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US Tour - 4/1/15 Wharton Center, East Lansing, MI (Mann / Travis / Lineberger)

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Post  todaaefor Thu Apr 02, 2015 7:00 pm

Act 1 Review:
Phantom of the Opera
Wharton Center, 4/1/15
Mann / Travis / Lineberger / O’Neil (cover) / Benoit / Staudenmayer / Kanengeiser / Viveros / Cowling

The production that dares me to be dazzled finally rolled into my home state last night. In the interest of full-transparency, I have seen the brilliant original 55 times and have been more than dazzled. I can barely remember a time that this show HASN’T been part of my life – I’m 32 and was introduced to it in 1992. I’m prepared to fully admit that it was difficult for me to separate my expectations / love of familiarity / obsession with the subtle nuances between actors and productions from seeing this show as an entirely new interpretation. Still, I wanted to be objective. Even if I was skeptical.

I tried. I really did.

What follows is my attempt at a review as well as a detailed / spoiler-heavy account of some of the changes (from the significant to the minor) – plus some overall observations and musings. It’s been ages since I’ve written a formal review, so advance apologies for any thought derailments or jumping around. If there is something that I missed or that you’re particularly curious to know more on, please ask!

Prologue / Auction
This scene in particular seems to take its queues from the 2004 movie. The changes start right away, with a spiderweb-type cloth screening the whole stage. The auctioneer and crowd come from the wings, with him stating something to the effect of “This way, ladies and gentlemen, the remaining items are on the stage of the Paris Opera House.” The bidders are far more animated / engaged. They flip through booklets, inspect items, cross the scene, etc. It’s set up like an antique shop. Raoul, who is not an invalid but certain aged, stands up when he bids “30 francs” for the music box, which has changed in design a bit – the monkey is enclosed in a spaceship contraption, but still claps cymbals together.

When referring to lot 666, the chandelier (which hangs overhead and is covered in burlap) descends slightly. The auctioneer, who has much better things to be doing than auctioning off old opera relics because he is SPEEDING through this scene, mentions they have fitted it with wiring for the new electric light, “to see how marvelous it once looked,” – minor libretto change. It plugs in and some fireworks shoot out of it, with lights twinkling a la the original.

As the auction ends, the stage slowly transforms around Raoul. Stagehands clear the auction, ballerinas take the stage, stagehands set up Hannibal rehearsal, other characters take their “places” and begin going through their motions. Raoul watches all of them as though he’s reliving a memory. When the key changes halfway through the overture, the spideweb cloth is lifted, Raoul exits and the Opera cast goes through their motions quickly, leaving Carlotta alone onstage with her severed head to begin the rehearsal. I thought this was a unique take on the time transformation – certainly literal (a common theme throughout this production – they really hit you over the head with it, and I don’t think that adds any value to the show but more on that later.)

It goes without saying that this production is different. There is really NOTHING that carries over. So, yes. This scene is different. Every motion is different, though there are some nods to the original choreography (whether by design or coincidence) in the hand motion of the ballerinas, etc. Differences in the RAH production are carried over here; interestingly, Meg is not the one who is introduced as a promising dancer – that honor goes to Christine (as she is in the back row of the ballet and on demi-pointe… riiiiiight.) Also, the ballet girls have waterfall bangs. Are those period correct? I’m pretty sure I rocked them in 1998.

Carlotta’s shtick of spraying her voice and rolling through trills from the movie begins here and shows up a few other times during the show. As she launches into TOM, she hollers at Reyer as he plays the intro – clapping her hands at him and complaining about the tempo or some such thing. She’s being framed as a diva.

I don’t know it yet, but Lindsey O’Neil either can’t hit all of Carlotta’s notes or Carlotta’s intervals have been rewritten. This will show up in later songs – namely Prima Donna – but she has a very clear voice. Rather than a backdrop, it is a sandbag that falls from the rafters. Her exit stage left is underwhelming – no furs, lots of pointing, and she walks off.

Meg pushes Christine into Andre as a possible candidate for the understudy – it is here that she’s asked if she has any relation to the violinist – “My father, sir,” as done at RAH.

Think of Me
Largely, the scene is not that different. It’s still Christine on stage singing her sweet little heart out to different choreography and a different set. The boxes on the sides are two stories – Raoul comes in late, about halfway through her first gala verse. The strangest thing to me was when two ballerinas came from offstage, doing a very strange leg lifting dance, and gave Christine the scarf that she normally carried during the entire song.

