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Phantom Las Vegas 16 July 2007 (Crivello/Loyacano/Gleason)

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Phantom Las Vegas 16 July 2007 (Crivello/Loyacano/Gleason) Empty Phantom Las Vegas 16 July 2007 (Crivello/Loyacano/Gleason)

Post  Raphael Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:54 pm

Here's another of my old reviews. Think I'll post them once a week until they're all up. Enjoy.

Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular - 16 July 2007 9:30pm: The "Ms. Loyacano, I've Never Wanted To Be An Apple So Bad In My Entire Life" Edition

This dedication goes out to Ms. Elizabeth Loyacano (not two words into my review and I've already turned into Casey Kasem) as she enters her last month with the Las Vegas production.

To put this particular review in perspective, originally I hadn't intended to return to Vegas this soon after my last visit due to budgetary constraints. But when I learned not too long ago that Ms. Loyacano was leaving the show in August of this year, the thought of not seeing her perform as Christine one last time changed my plans -- including nixing the possibility of seeing two other musicals in my immediate area. Judicious cutting of corners and some well-timed special offers (apparently it does pay to get on those email lists) allowed me to put together a vacation budget that worked out satisfactorily and would not only give me the chance to see the Crivello/Loyacano duo, but also see Brent Barrett and Kristi Holden as well.

As I wanted to commit this performance to memory, I spent the bulk of the evening with a pair of opera glasses glued to my face, checking out Elizabeth's exquisite talents.

Hmm. Poor choice of words. I mean to say that I was dutifully observing the nuances of Ms. Loyacano's performance. Yeah. Hope that makes me seem less pervy.

*clears throat nervously*

Anyway, as a result of my perfectly understandable preoccupation, the other cast members may get short-shrift in this review. But I'll do my best to comment on the entire show and everyone involved as appropriate to their proximity to Elizabeth.

So let's get this review started properly…

Brianne, you were a frikkin' knockout in that dress.

That about sums up the pre-show review.

Oh, and Joseph was there as well. Sorry Joseph, you kinda slipped my mind there for a sec. I also presented Brianne with the First Anniversary card that she thought was adorable. Again, much thanks to everyone who participated - your words of congratulations are now pinned up to the bulletin board backstage for everyone to read.

Phantom Las Vegas 16 July 2007 (Crivello/Loyacano/Gleason) 1ann01

Alright, I'm pretty sure that's it for the pre-show.

It looked like a packed house, so my friend and I (did I fail to mention him too? Must be that dress again...) weren't able to get a seating upgrade, but no matter since it was my friend's first time to the Vegas production and our seats were in the perfect spot to view everything without serious neck-wrenching.

Michael Lackey -- my favorite André of all time, by the way -- continues to make for the creepiest Auctioneer (I met him before the show, too. He even complimented me on my artwork. How could I have forgotten that? Curse that dress, you vixen!). The Overture and the reassembly of the chandelier still spoils me for all other productions -- it's just that impressive. The grandness of the chandelier itself, the sound system, the lighting, and the auditorium's opulence all make for a complete sensory experience.

Interestingly, the pacing seemed less hurried this time around, although I'm not sure if it was something the cast did that night or if I'm grown accustomed to how the LV version of the scene plays. Geena Jeffries Mattox's Carlotta, while certainly not a conservative take, it did not push the humor into the incredulous as I've seen others play the part in the past. She plays the role in a fine middle ground that still garners laughter from the audience.

Think of Me:
Ms. Loyacano immediately showcases her excellent acting in the very first lines of this song. Her voice quavering, barely a whisper, it appears she is on the verge of tears from her nervousness. Yet her voice soon grows more confident, mirrored in her posture and expression until it bursts into full bloom as the scene transitions into the gala night. The breathiness I heard in both Loyacano's and Boggess' voices last year was gone, revealing more polished, pure vocals.

Angel of Music:
Random observation #1: Hey, I never noticed that little business the ballerinas have with the pointe shoes before.

Brianne's Meg is still the most adorable, inquisitive Meg I've yet to see. As before, her connection to -- What?Elizabeth'sslippingintoherrobe?Where?!?

Little Lotte/The Mirror:
Just like last time, Ms. Loyacano shows a lot of emotional range in this scene, going from slight confusion to growing awareness to happiness to alarm over the course of her interaction with Raoul. And Anthony Crivello's booming voice in his intro is fantastic.

