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The Broadway production + Original US Replica tour

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Post  ianjonbourgandethanfreema Fri Jan 10, 2014 12:15 am

I had no idea that people had been walking out!! My goodness.

And according to some recent reviews, Mark Campbell had begun to have some off nights where his voice was really beat, and he skipped high notes or sang lower ones, and instead of taking off he was performing regardless. Maybe a mix of vocal issues, and being very disheartened due to the reaction to the tour from fans and reviewers caused him to leave. He's said he has wanted to play the role since age 14 and this all must be very saddening to him  Crying or Very sad 

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Post  justin-from-barbados Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:31 pm

That is sad to hear, and if it is for those reasons it must be rather depressing, from what little I heard I thought he 'sounded' good. Hope he lands another job soon.
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Post  justin-from-barbados Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:42 pm

They finally have put out some shots of the new Phantom Cooper, I guess another casualty of the split from the original was the patented phantom 'diamond' fabric that Maria designed so that the Phantom wont be wearing just boring flat black fabric. (not that anyone but us will notice, lol)
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Post  phantom10906 Fri Jan 17, 2014 5:28 am

Broadway World put up a clip of Udine and Jacoby singing AIAOY: CLICK HERE
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Post  AlwaysChristine Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:34 am

ianjonbourgandethanfreema wrote:I had no idea that people had been walking out!! My goodness.

And according to some recent reviews, Mark Campbell had begun to have some off nights where his voice was really beat, and he skipped high notes or sang lower ones, and instead of taking off he was performing regardless. Maybe a mix of vocal issues, and being very disheartened due to the reaction to the tour from fans and reviewers caused him to leave. He's said he has wanted to play the role since age 14 and this all must be very saddening to him  Crying or Very sad 

Thats truly sad!
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Post  Modern Myth Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:49 pm

Hmm...I've seen the UK tour 5 times - 2 shows with JOJ and 3 with Earl Carpenter. And seems I'm one of the few here who absolutely loved the new tour version. And I don't compare it too much with the original (which I've seen 24x by now) - I more likely look at them in separate ways.

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Post  operafantomet Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:34 am

Modern Myth wrote:Hmm...I've seen the UK tour 5 times - 2 shows with JOJ and 3 with Earl Carpenter. And seems I'm one of the few here who absolutely loved the new tour version. And I don't compare it too much with the original (which I've seen 24x by now) - I more likely look at them in separate ways.

There's a lot I do like about the tour. What I can't get used to is how much less I like the leads (Christine and the Phantom) and how much less impact their key scenes have on me. They seem so disconnected, especially in MOTN where they REALLY should connect. Christine's constant "headache acting" is another downer, I can't see how any director would OK it.

But in general staging and re-imagination I think the tour has some definitely strong moments.

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Post  Modern Myth Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:55 am

I had no probs to feel as connected to the lead characters on the tour as I am while seeing the original. I actually thought the presence of the Phantom was even more tangible in a threatening way as in the London show because one could see his actions way better.
I liked that MOTN started as a kind of music lesson and evolved from there. I also liked the little waltz the Phantom and Christine did there on the UK tour. And for me it was ok that he wasn't that sensual presence like he is in there in the original - it worked for me thinking that he probably never was that close to a woman before and didin't know how to touch her and therefore was a bit hesitant and unsure at first to do so. It was interesting for me to see that different approach to the role.
And Christine...very much stayed the same for me. Though I liked that she recognized the Phantom through his hands on an early stage of PONR and had the upper hand in a way.
Don't know how they do it on the US tour now.

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Post  Scorp Sun Jan 26, 2014 9:47 am

Happy birthday to the Broadway production!

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Post  NightRachel Mon Jan 27, 2014 3:53 pm

Scorp wrote:Happy birthday to the Broadway production!

Yep, one year ago I was lucky enough to be at the 25th anniversary performance. That was an awesome experience!  Very Happy 

So Happy 26th anniversary to Phantom Broadway!  Smile 
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Post  phantom10906 Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:47 am

Laird Mackintosh, in adiddtion to his role as Andre, is now also a Phantom cover in the Broadway production. Saw him twice last week. Awesome Phantom.
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Post  operafantomet Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:36 pm

phantom10906 wrote:Laird Mackintosh, in adiddtion to his role as Andre, is now also a Phantom cover in the Broadway production. Saw him twice last week. Awesome Phantom.
He's getting SO much good buzz online, seems he really delivered. So cool you got to see him twice!

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Post  stephantom53 Sun Feb 02, 2014 9:29 pm

Modern Myth wrote:Hmm...I've seen the UK tour 5 times - 2 shows with JOJ and 3 with Earl Carpenter. And seems I'm one of the few here who absolutely loved the new tour version. And I don't compare it too much with the original (which I've seen 24x by now) - I more likely look at them in separate ways.

seen it 6 times and loved it completely,its different and something NEW which most fans dont seem to like which is a pity,i love to see phantom in a new way,it saddens me that there are fans that are so Loyal to the original,yes original is amazing and will never put it down but its a new production with new ideas and its phantom for god sake lol
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Post  Bric Thu Feb 06, 2014 5:11 pm

stephantom53 wrote:
Modern Myth wrote:Hmm...I've seen the UK tour 5 times - 2 shows with JOJ and 3 with Earl Carpenter. And seems I'm one of the few here who absolutely loved the new tour version. And I don't compare it too much with the original (which I've seen 24x by now) - I more likely look at them in separate ways.

seen it 6 times and loved it completely,its different and something NEW which most fans dont seem to like which is a  pity,i love to see phantom in a new way,it saddens me that there are fans that are so Loyal to the original,yes original is amazing and will never put it down but its a new production with new ideas and its phantom for god sake lol


I saw the tour production in Chicago, and I liked some of what was different and some of the new ideas. I thought it was funnier with fresher humor  than the original, the big rotating cylinder was effective, the mirror ballroom  "Masquerade" was good despite the rather mundane "Red Death" costume and the fact that the Phantom just walked in from the back. I liked featuring the chorus singing part of the Phantom's opera--more and better than in the Original show. I liked the new Monkey Music box.

What I didn't like began immediately after the Auction Scene. In the Original Production, this "Wow!" moment as the orchestra crashes into the Overture is heightened by drapes being snatched away from the gold proscenium as we make the transition into HANNIBAL.  Tour production? No gold proscenium. No drapes whipped off. A lot less of a "Wow" moment.

Aside from the big, versatile cylinder and the mirrored ballroom, I found the new "more realistic" sets mostly unimpressive and sometimes cheap looking. Hal Prince's black box sets gave the audience something to focus on and let our imaginations and excellent lighting fill in the darkness. The tour sets try to look like real rooms and other spaces. I found it harder to suspend disbelief, especially when Father Daaé's tomb was about waist high for Christine and the Apollo statue wobbled like the cheap set piece it is as it moved forward on the Opera House roof.

The first trip to the Lair is there, but it's shorter and smaller in every way.

Christine doesn't faint. He picks her up, and she just drifts off to sleep. Sure thing.

Apparently an angry Phantom who is violent in the Final Lair is part of this production. The first Phantom actor and his replacement both played it that way. I find it harder to switch and feel sympathy for the angry and totally self-involved man he has been when he actually chokes her shortly before we are supposed feel sympathy for him.

In the Original Production, the moment when Christine returns to give back the ring is full of tension and poignancy. I found it less so when she just puts down the ring and leaves. He turns and realizes she has done it, but this whole part of the scene loses something without that last confrontation. I found his picking up the pieces of his music that  she has torn up less affecting than his picking up the veil, pressing it to his face, and dropping it as he moves on.

I am not sure what Meg's part is in his disappearance at the end. It looked to me like she had her arms around him protectively as he stood there, assumedly covered by his cape. Why would she do that? It makes even less sense to think she was trying to keep him from leaving, little bitty thing that she is.

She does hold up the mask at the end ---but much more briefly. I found the whole Final Lair less involving and affecting than that of the Original Production.

This show is a professionally done production of the Phantom of the Opera, and it is well sung and played. It is not, however, "Bigger and more spectacular than ever before" as the advertising claims.

I am not able to compartmentalize my mind and not make comparisons to the original show. Change is not bad if it is change for the better. I did not find most of the changes for the better.

Something I don't know and wonder about---since they were doing a re-staged show when they put this production together---how much of the original staging could they use without it being a problem?
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Post  LadyCDaae Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:01 pm

DCPA announced their next season; Phantom still isn't on it. Dammit. (Then again, it doesn't even look like the silly thing is making its way to this side of the country until the middle of next year...)

~LCD

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Post  FdelOpera Tue Mar 11, 2014 11:55 pm

This past Wednesday (March 5), my mother and I went to see the new Phantom of the Opera US tour on its first night in Columbus, Ohio. I have very mixed feelings about this production. There are some things that I enjoyed, many things that I disliked, and on the whole, I felt that this “spectacular new” tour failed to live up to the standards set by the “Brilliant Original” in the West End and on Broadway.

I wrote extensive notes during Intermission and on the drive back to my parents’ house, and then I compiled these notes into my review.

As you are all probably aware by now, the US tour of Phantom, like the UK tour before it, is quite different from the original production. Let me state upfront that I am not averse to changes made to Phantom, so long as those changes are warranted and well thought out. The Las Vegas production of Phantom, for instance, underwent numerous changes in order to fit within the context of a 90 minute show in the Las Vegas Strip. However, these changes were for the most part tastefully done, and they did not significantly alter the story. Also, the additions, like the lavishness of the reimagined sets and costumes (such as the chandelier), tended to enhance the production instead of detracting from it. Similarly, the Royal Albert Hall concert, despite its necessary differences, also captured a lot of the magic of the original production.