After the Gala / AOM (Formally, the scene is now called “Corps de Ballet Dressing Room”)
This is where we see the big rotating drum set begin to come into play. We definitely get the vibe that we are backstage. Exposed brick, pipes, catwalks, etc. Giry instructs the girls to get changed and practices – many of them have already removed their tutus. They exit and Meg and Christine have their beginning exchange in front of the brick – until the drum opens and we see the interior of ballet girls’ dressing room – this is the room where the Angels calls her softly. While we see the ballet girls change, Christine gets into her dressing gown and Meg clips into her tutu – slowly the girls exit through a door in the back and the girls finish their song. Largely, it wraps the same – it just looks different. The mirror is huge - hard to put a dimension on it, but easily 12 x 12. Christine reads the note from Raoul – red scarf, attic and “LITTLE LOTTE!” – she clearly knows it’s him.

Little Lotte / AOM
Key differences here – the managers are drunk. They are drunk through most of the show. They talk about drinking scotch. One of them usually has a drink in their hand. Not sure if this was added for comic affect? Raoul takes a single rose from a bouquet carried by one of the guys who collects bouquets from Christine (do they have titles?) Anyway, Christine is checking herself out alone in the mirror, robe open and Raoul walks in. He asks about the scarf. Despite having read the note not THREE SECONDS AGO and being told during rehearsal that the Vicomte would be the new patron, she is suddenly confused and horrified about who this might be. But whew, they recognize each other and sing a song. Christine has a locket that I assume as a picture of her father in it, because she put sit on and sings to it and lovingly fiddles with it when she sings about him. Raoul doesn’t care so much that Christine can’t go to  supper, per usual, and the Phantom is pissed at overhearing the invitation.

AOM / Journey to the Lair
Generally, AOM part 2 is played the same way. Then he lights up in the mirror – whoa. I can’t handle the lack of a fedora. Zero style. If some guy showed up in my mirror without having so much as combed his hair, I’m probably not interested. Christine drops the rose Raoul had given her (I missed when she picked it up) and disappears through the mirror (which opened like a door). “I am your Angel of music” is cut short somehow… Raoul never overhears them or knocks at the door. The song is just cut and he walks in… and calls for Christine six or seven times. Yeah… she’s gone dude.

The drum slowly closes and rotates and we see Christine and the Phantom near the top of what is an oft used catwalk throughout the show. God, I hate him not having a fedora. It’s the first time so far that I’m really hung up on a difference between productions. They walk down the stairs – which come out of the drum one at a time – kind of cool. At the bottom of the stairs, they hop in a boat that looks like it’s a ferry from the Small World ride, and take a short jaunt from stage R to stage L. I miss the candles. I miss the atmosphere. I’m having trouble separating again.

During her cadenza at the end, he coaches her – BREATHE. FOCUS. SING. He plays on the organ throughout. Bit distracting.

Music of the Night
His lair is a cushy looking full-size bed and an organ, with a few real candles and a candelabra. The music box sits in front of the organ. No throne, no mirror, no portcullis. I’m trying to get over that.

Until this song starts. He says she is there to sing for his music. He puts a music stand in front of her, with the score to (what I know to be) Don Juan Triumphant. As he sings about nighttime and sensations and unfurling splendor, she’s reading the score. He then grabs a blindfold and puts it on her during “close your eyes and surrender…” – and she is NOT happy about it. First case of invading the personal bubble. She physically resists and tries to take it off but he holds her arms against her body and encourages her to let go, let her spirit start to soar and all that…. This goes on with them alternating between dancing, crossing the stage etc. until “only then can you belong to me”.

At some point, she trips and ends up on the floor. At “touch me / trust me”, he extends a hand and helps her up – then SCOOPS HER UP and sings to her. With her arms around his neck, he lays her down in the bed to the power of the music of the night…. She is asleep in no less than three seconds.

I’m eye-roll central at this point but I think he went back to his score and sang about helping him make the music of the night. Gah.

The Next Morning / Beyond the Lake
Ok, if it’s the next morning I missed that or someone missed a lighting cue because the stage stayed lit. Christine sings, and the Phantom is over at his organ, writing notes to the managers, making tweaks to his score, etc. This is evidently exhausting work, because he has to take his mask of to wash up his face.

Now, if I have some obscene facial issue that I don’t want people to see, I’m probably covering it up. I’m probably not leaving house guests unattended while I’m unmasked – I’m definitely making sure I’m locked up in the bathroom and not out on the open. And if someone taps me on the shoulder or knocks on my door while I’m facially vulnerable, I’m definitely saying, “GIVE ME A MINUTE”.

