of the Opera
by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Charles Hart
Additional Lyrics by Richard Stilgoe
Book by Richard Stilgoe
and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by Harold Prince
Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center
and Musical Numbers
The stage of Paris Opera House, 1911
ACT ONE - Paris 1881
This was my first time watching the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This production starred Ted Keegan as the Phantom, Rebecca Pitcher as Christine, and Julie Schmidt as Carlotta.
Ted Keegan has a pleasant voice that reminded me somewhat of recordings I've heard by Chris Corcoran. In Leroux's novel, the daroga says Phantom often behaves like a "conceited child," and Keegan's portrayal captured this aspect of Erik's personality extremely well. It was cute the way he would pace around, stick his face up in the air, and act almost "twitchy" when he was angry. When he came out for his curtain call, the members in my group encouraged me to do my Xena war cry. I indulged but did not think anything of it, as I was way up in the dead last row of the gallery seats. The next day, when I talked about it at a phorum, one of the actors came forward and told me they could hear me. Hee hee. I mean uh, oh. Heh heh.
Rebecca Pitcher has a very pleasant voice but, forgive me, my poor brain is stuck in one gear concerning the quintessential Christine, at least in regards to the voice - Sarah Brightman. I know Brightman does not have the best reputation as an actress, but her voice in this role stole my heart years ago. Shame on me, because I normally prefer the buffet approach verses the strict diet. Brightman left the show ages ago and pioneered the pop opera genre, yet my poor brain is stuck. I'm working on it. Anyways, Pitcher looked quite lovely in a few of the costumes, including the pageboy outfit and the white wedding dress. While I am a mere collector and not a professional critic, however, it seems her role as Christine is almost too passive. I do not blame her as a performer; I think it is just how Christine's role in written in this production. There seems to be the same problem in the movie adaptation.
Speaking of the movie, there are some significant differences between it and the live show. The graveyard scene, for instance, is quite different (and I think better) in the live show. It shows just how emotionally vulnerable Christine has become, making her so easily deceived by the Phantom who claimed to be her Angel of Music. The chemistry between Pitcher and Keegan was extraordinary as the Phantom slowly appears from behind the tombstone. Raoul as an inexperienced young man is no match for the Phantom and in the show, this is obvious. He never could have won a swordfight against an experienced street killer like the Phantom, so I think the movie was all wrong on this point (if a work of fiction can be "wrong"). Raoul is nearly toasted in this scene, and is spared only because Christine pulls him out of the way in the nick of time.
I have to admit, Julie Schmidt was a show-stealer in ways that would make Carlotta proud. From the moment she came on stage with the fake decapitated head, bellowing out her notes from Hannibal, I could see the foreshadowings of a Prima Donna that loves to be worshipped but does not like to be angered. She was a hoot in this production.
Unlike the movie based on this musical, one of the new managers is actually very taken by Carlotta. It is cute the way Carlotta drinks the adulation up, volunteering to sing "Think of Me" just for him as he gazes with wide eyes and nearly swoons. Another funny thing they did in the live show that is not in the movie occurs during the moment when the Phantom makes Carlotta sound like a toad. In this show, Carlotta runs off the stage and as the lights dim for a quiet moment for the ballet scene, one more very loud "Coack" comes out from behind the curtain. It's still yet another one of those many "little things" that makes going to the live show worthwhile, even if you've seen the movie.
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