Further, there have been (much more subtle) changes to the West End and Broadway productions that have also enhanced the show. Peter Cousens, Geronimo Rauch, and Hugh Panaro going down on one knee during the proposal at the end of PONR? It works — as Peter Cousens once said, it is a great way to show the Phantom’s desperate attempt to connect with Christine, and it makes her unmasking of him all the more tragic, and yet understandable. Hugh Panaro whispering “My Angel” as he hears Christine singing AIAOY reprise at the end of the Final Lair? Brilliant; it drives home the Phantom’s realization that whereas he had sought to be Christine’s angel, it is she who in the end saved him.

While some of the changes in this production were at that level in terms of being insightful and clarifying the meaning of the scene (especially “Poor Young Maiden”), most of them seemed to either be made haphazardly (like STYDI), or worse, to be made in a way that obfuscated the scene’s intent (MOTN and Final Lair, smh).

Let me start off with my general thoughts about the production, and then I will describe some of the changes that I noticed throughout the performance.

The Sets:

The set design, by Paul Brown, was quite involved, and in certain places it actually worked quite well, especially during the journey to the lair. The main feature of the set is a large, rotating cylinder that turns and opens in different ways to reveal the various sets. In the journey to the lair, the Phantom and Christine descended down the side of this cylinder as, one-by-one, steps magically appeared out of the cylinder for them to walk on. I thought that this was quite effective, and captured some of the dreamlike quality of the original production, which for the most part is sadly lacking in this version. However, by rejecting the black box design of Hal Prince’s staging and instead going for ornate, overwrought reality, Brown’s set design frequently feels at once overly detailed and yet not detailed enough. Prince’s staging allows the audience to fill in the details from their own imaginations, making it richer than any rococo set design.

One thing I will say is that this set did not come cheap. It is a mystery to me, then, why in so many places Brown chose to make it look cheap. A good example of this is in the Hannibal Rehearsal scene. The elephant is back … sort of (at least, the lyrics are back). The elephant is now a flat backdrop of an elephant’s head and shoulders that peeks out from the stage right wings and then is pulled back again. I would almost rather not have the elephant at all than have it in such a truncated version (pun intended).

The Costumes:

Maria Björnson is still listed as being the costume designer. :/ The costumes are a strange sort of Frankenstein’s blend of Maria Björnson’s original design, combined with lots of wtf choices from the new costume coordinator, who is listed as Christine Rowland in my playbill. The head costume supervisor for the US is Jimm Halliday, and the head costume supervisor for the UK was Roxanne Armstrong. There have been some minor improvements from the UK tour costumes — like the Sylphides, who no longer dance in pillowcases, but wear a stripped-down version of the original design; and the Phantom’s DJT costume, where he wears his cloak and cowl again — but for the most part, the changes had the same “budget” feel as the UK tour, despite the fact that those costume changes did not come cheap, as Operafantomet has explained.

This was especially true during Masquerade, where most of the revelers wore simple dresses and suits, and the only thing that said “bal masqué” were the masks that they wore, which appeared to be the same cheap Carnevale masks that they wore in the UK tour. The main difference that I saw in terms of masks was that the Phantom came in wearing a bedazzled half mask that covered only the right side of his face (just like his regular mask, but sparkly), instead of the gold half mask that covered his entire upper face, leaving only his mouth and chin exposed.

The Choreography:

The choreography, by Scott Ambler, is a sort of paraphrasing of what Gillian Lynne created. Similar to the costume design, Ambler didn’t create his design from scratch, but sort of remixed Lynne’s ideas into a mishmash that … almost works. There are some awkward moments, such as when the Hannibal slavegirls bend over at the hips, stick their arms out with wrists crossed, and sort of … twerk …? It was odd.

The Blocking:

Laurence Connor’s blocking was awkward. Just awkward. Especially when the Phantom and Raoul interact with Christine. For whatever reason, people rarely got close to Christine. I began to think that maybe the characters within the play all thought that Christine had cooties, because they typically stand at least two meters away from her. MOTN and AIAOY were particularly ridiculous in this regard. Yes, there are the places in these songs where the Phantom gets close enough to put the blindfold on Christine and then pick her up, and places where Raoul and Christine kiss, but all the rest of the time, they keep their distance.

Other awkward bits of blocking were during the Hannibal Rehearsal, where Reyer appears to be a disembodied voice — I think that he may have been stationed in the orchestra pit, ala the 2004 movie, but it meant that relatively few people in the audience would be able to see him.

Another awkward bit was during Prima Donna where Carlotta gets changed into her countess gown on stage. Though I suppose it does save a quickchange backstage.

The Direction:

Overall, Laurence Connor seemed to be trying to ground this production within solid, literal reality, instead of going for the psychological, dreamlike quality, replete with mystery and illusion, that Hal Prince so masterfully drew from Leroux. And overall, Connor’s direction did not work.

Instead of unmasking the Phantom, both metaphorically and literally denuding him, Christine simply interrupts him as he washes his face without his mask on. Instead of leaving us to wonder whether Buquet’s death was an accident or outright murder (even though we know it was the Phantom), in this production, the Phantom comes up behind Buquet, puts a noose around his neck, very clumsily tightens it while Buquet stands there quite placidly (what the Phantom is actually doing is attaching a harness that Buquet is presumably wearing to a rope, but it comes off as awkward), pulls on the rope, and then Buquet is raised up into the air, all without much of a struggle. Instead of towering over Christine during “Wandering Child,” maintaining his aura of power and mystery, the Phantom enters upstage, saunters over to Christine, touches her shoulder (I guess Christine doesn’t have cooties here), and then they proceed to awkwardly stand there and sing at each other, while Raoul enters upstage left and has conniptions in the background. Then Raoul and the Phantom get into a physical brawl with each other (laced with fireballs) that replaces the swordfight in the 2004 movie, grounding the Phantom in the reality of someone who can, say, get chokeslammed into a wall.

Hal Prince understood that we must wait to see the Phantom as a full flesh-and-blood person until the Final Lair, when he is truly laid bare and makes the transformation from beast to man. In the original novel, Leroux sought out mundane explanations for seemingly fantastical events. This production starts at the mundane, meaning that the fantastical is never considered. Without the necessary metaphorical elements of mystery and magic, the production quickly devolves into a claustrophobic melodrama.

The Main Trio:

The shortest description is that there was no chemistry between Christine and the Phantom, or between Christine and Raoul. Part of this may have been the actors, but a significant part of the blame must be placed on Connor’s blocking, which, as I’ve said, kept a distance of several meters between Christine and her two suitors at almost all times. Worse, when there was any physical proximity between Christine and the Phantom, it almost always involved physical violence towards her.

Now, I am a Lerouxian. I know that in the novel, Erik grabs Christine by the hair and that he forces her to dig her nails into his face. I know that the second time he abducts her, he chloroforms her and then ties her to a chair after she attempts to kill herself. I know that he threatens to blow everyone up if she won’t marry him. Yes, Erik is violent towards Christine. But his violence towards her does not involve him physically threatening to kill her or to rape her. Those are lines that even Leroux's Erik doesn’t cross. In Connor’s version of the Final Lair, for instance, the Phantom chokes Christine, threatens to break her neck, and then throws her onto the bed, climbs on top of her, grabs her hands, and hitches her dress up with his legs. Then, in keeping with the awkward blocking that plagues this production, he clumsily rolls off of her, clambering around on the bed in an attempt to get off, and almost sits on her head at one point.

Cooper Grodin:

As the person headlining this cast, Grodin underwhelmed as the Phantom. He had difficulty with the role vocally (many of the higher passages were shouted rather than sung), and he had a distinct pop/rock sound. He also had a very Amerrrrrican accent that didn’t really work for the role (especially his spoken lines). Overall, he played the Phantom as a man in his 30s, going with the “young and sexy” trend that ALW has been obsessed with since the 2004 movie. Except that there was nothing sexy with the way Grodin was directed to play his role. I reiterate — his performance does not reflect on him personally as an actor, but only on the way he and Connor worked together to develop the role. He played the Phantom as a violent, petulant, humorless jerk without redeeming qualities. Again, I am a Lerouxian. I know that Leroux's Erik is often violent and petulant, and that he can be a real jerk. But he isn’t a nasty, soulless asshole. I found myself willing Christine to get the hell out of there from the middle of the first act on. These are strong words, I know, but the interpretation that Connor and Grodin have developed for the Phantom is thoroughly unlikeable. I stress, this is not just a matter of him playing the Phantom as an aggressive character, since Leroux's Erik was certainly that. But Leroux's Erik also had vulnerability, sensitivity, and ultimately the capacity for love. Grodin plays the Phantom as a violent psychopath, end of story. There are no shades of grey, no nuances, and no hope for redemption.

Also, in this production, the Phantom seems to be primarily interested in Christine for her voice, sort of ala the Herbert Lom movie. It is as if Connor heard the lyrics, “You have come here for one purpose and one alone, since the moment I first heard you sing, I have needed you with me to serve me, to sing for my music… etc.” and took them absolutely literally. The way that I see it, this may be what the Phantom tells Christine, it may even be what he believes at that point, but deep down, he also wants her love and companionship. (As in Leroux: “I want to have a wife, like everybody else, and we would go for walks on Sundays. […] A wife, just like everybody!… A wife that I would love, with whom I would stroll on Sundays, and whom I would make laugh the whole week long!”) Yes, Christine is his muse, but that’s not all she is. In this new production, I never got the sense that their relationship ever deepened much beyond that of teacher and pupil, which was sad, because that deeper emotional connection that they have in the original musical (and in Leroux) is the real heart of the story.

