Review: The Phantom of the Opera at the Bass Concert Hall – Arts
Derrick Davis (l) as the Ghost and Katie Travis as Christine (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Let’s talk about the chandelier crash. Who are we kidding, that’s why you see Andrew Lloyd Webber The Phantom of the Opera. It’s the crash of the chandelier with the big organ number. The music, the vocals, the costumes and all are great, but if it’s not a giant, flaming play that crumbles into the air above your head, that’s not why Phantom is still ongoing after 30 years.
I’m not even going to apologize for enjoying a moment that had all the subtlety of a roller coaster, as the massive thing took a vertical drop about 150 feet above the most expensive seats in the house. . I knew this was going to happen, as did, I imagine, almost everyone in the house. Always so spectacular. Well done, set designer Paul Brown and lighting designer Paule Constable. Also, everyone who works in the theater: Be nice to your stage manager.
The version currently being shot in Austin is a staging of the original, developed by producer Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Laurence Connor. It’s a great production of a musical built on thin source material, but it brings out a compelling story. And an incredible drop in luster.
The musical may be named after the ghost (Derrick Davis), but it’s Christine the Ingenu (Katie Travis) whose transformation directs the story. After a nervous breakdown from company diva Carlotta (Trista Moldovan), Christine is withdrawn from the choir to play the lead role. For the first time, the Phantom emerges from the shadows for her alone, bringing her to his underground house where, as the Angel of Music, he reveals his full potential.
In the light of day, however, Christine falls in love and becomes engaged with Raoul (Jordan Craig), viscount of Chagny and patron of the opera. Raoul likes the idea of ââa masked magician / songwriter giving private nighttime singing lessons to his fiancee in the basement about as much as you’d hoped. He decides to destroy the Phantom.
Seeing this story in 2017 means seeing it in the context of specific abuse stories that have gone viral and pop psychology conversations about concepts like agency and narcissism. It’s hard to watch this production and enthusiastically root for Team Phantom in the Phantom-Raoul-Christine love triangle. He shows Christine the key to unlocking her potential as a singer, but the price is for her to live under the spell of a wizard. Although a genius and abused himself, the Phantom is neither gentle nor compassionate. He retaliates against any suggestion of disloyalty.
By comparison, Raoul is a bachelor’s level A, but then decides to use Christine as bait to capture the ghost. In the most romantic number, he sings, “Let me be your freedom.” He sings that he keeps and guides her, that he does not act as his full and equal partner.
Christine’s dilemma is like that of the entire company. We imagine that they could simply run away from the opera and the threats of the Phantom. But through him, their greatness as an artist is realized. It’s an intriguing idea to see art work positioned as the drug that keeps them coming back for more, even if it’s not fully realized in the story.
To describe Christine as only an object of abuse is to deny the power of her final actions, in which she seizes all the authority she has. As Christine, Katie Travis plots the growth of the character in a believable way. The texture of her performance and the delicacy of the staging give a new dimension to the anguish of the duets between her and the Phantom.
Also, this drop in luster. Thin!