Review, U.S. Tour in Toronto Dec. 16 2015.

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Review, U.S. Tour in Toronto Dec. 16 2015.

Post  Blind Phan on Sat Dec 19, 2015 3:34 pm

First of all, need I say that my reviewing is based strictly on the auditory aspects of the show? :-) It's been a good many years now since I could see any of it except the pyrotechnics! Now, thanks to reviews I've read here, I do have some idea of the changes Laurence Connor's made to the staging and design. :-) Thanks todaaefor! But it's been a while since I read them, so the details weren't fresh in my head when I went on Wednesday. So I'm just going on what I heard and, sometimes, my fuzzy memory of what you guys have said.

Anyway, that being said, my overall impression was of brilliance shining through LOL in spite of Laurence Connor's best efforts to kill it. :-( It's kind of sad when actors have to be brilliant in spite of their director rather than because of him, but these guys get full marks for doing so! So, with that said, on with Act I!

Prologue:

Ok. Once I got my brain around the scene actually having a beginning instead of being dropped right into the middle of it, I really liked the auctioneer. I really believed him as an auctioneer. He had that "salesman" feel, with the slightly nasal voice. I liked how he was kind of oblivious to the creepiness of the Chandelier lot even as it was building around him. I've never heard it done that way before, so at first I didn't know what to make of it. But I found it kind of worked! Liked older Raoul too!

Overture:

Woah! Gorgeous! LOL They must have splurged on players or something, because that orchestra sounded bloody huge! It was great, though, because you got a really full, rich sound. Awesome!

Hannibal:

Again, woah! Loved Jacquelynne Fontaine's "This trophy" cadenza! Wow! Now that's how an actual opera-singer would do it! Usually I kind of have to suspend my disbelief to imagine Carlotta as an opera-singer, because she sounds like a music-theatre singer with a really wide range. But this chick really sounded the part! What the heck was with her interrupting the accompanist and restarting Think of Me, though? Liked her "these things do happen" speech, too, although not the best I've ever heard.

Loved David Benoit and Edward Staudenmayer as the managers! Wow! LOL Those two even have gorgeous speaking voices! And I really liked how they played the characters - suave, but as real people, not hammed up to strain for laughs.

LOL Though, Christine as the "promising dancer" instead of Meg? REally Laurence Connor? What is she supposed to be - super-girl?

LOL WAsn't sure, at this point, if I liked Anne Kanengeiser's Mme. Giry or not. She was somewhat over-the-top, and I couldn't decide if it worked.

Think of Me:

:-( I have to say the Christine (don't know whether I heard Katie Travis or her alternate) did not make a good first impression. She grew on me as the evening went, though! But, especially during softer passages, I found her voice rather thin, with an nasal edge from her American accent, and having a tight, quavery vibrato that really made me wince. As a result, at this point, I didn't believe her as a opera-singer. Again, she sounded like a music-theatre singer pretending to be an opera-singer and not succeeding. And I was also like "the Phantoms in love with this voice?"

Angel of Music:

Morgan Cowling has a nice voice! At that point, I liked her voice better than Christine's. :-) Was starting to like Mme. Giry, though. Her over-the-topness was starting to work!

Ahem. And, may I just add that, given what I've heard about all the nods to the Gerik in this production, I was so incredibly relieved that Laurence Connor didn't take it into his head to include those lines where Christine says she believes her teacher might actually be the spirit of her father himself? Thank God!!! Those lines make the whole thing just way too creepy!

The Mirror:

Um, LOL Don't remember my first impression of STorm Lineberger's Raoul? Liked the fact that Christine made a more assertive attempt to tell him that she couldn't go out to supper, though. :-) I prefer my Christine's with a spine!

I have to say that Chris Mann didn't make a good first impression either. Though, like the Christine, he really grew on me! But, like her, he had the problem of a voice that went thin and kind of harsh when singing softly. And WTF is with that vibrato! Sheesh!

And, WTF was with the transition from AOM to the Title Song? Usually, that's one of my favourite parts of the show! I love the way the tension and excitement are built up in the music until it crashes into the scene-change! :-( But Laurence Connor's changes blew that one.

The Phantom of the Opera:

:-) This song is what first made me fall head-over-heals in love with POTO, and it's always one of the most magical parts of the show for me if not the most. So it has to work! And, I have to say, it really did! Woah! For one thing, that orchestra again. Loved that full, rich, thick sound!

And this was also where Chris Mann and whoever played Christine really began to grow on me. I loved what they did with the lyrics to this song! And, here, they were both really able to cut loose and sing full out. And it made both their voices absolutely come out of their shells! :-) And her high part at the end kicked ass! Though, :-( I prefer the Phantom's traditional lines there, not Laurence Conor's idea of it somehow being a music lesson.

Music of the Night:

:-( Unfortunately, MOTN didn't work nearly so well. In fact, imho, it kind of fell on its ass. For one thing, as I said before, Chris Mann's voice tends to go thin and harsh when soft. And that damned vibrato! And these things weren't helped by Laurence Connor's direction. I would have liked it sung much more tenderly. LOL Lovely final note, though! At least until the vibrato kicked back in.