My biggest pet peeve in this regard was the Final Lair, and particularly the way that Connor staged “Christine, I love you.” So much of the show hinges on that moment of connection between the Phantom and Christine; his sacrifice of letting Christine go after she comes back with the ring needs to be very intentional on his part, and it needs to rend him asunder. With this staging, it seemed that the Phantom was much more concerned with picking up his scattered sheet music than with sending Christine away. He just sort of got distracted trying to reassemble his manuscript, and she slipped back in and then out again without him even noticing — not Erik-like in the least!

Ben Jacoby:

Like his father (Mark Jacoby, who played an excellent Phantom on Broadway), Ben Jacoby has a strong voice and commanding stage presence. It is a real shame, then, that he has been directed to play Raoul as such a cocksure jerk. Sort of like Hadley Fraser on steroids. Such as during “Little Lotte,” where he burst into Christine’s dressing room while she was still effectively half naked (she’d taken off her slavegirl skirt, so she was in a leotard, but she hadn’t yet gotten her dressing gown on all the way), and then he didn’t do anything in the way of apology as she quickly covered up (Julia played Christine as understandably flustered and embarrassed here, seemingly to make Raoul appear even more inconsiderate and domineering). Oh, and then he took time while he was conversing with her to preen in the mirror. :/ Raoul’s character sadly seems to have been reworked to be a younger version of the character-assassinated Raoul in LND, who becomes an alcoholic gambling addict. Jacoby’s portrayal made me cling tightly to my memories of Gary Mauer, who played Raoul as a sensitive, caring, and supportive man who was willing to sacrifice everything for Christine.

Julia Udine:

Vocally, Julia Udine more than held her own in this production. She has a lovely voice, and performed the West End “Think of Me” cadenza (yes, it is in this production!) with graceful ease. Her WYWSHA and especially her Twisted Every Way were excellent. It should be noted, however, that she is only scheduled to perform on five days out of this two week run in Columbus. The other performances will be split between Celia Hottenstein and Grace Morgan, so Udine may be experiencing some strain and fatigue from the demanding nature of this tour.

No doubt due to the direction she received, Udine played Christine as a timid character who never found the strength to come into her own by the end of the production. Now, this timidity can work if there is a vulnerable Phantom and a kind, caring Raoul, but with both the Phantom and Raoul played as egotistical jerks, Christine is overpowered by these characters. This also means that Christine never completes her character arc in which she grows into a brave young woman, capable of holding her own against the Phantom. Further, because her timidity prevents her from coming face-to-face with the Phantom when she returns his ring (she stands there behind him while he sings “Christine, I love you,” puts his ring on the table, and then runs away — not that I can blame her!), it means that she never reaches closure with the Phantom, which ultimately keeps him from making his final transformation from monster to man. This moment in the original production also allows the audience to feel pity and sympathy for the Phantom despite his crimes. But as my mom insightfully said to me after the performance, in this production, the Phantom is not pitiable; he is just pathetic.

More insidiously though, when Christine doesn’t stand up to the Phantom or Raoul, when she lets them walk all over her with passive acceptance, it sanctions their violent behavior towards her, perpetuating the stereotype of the weak, male-dependent woman that Leroux's Christine and Hal Prince's Christine so soundly rejected. As in LND, Christine is reduced to a coveted object that can be possessed, instead of a free agent who is in charge of her own actions and decisions. The throughline of this production is no longer Christine’s coming of age story, but instead the Phantom’s massive ego trip.

The Supporting Cast:

The supporting cast were quite good, especially Hannah Florence, who played Meg. In addition to having a lovely voice, Florence developed a complex portrayal for her Meg. She started off as a playful, mischievous, yet caring friend to Christine. I loved her “Christine Daaé could sing it, sir.” She pushed Christine into the spotlight with puckish glee, and yet there was also a strong undercurrent of respect and admiration for the incredible singer that she knew that Christine had become. They had a lovely moment together after “Think of Me,” where they embraced, and then as Florence’s Meg started to pull away, Udine’s Christine clung to her more tightly, seemingly overwhelmed by what had happened to her. It was clear that in the backstory that these two actors had created for their characters, Meg was a real source of support for Christine. Then as the play progressed, Florence’s Meg became unsure as to how to help Christine, and yet still stayed fiercely protective of her. Her “She needed rest” was angry in its forcefulness. Then in the second act, as the singers started to disperse after “Poor Young Maiden,” there was a tragic little moment where Udine’s Christine reached out to Florence’s Meg, and yet Meg seemed unsure of how to help. She started to reach out to Christine, but then was pulled back by an invisible force and ended up running off stage left, leaving Christine all alone on stage as WYWSHA began. Then when Christine was abducted after PONR, Meg was absolutely frantic to go with Mme Giry and Raoul to save Christine, and had to be dragged off by Reyer. Florence has clearly put a ton of thought and work into her Meg, and she is probably my favorite Meg that I have seen live.

Linda Balgord was a good Mme Giry; she was strong vocally, and created a nuanced portrayal of the woman who knows more than she is letting on. Jacquelynne Fontaine and Frank Viveros played a fun Carlotta and Piangi, though Fontaine seemed to have based her accent and mannerisms on Minnie Driver. Edward Staudenmayer and Craig Bennett were an amusing André and Firmin, respectively, though the characterization they had developed for their roles, combined with their generic costumes and wigs, unfortunately made them rather indistinguishable.

Okay, are you with me so far? Now for my notes on the individual scenes. I will mostly be describing the differences between the tour and the original production, and saying what I thought worked, and what I thought didn’t work:

Intro/Overture:

This scene borrows a bit from the 2004 movie, at least at the beginning. The ghastly auctioneer has been replaced with a chipper, middle-aged man who stands on a podium, surrounded by the relics of the destroyed Opera House. The auctioneer also leads the characters onto the stage with a “This way! This way!” speech. Unlike in other versions, Raoul is no longer infirm, but just appears to be middle-aged. He is not in a wheelchair, though Mme Giry is. The monkey music box now resembles an alien spacecraft. It is housed in a triangular-shaped box whose sides unfold to reveal … something… From my seat up in the mezzanine, it was hard to tell what the figure on the music box was; it was simply too small. The chandelier, of course, is different than Björnson’s Garnier-inspired design, and now resembles the one in the 2004 movie. It starts raised up above the stage, and moves very little to come into position atop the proscenium arch. It is covered at first, and as the covers are whisked away, its lights flash on and the Overture begins. The Overture was actually staged quite effectively, and emphasized that the events in the story are Raoul’s extended flashback. As the music begins, Raoul stands up and turns upstage as phantoms from his past (Carlotta and the ballet girls from Hannibal) eerily glide onto the stage. Raoul walks among them, and from the lighting and their movement, it is clear that he is in the present moment, and they are memories. Raoul becomes more and more overwhelmed as these ghosts populate the stage, and he eventually stumbles off upstage right, as the lighting changes and Carlotta begins, “This trophy…”

Hannibal Rehearsal:

Fontaine really shone as Carlotta here, hamming up her role with aplomb. Interestingly, Meg does not get a solo in this version of Hannibal, and she is not introduced by Lefèvre; a dark-haired ballerina and a male dancer are featured instead of Meg. As I’ve said, the elephant is now a cheap-looking backdrop that comes on stage for about a minute. Piangi’s bit of business at the end of the song is now that he has trouble getting his dagger out of its scabbard.

After André requests that Carlotta sing for him, the piano player (now on stage) starts out too fast, and Carlotta goes over to him and yells something unintelligible in Italian (I should note that I speak good Italian, and couldn’t understand a word that she was saying). He then slows the tempo and she begins. Instead of causing a backdrop to fall, the Phantom drops sandbags behind Carlotta. Unlike in the original, where Lefèvre’s comment about Christine’s parentage is sort of lost amongst the chaos of the rehearsal, in this version, the managers ask Christine if she is related to the violinist, and she replies that he was her father.

Think of Me:

Two words: Airbender Christine. Christine doesn’t start out the scene with her scarf, and yet she moves her arms as if she does, making her look like she is doing an abstract form of martial arts. Incongruously, halfway through the song, two ballerinas dance in carrying the scarf, and give it to Christine, who finishes the aria with it in hand. I have no idea why she couldn’t just have had it from the beginning. At the end of the song, instead of throwing the scarf up in the air as in the original, she sort of bunches it together in her arms and stands there with it, looking slightly ungainly. As I’ve written, the West End TOM cadenza is here, and it is glorious!

Angel of Music:

Mme Giry reverses her line, so that it is, “Such temps de cuisse! Such ronds de jambe!” I’m not sure whether that was an intentional change, or a mistake. Also, the ballerinas are not dressed in their tutus, but are still in their slavegirl costumes, and are wrapped strangely in towels and modern-looking bathrobes. Mme Giry makes some comment about telling them to go get changed, instead of “Come, rehearse, now.” Sadly, the ballerinas do not do their Degas vignettes while Christine and Meg sing.

Thank heavens, “Bravi, bravi, bravissimi” has been changed to “Brava, brava, bravissima.” In case you don’t speak Italian, “Bravi” means good job, but refers to an all male or mixed-gender group of people — basically, it means that the Phantom is congratulating the whole company. “Brava” also means good job, but it refers to a single female — i.e. the Phantom is congratulating Christine alone. I have no idea why the Broadway production has not corrected this error, but thankfully the tour has, and it was nice to hear.

