wall" effect.


Before the Premire / "Don Juan Triumphant":

This scene was done pretty normally, other than the fact that there were six doors that had to be "secured" in the theater. The Phantom had an interesting take on the "I'm here" lines -- the first was normal, the second was in kind of a sing-song tone, and the third was a creepy whisper that seemed to come from everywhere at once. That last one was accompanied by someone's shadow appearing in Box 5 right behind Raoul, which the marksman fired at. Also interesting was a kind of extended pause between "Let the audience in" and "Let my opera begin."

The "Don Juan" scene was expertly done -- the sets and costumes were pretty much Björnson on a budget, but the blocking was new. The ensemble began the scene seated at the table, apparently having finished off an extravagant feast, and were enjoying goblets of wine (poured with gusto by Carlotta) as they sang. As they departed, Piangi and Meg exited his backroom and both adjusted their trousers, making it quite clear what their characters had been getting up to, before Meg went into her dance and Piangi tossed her some money. Passarino and Piangi shined in their section, though Piangi started a tad late on "Furtively we'll scoff and quaff." Christine's lines were sung offstage, and when she entered the scene, she flashed a million-dollar smile and a bit of thigh at the audience, garnering much applause. (Clearly, this was a "young Hollywood" Christine.)


The Point of No Return:

The Phantom's costume was rather interesting -- he wore a Grim Reaper-esque black cloak, but as his (masked) face was still clearly visible, there was no way to mistake him for Piangi. He and Christine mainly did the original choreography for the scene, but with some minor changes; it was clear that the Phantom was the one in control the whole time, even when Christine thought she was the one seducing him. Their voices, though, seemed more "equal" than they had in the title song. Interestingly, the Phantom took the hood off himself before the final stanza, and then whipped the cloak off completely at the end.

During the "Say You'll Share With Me" section, the Phantom held Christine in an embrace somewhat like in the '04 movie, but with the addition of sliding his ruby ring off his finger and onto hers... quite a neat touch. Meanwhile, instead of just walking in from the wings, the policemen actually ran down the aisles and stormed the stage to try to capture the Phantom, which I really liked. Again, superbly emotional vocal delivery from the Phantom, and Christine played the moment quite well, too -- she looked like she simply didn't know what to do, and snatched off the mask as a last resort.

The deformity was different from the regular version, but still very well done. It looked like the Phantom had an extremely severe case of leprosy over half his face; certainly much worse than the sunburn / mild allergic reaction that a certain movie went for. He grabbed Christine and held her in front of him to stop the policemen from shooting as he walked off into the wings. Meg opened the curtain in front of the hidden room, and poor Piangi tumbled out with the rope around his neck, eyes rolled back, and tongue hanging out grotesquely -- me likey! Meg screamed, not as epically as some professional Megs I've seen/heard, but still good. The onstage chaos was played really well, and the orchestra took us into the next scene...


Final Lair Scene:

Interestingly, the Phantom and Christine started the "Down Once More" section on the bridge, and made their way down the spiral staircase as he sang. (The Phantom flubbed a bit here, singing "Down that path dark as darkness, deep as hell" -- still kinda worked, especially if you mentally added in that comma as you listened. Laughing) When he sang "Hounded out by everyone...", they got in the boat and sailed out of the scene. Then, Raoul and Giry entered and had their short dialogue before Giry headed out. Rather than dive in (since I doubt there was a trapdoor there), Raoul took off his jacket, hurried down the stairs and then appeared to wade into the lake, finally disappearing into the fog as the mob showed up on the bridge above.

The candelabras and organ moved in, but unlike the first lair scene, they were clearly being pushed in by stagehands -- not sure if they were automated the first time and the machines broke down, or if the stagehands were just better at keeping hidden then. The Phantom dragged Christine in, and then with a quick arm movement, appeared to slam the portcullis shut while standing far away from it. (Very fast people operating the flies there, I'm guessing, as well as a nice nod to the Phantom's "magician" tendencies.) Christine was quite good here -- finally, a scene where being angry is appropriate. The Phantom came across really well, managing to get across both his pitiable nature and the fact that he could still be very dangerous. As he sang "This face," Christine again appeared to show him pity and compassion, but also tempered it by keeping in mind that he had been manipulating her for his own selfish ends all this time.

When Raoul appeared, the Phantom got quite gleeful... Not to the extent that Anthony Crivello did in the Vegas cast, but it was still a lot of fun to watch. They played the moment after Raoul enters the lair in a really interesting way: Christine was lying on the ground looking terrified and trying to motion to Raoul to watch out, but Raoul became unnerved by the Phantom getting up in his face (a bit of blocking that reminded me of a scene I loved from the 1979 remake of Nosferatu) and backed away. All the while, the Punjab Lasso was lowering behind Raoul's head. Finally, he backed right into it, and it turned around in the air and caught his neck. Simple, effective, and managed to avoid making Raoul look like an idiot -- what more can one ask for?

The trio was excellently done -- the emotion was perfect from all three players. The Phantom rushed a bit on "So do you end your days with me?", but otherwise, the vocals were superb from all of them as well. I especially loved the way the Phantom was able to walk the emotional tightrope between desperation and insanity for the whole scene. Christine was excellent at trying to keep from breaking down completely as she attempted to pull the Phantom back from the brink, and Raoul struggled against his bonds pretty well. The kiss was superbly done, and the Phantom made it believable that he'd never had anything close to that level of human contact before. His arms slowly, awkwardly went around Christine, and it was plain from his body language that not only wasn't he quite sure what to do, but he was also struggling just to hold it together for that moment.