STYDI:

Yeah, this was another spot where Laurence Connor's changes intruded even into the auditory experience. "Who *is* that shape in the shadows? Whose *was* the face in the mask?" Really?

"Damn you..." Really actually liked what Chris Mann did with this. It was angry and distraught, but not so totally furious that it wouldn't have made sense with the new staging I thought. (again, keep in mind I'm not seeing his actions, just hearing how he delivered the lines.) And STYDI itself was really moving. Wow! Loved the way he did that!

Magical Lasso:

WTF? This scene honestly made no sense. I mean, if the Phantom and Christine don't reappear in the middle of it, which it didn't sound like they did (at least, there was no screamy reaction), then what's the point of the scene? Liked Mme. Giry here, though. Nice and dramatic and creepy! She did hit one really nasty note, though. Ouch!

Notes/Prima Donna:

:-) Loved, loved, loved Benoit and Staudenmayer here! Man, those two have gorgeous singing voices! Wow! Really liked what they did with the scene, too. Liked how they played the managers straight, letting the humour come from the situation instead of hamming it up. I think I liked Lineberger here. Though, all through Act I, he kind of felt overshadowed by everyone else. Liked Jacquelynne Fontaine in this scene vocally, but would have liked her more pissed off. I've read that she tries to play Carlotta more humanly and less over-the-top, but I didn't think it worked here. I mean, LOL if you're going to say "how dare you" to an aristocrat in 1881, you've got to be a full-on diva about it! Loved the ensemble singing, though. Gorgeous!

:-) And Mme. Giry's over-the-topness really worked here. Loved it!

Not sure I'm nuts about Chris Mann's speaking voice, though, although I seem to recall liking how he delivered his lines.

Il Muto:

Loved Fontaine here! Again, really believed her as an opera-singer! LOL Loved her "croak" too! Very funny! Raoul and the managers did it really well also. Nice bravado and comedy! Again, liked the way Mann delivered his lines, though not the timber of his speaking voice. Great "She is singing to bring down the chandelier" though!

Um, what was with the horsing around while Andre/Firmin (I always forget which it is) was announcing the ballet, though? And, why the hell did they cut half the minor key section of Dance of the Country Nymphs? I love that part!

And did we really have to hear the murder of Joseph Buquet as well as see it? Relatedly, um, maybe it was just drown out by the orchestra, which was playing full at that point, but, for having just (I assume) seen Buquet's corpse flung down toward the stage, the reaction seemed a bit underwhelming! I didn't even hear a decent scream! Like, huh?

Rooftop:

This was where the Christine really began to grow on me. I still didn't like the timber and tone-quality of her voice, but I loved her delivery of her lines here! She really got the emotion! Lineberger felt like a bit of a non-entity, though.

AIAOY Reprise:

Loved the way Mann did this! Well, at least, until he got to "you will curse...". That part fell on its ass imho. But the first part was really moving!

Loved that you could actually hear the chandelier crash! Cool! Or, at least, something made a really loud bang after the Phantom yelled "go"?

:-) Anyway, that was Act I. I'd better give my computer a rest as it's heating up more than I'd like, get more coffee, and get some work done. :-) But I'll post Act II later!

Blind Phan

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Re: Review, U.S. Tour in Toronto Dec. 16 2015.

Post  MarySkater on Sun Dec 20, 2015 10:44 pm

Thanks for this, Blind Phan. it's good to know that the music (mostly) survives this "alternative" production. Maybe lovers of the original show should be prepared to put on a blindfold to enjoy this one better. Smile

I appreciate your taking the time to write this up, and look forward to your review of Act II.

Mary

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Re: Review, U.S. Tour in Toronto Dec. 16 2015.

Post  Blind Phan on Sat Jan 09, 2016 3:51 am

:-) Thanks Mary! And you're most welcome! LOL I didn't quite mean for it to take me this long to get around to posting Act II. Oops! What can i say? Very busy holiday! :-) Awesome and fun, but very busy. Anyway, we'll have to hope my memory's up to it! Though, when it comes to music, it usually is.


(As a parenthetical question, though, can some one tell me wtf's with the character listed in the cast-list as "Princess"? Princess who? What? Where the hell did she come from?

Anyhow, on with the 2nd Act!

Entract:

Need I say sumptuous? This was another spot where that extra-rich orchestra really came through in an awesome way!

Masquerade:

Musically gorgeous! The orchestra were, of course, wonderfully lush, and the ensemble singing was fantastic! But I could sense, though, and maybe it's because I've read about the new staging of this scene and its less spectacular results, that the audience weren't spellbound. The energy from the audience just wasn't at that level.

Why So Silent...?

Really liked the way Chris Mann did this! Nice and commanding. There are certain people who have commanding stage-presence in their voice as well as just in their physicality, and Mann's one of those! Really liked the slow-down in the strings just before "Your chains are still mine...". Nice touch! :-) Loved the explosion that marked the Phantom's exit! I thought I'd read that it had been cut out, but I do remember seeing and hearing one!

