Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St.
When: through March 2
By ANNE SPISELMAN
Fans of Andrew Lloyd Webbers The Phantom of the Opera wont be disappointed by Cameron Mackintoshs new touring version at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Although the economics of touring may have dictated some concessions gone is the grand staircase for Masquerade, the second-act opener, for example this is still a lavish affair with a large ensemble, an able orchestra under the direction of Richard Carsey, elaborate sets (including the infamous chandelier) by Paul Brown, atmospheric lighting by Paule Constable and the Tony Award-winning original costume design by Maria Bjornson. Although some may miss Hal Princes iconic staging, going strong on Broadway after more than a quarter of a century, director Laurence Connor deserves praise on several counts.
For one thing, he makes the storytelling clear, and the scenes depicting the Phantoms (Cooper Grodin) obsession with his young protege, Christine Daae (Julia Udine), and conflict with her suitor Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (Ben Jacoby), flow along swiftly, nicely showcasing the parts of the Paris opera house in the process. The play-within-a-play interludes excerpts from the Opera Populaires repertoire plus the Phantoms Don Juan also are handled with aplomb. In some productions Ive seen, theyre so deliberately awful, theyre funnier but totally unbelievable. Here, their grandiosity is somewhat restrained, and the diva Carlotta (Jacquelynne Fontaine) and her leading man Ubaldo (Frank Viveros) actually sing quite well. On the other hand, the ballet chorus for these sections isnt very together, and its hard to tell if thats accidental or on purpose. In other supporting roles, Linda Balgord makes her presence felt as Madame Giry, and Craig Bennett and Edward Staudenmayer display their chops with the Gilbert and Sullivan-esque interplay of Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur Andre, the new owners of the opera house.
All three principals give fairly compelling performances. Grodins Phantom effectively transforms from the seductive tutor Christine adores to the enraged, murderous figure she finds repulsive but also pathetic. Its often as if were seeing him through her eyes, and Udine embodies Christines vulnerability extremely well and sings beautifully. I found Raoul rather flat and poorly defined, but that may be as much the fault of the script as of the talented Jacoby.
These strengths notwithstanding, Webbers The Phantom of the Opera will never be one of my favorite musicals. The plot is simplistic and the characters are one-dimensional compared to Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopits musical, Phantom, and it relies on a handful of swelling romantic melodies that are repeated over and over. Then, again, a lot of theatergoers must love it to keep it going all these years, so if youre among them, by all means head to the Cadillac Palace.