Afterward, the Phantom hobbled over to his throne, leaving Christine to free Raoul from the lasso. He played his emotional breakdown well, and then finally yelled for Raoul and Christine to leave... but then, something really interesting happened: they didn't leave. The pair climbed into the boat and Raoul was about to push off, but Christine looked back at the Phantom, and then grabbed Raoul's arm to stop him. The young lovers turned to see the Phantom broken-hearted and singing to his music box. (And yes, the Phantom's tears were real -- I could see them.) Even Raoul looked like he genuinely pitied and felt compassion for this man, even though he'd almost been killed a couple minutes before. It's amazing how much a single, easy blocking change like that can improve the audience's perception of an often underappreciated character.

As the Phantom finished, Raoul let go of Christine's hand and she ran to the Phantom to return his ring. Then she kissed his forehead (woohoo, nod to Leroux!) and they embraced for a moment before he let her go and she returned to Raoul. They sailed offstage as they sang, and the Phantom delivered his final lines. He missed the top note due to his voice cracking from the emotion of the scene, and then he pulled his cloak over him. Meg and the angry mob came in through the open portcullis, and then the dancer pulled back the cloak to reveal only the mask remaining. She held up the mask, and the lights faded out on it as the music ended. Simply a beautiful moment, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.


After the Show:

I was intrigued to see that the orchestra performed the playout music while the cast took their bows, rather than saving it for after curtain call. I'm of two minds about that -- on one hand, I'm glad they had some music to perform during the bows, but on the other, I also like to hear the piece played with less audience noise if possible. Guess there's no real way to do both, though, unless Lord Andrew goes back and writes some music for the orchestra to play during curtain call. (Hey, if they could have one for Les Misérables...) Regardless, it was a fantastic performance and the cast deserved every second of applause they got. I do hope that at least some future productions will be able to look at this one and get some ideas; while by no means perfect, I think I'd hold this up as the gold standard for how a low-budget, non-replica production of the show could be done.

Part of my hope in posting this review is that someone looking to do their own production will be able to get some good ideas from what Ron Bright and this cast accomplished. I've got tickets to see another performance, bringing my parents along this time, and I look forward to letting them see such a superb work of theatre. If the experience is different enough, I may post a review of that show as well. I'm hoping to also get a chance to meet the actors after that performance -- I'm told they have a meet-and-greet with the audience after every show, though we weren't able to stay this time, and I look forward to giving them my compliments and picking their brains a bit as far as how they came up with some of their acting choices. (Some answers from that may find their way here as well. ;-))

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Re: POTO - Paliku Community Theatre, Hawaii

Post  operafantomet on Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:12 am

Very interesting to read a full review of a local production. Thank you! Do you know if there is a set of pictures anywhere? or at least pics of some of the key scenes and/or the chandelier?

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Re: POTO - Paliku Community Theatre, Hawaii

Post  starryeyed on Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:03 pm

operafantomet wrote:Very interesting to read a full review of a local production. Thank you! Do you know if there is a set of pictures anywhere? or at least pics of some of the key scenes and/or the chandelier?

The only picture I've managed to find is one in a review : clicky not seen any of the sets etc.

ETA: clicky more pictures and a rehearsal video.

Also meant to say loved reading this review, I'd really like to see a local production of Phantom but I think it'll be some time off before we get any in the UK!

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Re: POTO - Paliku Community Theatre, Hawaii

Post  IamErik771 on Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:54 pm

Oh wow. Wowowow... *babbles like an idiot*

Okay, so. This past Saturday, I saw the show again, and at intermission, I asked one of the ushers if I could take some photos before Act II began. He said sure. (sadly, my camera died shortly afterward... I did manage to get the chandelier and Box 5, though!) After a moment, he asked me, "Hey... Are you the blogger who wrote a long review of the show?" I said yes (all the while a bit surprised), and he told me the whole cast and crew had read and loved it, and asked me to come backstage afterward to look at the sets up close! (Of all the days not to bring extra batteries for the camera...)

So yes, after the show, I got to take a tour and see many of the sets. To my surprise, much of the furniture was from the Canadian Tour in 1994 -- apparently, Hawaii was their last stop before closing for good, and they donated many set pieces to the Hawaii Opera Theatre. When HOT found out about this production, they let them use the furniture... so yes, a lot of it was authentic! Pretty awesome, I think. I also got to meet several of the actors to congratulate them in person (though Mme. Giry jokingly chided me for making fun of her accent; Laughing). So yes, 'twas an awesome night, and for the most part, the cast was even better the second time around. ^_^

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Re: POTO - Paliku Community Theatre, Hawaii

Post  Raphael on Sun Oct 30, 2011 3:20 pm

Wow, that's awesome, IamErik771! Isn't it amusing to be recognized outside of the internet for something you do?

That production was in a very unique position to be able to utilize actual props from the tour. Few amateur productions will be able to do that.

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Re: POTO - Paliku Community Theatre, Hawaii

Post  IamErik771 on Tue Mar 13, 2012 5:29 pm

Just stumbled onto this -- not sure if it fits better here or in the YouTube thread, but it's a demo reel for Lydia Pusateri (who played Christine in this production), starting with a bit of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" recorded from a performance of the show. Here's the link!

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Re: POTO - Paliku Community Theatre, Hawaii

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