Christine’s and Meg’s connection after the performance was so lovely. Julia Udine and Hannah Florence have done an absolutely superb job of developing their characters’ relationship. Their connection was palpable, and was felt throughout the scene. Quite honestly, the Christine-Meg throughline was one of my favorite parts about this production. Even if the men in her life are complete dickwads, Christine still has a loyal friend in Meg (well, until LND — dun, dun, duunnnnn).

One thing that made no sense in this scene is that Christine now shares a dressing room with the other ballerinas (in the playbill, as well, the scene has been changed from “Christine’s Dressing Room” to the “Corps de Ballet Dressing Room”). How on earth was the Phantom supposed to tutor her if she was constantly surrounded by other dancers? The mind boggles.

Mme Giry’s line has been changed to, “Meg Giry, are you a dancer? Then go and dance!” “Rehearsals, always rehearsals,” is not in this production.

Little Lotte/The Mirror:

As I’ve said, Ben Jacoby has unfortunately been directed to play Raoul as a jerk. Poor Raoul. Such character assassination. He played Raoul as very cocky and conceited throughout this scene. Another possible LND connection is that (as in the 25th Anniversary production), Raoul brings Christine a single red rose, instead of a bottle of wine when he enters her dressing room. In LND, Christine says that Raoul would always toss her a single red rose from his opera box. Not exactly the same, but similar.

I don’t know whether the tour was having technical difficulties, but the Phantom was not visible through the mirror, which remained opaque throughout the song. It is always such an awesome moment in the original production, where the Phantom’s mask suddenly becomes visible through the mirror, and it seemed odd not seeing it. One thing that was cool is that the mirror swings out on a hinge like a door instead of sliding open like an elevator; it was a nice touch.

When Raoul reenters the dressing room, after Christine and the Phantom have left, he stands there for a super long time yelling “Christine” over and over as the music builds to an uncomfortably loud level. I suppose that this is to give Christine and the Phantom time to run up to the top of the cylinder to get into place for the Title Song, but it feels really awkward. I know that the scene is supposed to be played this way, because it’s the way they did it in the UK tour, but it has a “oops I forgot my line, let me adlib for a while” quality to it. Then after he has finished yelling out Christine’s name, Raoul starts looking through Christine’s letters on her dressing table. Not finding anything of interest, Raoul slouches out of Christine’s dressing room in a huff, and the cylinder swings around and transitions into the journey to the lair.

The Phantom of the Opera:

This is one of the coolest scenes in the whole production. During Ben’s seeming adlib, Julia and Cooper (no doubles in this production) had climbed to the top of the set cylinder. Here, we are seeing the dressing room from the back, which is now at the top of the set instead of at ground level. Christine and the Phantom walk through the mirror, and wait in a little vestibule outside the dressing room. As they do that, stair planks begin to emerge, one-by-one, from the wall of the cylinder. As soon as the first few planks have emerged, the Phantom starts leading Christine down the stairs. As they walk down the slowly forming staircase, hugging close to the wall, stairs continue to emerge, until by the time they are about two-thirds of the way down, all of the stairs have come out of the wall. If only the rest of the sets had this fantastical, magical quality. It was eerie in all the right ways. As soon as the Phantom and Christine reach the end of the staircase, a gondola appears downstage right and stops in front of them. The Phantom helps Christine into the boat, and then gets in behind her, and punts towards stage left. As he does this, the cylinder starts to open down the middle, revealing the Phantom’s lair inside. The Phantom parks the boat and the two of them enter the lair. Inside the lair, there is a large bed upstage center and the Phantom’s organ and table upstage right.

As I’ve written, the Phantom is primarily interested in Christine for her voice in this production. Instead of having an emotional response to having her there (rapture, vulnerability, power, lust, or any myriad of emotionally-based reactions), he simply barks commands at her like, “Louder!” “Use more air!” He grabs a music stand and places it in front of her as she sings, indicating that she should sing the notes on the page. He conducts her as she reaches the end of the cadenza. It is clear that this is a music lesson, nothing more. What a boring interpretation.

Music of the Night:

MOTN starts out as a continuation of the music lesson that was started at the end of the Title Song. The Phantom indicates to Christine that she should pay attention to his sheet music. Christine starts moving towards the Phantom to try and figure out what is going on, but he puts a hand up to tell her to keep her distance. She tries this a couple more times, and each time he puts his hand up to tell her to keep back. Based on my reading of Grodin’s portrayal, this is not because the Phantom is feeling vulnerable, not because he is scared of Christine touching him, but because he is in the middle of one of his many power trips with her — “stay away from me because I tell you to.” Stay away she does, and there is a lot of physical space between the two of them for the first half of the song.

She continues to stand there, seemingly dazed and confused, and then he comes up behind her and puts the “50 Shades of Phantom” blindfold on her. Instead of being totally creeped out by this or at least taking the damn thing off, Christine continues to stand there placidly with the blindfold on, and reaches out in front of her with both arms, moving them around to feel for what’s in front of her, and stumbling a little. She has no reaction to the Phantom’s voice, and continues to stand downstage, “staring” off into space. Meanwhile, the Phantom wanders around behind her, seemingly singing to himself. Eventually the Phantom takes the blindfold off, and Christine stands there and blinks for a little while. Then she randomly falls to the ground. On “Touch me, trust me,” the Phantom extends his hand to her and helps her stand back up. This is the first time they’ve actually touched the whole song. Then he picks her up in his arms, and continues to sing at her (props to Grodin for being able to pick Udine up while singing — under better direction, this would have been an incredible moment). Christine doesn’t faint in this production, and there is no Mirror Bride mannequin. The Phantom simple takes Christine over to his bed, puts her in it, and tucks her in. She quite passively rolls over onto her side and proceeds to go to sleep as he finishes the song.

I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It:

The Phantom plays his organ for a while, and then the music box starts to play (it sits in front of his organ on the floor). However, due to what I believe may have been a technical difficulty (or Maria Björnson’s ghost), the box that houses the monkey didn’t open. Then the Phantom takes off his mask, grabs a rag and a bottle of … something … and proceeds to clean the right side of his face. DUDE! CHRISTINE’S IN THE NEXT ROOM! YOU MIGHT WANT TO KEEP THAT THING ON WHILE SHE’S HERE! Christine inevitably wakes up to her music box alarm clock, and goes in the next room to see who this masked … er, unmasked … man is.

I can almost see Laurence Connor’s thought process in this scene: “What’s one of the most iconic things about the Phantom of the Opera? Christine unmasks the Phantom. She does that in almost every version. Well, I’ve got a great idea. In our ‘spectacular new’ tour, she doesn’t! That’s edgy, right?”

So Christine walks in while the Phantom is washing his melted cheese face, picks up his mask, grabs him by the shoulder, spins him around, and then screams when she sees that the larval critter from Alien has attached itself to his right cheek. (If you think I’m joking, I’m not.)

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Christine runs out of there, and the Phantom throws down his cleaning rag and runs after her. He eventually manages to grab her by the hair and drag her down to the floor. (If Connor did read Leroux, the only thing he seems to have gotten from it was, “Oh look, Erik grabs Christine by the hair; we can use that.”) The Phantom then stands up and walks away from her. During STYDI, the Phantom doesn’t crawl towards Christine; instead he sort of hunches over and walks slowly towards her, which doesn’t create nearly as powerful a stage picture. As he gets over to where she is (downstage center), he kneels down, and she hands him back the mask. He puts it back on, but there is no real transformation from his unmasked to his masked state, since he wasn’t particularly vulnerable without it on. He grabs her hand on “Come, we must return,” and drags her off stage left.

There was no connection, chemistry, or rapport between the two of them throughout this entire sequence, from TPOTO to the end of STYDI. They were going through their blocking (awkwardly at times), and not much more.

Magical Lasso:

Buquet’s line has been changed to “Like yellow parchment is his skin, his eyes as dark as any dream you’ll ever know. You must be always on your guard, or he will catch you with his magical lasso.” I’ve often wondered — was the original makeup (when they were still going to use the horizontal half mask) actually going to feature “a great black hole [that] served as the nose which never grew”? At any rate, I was sad to see this little nod to Leroux get the axe, but I understand why they did it — I’m sure the line never made much sense to anyone who hadn’t read the original novel (unless they surmised that Buquet was either lying or misinformed).

Notes/Prima Donna:

The Managers’ office is rather rococo and claustrophobic in this new production. Again, I missed Hal Prince’s black box in which I could imagine all of the ornate detail, instead of having it fed to me on a flimsy looking backdrop. Edward Staudenmayer and Craig Bennett were fairly interchangeable here (as they were in all their scenes), and if I didn’t know the libretto backwards and forwards, I would have had difficulty telling them apart. It was apparently supposed to be raining during this scene, because everyone came in with an umbrella. However, the rain must have stopped, er, rather quickly, because when they all chased after Carlotta at the beginning of Prima Donna (which starts “outside”), they left their umbrellas in the office.

Prima Donna was vocally quite strong, but the staging was very busy. As I’ve written, I’m not a big fan of Carlotta getting changed on stage. I’m not sure what it accomplishes character-wise, and aside from saving a quick change, I don’t see much point in it. It just creates a rather clumsy stage picture.

Il Muto:

Don Attilio and the Fops are all quite strong in this production. Don Attilio especially hammed it up in all the right places (“observe her” was held for a nice long time). Carlotta and Christine (as the Countess and Serafimo) no longer sit on a bed and pretend to kiss. Instead, Carlotta sits on a chaise longue, and Christine puts her right foot up on it and stands there with her hands on her hips while Carlotta sings.

