Flimsy PHANTOM’s Makeover Not yet Complete

Flimsy PHANTOM’s Makeover Not yet Complete


Photo: Derrick Davis and Katie Travis in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Review: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA on tour at the Cadillac Palace

By Hilary Holbrook

On the train home after watching this show, I thought long and hard about why I love THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA so much. Yes, the music is epic, beautiful, and heartbreaking, but the story is equally compelling. The Phantom, much like an X-Man, is a misunderstood mutant. Any talent that could possibly delight a person would only be eclipsed by the horror they felt upon viewing his disfigured body. The Phantom’s music gave him solace, but his loneliness drove him mad. Christine, too, is alone when we meet her in the beginning. Her father has died, and she finds solace in her mysterious lessons with the Phantom. That is the core of PHANTOM for me, two lost souls who found each other when they needed each other the most. I was hoping to see that story, and hear that beautiful music during the latest run of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, playing now until January 8th, but what I saw was a hastily thrown together production that was, at times, difficult to hear.

This production boasts of newly invented staging by Cameron Mackintosh, but I think the new staging is extremely minimal and confusing at best. It seems the aim was to show a little more of the Phantom’s vulnerability from the beginning, but many of the moments were not fully realized by the actors and came across feeling flimsy. As promised, the sets were stunning, but looked slightly cramped on the Cadillac Palace stage. During the opening number, actors looked as though they were overly aware of the lack of space, thus preventing them from adequately singing in unison. My biggest disappointment came during both scenes at the Manager’s Office and the final scene at the Phantom’s Lair because the balance between orchestra and cast was way off. Group numbers were heard fine, and soloists came through, but any duet, trio, small group number, etc, was lost. Given that I was on the main floor, and the caliber of production promised, my disappointment was palpable.

The bright spot in this production is Derrick Davis’ portrayal of The Phantom. Though the direction left much to be desired, Davis had a twitchy, nervousness about him that was compelling to watch. He wasn’t the suave Phantom that whisked away the damsel and then let his rage consume him when things don’t go his way. He seemed more to have moments of self-doubt. It was as if he said, “I got the girl here. Now what?” Davis’ Phantom went through a compelling journey that was interesting to watch, and his voice was mesmerizing. Katie Travis’ Christine lacked much of the courage and vigor that Christine Daae has. To play Daae as only the wilting flower who reluctantly sings THINK OF ME when Carlotta storms off undermines all the actions she takes later on: refusing to sing for the Phantom, her attempts to run away, and how she finally convinces the Phantom to release Raoul and give them their freedom, to name a few. She is much more than a wilting flower. Although, I must say Travis’ voice was stunningly beautiful.

This production shows promise, but it could benefit from a few more weeks in the rehearsal room. I still believe in the power of this piece, and I don’t think the new blocking has done enough to market the show in any astounding new light. You know what I want to see? A PHANTOM cast that is all people of color, because the reasons I love this piece have nothing to do with the fact that Christine is always a brunette, Meg is blonde, Giry has black hair, the ballet dancers wear red, green, and gold in the beginning, etc. This piece has real staying power, and if Broadway producers truly wish to re-imagine THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, then I encourage them to truly re-imagine it. I promise the result will yield a new generation of PHANTOM fans.

About author

Hilary Holbrook

Hilary Holbrook has worked as an actor and violinist in Chicago since graduating from Loyola in 2008. When not in the theater, Hilary enjoys knitting, antiquing, and adventures of all kinds!