But not THIS Phantom. Not this more like a real man Phantom!

So like a typical control freak, he blames HER for seeing him, freaks out, yells at her etc. The removal of her unmasking him is the first step in the changed dynamic of their relationship.

Hate it.

He’s not very pitiable during STYDI – but apart from the lack of an army crawl across the stage, the scene is basically the same.

I miss his robe too. Not digging the vest and white sleeves look.

We revisit the reverse of the drum again – Buquet is up on the catwalk and the dancers are meandering about the stage – there is a minor lyric change, something about his eyes being darker than anything you know (rather than the nose that never grew). Meg yells, “STOP IT BUQUET” because #harrassment. They scurry away – no sighting of the pair returning even though this is the same set and catwalk that leads back up from the cellars to the dressing room.

For a production that seeks to cure a lot of plot holes, it sure opens up a lot more.

Notes / Prima Donna / Il Muto
The managers are drunk. It’s raining. Carlotta is wearing her Act 2 dress instead of the black and white one. Their office, from what I can tell, is on the reverse side of the ballet girls’ dressing room (the door looks the same). It’s bright and red – there are posters from shows the opera has put on, plants, a small desk. In all, it’s the same. We do see the Phantom walking the backstage catwalk while he’s singing over the note. It doesn’t have that haunting / possessed direction but it’s overall tolerable (except the visible Phantom part.)

Not much has been done to clear up who is singing about what during Prima Donna – but Carlotta does change her costume onstage. 2004 movie throwback! Also, this is where some of her notes are changed; the high ones right before "your public needs you" and both instances of "once more" - curious if Jacquelynne Fontaine does this as well or if this is just because they had an understudy covering for a few nights.

Holy elaborate Il Muto set. Carlotta tells the Pageboy to kiss her in her husband’s absence. He never does – Chritsine just stands by the couch Carlotta sits on and poses. Awkward. We see projections of the Phantom while he makes his Box 5 threats, after Christine is called a toad, etc. After he calls Carlotta a toad, she gets a tray from her dresser and sprays her throat again – 2004 movie HOLLA. No magic here, someone has just poisoned the water hole.

She croaks, it’s funny. Andre bumbles and brings out the ballet. He reminds me of Allie’s dad in the Notebook. Smarmy drunk.

Have I mentioned yet how uninspired the choreography and dancing is? Zero precision and so literal. I took a friend who is a trained dancer and has only seen the Brilliant Original once (though she’s a big fan of the music – she doesn’t have the sigma against the new production like I do) – she could not STAND the ballets or the other dance sequences.

Anyway, while I was busy watching the train wreck that was the Il Muto ballet (tragic), I missed it but the Phantom is definitely onstage and you see him hang Buquet. The drum set is turned somewhat sideways, so the dancers aren’t playing to the audience – they’re almost playing to the wings. Like a cross section. Meg sees the hanging and screams – the Phantom runs away. Such a daring escape!

The Rooftop / AIAOY
Oh thank god, it’s SNOWING. Because there haven’t been enough 2004 movie nods yet.

Christine is way more aggressive during Raoul I’ve been there; she really gets in his face for questioning her about there even being a Phantom of the Opera. While she sings about his voice and her spirit soaring, I am not sold. He was kind of a creepy jerk and she definitely doesn’t play like she was hypnotized by or even interested in him. Still, she has one bad date with the guy and decides she wants to jump off the roof. The worst kind of forced.

So she collapses to the ground while Raoul sings to her, and they do their AIAOY thing. They’ve definitely got this “GOD this has been such an exhausting experience let’s just fall in love” vibe going on, because #plot. But I don’t get that they love each other. He reminds me too much of Samwise Gamgee, leading Christine to destroy The Ring. She’s not too interested because it’s all about her – gotta have the Angel, the career – gotta have it all. They return to the stage.

I sort of like the rooftop scenery – the Apollo’s Lyre is really nice, even if I did miss the Angel. There was no audible gasp when the Phantom appeared from behind it like there is when you see his hand come out over the Angel. Anyway, poor Phantom. Probably should have kept your mask on or maybe not washed your face while you had a house guest, because she’s not interested.

Have I mentioned that I miss the fedora? It’s iconic. Plus, it’s snowing, dude. Get a hat.

