"Phantom of the Opera" at the Landmark proves why the long-running hit still draws fans
By Lindsey O'Laughlin | April 10, 2016
In the same way that most people who have never seen Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho" will recognize a pantomime of the stabbing scene — accompanied by a vocalized imitation of the murderous violin riff — most Americans and Brits will recognize the pipe organ theme of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long running masterpiece "The Phantom of the Opera: The Spectacular New Production."
That ubiquity can create the impression that such a long-running show might be stale or outdated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Last night’s performance of Cameron Mackintosh’s new touring production validated the staying power of this indomitable work, and demonstrated why crowds still come out in droves for a chance to see "Phantom," now at the Landmark Theatre.
The story revolves around the young Christine Daaé, a gifted soprano at the Opéra Populaire, and her entanglement with the wiley Phantom, who manipulates the goings-on of the opera house. Christine’s childhood friend Raoul, now a handsome a young aristocrat, reenters her life and drama ensues.
The leading trio was superbly cast, with the voices of Chris Mann as the Phantom, Katie Travis as Christine and Storm Lineberger as Raoul blending gorgeously as their love triangle progressed. Mann captured the vengeful bitterness and tortured anguish of the title role, exposing the fragility of the seemingly omnipotent opera ghost. Travis embodied Christine’s early infatuation, confusion, fear and eventual compassion for her beguiling mentor, her voice lithely floating in the upper register, while Lineberger’s rich baritone conveyed the tenderness with which Raoul promised to shelter and protect Christine; their chemistry brought further complexity to Christine’s romantic maturation.
Paul Brown’s updated set design supported the talent of the cast, including a rotating cylindrical fortress which transformed the stage from Christine’s dressing room into the depths of the phantom’s underground lair and back again to the opera’s sparse backstage. Fire shot up from stage front, light bulbs exploded and the pipe organ was just loud enough to thrill without the need for earplugs. The changing colors and tones of each scene complemented the details of Maria Björnson’s original Tony Award winning costumes (a feast for the eyes on their own).
Longtime fans of the original may question how a touring production can replicate the famous chandelier scene in the Landmark Theatre, a comparatively small venue. Brown’s new iteration wowed and thrilled in both its introduction and mid-show reappearance.
This production was fresh and enthralling, but most of all, moving. It’s no mystery why the veteran viewers keep coming back, or why the show continues to attract new fans. Count this critic among the latter.