The Phantom of the Opera: A Broadway Review (December 2014)
Heavily regarded as the most iconic show on the Great White Way, Broadway staple The Phantom of the Opera was absolutely phenomenal. The classic operetta showed at the Majestic Theatre at 8:00 PM on December 29th, 2014.
The female protagonist Christine Daae, played by Julia Udine, performed to absolute perfection. Perhaps the most important aspect of this character is her singing, and Udine knocked it out of the park. Her voice was lovely and audible from the rear of the theater, she nailed the notes and masterfully exhibited her large range, her diction was surprisingly clear, and her intonation was breathtaking. The emotion she packed behind each song was raw and bold, yet as a soft-spoken and more submissive character, she intertwined Christine’s personality and strong emotions of fear and love across through song just beautifully.
The Phantom, played by Norm Lewis, was a bit less than stellar. While his acting was fascinating (the creepiness of the Phantom character was illustrated wonderfully by the mannerisms provided by Lewis–the constant hiding of his face, the way in which he stalked about the stage, his constant hunch and peeking eyes over his shoulder), his singing left, at some points, a lot to be desired. He came out strong with his first number, but just before the end of Act I, he struggled to hit the softer notes. There was absolutely no breath support, rendering his falsetto horrendous. It may have been just Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music tripping him up, or he may just have been having a bad night, but on Broadway (and especially in such a renowned actor’s case), things like that should not be happening.
One of the most satisfying and impressive aspects to the show was the set. From the chandelier rising up from the floor of the stage to the ceiling of the theatre itself, from the integration of modern sound effects to allow for the Phantom’s threatening and longing whispers for his love to transition smoothly from the right to left side of the theatre and back, from the unforgettable scene during the number “Phantom of the Opera” in which the Phantom rows a gondola through a foggy stage representing a ghostly river, rows upon rows of standing candle holders appearing from the mist, painting a romantically eerie picture. Everything about the frilly costumes, the nearly hundreds of props and set pieces used by the cast of the opera house to create ‘operas’ within the show, was meticulously made, classic, and true to what it was trying to highlight, whether it be a character’s personality and fears (the Phantom’s ever-recognizable mask) or the Phantom’s true wickedness (the corpse put into the Phantom’s wardrobe that hangs unsettlingly from the doors after popping out) or the sense of humor concerning the opera house’s company (the two men working an elephant set piece for their production of Hannibal are seen lazily dozing off as the piece is turned around and rolled offstage, to the delight of the audience). Effects-wise, everything ran smoothly, and nothing could have gone better. Everything on stage was there for a reason, and the audience was able to pick out the details and strongly appreciate them. Overall, the show was just fantastic.