He shoots down the Chandelier from Box 5. With a Rick Grimes-looking gun. A couple of bulbs pop out and it drops quickly about 20 feet and falls apart. Not as elaborate as the Vegas production but along those lines. Effective – a reasonable substitute for not having one that fully ascends.

At intermission, I text a good friend in Denver who is one of the old Phan crew as well. The text reads, “Omg. Omg. I might cry. I just can’t even.” She is horrified. And she has to wait a few more hours until I can give her more.

I decide to pass up a chance to swap seats with a friend and sit a little closer for Act 2. This is how I know I’m not interested. But I commit to try and stay open minded, even if I'm struggling with the vibe the new direction is giving. The nice old gentleman next to me asks if I’m with the show, because I’m taking a lot of notes.

No, good sir. But I should be! I have a lot of feedback.

End of Act 1 review. Act 2 to come – hope to finish this up tomorrow before I lose memory of the details. I’ll also address the vocals of the performers and give some general thoughts. No one really blew me away, but I have a hunch that’s because I was not in a very Phantom-y place by the time all was said and done.

Happy to answer any questions too!


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US Tour - 4/1/15 Wharton Center, East Lansing, MI (Mann / Travis / Lineberger) Empty Re: US Tour - 4/1/15 Wharton Center, East Lansing, MI (Mann / Travis / Lineberger)

Post  Scorp Fri Apr 03, 2015 8:22 pm

I hate Laurence Connor. Cameron, if you're reading this, your "spectacular new production" is anything but. It's not gritty, it's shitty. There, I said it.

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Post  todaaefor Thu Apr 09, 2015 3:36 pm

Whew, sorry for the delay. Work and toddlers and a very late stage pregnancy ate up too much time!

Act Two
After meeting up with my companions at intermission (we all took scattered single seats in order to sit in close in the orchestra), I decide that it’s not worth my time or effort to trade off for the 4th row and stay back in the 11th row center. Two seats are open next to me, and my friends decide they’d rather go down with the ship together than experience the rest of this on their own…

Remember all of those Masked Balls that were attended at the Palais Garnier in their mirrored rooms? Oh wait, no. That’s not a thing.

Masquerade is far and away one of the vast changes and huge disappointments in this production. Gone are the Technicolor-esque splendor of the costumes, the creative design (far more monochromatic and in party attire rather than ‘costumes’), the impressive staircase that elevates the ensemble so that you can see all of the details and movement… apart from Christine as the star princess (which is definitely scaled down), the palate is flat. Much closer to the movie production. The choreography is strange and robotic – picture when a 13-year old dance troupe lines up and does different arm movements to the beat – this is what happens.

Put it this way – we’ve all experienced the audible gasp / oohs and ahhs when the curtain pulls back on Masquerade in the original. That DEFINITELY did not happen here.

The Phantom’s Red Death entrance is a JOKE. One of the mirrors opens and saunters in. He’s on everyone’s level, he looks like Britney Spears in her 1990 “Oops… I Did it Again” catsuit with a bad version of his already bad mask. He says that her voice is still his – and with a Liberace-esque flourish, he turns and walks back into the mirror. Everyone screams and scatters. OH MY GOD, HE IS WALKING AWAY, WHAT DO WE DO?!


Afterwards / Madame Giry’s Tale
The drum closes on the masked ball into the backstage brick again (the same façade we’ve seen before) and we see Raoul and Giry. As she recounts her memories for him, projections of what she is saying appear on the brick behind them. The Phantom as a child, being abused, having skills, ultimately murdering his captors and escaping… another example of the literal direction of this show. Not very haunting, especially when it’s being delivered with Giry staring up towards the source of the projections – like a dream bubble.

Notes 2
The drum opens up its doors and we see the bright red office of the managers again. They are drinking – it’s been a rough year. From what I remember, the staging is obviously different and similar to Notes 1. I haven’t made much mention yet of acting – one thing that stood out to me here (as a positive) was the increased animosity b/w Katie Travis’ Christine and Carlotta. Katie Travis is feisty. I liked it, especially her “How dare you?” bit.

Then Christine slaps Raoul after “If you don’t stop I’ll go mad” and I fainted (not really). She got up in his grill about being frightened – very frantic, like she had totally snapped, ranting and pacing the stage. No wilting flower being delicately placed in a chair. Apart from the slap (which I hated), I liked this change for her character.

Except they cut the “She’s mad” line from Carlotta – and it couldn’t have been more appropriate with this new direction! And after she runs out, they’ve added this ridiculous line of her accusing Raoul, “You swore you’d protect me!” Ooooh, the drama!