Music of the Night:
This scene is probably one of the top reasons I find Ms. Loyacano's Christine so intriguing. She is very aware of her surroundings yet the Phantom's voice enthralls her. Mr. Crivello's commanding voice is like a living thing -- as if manifesting itself physically in the air, it takes her, envelops her and possesses her in an almost palpable manner until he willingly lets her go. And in being so conscious of things, she displays confusion and unsureness -- sort of an uncomfortableness of being in this man's presence, like she was intimidated yet attracted at the same time -- that melt away whenever his voice takes hold of her. I also noticed that the one moment from her performance the last time that I felt was over the top (her expression as he wraps his arm over her shoulder to enter the classic MotN pose) was downplayed this time around. It helped even out things considerably. Although I kinda miss the bosom-heaving.

Stranger Than You Dreamt It:
In contrast to the more "Leroux" take from before, this time, Loyacano's Christine is more playful when she tries to unmask the Phantom. This being a pretty standard way I've seen tour Christines, the only thing that made this interpretation distinct was how she reacted to Crivello's explosive rage at the act, driving her to crumple up into a ball on the floor like a little child. Her fear continues as he crawls towards her -- backing away instinctively until he curls up in despair. And it's then that her compassion comes forth again and she returns his mask to him.

The humor in this scene is still spot-on, although it appears that both Lawson Skala and John Leslie Wolfe are starting to play up the humor a bit more like the current original production version of the managers. More on them in the next review.

Il Muto:
Random Observation #2: Ms. Loyacano's Christine is way too attractive to be convincing as a boy unless you're in a Visconti film.

As I said in my previous review, actually showing the hanging of Buquet in plain sight. It returns that killer's edge to the title character and is a cool stunt to boot. Another thing I noticed this time was that in the onstage commotion, Tim Gleason and Elizabeth slip through and go down the trapdoor stairs that they'll come back up shortly thereafter. I'm not sure if this was a technical glitch or what since I don't recall ever seeing a Raoul and Christine do such a thing.

All I Ask of You:
Very good work by both Ms. Loyacano and Tim Gleason here. Ms. Loyacano (anyone mind if I just start calling people by their first names from here on in? Seems less respectful for some reason but a heck of a lot easier to type) continued to "act" the songs - something Lisa Vroman does as well which I suppose is the approach that I enjoy the most. The spontaneity of a surprised laugh and other such apparently minor actions enhance what alone is simply a beautiful song into something more about the characters and plot.

The first kiss is tentative (I think they used the 90/10 "Hitch" rule, but don't quote me on that), as if it is Christine's first while the second is bigger -- in this case Tim initiating a dip and kiss. Sure, it's a trademarked romantic move, but staring at his back for the length of it doesn't work all that well. Unless you're into people's backs. And if that happens to be your freaky thang, well you're all set then.

Rooftop Reprise:
Anthony's reprise was a little more subdued than last time, but he had an interesting reveal atop the Angel: he was fully lit, but with his head down, the obscured everything but the blackness of his fedora and cloak -- effectively blending into the darkness until he slowly lifted his head. It was kinda cool. Had a whole "Frodo and Sam Elven Fellowship Cloak" thing going for it.

The one thing that still troubles me about this scene is how the managers are positioned at the beginning. Having sat in three different locations in the auditorium, I can attest to the difficulty in seeing them clearly depending on where you're sitting. Therefore the laugh potential of André's skeleton tights is considerably lessened simply because a certain percentage of the audience just can't see him. However, John does make his big reveal a little bolder than before (again, quite similar to how the original show Andrés do it), and that helps somewhat.

One point of note here is that when Red Death calls to Christine, Elizabeth shows through body language how quickly she succumbs to his Svengali-like mojo. I also like Brianne's reaction and how Rebecca Spencer holds her back.

Madame Giry's Tale/Notes 2/Twisted Every Way:
I still feel this portion of PLV is awkward/rushed. Is it because we lose the Phantom's last little jab at the characters through his note? Or is it the loss of Christine and Carlotta finally going at it? Could be, only because it robs some character relationships and development from the show. Carlotta, Piangi and the managers are characters with a great deal of potential as personalities and here it makes me feel like they're more like glorified extras.

"Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" is always a showcase for the actress playing Christine in that it's her only solo that isn't a "performing" song (i.e. TOM being a song from "Hannibal") but a "character" song directly connected with the plot. Here, Elizabeth really shines and even gives Lisa Vroman a run for her money in terms of the intensity of the acting. Elizabeth isn't afraid of sacrificing clarity of vocals in order to bring out the emotion of the moment, yet even in doing so, her vocals hardly suffer for it. Her frustration and desperation to find a way to resolve her dilemma is apparent in every word -- a truly moving scene that she does to perfection.

Wandering Child:
There's a great dynamic between Anthony and Elizabeth in this scene, again showing how much control her has over her. Interestingly, Anthony was shooting the fireballs pretty high that night. I wondered if it was always like that or some sort of modification for safety purposes since I seem to recall they were shot a little lower before.