Carlotta doesn’t croak due to the Phantom’s ventriloquism in this version. Instead, she seems to have ingested or inhaled something that makes her wheeze loudly and cough (ala the 2004 movie). Yet another instance of Laurence Connor deciding to base the production in non-Lerouxian “reality.”

During the Act III ballet, the Phantom’s shadows are projected onto the backdrop, instead of being created live by an actor. The projections have a slightly jumpy quality.

As I’ve written, Buquet’s death is handled quite clumsily. Buquet is standing stage left, minding his own business, when the Phantom walks up behind him and slips a noose around his neck. The Phantom then tightens it a little, but not nearly enough to strangle Buquet (he could have easily slipped his head out), while he attaches the harness that Buquet must be wearing to a rope. He then gives a tug, and Buquet is lifted up off the ground, without much struggle or altercation. As Buquet hangs there, people come over to him and pull on his legs (as if that’s going to help), until a couple people are finally able to lower him to the ground and carry him offstage. Whereas there was always a shadow of a chance that Firmin’s cry of “accident” held some truth, this tour left no room for doubt.

All I Ask of You:

This was, hands down, the most awkward professional version of All I Ask of You that I have ever seen (including the video of Sarah Brightman and Cliff Richard). There was no intimacy or connection between Raoul and Christine, despite this song being the major love duet of the show. As I mentioned earlier, I had a little pet theory that both the Phantom and Raoul thought that Christine had cooties. During AIAOY, Raoul and Christine mostly kept a distance of about two meters away from each other, except for a couple of instances where they hugged and then kissed.

Christine’s attempted suicide is in this version, where she walks over to the edge of the stage and contemplates jumping into the orchestra pit. Then she collapses to the stage, and Raoul kneels down several meters upstage right of her, and they sing like that for a while. Raoul eventually manages to hug her, but it is very brief, and he quickly jumps away to resume his two meter distance from her. Then they sort of circle around each other, singing at each other grand opera style. Raoul gets close enough to kiss her, and then moves away again, and they run off stage right, several meters apart, with Christine in the lead.

All I Ask of You Reprise:

The Phantom doesn’t descend on the angel sculpture. Instead, he climbs from behind a flimsy version of the Garnier’s Apollo statue. I like the nod to the Opéra Garnier and Leroux’s novel, but I wish that the set piece didn’t shake as it is rolled forwards.

During this scene, the Phantom was whiny and pissed off, but not heartbroken. Grodin had difficulty managing the vocals here. Instead of using his falsetto, he belted and yelled the song.

Act I Finale:

The chandelier falls … more than the UK chandelier did. It falls straight down, Las Vegas style, but stops short of hitting the stage. It flashes its lights, sends out pieces of clear rubber (supposed to be “glass”), and takes one of the backdrops with it. It’s still no Maria Björnson chandelier crash, but it is a big improvement on the UK version.

Masquerade:

Sob. :’-(

André and Firmin no longer wear hooded cloaks and grotesque masks (or skintight skeleton body suits, for that matter ;P); they come in tuxes and cheap, generic, Venetian-style Carnevale masks. The rest of the costumes have been dumbed down, as well. Christine’s poor, denuded star princess gown was a sorry sight. As with the rest of the production, Connor eschews the fantastic in favor of the ordinary, and the production suffers as a result.

Masquerade is no longer set in “The Staircase of the Opéra House,” but instead in “The Grand Ballroom at the Opera House.” It is now twelve months since the chandelier crash, not six months.

The cast engages in more Airbender dancing, as they randomly move their arms around in different patterns, and vogue to the music … actually it kinda reminds me of this (though the costumes here are MUCH better):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_LvTkNG0yQ

Raoul more yelled than sang “It’s an engagement, not a crime” at Christine, and she seemed very sad and overwhelmed.

As I wrote above, the Phantom still comes dressed as Red Gaston, but he doesn’t wear the horizontal gold half-mask from the UK tour. Instead, he wears a glittery, bedazzled version of his own mask that looks just like this:

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Yet another LND reference? Who knows. LOL. Sigh.

The Phantom is utterly non-threatening in this version — he just sort of saunters in and messes with the managers, handing them a copy of his DJT score. I guess that his costume is a little more outlandish than the rest of the guests’, but it isn’t anything that would make John Travolta bat an eyelash.

Christine doesn’t wear Raoul’s ring around her neck in this production, so the line is changed to “Your voice is still mine. You will sing for me.” There is no threat or hypnotic effect in the way that the Phantom summons Christine; he merely tells Christine about her voice, and then runs off stage.

Mme Giry’s Revelations:

This was a very interesting interpretation of this scene. After Raoul corners Mme Giry and convinces her to tell him about what she knows of the Phantom, her flashback is illustrated by cool, digitized shadows that are projected against the wall of the stage cylinder. These shadows were probably initially based on real people, but then were animated so that they loom up against the wall, engage in their action, and then crumble to dust. The shadow play starts with a juggler and a fire eater, and then transitions to a cage with the Phantom in it, who is struck by his captor. A later scene shows the Phantom strangling his captor, before escaping, his shadow running along the wall and into the wings.

During this scene, the actual Phantom enters the stage above Mme Giry and Raoul and listens to their conversation before fading back into the darkness.

Notes II:

Raoul abuse alert: Christine hits Raoul. Sigh. What is almost worse is that the slap is staged so poorly as to be laughable. It would have taken so little effort to stage this most elemental piece of stage combat. As it was, Christine and Raoul were both in profile to the audience, Christine swung her hand a foot away from Raoul’s face, and Raoul turned his head. Would it have been too much for Raoul to have moved slightly upstage of Christine so that we couldn’t see that her hand didn’t actually connect with his face? Not that I want Christine to hit Raoul, I would much prefer that they take this bit out entirely, but if they’re going do it, at least do it so that it’s somewhat believable.

“Twisted Every Way” was one of Julia Udine’s finer moments during the production, and was delivered excellently. She beautifully captured Christine’s conflicted feelings surrounding the situation that she is being roped into. I was genuinely moved by her delivery and overwhelmed emotions.

There was a little bit of headache acting in this scene, but by and large, Christine holds her head much less than she did in the UK tour. I am glad that this direction seems for the most part to have been scrapped; it got very redundant in the UK tour.

After the scene, Christine runs out of the Managers’ office and Raoul follows her. She yells at him, “You promised to protect me, Raoul!” and then exits stage right. The way that Ben played, “So it is to be war between us,” he was almost apoplectic with anger.

Poor Young Maiden:

Connor has an interesting interpretation of this scene that I thought was very effective. When the chorus starts singing “Poor Young Maiden,” they turn to Christine and all eerily raise an arm and point at her, while she looks very taken aback and overwhelmed. After the verse is over, they break from this suddenly, and behave normally. This makes it clear that this bizarre choral chant is Christine’s imagination, or maybe even her hallucination, but it isn’t real. This was a powerful way of showing some of what was going on inside Christine’s head.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again:

Julia sings a very strong Wishing; she was exceptionally dynamic in this scene. Sadly, though, the red scarf that Raoul rescued is gone. It is replaced by Christine’s locket with (presumably) her father’s picture, which she rips off during “No more memories, no more silent tears,” and then in a seeming act of emotional regression, puts back on at the end of the song. Also (different from the Broadway production, which uses "Passing bells and sculpted angels..." etc.), the lines have been changed to, “Three long years I’ve knelt in silence, held your memory near me. Three long years of murmured sorrow, willing you to hear me.” There was another instance of headache acting here.

Wandering Child/Bravo, Monsieur:

The graveyard does not have the high wall or the cross that the Phantom emerges from. Instead he simply enters upstage at the same level as Christine. As I’ve written above, he saunters over to Christine, touches her shoulder, and then they assume the Laurence Connor two meter personal space bubble, and start emotionlessly singing at one another. This was one of the most awkward stage pictures of the entire show, and was made even more ungainly by Raoul literally upstaging them in the background!

I will say, though, that it is lovely to hear the trio performed live here in the US. Ben Jacoby’s strong, rich vocals really stood out here, and blended nicely with Julia’s and Cooper’s. If I were to have closed my eyes during this whole scene, I would have been much happier.

Phantom and Raoul abuse alert: Raoul chokeslams the Phantom into the wall, and then the Phantom throws Raoul to the ground. Then the Phantom starts lobbing fireballs at Raoul.

It doesn’t work to have the Phantom be so corporeal this early in the production, and it certainly doesn’t work to have Raoul physically attack him (even in Leroux, where Raoul shoots at the "eyes" through his window, he isn't sure whether they are Erik's eyes, a cat's eyes, two stars, or something else -- thus maintaining the aura of mystery that surrounds Erik). It is through Christine’s compassion, and not Raoul’s violence, that the “Phantom” is overcome, and the man behind the mask is saved.

Seal My Fate Tonight:

“Let the audience in” has been cut. According to ALW, this was because he decided that the audience was already in their seats — the doors had been secured, so it wouldn’t make sense to then unsecure them and let the audience in. I say, though, that it doesn’t make sense to have your audience sitting there watching while you plan someone’s execution. Discussions of firearms in a theatre tend to make your audience jittery, and they might just get up, rush out, and unsecure your doors!