Rehearsal for Don Juan

The sitzprobe is set with our brick drum backdrop out, and you see a lot of action. The ensemble is doing some of the intended choreography, rather than standing in organized rows. Piangi is over by the piano; Christine is already on stage and makes an “entrance” when she begins her rehearsal line. Definitely more animated. They erupt into chaos when Piangi can’t get the note for the zillionth time, but when the piano comes to life, the ensemble becomes robotic sings TO Christine, as though they are accusing her… “You will have to pay the bill” – I remember that they pointed at her. She writhes on stage with her fists up trying to get them out of her head… once the singing ends after “winding sheets”, they go back to chaos.

Christine dresses herself in her cloak as everyone disperses around her, and she sings while the stage clears and the drum opens to the graveyard.

Wishing / Wandering Child
This is probably the only scene that I all-around felt OK about. Yes, the graveyard is more linear, the mausoleum is not impressive. But Katie Travis was very convincing. The overwrought love affair with the locket is a bit annoying – she takes it off and says goodbye to it and leaves it on her grave. More hit-you-over-the-head with meaning. GUYS, IT’S HER DAD HE TIES HER TO THE PHANTOM WITH HIS MEMORY. METAPHORS. But it was pretty and lush. She does not have her red scarf.

The Phantom and Raoul enter the graveyard from upstage as they begin Wandering Child. Raoul doesn’t seem to be too bothered that the Phantom is creeping up on Christine within an arms’ reach and then touches her at “Have you forgotten your Angel?” – they sing to each other for a while. It’s always been sort of a weird scene for me as a trio (sounds gorgeous but kind of awkward with Raoul just standing there like a dope) – so it’s especially weird here without the Phantom being up on another level.

At any rate, the Phantom is singing “I am your angel of music” over and over (and over and over, because he keeps doing it while they chase each other and Christine around the graveyard) – Raoul punches him. Right hook to the maskless side of the face.

The Phantom of the Fraternity Party? Oh my god, please tell me that didn’t just happen.

They roll around and throw each other over graves – the Phantom THROWS fireballs. Because a fireball shooting staff was less believable? And he can still conjure fire from the ground after the lovers run away – which doesn’t bother me in the original because you know – he’s supposed to be a magician and doing remarkable things and not set up to be JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE who can’t shoot fireballs.


Setting the Stage for Don Juan
Unremarkable, essentially the same – they did cut the “let the audience in” line.

Don Juan / PONR
The set is HUGE. I don’t hate it. It’s bright and red and scenic. Everything is rolling along fine – differently but fine. Meg has a smaller role here (not a flirt with Passarino). Piangi goes to hide, and Passarino calls to him – and the Phantom makes his entrance. He is wearing gloves.

This is where things go downhill. Now, it’s been a week so some of the specific details have since escaped me, but here is what I recall:

As he sings to Christine, they are doing everything from a tango, to stretching over the table, to holding each other. Extremely grabby – and as he finishes his verse, he is standing behind her and removes his gloves to cover her eyes. It is then made very clear that she knows it is the Phantom – unlike the original. I’m uncertain how I feel about this, even now, knowing that this is really a long standing plot hole with the original.

So as she sings, she looks up at the boxes where Raoul and the Managers are sitting, as if to say “Check this out, look what your plan has done.” Not sure why she wouldn’t just stop singing at this point, if she knows it’s him and doesn’t want to be a party to the charade, so I guess the plot hole isn’t totally solved. At some point, she climbs onto the table, pushes him onto a bench and gives him a lap dance. Yes, a lap dance. Not a 2015 Scores lap dance, but a lap dance; to the point where the Phantom grabs her leg and puts it over his shoulder. Pretty sure there is no touching in the Champagne Room – and I’m pretty sure this is the most out of character thing either one of them have ever done. EVER.

Hate it. Hate it so much I can’t even feel any emotion other than, what did Glinda and Elphaba call it? Pure, unadulterated loathing? Yeah, that’s it.

He kneels in front of her and she takes off the hood. Raoul stands in his box, I think I remember he said “my god” – and the marksmen crowd the stage. Everyone still backs away. She still unmasks him. They still run off stage. We see Piangi is dead and the chaos that ensues. During the scene change, the drum closes for some backstage action of Raoul and Giry and Meg doing their thing.

