Credit Andrew Lloyd Webber with creating -- from initial concept to the composing -- what has grown to become a timeless masterpiece in The Phantom Of The Opera, which in January celebrated a milestone on Broadway with its 10th Anniversary. And credit the creative team -- director Harold Prince, musical director David Caddick, designer Maria Bjornson, and lyricists Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe for a mesmerizing production. But especially credit the musical staging by choreographer Gillian Lynne!
You can't compare the current Phantom, Thomas James O'Leary, or Christine, Sandra Joseph (who alternates on two performances with Adrienne McEwan), with the originals, Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman (who alternated on two performances with the still memorable Patti Cohenour, who later took the part full-time and made it her own). His brilliance and her poignant voice and fragility are full of surprise. With age, the edge is gone. But they deliver the goods in pleasing ways and the show -- on Broadway, on the West End, and on tour -- is a huge crowd-pleaser, and still a hot ticket.
Thanks to Lynne, production supervisor Peter von Mayrhauser, and production stage manager Craig Jacobs, the physical production remains spectacular. The "travelator" and gondola sequences, where the Phantom escapes with Christine to the labyrinth of the Paris Opera, still elicits audience oohs and aahs. The Act One finale atop the roof of the opera, "All I Ask of You"; the beautifully costumed Act 2 "Masquerade"; and the cemetery scene where Christine sings "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," remain showstoppers. And you can't helped but be impressed with those fabulous curtains of every size, fabric, and shape.
The biggest letdown is the most talked about effect: the chandelier. Going up (which has always spoiled the surprise of how it comes down!) and crashing to the stage no longer has its once powerful impact. Just goes to show, you can talk a special effect to death, and that's happened here. Probably, for the masses, there's a bit too much opera in Phantom and, you still have to wonder if anybody knows what the hell's really going on in the "Don Juan Triumphant" (the Phantom-composed opera) scene.
But all in all, The Phantom Of The Opera, after 10 years, is top-notch entertainment. Surely, it's destined to capture Longest Running Broadway Musical honors in the not too-distant future from Lloyd Webber's other "cash cow," Cats.