‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ bigger, bolder and just as beautiful
By Jess Winans
Eva Tavares shattered the glass chandelier atop theater seats in the San Diego Civic Theater during the latest rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera.” Well, the chandelier actually fell from alternatives, but that might as well have been caused by Tavares’ breathtaking notes.
Playing the role of Christine Daaé, her clear tone brought life to Webber’s exquisite lyrics, still standing ground with her operatic tone, yet nothing was lost (or not understood) from her lowest to highest ranges. This was a phenomenal choice in casting.
“I love this production because I think the way the direction has been treated and the way the characters have been treated gives the actors more room to move,” Tavares said. “You get to see some real emotions and some real struggles between people as humans as opposed to characters.”
The production follows the same classic tale of the omnipotent Phantom of the Opera’s (Quentin Oliver Lee) love for young ballet dancer Christine Daaé — touting the theme that love conquers all and sees no physical boundaries. But that is not the real story behind the Phantom.
Lee’s performance was another perfect choice in casting, showing both the lover and tormentor in extreme duplexities. He brought the heart of the Phantom to life, both the nurturing side and vengeful jealous counterpart. His sound was powerful and sometimes subtly broken, bringing out the extreme passions that the character deserves. His softer notes lifted through the rafters, sending chills throughout the body.
It begins with a broken chandelier and a music box being purchased at an auction and then flashes back to an opera house where a cast is rehearsing. A prop falls on show star Carlotta Giudicelli (Trista Moldovan) who storms out of the room. The ballet instructor Madame Giry (Emily Ramirez) then encourages Christine to sing.
Her father promised her on his deathbed, that the Angel of Music would visit her. And in her time at the opera house, he did. Her long-time training with him in secrecy showed her special and intimate relationship with the “Angel of Music.” With that song, a great tragic love story begins.
Continuing along the legendary plot with renditions of favorites such as “Think of Me” and “Music of the Night” — and ending with “Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer” — the cast evoked emotion, goosebumps and tears from the crowd. Audience members in attendance, with their focus glued to the stage, audience member’s heads turned when the Phantom was behind them, or to the left of them, or on stage.
The ensemble stood strong with “Masquerade,” a fantastic production that stood alone with all of its grandness capturing the omnipotence of the entire production. Supporting characters had as much impact on the entire production as the main characters, doing exactly what a great ensemble does — telling a story in movement, song and emotion.
While the audience found comfort in the same melodies, costumes and plot many of them knew and loved, they were also treated to new stage direction featuring a moving boat amongst a midst of fog, pyro technology, the legendary chandelier and additional special effects new to this production tour. A striking moment in set design was the spiraling staircase that moved out from within the set walls.
“I’d like to say this is an amped up version of the brilliant original,” Tavares said. “Now we have so much more technology, so you see a version of the same thing you had loved with special effects like more pyrotechnics and more shadowing. But, the story music and characters and costumes are the same.”
Devoted fans, families, couples, music lovers and theater appreciators should attend this spectacular rendition of a favorite that is coming up on its 30th anniversary.
Credits to Director Laurence Connor (co-director of “Les Misérables” which played at the San Diego Civic Theater in May), choreographer Scott Ambler, set designer Paul Brown, original costume designer and Tony Award winner Maria Björnson. Lighting designer and Tony Award winner Paule Constable, sound designer Mick Potter, musical supervisor John Rigby, producers Matthew Bourne and Cameron Mackintosh and lyricst Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe), brought the music of legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber to new heights in San Diego.
“The Phantom of the Opera,” as part of its first national tour in three years, is playing at the San Diego Civic Theater, 1100 Third Ave., now through Sept. 2. For more information about the production or Broadway San Diego, visit bit.ly/2KiEimb.
—Jess Winans can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.