Across the Lake / Final Lair
I remember that he pulls her down the stairs, and that the boat has a new scenic route to the lair – rather than go across stage R to stage L for 10 feet, it weaves a bit from upstage and exits stage R. Maybe he had to take a detour for construction.

When the drum opens, Christine is kneeling at the foot of his bed and you can see him “finishing” the buttons up the back of her dress. Not creepy or anything? Guy is a jerk, legit. No wonder she’s accusing him of making her his prey. I don’t think she pities him at all – even when he tells her that pity comes too late. There is no veil and from what I recall, no bouquet either.

Raoul found the secret front entrance because he makes himself at home coming in from the upstage “door”. When this happens, the Phantom actually grabs Christine in some kind of half-nelson / choke hold. She tells him it’s useless – at some point the pair of them wrestle into the stance where he is choking her – like the 25th anniversary production. I hate this so much. So much! At “be my guest sir”, he throws her down and Raoul runs over to her – she grabs at him frantically because OBVIOUSLY, why wouldn’t you? Maybe Raoul is a dip and a bit self-centered but I’m pretty sure he never choked a bitch.

And he gets himself hung on the magical lasso.

And the Phantom gets Christine on the ground. And as she sings that her tears have become tears of hate, she goes over to his score and starts crumpling the papers and throwing them on the ground, one by one.

Real Housewives of the Paris Opera?

The Phantom at some point gets her to the bed, lays on top of her and asks if she would rather send Raoul to his grave than stay with him for life. ON TOP OF HER! This is not at all the controlled but desperate anger of the Phantom – this is just a dude with facial scar and an abusive streak. Who can throw fire, I guess, but I digress.

Their kiss does nothing for me. He’s a jerk. She clearly is not doing this out of any kind of pity, or love, or former respect. They kiss, kneeled at center stage and she hugs him around his torso. He frees Raoul. They exit out the front door upstage. Chris Mann’s “Go no and leave me” is more annoyed than pained and anguished. Guess he has more fire throwing to practice; time for a new hobby.

I feel nothing when he sings to the music box. He stares at his sheets of music on the ground and picks them up. We see Christine come back in to return the ring – she kisses it and leaves it on the organ. As she does this, the Phantom sings “Christine, I love you,” but they do not see each other. Raoul comes back in for her and they leave.

What the what?!

So we hear them sing to each other, and the Phantom sings that the music of the night is over. He finds his Don Juan cloak and puts it on while the mob enters through wherever Raoul and Christine just left. They circle him a bit as he covers up, Meg somehow gets in the middle and shakes her head no – then when she grabs his cloak it falls and he has disappeared. The mask is in the pile (Elphaba called, she wants her trick back.) So Meg picks up the mask, hands it to one of the cops and the spotlight fades on the mask like we’re used to (sort of).

There is a guy in the row behind me, four seats over that his sobbing so hard he is dry heaving. I feel like doing this too – except for totally different reasons.

I hate this show. I legitimately hate it. I am upset that I have tickets on 4/12 as well to come back with family. My companions are not impressed – one gave it a 5/6 on a straight rating (I think I mentioned, she had only seen the original once roughly eight years prior.)

Here are the big reasons why I hate it:

- Too many important changes that impact the dynamics of the relationships. Putting the Phantom on the level of Raoul and everyone else (whether physically, emotionally, etc.) takes out the element of mystery. It takes out his allure. He is NOT SUPPOSED to be on their level. All things being equal, I probably wouldn’t have picked either of them but there is no draw to the Phantom. At all. He is unsympathetic, antagonistic, aggressive and all-around just a terrible guy. Any sense of pity for him is gone.
- Like the above, the changes to the character’s mystery remove the magic from the show. Both the literal magic and the figurative magic. I did not feel transported to another time, where even things like weird sort of plot holes and murders and things don’t bother me. I felt like a voyeur in a bad soap opera. I am being told what I’m seeing and I BETTER LIKE IT, DAMNIT. Zero room for interpretation or imagination.
- I couldn’t get behind these characters at all – primarily the main trio – likely for the reasons above. He’s a jerk. She’s kind of feisty and cute but she doesn’t have much of a struggle. He’s a creep. Even if she has a journey, I don’t buy it, because he is not alluring or pitiable to begin with.
I’m supposed to be going back on Sunday with my mom and Grandma, who, like me, have seen the show multiple times in many locations. I will be curious if they are as unimpressed as my friends from last week – or if they flat out hate it like I do.