Don Juan Triumphant:
I sometimes wonder if Brianne spins so often as she comes out from the bedchamber and exits in order to show off the layers of multi-colored underskirts in her costume. No complaints from me, though.

And now, we come to the part of the show that I like to call: "Dirty Things You Can Do With One Of The Basic Food Groups." Sadly, Elizabeth lost that Beyoncé strut but introduced a sassy scissor-kick (was that a flash of calf? Be still my heart…) to reposition herself 180° on the bench. And then there was the apple. Oohhh the apple…

In my last review, I described this with a line from "Biloxi Blues": "It's hot. It's like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot."

I was wrong.

It got hotter.

Prose would not do justice to that which occurred between beauty and fruit onstage that night, so I feel I must turn to poetry to best reflect what is forever burned into my memory:

Lo, to be an apple, so round and red
Plucked from my bowl by some delicate hand.
She leans forward wantonly, legs outspread
'Tis enough to make a eunuch go: "DAYYMM!"
My eyes are transfixed by fruit along thigh
Yet can't turn away despite Catholic shame.
Arching of spine, a coy glint in her eye
A glorious vixen no man shall dare tame.
As if she's a dame from some Harlequin,
She tilts her head back, lips parted and wet.
Fruit slow to descend her lily-white skin --
My God, she's making my brain start to sweat.

Such a sight, from my mouth escapes a moan,
Methinks I may need a moment alone.

Okay, so I'm no Bill Shakespeare.

The tug of war after Christine realizes the Phantom is under the cowl had a nice Argentine tango vibe in that Anthony and Elizabeth punctuated the beat with sharp tugs that jerked their shoulders back and forth in a way similar to what is called a zarandeo. As a tanguero, I found it a pleasant addition even if it felt too perfectly timed to the music to fit the reality of the situation - meaning that they should be out-of-character rather than doing more choreography from the opera.

Final Lair:
Elizabeth's "bring it!" defiant attitude was more reserved here but still retained the core emotion -- she was far from the wilting flower some Christines are. This downshifting of intensity also seemed to eliminate the "turning away in a huff with arms crossed" bit that I thought was really nice from before. But again, it appeared to be a case of balancing the performance properly instead of keeping something that would wind up seeming out of place like a wrong note struck during a fluid melody. Tim once again struck that rather casual pose at the portcullis that I find quite amusing, but Anthony's dainty little curtsey as he greets his unwanted guest was so funny and showed how little a threat his Phantom thought of Raoul.

Moving into the meat of the scene when the love triangle literally forms before our eyes. It's a point of commendation that it's so difficult to choose which actor to focus on in this scene. But at the same time, while the cage is a nice nod to the original novel, I miss the more active manner Christine tries to protect Raoul in the original staging and the tense moments after the kiss. Yet on the flip side, as least now Raoul doesn't look so incompetent by getting caught in the Punjab lasso after being explicitly warned in advance. So you win some. You lose some.

Now here's an interesting bit. The kiss. It struck me in particular because of "The Kiss" thread here on the forum. It was the first time I'd seen a Phantom actually embrace Christine. Anthony starts off as per usual with the tense, shaking arms, but with the second kiss they slowly wrap around her. Not so much hugging her tight as cradling her gently in trembling hands.

Another point if note is the return of the ring. When Elizabeth offers it, Anthony takes her hand in both of his for a long moment before she slowly pulls free and, a hand covering her lips, runs off sobbing. Also, after she's left the stage, Anthony simply stands there in shocked silence. No tearful "I love you"s or anything. It was an interesting change and I'm not sure where I stand on it. On a psychological level I get it -- too emotionally devastated to utter a word -- but I'm not sure if others would perceive it the same way. However, the silence contrasts nicely once Christine's voice is heard past the portcullis -- it's then that the Phantom begins to openly weep.

Random observation #3: Apparently it's been like this for awhile, but as the boat starts to pass out of view, Raoul always puts the pole down and begins to kneel down before Christine. And all I can think is: "They're gonna do it, aren't they? They're totally gonna do it right there on the Phantom's boat! Oh, the nerve! How disrespectful!"

General overview:
The cast really knocked this one out of the park. For a second show, everyone was still putting in lots of energy and the enthusiasm of Elizabeth's guests helped kick the mood up a few notches too. And as the last time I'll have the opportunity to see Elizabeth play Christine, it was an absolutely outstanding performance that I'll always remember.

Especially how she was molesting that apple.

After the show and quick goodbyes with Joseph, Brianne (did I mention how much of a knockout she was in that dress?) took my friend and I on a tour backstage. First thing I noticed as we popped back inside the auditorium was a small group of people sitting there - I assumed it was one of the VIP package tours. We ran into Michael Lackey (or I should say, "MichaelLackey") in the elevator again as well as Rebecca Spencer and John Leslie Wolfe in the halls.

