Just like snow globes, mini-spoons and Hard Rock Cafe merchandise, tourists collect performances of The Phantom of the Opera.
Although there are still some who haven’t seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical juggernaut from the Reagan-Thatcher era, many theater-going tourists can name off at least two cities where they have caught performances of the man behind the mask. Even though people have already seen the show, many return to it wherever it may be playing. Never mind that there might be other unseen musicals and plays running in town with much more depth and meaning. A visit to Phantom carries much more brand-name recognition and added bragging rights around the office water cooler than lesser-known shows that might be more complex and emotionally fulfilling.
But with Broadway ticket prices reaching the $80 range, Phantom is a guaranteed theme-park show to deliver the most theatrical bang for your buck. After all these years, who hasn’t heard about the infamous chandelier that “falls and crashes” to the stage or the hundreds of candles that rise up out of nowhere to help guide the Phantom “to his darkest lair”? But what most people fail to notice is the show’s skimpy melodramatic plot and stock cardboard characters. If it weren’t for designer Maria Björnson’s dazzling scenery and costumes and director Harold Prince’s cinematic staging and effects to obscure the weaker points of the show, most people probably wouldn’t be returning to the show in droves.
Although the Capitol Theatre feels a tad too small and cramped to contain a show like Phantom, the show still delivers enough theatrical spectacle so audiences don’t feel slighted. Unfortunately, some of the performances this time around feel just as mechanized as the ever-changing scenery. Ted Keegan emotes passionately as the brilliant but sexually frustrated and obsessive Phantom. As his psychologically manipulated love interest Christine, Rebecca Pitcher hits all the high notes well, although her underwritten cipher character leaves her with very little depth to illuminate.
As the Phantom’s rival, Richard Todd Adams tries to be a dashing Raoul, but comes off more as aggravated and too high strung. The rest of the cast performs well, although there are missing comedic sparks that would make more of the minor roles stand out. Because of this, many of the cast members look like they’re running on auto-pilot.
Although Phantom’s overamplification frequently garbles lyrics, and at times leaves us guessing who is actually singing or speaking, the show still flows well from beginning to end. Phantom’s failings are perhaps a little more apparent this time around, but the theatrical know-how that draws “ooohs” and “ahhhs” from the audience is still there.
The Phantom of the Opera plays until July 31 at the Capitol Theatre, located at 50 W. 200 South.