Don Juan Triumphant:

This scene is *very* touchy-feely (even for Paris, lol). One couple was playing horsie, with him crawling on all fours and her riding on his back, and then they collapsed to the floor with him facing upwards and she climbed on top of him and sort of mounted him and … errr…

Point of No Return:

With virtually no chemistry between the Phantom and Christine, this scene is quite ungainly. She pulls up her skirt and shows her legs a lot, and they tango a bit, :/ but all in a passionless sort of way.

Towards the end of his first verse, the Phantom puts his hands over Christine’s eyes, and she seems to remember the blindfold and realizes that this is the Phantom and not Piangi. I still don’t believe that Christine wouldn’t *immediately* recognize the voice of the man who had tutored her for months (even if he is using a fake Italian accent), but I’ll take what I can get. I’m glad that she recognizes the Phantom before the end of the song; this was an improvement from the original.

With this knowledge that she has the Phantom on stage with her, Christine then decides to try and seduce the Phantom so she can get close enough to unmask him. She gets up on the table and starts pulling up her skirt and suggestively swaying her hips. The Phantom isn’t overwhelmed, vulnerable, and undone like he is in the original when she starts singing about “bodies entwining”; instead, he just sits there watching her, and seems to be enjoying the show. I actually wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d started tossing franc notes at her.

The Phantom’s blocking eventually brings him downstage center in a kneeling position. Christine comes up behind him, and he grabs her hands, ala the original blocking, and she reaches down and takes off his hood. He gets up on the table and proposes to her there. As he comes down to her to put the ring on her finger, she pulls off his mask and wig to reveal his deformity … such as it is. After the unmasking, Christine then runs off upstage right, and the Phantom chases several meters behind her.

Down Once More:

They used the boat to get to the lair! Yay! No more wading through the shallow underground UK tour stream … er … lake!

The set cylinder then reforms to the staircase behind Christine’s dressing room. Mme Giry and Raoul enter at the top, Mme Giry refuses to go any further, and Raoul descends the staircase and runs off stage right for a swim in the lake.

Final Lair:

*Gross sobbing*! Alas, Final Lair, what have they done to thee! My mom’s comment was, “That final scene was awful! Just awful!” (She’s seen the original Phantom production a bunch of times, since she used to take me to some of the performances of the original tour back in the 90s when I was a teenager. Yes, my mom is awesome! Very Happy)

The Final Lair needs to pull the whole performance together. Moreover, it needs to emphasize Christine’s growth as a character, and her rite of passage. Finally, it needs to show the Phantom’s transition from beast to man as he learns to love Christine more than his own life and is finally able to let her go, even though it will mean his own death.

This Final Lair accomplished none of these things.

MAJOR Christine abuse alert: The Phantom is horribly brutal to Christine in the Final Lair (yes, more so than in Leroux), and in Connor’s direction (unlike in Leroux), Christine passively accepts all of it.

I think that Connor was going for an edgy, sex-and-violence reinterpretation of Phantom to try and tap into the current culture. But if that was the case, he grossly missed the mark. This new production isn’t edgy, it is just gratuitous and distasteful. I found it especially offensive that Connor turned Christine into a meek, subservient creature who is buffeted by the violent whims of the two jerks in her life. I don’t particularly mind a domineering Phantom so long as there is an equally strong Christine who can stand up to him.

I really wanted Leroux's Christine to come off the page and give Connor a piece of her mind. It is clear that if Connor read Leroux’s novel, the only thing he took away from it was Erik’s aggression. He completely missed Christine’s bravery and strength.

So, Laurence Connor, to you I say:

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The scene opens with the Phantom making the final touches of shoving Christine into the wedding dress. I guess in this version he stripped her and put her into it? It seems plausible, given the rest of what happens in this scene. Then as Raoul comes to the gate upstage right, the Phantom grabs Christine in a headlock and seems about to twist her head, thus breaking her neck. As the Phantom lets Raoul in, he grabs Christine by the throat and begins to choke her. She starts making pitiful little sounds, and at the last minute, he lets her go and throws her to the floor.  His line, “Did you think that I would harm her” just seems ridiculous — of course Raoul thought the Phantom was going to harm Christine; he was about to kill her. Raoul rushes over and kneels down to see if she is alright. Then the Phantom sneaks up behind Raoul and puts the noose around his neck and draws it up, dragging him to the back of the room. On “Start a new life with me,” the Phantom grabs Christine, throws her onto the bed, climbs on top of her, and appears to be ready to rape her. He then stops for some reason and very awkwardly climbs off of her. Here is my mom’s description of that moment. I think that she was trying to laugh to keep from crying:

“That was the strangest rape scene I’ve ever seen. He crawled around on top of her, but then he couldn’t figure out how to get off. It looked like he was going to sit on her face! He looked kind of like Jackie Kennedy trying to get out of the car after JFK was shot.”

The Phantom actually had the gall and effrontery to look surprised at “tears of hate.” Ugh.

On “Farewell, my fallen idol and false friend,” Christine picks up the Phantom’s sheet music, crumples it, and throws it on the floor, where it scatters. The Phantom looks very distressed by this (not by Christine’s tears and presumably bruised throat, but by his scattered sheet music — go figure).

“You try my patience…” was spoken with virtually no emotion.

Like the 2004 movie, Christine walks up to the Phantom face on and makes it pretty obvious that she is going to kiss him, though he at least had the decency to act surprised by her gesture.

There is only one kiss in this production. On the musical cue for the second kiss, the Phantom collapses to his knees, and Christine follows suit, and they hug there, kneeling on the floor.

The Phantom frees Raoul by shooting a fireball at the noose; there is no candle.

Christine and Raoul booked it out of there! I fought the urge to tell them to run.

Maria Björnson’s ghost had a last word with the Phantom. A spotlight shone on the music box as it played Masquerade, but again, technical difficulties prevented it from opening to reveal the monkey inside.

As I’ve written, when Christine returns with the ring, the Phantom is too distracted by his scattered sheet music to notice her coming in. She doesn’t come forward to face him (again, I can’t blame her; I probably would have jumped in the boat and dropped the ring into the lake), but instead she leaves his ring on the table by his organ, where he finds it after she goes. His “Christine, I love you” rings empty and hollow, and I didn’t believe it for a second.

The production ends with one final possible LND reference. After Christine and Raoul leave the lair the second time (Raoul comes back with Christine when she returns the Phantom’s ring, probably to serve as a bodyguard in case the Phantom turns psychopath again), the Phantom realizes that the mob is descending on his lair. He finishes gathering most of his scattered sheet music, and then he starts looking for a way out. Meg comes into his lair ahead of the mob and rushes over to him looking concerned. She reaches up to him and touches his shoulders, seemingly to comfort him. He turns sharply away from her and crosses stage left. Meg chases after him and again grabs his shoulders, this time from the back. The Phantom becomes very still, and there is a bit of stage magic that happens, because the cloak suddenly comes away in Meg’s hands and falls to the floor — the Phantom has disappeared. Meg searches around in his cloak and pulls out his mask. The curtain closes.

Meg’s sudden (and inexplicable) concern for the Phantom could be coincidence, but it could also be seen as setting the stage for Meg’s obsession with the Phantom in LND. Laurence Connor has sworn up, down, and sideways that his “spectacular new” tour has no connection to LND, but I for one remain unconvinced.

Final Thoughts:

I left the performance feeling dead and sick inside, but also full of insight. The original Phantom of the Opera was the product of a magical alchemy between a number of powerhouse creators, the crème de la crème of their respective fields. ALW with his score, Hal Prince with his direction and staging, Maria Björnson with her costumes and set design, Richard Stilgoe and Charles Hart with their lyrics, and Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, and Steve Barton with the indelible characters that they created. This alchemy was powerful enough to have produced a show that has survived relatively unchanged for more than twenty-five years. But this alchemy is also incredibly delicate. If you change these elements even a little, the edifice that these original creators constructed crumbles to dust.

Much has been said of the savagery that has been done to Maria Björnson’s costumes and sets. Let us also not forget the utter butchery that has been done to Hal Prince’s direction, as well as to the portrayals that the original trio created. These people all read Leroux’s novel, and unlike ALW, they did not consider it a “penny dreadful.” They understood what Leroux was trying to accomplish, and they incorporated the basic milestones of his novel into their creation. Christine’s coming of age story, as well as her courage and compassion; Raoul’s bravery, goodness, and self-sacrifice; the Phantom’s transformation, through Christine’s kindness, from beast to man. These are all the basic tenets of Leroux’s novel, and they are essential. If you do violence to any of them them, the story falls apart. And Connor and Co. did violence to all three. This production should not be allowed to bear the name “The Phantom of the Opera”; it should be called something else (maybe “Love Never Dies: The Prequel”), but not “Phantom.” I feel sorry for all of the people who are seeing Phantom for the first time through this tour (many of whom were there at the performance I attended), and will get a skewed understanding of the show, and ultimately of Leroux.

My final assessment is, go see this tour if you are so inclined. It is worth seeing if nothing else to appreciate the delicate balance of forces that comes together to create the original production. See if multiple times if you like; the score and (much of) the singing are lovely, and if you squint your eyes, it almost seems like Phantom. If you love this tour, please, by all means, love it; there are plenty of people who love things that I dislike, and vice versa. But please do understand that this is not just a “new tour” of Phantom; this is not just a matter of a few costumes and some blocking that have been changed. This is a very different show, with a different concept, a different message, and ultimately, a different story.

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FdelOpera
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Post  SenorSwanky Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:49 pm

Fantastically thorough review, but sad to see my fears confirmed. It's coming here this fall, but I don't plan to see it. I certainly don't plan to make it the first time my gf has seen it on stage.
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Post  justin-from-barbados Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:40 pm

You know I've a;ways wondered why some recordings have Brava and not Bravi, but never bothered to find out why. Great review, really paints a picture of the design of the show.