This tour makes me sad. It makes me sad that, someday, it might be all we have. What’s the old saying, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone? Sure, one could say, “It’s still Phantom”, but I found it horrifying how little like Phantom it really is. Prince, Lynne and Bjornson brought so much of what makes Phantom special to ALW’s score and the lyrics – these are things we know, but don’t realize until they aren’t around anymore.

Since I won’t spend Sunday hung up on changes, I’ll try to comment more on individual performances. From what I remember, the cast is vocally up to the challenge. The voices themselves are strong. I just don’t think they have a lot to work with. I read a comment somewhere from a Phan regarding Julia Udine making it to the Broadway company that said, “thank god they saved Julia from the wasteland that was the tour,” and that made sense to me. I saw her on Broadway and she was incredible – I could see the same playing true for Katie Travis (Chris Mann was capable if underwhelming but then, so was the character. Hard to say how he would transfer for me…)

Maybe I’ll just close my eyes and enjoy the music.


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Post  todaaefor Thu Apr 09, 2015 3:48 pm

Scorp wrote:I hate Laurence Connor. Cameron, if you're reading this, your "spectacular new production" is anything but. It's not gritty, it's shitty. There, I said it.

Couldn't agree more, Scorp. Really wanted to be objective on this one and not get caught up in the changes - but when the changes so substantially alter the entire meaning and intent of the show, it's impossible not to.

This is not my Phantom. If I wasn't looking forward to a three-generations evening with my mom and grandma, I wouldn't spend another dime on this.

Broadway will have had to have been dark for a long, long time before I see any other version.


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Post  ianjonbourgandethanfreema Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:18 am

I'm at a bump in the road because I despise the tour, the new blocking, the change for the sake of change, the Phantom being turned into a moody douche...ugh practically everything

But...I got 3 audios of Chris Mann's Phantom

and I can't. Stop. Listening. His voice makes me tingle and I am a boy. I'm sorry thats kinda weird...
I wanna see it live simply for Chris' voice...and maybe just to say that I did see it. But. Like. So much money for so much poop. But...CHRIS.

Just send Chris to Broadway so I can enjoy that voice with better blocking and sets haha


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Post  todaaefor Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:38 pm

ianjonbourgandethanfreema wrote:I'm at a bump in the road because I despise the tour, the new blocking, the change for the sake of change, the Phantom being turned into a moody douche...ugh practically everything

But...I got 3 audios of Chris Mann's Phantom

and I can't. Stop. Listening. His voice makes me tingle and I am a boy. I'm sorry thats kinda weird...
I wanna see it live simply for Chris' voice...and maybe just to say that I did see it. But. Like. So much money for so much poop. But...CHRIS.

Just send Chris to Broadway so I can enjoy that voice with better blocking and sets haha

Thanks for this thought!

I can understand for sure. I have a feeling I could have enjoyed the vocal performances (or even noticed them) a lot more had I not been so caught up in the otherwise ghastly production. Katie Travis happened to be the one that stood out as the strongest possibility, but Chris Mann definitely was more than up to task. His voice is powerful and strong. It's just his character (as revised) that's gross.


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Post  MarySkater Fri Apr 10, 2015 8:49 pm

ianjonbourgandethanfreema wrote:I wanna see it live simply for Chris' voice...and maybe just to say that I did see it. But. Like. So much money for so much poop. But...CHRIS.

Go to the tour but wear a blindfold throughout...?  Smile

I'm in Britain.  I never went to see this production when it toured here because (a) nothing I heard about it made me want to see it, and (b) where I lived, it was always easier for me to go and see the original in London than to catch the tour.  I have no regrets about that decision...


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Post  operafantomet Wed May 06, 2015 9:22 pm

Thank you SO much for sharing such a detailed, in-dept review with us! Very interesting to read, mentioning both pros and cons.

I think my biggest issue with the new tour (and the 2004 movie) is that it's so literal. Take the auction. In the Prince/Bjørnson staging we're just seeing a tiny bit of it, like it has gone on for hours and will go on four hours, but we just see this tiny excerpt needed for the story to make sense. Hal Prince wanted the scene to be ambiguous - is what we see real, or is it just Raoul's ghastly memories, a fantasy world, a nightmare, shadows of the past?

In the tour it's been changed to people being lead in for the remainder of the auction, we're not just jumping in. They walk in, they touch stuff, bid on stuff, chat. Everything has REAL written all over it. I'm not really saying this is a lesser version. What I'm saying is that already here you see the main difference between the original staging and the revised version. The original suggests some few details, and you fill in the blanks. The restaged versions is realistic, gritty, solid, tangible, firmly planted in the real world. It adds a nice historical flair to the story, but it does make it harder to believe the larger-than-life moments, especially between Christine and the Phantom.

