The production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” settling into the Pantages for 13 weeks, is wonderfully enhanced by the theater’s evocative rococo-ish interior, helping exude a remarkable sense of time and place. Yet while it believably transports the audience back to the stylish elegance of late 19th-century Paris courtesy of an excellent cast, touring company No. 2 lacks the aura of danger and overt sexuality that would make the machinations of the love-crazed Phantom (Ron Bohmer) for his beloved Christine (Sandra Joseph) more memorable.
Maria Bjornson’s remarkably inventive production design enhances Hal Prince’s staging, and evokes the excitement-filled sense of a working opera company of the times. And the hilariously accurate opera parodies, “Hannibal” and “Il Muto” (featuring the wonderfully comedic Patricia Hurd and Mark Calkins as Italian opera stars), provide evidence why such composers as Salieri and Meyerbeer have passed into oblivion.
The book by Richard Stilgoe and Webber concentrates on the motivations of the three main characters: the singularly driven Phantom, the sensual but ambivalent young soprano Christine and her passionate true love Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (Lawrence Anderson). And indeed Bohmer’s voice soars powerfully through the Phantom’s emotion-filled signature song, “The Music of the Night,” as well as the ominous “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Point of No Return” (both in duet with Joseph’s Christine).
But his Phantom is never as effective in anger or sexuality as he is in sorrow. His rage at being unmasked by Christine is not nearly as profound as the monumental despair he exudes when realizing he has lost his beloved to the young and handsome Raoul. And he always appears to be trying to win her rather than seduce her.
Joseph’s light lyric soprano wends its way beautifully through “Angel of Music,” “Wishing You Were Here Again” and the memorable duet with Raoul, “All I Ask of You,” but it is a bit of a stretch to imagine her Christine having the vocal power and authority to command a large opera stage. She is quite believable, however, as the object of both the Phantom’s and Raoul’s unabashed adoration, exuding a youthful passion that draws attention to her no matter where she is onstage.
Striking a perfect balance between character and vocalist, Anderson offers a dashing presence as the aristocratic Raoul, who, on seeing her, is immediately reduced to the playful youth who first loved Christine when they were children. His “All I Ask of You” is so penetrating in its power and tone quality it almost overwhelms Joseph’s Christine in duet, but seems exactly what Raoul would want to do. ….. …..
In a company of outstanding performances, mention must be made of Ian Jon Bourg and Donn Cook as the comically inept opera entrepreneurs, Olga Talyn as the darkly mysterious ballet mistress Madame Giry, and Jennifer Dawn Stillings as her sprightly dancing daughter, Meg.
One visual effect that has no effect at all is the legendary crashing of the 1,000-pound chandelier that hovers over the audience through the first act. Its descent at act’s end was so slow one could have evacuated all of Hollywood Boulevard before it reached its crumpled resting place at the front of the stage.