Also for anyone not sure and wondering, that pic above of the theatre, all the nice frillyness and red curtains up behind the curtain (everything above that lighting rail) is part of that particular theatre not the shows design, so it would really look quite plain in a more modern space.

One question, is that the actual deformity? It looks somewhat so from photos but I dont recognise the guy wearing it.
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Post  NightRachel Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:25 am

Oh wow....
I just read your very well-written and thorough review of the new tour production, FdelOpera, and I'm kinda speechless. Needless to say, I won't waste a penny on a ticket to see it ever (not that I was planning to anyway), but it really saddens me to read your experience with seeing this show...seems like a wasted 2 hours in the theater. Thank you for sharing your review here, as hopefully it'll serve to discourage others from wasting money on tickets to see it. I just wonder how Cameron Mackintosh could produce a version of Phantom such as this?!

First the 2004 movie, then LND, and now this new touring production. What next? In what other ways can our beloved story of Erik, Christine and Raoul be utterly ruined?!  Mad   Evil or Very Mad   Sad   Question   Exclamation   No   pale 
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Post  Scorp Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:21 pm

NightRachel wrote:

First the 2004 movie, then LND, and now this new touring production. What next? In what other ways can our beloved story of Erik, Christine and Raoul be utterly ruined?!  Mad   Evil or Very Mad   Sad   Question   Exclamation   No   pale 

It's not been a great ten years for the show. TEN LONG YEARS.............um, yeah.

Incidentally, if ALW is responsible for cutting the "let the audience in" line...WTF? Since when did logic come high in his list of priorities? Cf. Plot of LND...

_________________
In Hal Prince we trust.
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Post  auctioneer Sun Mar 16, 2014 5:58 pm

Hi folks - snuck in a couple performances in NYC on 20 and 21 February.  Production is in good shape.  Nice to see Kristen Blodgette back in the pit as I had not seen her there in quite some time.  Hugh manages to keep his performances fresh enough.  Had the pleasure of seeing Elizabeth Welch on 20 Friday and she received a much deserved standing ovation at curtain call.  Our new Raoul is a step up from the last few as he is less smug.  The managers are fine enough but we miss the gravitas of George Lee Andrews and David Cryer.  Similarly our new Madame Giry lacks the stage presence of Leila or Heather Jackson in the west end.  Good tight ensemble and crisp orchestra.  Show is in good shape and it is lovely to see so many stalwarts still at work among musicians, crew, and front of house. Hopefully Connor will not get his hands on this production or my beloved west end production.

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Post  jennyfair Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:03 am

FdelOpera wrote:Overall, Laurence Connor seemed to be trying to ground this production within solid, literal reality, instead of going for the psychological, dreamlike quality, replete with mystery and illusion, that Hal Prince so masterfully drew from Leroux. And overall, Connor’s direction did not work.

FdelOpera, I felt exactly the same way after seeing the new tour in Columbus last night.  I went in with a good idea of what the new changes would be and tried to keep an open mind, but spent much of the performance scrunching up my eyebrows in confusion or frowning in disappointment.  I think there were some positive changes and helpful clarifications but I really missed the mysterious/magical element of the original.  Cooper's Phantom was not suave, seductive, or sympathetic at all.  While part of that was his particular performance, much of it is the new blocking.  The violence and detachment is built into the character now, which is a shame.

The updated Phantom tour reminds me of the updated Les Mis tour.  In both cases, the sets went from minimal to literal.  Adding more to the stage doesn't always add more to the experience.  I do love the new transitions from scene to scene, though, and the juxtaposition of onstage/backstage.  The rotating cylinder helps things flow together and there are some really beautiful moments.  But for 20,000 francs a month, I thought the lair could be a bit more polished than a "magpie nest" (as Connor describes it).

I'm considering giving it another chance when it comes to Cincinnati, but maybe I'll wait until Pittsburgh next year...
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Post  StrangerThanUDreamt Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:27 am

Add me to the " I caught it in Columbus and left with mixed feelings" group as well. I wont go into a full on review as an amazing one has been done in such great detail here already but I will say I have never been so vastly underwhelmed by a Phantom than I was with Cooper. I mean, was he even trying? It came across as sloppy, and way too many pop-oriented vocals. However here are few things that were nice.

The chandelier crash was great, very fast and effective.

We had the U/S Christine, Celia Hottenstein,  and one of the perks of seeing her, was that her costumes (for whatever reason) had not been butchered! Star Princess was an intact original design (minus tiara) and it looked a lot like a UK version (big frilly sleeves on the upper arms) and she had her silver boots as well. Her PoNR skirt also looked fuller than other pics I've seen from the tour and it a slit but not as dramatic as the others I've "seen", also her Wedding Gown looked much more detailed than what's currently been going around on tour. My guess is since she is not lead or alt. her costumes are basically untouched original designs that they just havent decided to butcher since she goes on so rarely.

I actually liked most of the sets, however the Phantoms lair was just 'meh', but Il Muto looked great, as did the rooftop, but it could have been a bit bigger. The full moon and snow was a great touch though.

HOWEVER...something pretty interesting went down in the lobby during intermission. Two groups ( of significant size) of people were standing in a line asking for a REFUND. A friend I was with motioned me over and we lingered around, the people in the box office were no doubt not prepared for this as they kept trying to skirt the issue, the guy in the front basically said (very loudly) "I'm not trying to be an @$$ but this is NOT what we paid to see, we would like our money back and to just go home" OUCH. So yeah, I don't know if they all got a refund, but if so I can only wonder if the higher-ups were made aware. Like I said, it wasnt just one person, it was at least eight to ten.
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Post  phantom5251 Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:18 am

Now, that I have had a little more than a day to “reflect” wanted to post my thoughts on getting to see the new tour during its closing performance at the Ohio Theater, in Columbus, OH. :-)

The Ohio is really a gorgeous theater. To me it felt like you could spend a good portion of your time looking at the architecture itself! However, the lobby was a bit cramped, and would’ve been nice had it been a little more organized, as it resulted in people pushing their way through, which I didn’t exactly understand, because for the most part, don’t we all have assigned seating anyway? Even saw somebody try to cut in front of a person in a wheelchair.

The Phantom - Cooper Grodin

I wasn’t exactly fond of him all that much. He’s got a good voice, but kind of seems to be lacking in the acting department. Whether this is him, or Connor’s direction, I don’t know, but it just seemed like his actions were off, and as others have said, it seems like the notes were hard for him to hit at times, so he’d shout them instead. He also has kind of a lisp thing going, so wasn’t sure what that was about. Part of me wondered if maybe the production would be better had they selected a Phantom veteran with either experience from either previous tours or Broadway? I think the UK Tour lucked out with JOJ and Carpenter in that respect. But some of his actions/motivations seemed lacking intention. Perhaps with time he’ll get better, but we shall see. Maybe it was because he “thrust” into action after Mark left. Would be great to get additional reviews of him as the tour progresses.

Christine Alternate - Grace Morgan

Julia only played from 3/5 - 3/9 in Columbus, and Grace Morgan played the closing weekend (Celia Hottenstein played 3/11-3/14). I thought she did a great job, and had a lovely voice. Played the ingenue role up nicely. Feisty when she needed to be. So if you happen to go and don’t get Julia, don’t fret as Grace seems to fill in nicely.

Raoul - Ben Jacoby

Really liked him. As others have said he’s a little more aggressive than Raoul’s we’ve maybe been used to, but I almost found parts of me wishing he was the Phantom instead, he certainly has the voice going for him to do it in maybe a few more years. Must be the Phantom pedigree from his father :-). After Christine went through the mirror, I think he might have jumped the gun on “I am your Angel of Music, come to me…”, but he recovered nicely. Also, in “Down Once More,” did they cut him “jumping into the water” from the show? Couldn’t tell because it looked like he had his safety harness attached and then it came off, so he just went down the stairs instead on the drum. So wasn’t sure if that was intentional or him improving.

Carlotta, Piangi, Mme Giry, Meg and the Managers -

The show does seem “funnier” than the original, and I would chalk it up to these guys for adding new bits of “business” to the show. They do a great job, and certainly added some new stuff that I liked.

Auction/Prologue

Was interesting with the “cob-webby” scrim in front of the action beforehand…it was a little distracting, but manageable.

Overture

Ah, my favorite part of the show…was a nice touch with the pyrotechnics shooting out as the chandelier switched on. I actually liked the staging of it being Raoul’s memories as the chandelier rose. But like Bric, I missed the gold proscenium and the draperies flying off. Plus the big “BOOM” with those pyrotechnics when the chandelier is revealed. It always gives me goosebumps when that happens so that was missed. To me, this scene is one of the best openers in musical theater, so it was semi-disappointing to not have it lift from the stage, but did like the staging.

Hannibal

I’m glad they semi kept the elephant. Still much funnier though with Hannibal trying to get up on the top of it versus the sword business, but even that still got some laughter in the audience. Cast was great in this scene.

After The Gala/Dressing Room/Angel of Music, etc

If I recall, this was the first part where I wish we would have had seats more toward the center. The drum does a great job for scene changes, and you can’t really even hear it moving. However it seems to cover parts of the action. So when the Phantom appeared, I found myself having to lean in more toward the center (we were seated house left). I liked that the door swung open versus the elevator effect.

