Opera Ghosts have come and Opera Ghosts have gone since “The Phantom of the Opera” opened at the Majestic six and a half years ago, and few have been up to the heart-quickening standard set by Michael Crawford, who brought the role that made him a star from the West End to Broadway.
In Davis Gaines, however, the show finally has a replacement worthy of his predecessor.
True, there are some trade-offs: Though Gaines possesses a beautiful, strong, persuasive tenor, it lacks the penetrating chill — particularly in the falsetto passages so key to the role — that became Crawford’s vocal signature. On the other hand, Gaines adds a real charge of carnal longing to the Phantom’s obsession with his protege, making the story more involving than I’ve ever seen it before. And Ciaran Sheehan may be the best Raoul yet, as well, balancing the Vicomte’s earnestness as Christine’s suitor with a dark but charismatic gallantry. All this despite Tracy Shayne’s rather bland performance as the ingenue, Christine Daae.
All told, the show is in top form, though the vocal balance is way over the top in the most heavily milked numbers and the production seems, overall, more blinding than in the past. Some attention needs to be paid as well to the house; at the performance attended, just one of three box office windows was open to serve an enormous crowd, even at curtain time. And if the attitude of one particularly rude usher is any indication, the staff could use a reminder that most of those filing in haven’t seen “Phantom” 2,720 times.