Broadway in Syracuse: The Phantom of the Opera

Hello Monday people!

Yesterday Sven, some friends, and I went to the palatial Landmark Theater in downtown Syracuse to see The Phantom of the Opera, a new touring production of the immensely famous musical.

And I, your humble blogger, am going to tell you what I thought of it.

And  I’m going to run out of superlatives real fast.

IT. WAS. AMAZING.

Phantom-1000x494

So I’ve seen the 2005 Phantom movie at least half a dozen times, I’ve listened to the original soundtrack, new soundtracks, versions of every song by a plethora of artists, and yet. AND YET, this decedent, gloriously Gothic performance kept me on the edge of my seat. The singers were spot-on and hit every note, low or high. The dancers were good and even suggested period authenticity with their styling. (Madame Giry’s line about a badly-preformed ‘tendu quise’ cracked up this particular appreciative dancer.)

And the STAGING. Oh my goodness, the set and dressing were something to behold. Huge, mobile, and utterly astonishing, the sets transitioned effortlessly, lending just the right amount of surrealism to the intense Gothic romance. The magic started early, with the ‘re-finished’ chandelier from the prologue taking us back in time to the main plot with a burst of pyrotechnics and a vanishing canvas–from that moment, I knew we were in for something special. And readers, I was not wrong.

I got chills, over and over again. Even though I know the story, even though I KNEW how it was going to end, I laughed, I cried, and my heart pounded out of my chest at the ominous and tortured Phantom.

I have to give particular props to the leads, Chris Mann who played the Phantom and Katie Travis, who played Christine Daae. Mr. Mann, while younger than the usual actors slated to perform the Phantom, did so with gravitas and exceptional menace that melted into heart-rending despair in the climax. His Phantom is a terrible person who did terrible things, and yet you can’t help but tremble for him in the final moments. Ms. Travis played a pluckier Christine than the movie version, and I am 110% in favor of that choice. Not only a virtuoso singer, she played a Christine with a sense of agency, a woman drawn to the Phantom, yes, but not blinded by him and his actions. Pre-feminist Holly was prone to victim-blaming Christine for leading on the Phantom. Post-feminist Holly is irritated by my previous blindness and appreciates this production for not sugar-coating the fact that he is a creepy stalker.

This show marks the first time I’ve ever seen the Phantom onstage, and it impressed upon me the identity of the work as a meta-theatrical one, something you don’t experience in the movie version. Obviously it’s a production about theater productions, and it is in that sense ‘meta’, but it breaks the fourth wall in a very specific way–not by drawing attention to the fact that it is a show and to play on that for laughs, but rather inviting the audience to become part of the drama. The scenery spills out of the proscenium into the seats, both with the famously ill-fated chandelier and the climax of of the Phantom’s own opera Don Juan set in such a way that we, the audience, are his audience. The doors lock behind us and we are very much a part of the story, and it is magical in ratcheting up the tension.

Basically my point is this: If you are in Upstate New York, and you have a free evening between now and the 17th of April, go get yourself in the Landmark Theater and witness the spectacle of light, sound, and drama that is The Phantom of the Opera.

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