Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Phantom of the Opera at Hennepin Theatre Trust

One of Broadway's longest-running and highest-grossing musicals (approximately over $1 billion) is back in Minneapolis and bigger than ever. That's right, Andrew Lloyd Webbers stunning masterpiece has returned and I honestly can't even handle how amazing it is. I saw the last tour and I was blown away from the back row in the balcony. This time I was even closer (sixth row) and was once again amazed by the sheer genius of this production. I think a lot of people underrate The Phantom of the Opera. It's a musical that a lot of theatre fans think "Yes. Phantom. It's a great show." But really when I see it or listen to it I can't help but geek out about it. The score is beautiful. The lyrics are stunning and (when done right) the set is superbly superior than many other musicals.

This production is a thrilling new production with newly reinvented staging and stunning scenic design. It includes a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions currently on tour. For those who aren't familiar with the production, it is originally based off of the classic novel Le Fantome de L'Opera by Gaston Leroux. Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House. He falls madly and deeply in love with ballet dancer in the chorus and is also a young soprano, Christine. He devotes much of his time to nurturing her talents and teaching her how to be an incredible singer. However when a new creative duo purchase the Opera house and an old friend of Christine arrives, how far will the Phantom go to keep control?

Derrick Davis plays the Phantom and is stunning, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping--need I go on? He plays the Phantom with the perfect balance of romance and creepy stalker. At times you see his love for Christine and it feels genuine and other times you realize how much of a tortured soul he is. Davis is also the first African-American I've seen in the role and it's refreshing (similar to the Ordway's choice to cast Warbucks as an African-American male) to see. Davis has one of the most versatile voices I've heard in many years. He truly can sink to a rich deep tone while soaring above to new notes in a beautiful falsetto. 

Eva Tavares places Christine Daae and does so beautifully. Her acting is innocent until the end where she becomes even braver than she started. The most impressive thing by far is her soprano voice. I think a reason why I love this production so much is it lets actresses of a different caliber shine. It's not about how long and loudly they can belt and riff. It's just a nice change of pace between most of the type of musicals I see. She has absolute control of her voice with each note and phrase and it's absolutely breathtaking. What is better than these two separate? Well, when they are together, of course. The minute we hear that oh familiar organ playing the title song I can't but help to smile. 

Every single member of this cast is on fire including the ensemble. My absolute favorite song from this musical is Masquerade and this cast did not disappoint. It's a blur of fabulous costumes, beautiful set pieces, and fantastic harmonies. This song really shows off the whole cast very well especially leading into the Phantom's menacing entrance. 

Because of this show's rich and deep history, there are quite a large amount of fun facts that Hennepin Theatre Trust shared with us. They really make the show even more interesting to watch knowing these so I thought I'd also share them with you all:
  • This show incorporates most of the Maria Bjornson designs from the original production
  • There are a few pieces from the original production that are over 245 years old used in this production.
  • There are over 1200 pieces used during the show
  • There are over 75 local stagehands hired in ever market to load the production into the theatre
  • 20 trucks are used to move the production from city to city
  • The original cast recording, with over 40 million copies sold worldwide, is the best selling cast recording of all time
  • The show has won more than 70 major theater awards including seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
  • The chandelier has over 6000 beads (632 on each strand) and it weighs 1 ton.

The Phantom of the Opera is a magically breathtaking production and should be seen by anyone who considers themselves a sliver of a theatre fan. Luckily this production runs a bit longer than a large majority of Broadway Across America productions with a three-week engagement. It runs through December 31st. More information, including how to buy tickets, can be found here.

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