After celebrating its fifth anniversary in March, The Smith Center hosts a staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical The Phantom of the Opera. From the falling chandelier to the artful costumes and choreography to the orchestra (especially in grand Act II opener “Masquerade”), this staging directed by Laurence Connor filled its preceding reputation.
Originally a novel by nineteenth-century French detective fiction writer Gaston Leroux, then adapted to film in 2004, The Phantom of the Opera is a romantic story about the relationship between Erik (played by Derrick Davis and known as “The Phantom” for how he controls the theater, unseen) and the budding orphaned opera student and performer Christine (played by Katie Travis). Since Christine started studying at the opera house, The Phantom has been speaking to her through the walls. While innocent Christine thinks the voice is the “angel of music,” the plot unfolds to reveal this is no angel but, rather, a megalomaniacal stalker—he literally has a Christine mannequin wearing a wedding dress in his basement closet.
And yet, the audience roots for him, especially after learning his backstory. We see his light side in “The Music of the Night,” as well as his brooding self-absorption in “I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It.” We see his villainous nature when he storms into the masquerade ball with the reprise of “All I Ask of You.” In his performance, Davis relishes these personality extremes, overshadowing Travis’ meek Christine. In the midst of all the melodrama, Trista Moldovan, David Benoit and Edward Staudenmayer slay with comedic performances of primadonna Carlotta and the opera’s nervous new owners, Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur André.
The set, costumes, choreography and orchestra make the early-20th century opera house come alive. There’s a life-size elephant prop, decadent furnishings and all the phantom’s traps under the direction of scenic designer Paul Brown. Maria Björnson’s costumes make you wish the characters would stand still so you can get a good look at the complicated eveningwear. And the orchestra, under the direction of Jamie Johns, covers a spectrum of festivity, innocence, rage, despair and salvation.
Phantom of the Opera
Through June 11, $29–$127, thesmithcenter.com