Brianne brought us to the makeup room where Anthony was getting his prosthetics removed (pretty quickly, too. We got backstage soon after the show and he was almost done already). I found myself too dumbstruck to say anything yet again - mostly I think I commented on the Lon Chaney pic on the wall and the row of prosthetics on the table. Honestly, I think I spoke to the make-up man more than I did to Anthony *L* Although I did thank him again for the package he had mailed me after I'd sent him that illustration awhile back.

As we walked back to his dressing room we ran smack into Elizabeth and her entourage of friends and family. You know, onstage she seems not much taller than Brianne, but in person, she seems more like Yao Ming. Must be star quality, I guess, since in heels she's really not all that much taller than me. She actually came up to me to shake my hand and thank me for the illustration that I had sent *her* last year (she'd sent me a thank-you card earlier this year) and that she had put it up on her wall. She even introduced me to her mother and sister as well. Since she was leaving the show, I had whipped up a new illustration for her (showing here: )

Phantom Las Vegas 16 July 2007 (Crivello/Loyacano/Gleason) Da_toonliz

and presented it to her at that time. Everybody seemed to like it, so I'm glad I managed to capture her look in cartoon form. I made one for Sierra as well when she left the show but I was happy to be able to present this one in person. She then asked me if she could have a picture taken with me (there's a first) to which I replied, "Only if I can have one with you, too" as I lifted up my camera. So photos were taken my upper arm totally got to second base -- oops, did I just say that out loud? and there was much rejoicing. Afterwards, the thanked me again, I said it was a pleasure to meet her again or something to that effect, and then they headed off. As I told Brianne, I was pleased that I was 10% less blubbering fanboy this time around.

Anthony was still changing, so Brianne walked us down past the other dressing rooms (Elizabeth had a picture of Cinderella and a tiny "Erik's Angels: Christine" pic stuck to her door) to the one she shares with Rebecca (tiny "Erik's Angels" pics taped there as well along with all sorts of other festive decorations). She showed us her costumes (oh, operafantomet, you would have been in Seventh Heaven) told us in detail her and Rebecca's backstory for their characters. I also saw the drawing I had made for her framed up on the wall. Now, idiot that I am, I should have asked if I could have had a pic of her with it but the thought only occurred to me when I was writing up my notes in my hotel room afterwards. My drawings have allegedly popped up backstage at a number of productions, but I think it would be really cool to have pics of cast and crew posing with them for my own personal photo collection. Oh well. Maybe I should write a note on my hand for the next time.

We must have been chatting back there for quite awhile 'cuz by the time we went back to Anthony's dressing room, he was gone. I'd learn later that he thought we would be in the hall but when he didn't see us there, he assumed we had gone up to the stage but couldn't find us there either (we must have been trailing a few minutes behind him, since our next stop happened to be the stage).

Brianne gave us a very informed tour of the stage -- the speakers built into the floor, the Raoul cage and his trapdoor for the jump into the lake, all the props and sets hanging above us, a nice look at the boat and how happy Hal Prince was that it now converts into a bed instead of just being the boat repositioned on the stage (it's more than a boat, it's a Transformer!) -- just a minor change, but it does make a difference. Oh, and the pillows look a tad different from the original version ones I saw on tour. A little more ornate with touches of greek and oriental motifs to them. She also pointed out what appeared to be a flat-screen monitor that they use to see the conductor for when they're singing from the wings (apparently puppets sometimes conduct the orchestra) and all the monkey understudies tucked into a prop shelf -- this is a very stuffed animal-friendly production. We got a peek at the staircase at the far back of the stage and the mirror that "extends" the lake further back into the distance. In the opposite wing were the Elephant (and its understudy), the Don Juan bed, the throne (with the cloak and one of the mannequin's legs sticking out over an armrest), the managers desk and other sets and props. As we were leaving, she told us how during one of their -- I forget if it has a technical term, but when they were sitting in the auditorium and going through their notes early in rehearsals -- they got the first full-run preview of the chandelier reassembly (music, lighting and all) and how impressed they all had been.

We made a little more small talk once we were out in the lobby again (everything from "Spamalot" to "KA" to Harry Potter, really) before it was time to go. After lots of hugs (probably took more than my fair share), we called it a night.

One last note. In the new PLV ads, not only is Brianne featured (not very prominently, but she's there), but Elizabeth is also shown in the wedding dress and veil in a pose that, if you put a wind machine in there, wouldn't seem out-of-place in a Whitesnake video.


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Post  MlleMusique Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:58 am

Great review, Raphael! But I have one question....

What/where is "the kiss" thread?

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Post  Raphael Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:23 pm

"The Kiss" thread? Ah, it's lost in time and lost in space after POL's abrupt end Neutral


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