Journey To the Lair/Music of the Night

My other favorite scene. This is where I feel they did flourish in someways. The effect with the stairs coming out of the walls, and then as the gondola got center, how the drum split into two to reveal the lair, was pretty neat. But again, the drum blocked some of the action, so I think this is where I definitely missed Prince’s stagings more, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks, where it was neat to have the portcullis slowly come down, the candelabras come out of the floor (or from the sides :-)), etc. Grodin also frequently paddled the boat with one arm…thought that was kind of odd…I know it’s stage floor underneath, but at least look like you’re rowing, lol. The candles with actual smoke were a nice touch next to the organ. Caught me off guard though with Grodin shouting “Breathe!” “From your center!”, etc, versus the usual “Sing my Angel!” So perhaps again this is where the “realism” factor comes in again with him being the teacher to start? Grodin did do a nice job with MOTN, but I still wasn’t sure about the whole blindfold thing. We get that the lair is a “fantasyland” at the moment for Christine as she’s entranced, I don’t think the blindfold is necessary. Plus with her just randomly falling to the ground and him carrying her to the bed was odd. The Mirror Bride made more sense in terms of that actually “spooking” Christine, causing her to faint. Ah well, he still got a nice applause.

Beyond the Lake/Next Morning

*Sigh*, to me this is where the Phantom really gets to first show off his acting chops and make the role his own by adding his own business, and Grodin just came up short. His notes seemed off, and again, it seemed like he was forcing things. I’ll always remember Ted Keegan “snake-crawling” across the floor during this scene, loved it.

Notes/Prima Donna

I think this may be the part where some may think the sets looked “cheap”? Again, the drum doors opened for the office, only revealing parts, so it was hard to see at times. But the cast was great during this, and sung beautifully. I don’t really recall anything I didn’t like, but they were beautifully in harmony.

Il Muto

I actually really liked what they did with this. The projections of the Phantoms shadows were nice, in that I think this is where it was appreciated that it did look a little more realistic. I actually didn’t mind him being off to the side when he hung Buquet. Cooper seemed to have fun sneaking up behind him during this. Oh! And the chandelier REALLY swung during this! I was kind of impressed by this. I did find part of me thinking to myself “I do hope those cables are sturdy!” lol.

Rooftop/AIAOY/AIAOY Reprise

Did not like the staging during this with Christine looking like she was going to jump and it just seemed like Ben was singing at her the whole time, and they didn’t really show any actual chemistry till toward the end of the song. They could have at least showed progressive chemistry. But it was sung nicely regardless.

During the reprise, I definitely missed the Phantom coming down from above. The statue seemed kind of “shaky” as it rolled forward, which isn’t good for what should be such a poignant scene before the end of Act 1. It also didn’t help that people in front of us were just coming back from the bathroom, so I found myself unfortunately distracted out of the moment. Cooper did a great job with singing in this part, but again, the “acting” of it seemed off. And yes, I would agree, the chandelier definitely drops a lot more quickly than in the other which was great! I think I might have felt some of the “glass” shards, but couldn’t tell :-)

Masquerade

The Hall of Mirrors was a nice touch, but I missed the original staging of this with the staircase, the Red Death costume, the Phantom coming down the stairs to the “BUM! BUM! BUM!” on each step, etc. His mask is definitely more “blinged” out than the one from the UK version. Other than though, the choreography was good and well sung by the cast. I missed him tossing “DJT” to the managers as well.

DJT Rehearsal

This scene was kind of cool how when the group starts to sing in harmony and Christine feels by herself, and them pointing at her. Ominous feel to set up Wishing.

Wishing/AOM Reprise

Loved hearing the trio in harmony during the reprise. But again, the scene just felt odd with the Phantom sort of strolling in as has been mentioned before. Also missed when he starts with “I am your angel, etc.” and the grave doors open up. However, the new fireballs were a great touch! Also missed the Phantom’s costume with the hat with the feathers. I always liked that look. Also thought the fight wasn’t necessary, too reminiscent of the 2004 movie. But again, had the Phantom been staged “above”, it probably wouldn’t have mattered as much. Grace knocked Wishing out of the park as well. Such a beautiful song. I did have to do a double take though because they changed the lyrics somewhat to say “Three long years,” and then I can’t remember the rest.

PONR

Definitely “sexed up” more. Glad they kept the cloak costume in. At one point the Phantom interlocks his hands and puts them in front of Christine’s eyes which I think clues her in that it’s him at that point and she turns up the show a notch. She does get up on the table, and I think at one point he reaches his hand up to touch her leg and it almost looked like she kicked it out of the way. After the Big Reveal though, I didn’t understand the point of the guards cornering him with guns drawn and then they just kind of backs away when he proposes. The other staging made more sense to me before the mass chaos ensues after Piangi is discovered.

Down Once More

Cooper sort of redeemed himself here. His singing and acting got a lot better and he did a great job with “It’s over now,” etc. But yes, to echo others, he’s definitely a lot more aggressive with Christine. His “try my patience,” wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, another great signature moment for any Phantom actor. He also uses a fireball to cut down Raoul from the noose. Before the kiss, I did like Grodin’s expressions as Christine started to approach him during “God give me courage…” like you could actually see him change from angry/impatient Phantom to “is she really actually going to choose ME?” The ending was actually kind of neat, and still left me semi wondering how they did it, with him throwing the cloak over himself, and Meg almost walking him downstage at one point, until she realizes that he’s gone. Nice touch. I didn’t get as emotional at the end as I usually do, but did feel drained just the same. The audience did give a standing ovation.

Final Thoughts

With having seen the original nine times before, including three wonderful times in Toronto during its run there, was this as good? Not really. Did I enjoy my time? Of course! My biggest advice is to go into it with an open mind, knowing that it’s not the replica of the Broadway/West End and I think you’ll enjoy yourself more. When it comes to Phantom, I’ve always been a big proponent of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory, so it is disappointing that they didn’t bring back the old tour instead of this version. However, it is Phantom, and I do feel as though the cast, the music and other points mentioned above do help make up for any potential shortcomings, and hopefully as time goes on and the cast gets more time to develop chemistry with each other, the show will improve. I think Bric mentioned that this is probably the Phantom the rest of the country will get for the time being, so if you feel even slightly inclined to see the show, I would recommend it. And I would think that with this probably being one of ALW’s largest revenue generators (as well as Cammack’s), I wouldn’t foresee this tour ceasing anytime soon. I know it’s wishful thinking, but would be nice if the powers that would listen to some of our suggestions, especially with some of the staging/blocking, etc. I understand the sets and what not are here to stay, and the little bits of Maria’s costumes that they didn’t destroy, but I certainly think things could be improved greatly if they would change some of the staging. Again, Phantom traditionalists may have a hard time with the new show, but if you go to it with it an open mind, I think you’ll still like it. Which I hope people do go, because it would be nice to see if the show evolves over time, if the cast gets better, etc. I think ticket sales must be doing okay, because they seem to keep adding stops and I even looked at their coming Cincy stop next month and it seems like there’s not much left for weekend shows. Will be interesting though how many of these sales are from people thinking they’re getting the previous version?

Regardless, it was a wonderful night at the theatre, and a chance to enjoy the story and music that I love. Not sure if we’ll get to the Cincy stop, or may have to wait till Pittsburgh next year.
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Post  StrangerThanUDreamt Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:28 am

^ pretty much my thoughts as well. My frustration with this new tour is that it truly has some fantastic moments; Overture, journey to the lair, Il Muto, Don Juan, revamped chandelier crash, the projections used to tell the Phantoms backstory..yet it has some other moments that just seem to do the characters such injustice (mostly the Phantom)

I do think though that the character of Christine felt more developed in this version (and heard several others make similar comment after the show) also her friendship with Meg feels much stronger here as well. I also loved that Carlotta & Piangi really get the show off in their scenes, I know it's the same score but it really seemed like that were given much more to do under the new direction.

And Ben is now one of my favorite Raoul's, which is no easy feat. He is such a strong and passionate actor that halfway through the show I was thinking "why is he not playing the Phantom!?" If him and Cooper could just switch roles, I think it would fix a lot of things..
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Post  Phantom on a Budget Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:57 pm

Norm Lewis and Sierra Boggess to take over lead roles on Broadway

I've seen Sierra at the 25th and thought she was brilliant, but I'm most excited about Norm Lewis getting the title role. Can't wait to see what he's going to bring to it!
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Post  LadyCDaae Thu Mar 20, 2014 6:01 pm

Dang, I was just about to post that. Really excited about Lewis--though I kind of wish it hadn't taken them this long to get another African-American actor in the part...

~LCD

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Post  SenorSwanky Thu Mar 20, 2014 6:02 pm

Whoa. Surprised they were able to get them to do these roles. I wonder how long they'll stay. I'm not a big fan of Lewis, but I'll certainly give him a shot in this role.

Also, is Hugh leaving for good this time?
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Post  Paula74 Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:07 am

SenorSwanky wrote:
Also, is Hugh leaving for good this time?

I'd say yes since he decided he didn't not want to renew...he didn't really get into details, but he just seems ready to move on right now.

(This is barring the usual joke/disclaimer that no one ever really leaves Phantom for good.)

I love Norm in general (and I'm kicking myself for missing the recent SIDE SHOW reunion concert, but I had bronchitis) and am really curious to see him in the role. I know his name has come up more than once when speculation on casts, but I always have trouble imaging him actually in the role.

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Post  phantom10906 Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:53 am

I feel Norm as the Phantom will be something very interesting to see. I think he'll do a wonderfully in the role. Sierra coming back, I'm a little more on the fence about. I thought she was excellent when I saw her the week of the 25th last year, but I would like to see her in some other shows other then Phantom.
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