Backstage/Phantom's back-story:

Really liked Lineberger in this scene. Nice urgency and tension. In fact, from having been a bit of a non-entity in the first Act, he really came into his own in Act II! Mme. Giry, however, really did not work in this scene. I don't know what the problem was? It just seemed like she wasn't there - like she was saying the lines, but without meaning them.

(As a parenthetical note, I'm so glad this production kept the original dialogue for this scene! Thank God! Though, that may be why Mme. Giry was having trouble with it, given the disjuncture between her lines and what, I understand, was being projected on the wall of the set - the flashback sequence from the Gerik? Anyway, I'm so glad they didn't change her lines to match the projection! Phew!!)

Notes II:

This rocked! David Benoit and Edward Staudenmayer were, once again, great, and Anne Kanengeiser's Mme. Giry was back on form! Great build-up of tension into "Twisted Every Way" from Raoul, Christine and the managers! Would, again, have liked Carlotta to be more Diva and aggressive, though. Liked "You vicious woman" instead of "you evil woman"! Though, it'd have worked better if Jacquelynne Fontaine's Carlotta actually was vicious. "Twisted..." was really good, though! Nice distress from Christine! WTF was with the transition into the DJT rehearsal, though? That sounded weird!

DJT Rehearsal:

I'm sorry, but this scene fell on its ass. Nice interaction between Mme. Giry and Carlotta, but, otherwise, the pacing was all wrong! No tension! This scene is supposed to be somewhat creepy, and it just wasn't.

(And, as an observation not unique to this production, it kind of kills the humour if the note Pianji keeps getting wrong isn't the one Reyer's trying to correct him on.)

Graveyard/WYWSHA:

One word. Wow! This was where the Christine (and I still don't know if I heard Katie Travis or Celia Hottenstein) really grew on me. I loved the emotion she put into/brought out of WYWSHA! Also, this was where I actually believed her as an opera-singer. There's real power in that voice! But also, real control (except of her vibrato).

Wandering Child:

I've never heard the trio version of this done live before, but I absolutely loved it! Wow! LOL I can see how, as I've read here, it might work better musically than visually unless the director can really figure out what to do with Raoul. But, oh man, does it ever work musically! It helped, of course, that Mann's, Lineberger's and the Christine's voices blended beautifully. LOL They do the trio version of WC in the Albert Hall production too, but the voices kind of clash, so it doesn't work as well. :-) But it really worked here! And the emotion they all put into the scene was awesome too. Man, these guys can seriously act!

This was another one of those places where you really felt Chris Mann's stage-presence, too - where it really came through in his voice. And the tension between him and Lineberger during "Bravo Monsieur" was awesome! Wow! You could have cut it with a knife! You could really feel the two characters' mutual hatred.

:-) And yay! Fireballs! I read that they'd been cut from this production, but I know I saw three! Not the full five, but at least three! And, of course, the stage bursting into flames at the end. Squee!!!

Before the DJT Performance:

By this point, I'm beginning to think Laurence Connor has no idea how to build up tension when it has to be done purely through sound, and maybe no idea that he needs to! Why were Raoul and the managers so calm? And there were only three doors secured, not five! And the Phantom's taunting of them was cut way short! WTF? :-( That's another one of my favourite parts of the show that Connor just blew!

DJT proper/PONR:

Well thank God, this scene made up for it. Again, the orchestra and the ensemble-singing were sumptuous! And PONR positively crackled with electricity! And again, because both Chris Mann and the Christine were able to sing full out, their voices really shone here.

Loved Mann's AIAOY Reprise here! Woah! Emotional! Unfortunately, though, in the chaos that followed, Kanengeiser's and Lineberger's lines were nearly drown out by the orchestra and the other cast-members. I don't think I'd have caught what they were saying if I hadn't known it already! Which is unfortunate, as Mme. Giry's and Raoul's lines are really important here!

Down Once More/Final Lair:

Obviously, I can't speak to the staging or the physical acting. But, in terms of the way the lines were delivered, to my delighted surprise, I've got no major complaints! I loved the way Mann and the Christine acted this sequence! Again, very emotional! I especially loved the way Mann bit out the words "useless pity" during the trio section. Ouch! And I loved the way the Christine did the "Pitiful creature of darkness..." line. Among the best I've heard!

:-( Again, though, Laurence Connor has no sense of tension when it has to be built up through sound alone! Yeesh! He cut the snare-drum solo that leads up to the Phantom's release of Raoul and Christine almost completely! WTF?

I don't remember whether or not I liked Chris Mann's delivery of the "take her, forget me.." passage or his "Christine I love you", though I have a feeling I didn't. But, to my surprise and relief (given his "You will curse.." back at the end of Act I), his final lines - his "You alone cam make my song take flight. It's over now..." - absolutely worked! Very powerful, both vocally and emotionally. Wonderful dignity! And, of course, the orchestra's final bit was just beautiful!

Anyway, as you can tell, I liked this production far more than I expected to. Indeed, if only it had the original staging and design, this would be one of the best productions of POTO out there! I've rarely heard an entire cast this strong, both in their vocal abilities and, more importantly, in their acting. :-) So I'm totally planning to go back and hear it again at least twice more!)

Blind Phan

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Re: Review, U.S. Tour in Toronto Dec. 16 2015.

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