Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular (The SOB Review)

Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular (The SOB Review) - Phantom Theatre, The Venetian, Las Vegas, NV

** (out of ****)

The enduring wonders of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera have always eluded me. Actually, they've confounded me.

Apart from the fact that my sightlines were obstructed when I first saw the show nearly 20 years ago, not long after it initially bowed in London's West End, I found the entire proceedings to be a bit of snooze.

Holding out the possibility that jetlag may have gotten the better of me the first time around, I readily accepted a gratis ticket nine years ago on this side of the Atlantic to see it again. It wasn't any better. In fact, I found the plot ridiculous and forgettable.

But since I was going to be in Vegas, I thought how bad could it be to check out the relatively new, truncated 95-minute version of Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, which was once again directed by Harold Prince.

Let's just put it this way: the third time was not the charm.

When an ornate lighting fixture becomes the most exciting part of a spectacle, a show's in trouble. In this Phantom, the celebrated chandelier takes center stage (actual center theatre in the specially-designed opera house) very early on through a whiz of special effects that lifts four separate pieces into place as if it were an object from outer space. During those first five minutes when Paul Kelly's gorgeous scenic adaptation of the original work whirls together with David Rockwell's breathtaking theatre design and special effects, the denouement is dazzling to be sure.

But there's still a couple trifles like the score and book that leave me cold. And then there's the acting, which is entirely overwrought. Worst offender was Kristi Holden in the pivotal role of Christine Daaé; not only did she chew Kelly's considerable scenery, but her acting was so over the top that I kept thinking the chandelier would come crashing down at any second.

Fortunately for her and her fellow thespians, Broadway and West End veteran Brent Barrett offered some degree of gravitas to the proceedings in the title role. Ryan Silverman also added to the production with his tender portrayal of Raoul.

While the edited tuner excised at least nine songs (by my count) from the original production, it certainly sped things along and reduced the number of times I had to look at my watch. However, the result is that Christine becomes something of an enigma in how she inexplicably vacillates between the Phantom and Raoul. It's as if we're missing a reel from a film that's been cut down to accommodate a distracted television audience.

Do I doubt for one minute that most Phantom Of The Opera fans won't eat this all up? Of course not. Many probably won't even know the difference. In fact, they'll likely love all the special effects. But all the makings of a spectacle does not a spectacular make.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Becoming SOL (September 10, 2007)
Where's Oscar The Cat When We REALLY Need Him? (July 20, 2007)
London: The Show Must Go On (June 29, 2007)
Phantom Sequel: So Much For Writing On Otto-Pilot? (June 17, 2007)
Broadway's Longest Running Hits (March 17, 2007)
The Phantom Of Manhattan? (March 12, 2007)
Is It Just Me, Or...(Part II) (February 21, 2007)
Broadway's Gamble on Vegas No Sure Bet (June 6, 2006)
Wicked Becomes Broadway's 8th Overall Cumulative Grosser Among Current Hits (June 2, 2006)

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