I do think things really picked up after that last cast change, though. The directing has calmed down and is a bit more traditional, and most of the costumes has been restored to their former glory (minus Masquerade). It feels a bit more like Phantom, to be honest. But with them gradually changing it back to its roots, it makes me wonder why they tried so hard and so long to change it for the sake of change...?

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Post  PhantomLittle Tue Jul 07, 2015 8:37 am

This "updated" show recently came to my hometown.  I, too, am among the "old phans" and I've seen the "original" at least 23 times.

I couldn't bring myself to see the new show.  It was difficult for me because "Wow!  Phantom is playing again near my hometown!" and it had been ages since that's happened.  However, your review and others make me very grateful I didn't waste my money.

Therefore, my stubborn memories of a magical, mysterious, Fedora-wearing Phantom aren't tarnished by this...."magnificently updated" version.  I've always welcomed updates in most of my fandoms: Superman, Batman, Star Trek, etc.  

But please, Cameron M., don't mess with my Phantom.  This character you've described sounds like a creepy pedophile! Crying or Very sad

I could see this coming back when the movie came out and I'm sad it has happened.  

Thanks for a thorough review, though.

Phantom Little

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Post  Blind Phan Sat Oct 31, 2015 12:07 am

OMG! Your review almost has me in tears, and not from happiness either! That's horrible, especially what this new director did to the unmasking scene and Final Lair! That's disgusting! He's cut the heart out of the story! And this is the production that's coming to Toronto in December. I could cry! POTO hasn't been in Toronto since the first touring company came in 2007, and that was the first time it had been here since our production closed in 99. So I had my heart set on going this December. But not after what I'm reading here! Maybe all us old-school Phans need to get together and do our own production, either sit-down or touring, to save Phantom for new generations? We can't let them do this to our beloved POTO! This is appalling! And, as I said, not just for ourselves, but for those for whom this travesty is their first exposure to the stage show. God, it's bad enough that so many have the Gerik as their introduction to Phantom! But this is far worse in a way. Because, at least, with the Gerik, you knew it was a film, and you could kind of treat it as an entirely different animal then the stage-version, and you could refer people to the stage-version for the real thing. But now they're even warping the stage-version to conform to the Gerik? The phrase "disaster beyond imagination" comes to mind. God! There aren't enough synonyms for awful to fully describe what they've done, and there aren't enough words to fully describe my horror, dismay and grief! Anyway, sorry for the rant. But, in light of the tour coming back to TO, I've been reconnecting with the Phandom, having been off here for a while due to life. And I didn't realize things were this bad! But now, I'm thinking that, instead of going to this one any more times than absolutely necessary (I'm already pledged to go with one friend), it's time to plan a trip down to NY for my birthday to see the real thing. And I think I'll try to take another friend with me so she'll get to see the real thing too, so she won't be stuck with this crime as her impression of Phantom. In fact, if I can convince her to come down to NY and see it there instead of seeing the tour, I will!

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Post  Blind Phan Wed Nov 04, 2015 2:37 am

Btw Todaaefor. I wanted to add that I absolutely loved your observation about the importance of the Phantom being literally on a higher level than Christine and Raoul during the Rooftop Reprise, Why So Silent, and WAndering Child. Wow! It's amazing, I never consciously registered it before, although I've seen the show (back when I had more vision) plenty of times. But you're absolutely right! That physical elevation in those scenes really does contribute to the sense of the Phantom's mystery and power!

Also, I really thought your observation that part of what makes this new direction suck is how literal it is was a really important one. Heck, from what you describe, it's positively heavy-handed about it's literalism! Ugh!

Blind Phan

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Post  Riene Sun Mar 13, 2016 11:03 pm

Todaaefor, thank you for a great review. The new tour is coming semi near me (well, 8 hours away) but there's no way I am dropping $110 / ticket for this redone version. I'd hard from somewhere it was awful, but yours is the first in depth description of the awfulness I've seen. Ugh Ugh Ugh.

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Post  Phantour Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:11 pm

I remember reading this review a few months ago. However, after writing my review from seeing it this week, I made sure not to reread it so I wasn't writing a similar review. However, it still seems we agreed on quite a few things. I enjoyed your review as I think there was a couple things I missed that you caught and things make more sense to me now.

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