It is officially the theatre season in Atlanta. Why, you ask? Because February 22nd thru March 5th, The Phantom of The Opera returns to The Fabulous Fox Theatre. Let’s face it, the theatre season is merely a facade until The Phantom, Christine, Raoul, Piangi — and yes, “the chandelier” are front and center at The Fabulous Fox; now that they’re here, the earth has straightened out on its axis and all is right with the world.
If last Friday’s (February 24th) performance was any indicator, the next two weeks are going to be extremely exciting.
Now, I’ve had the pleasure of viewing performances of this iconic production from San Francisco (The Curran Theatre), to Washington, DC (Kennedy Center) and from New York (The Majestic) to London’s West End, and Friday’s performance ranked right up there among the best.
On an abnormally warm and clear February night in Atlanta, the 4,600+ seat Fox Theatre was truly the place to be. No matter how many times one sees this performance it is always a visual and audio spectacle. With seats in the orchestra section, the music, under the direction of Music Director Jamie Johns, was absolutely fabulous.
From the opening scene where Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, out bids everyone at the auction for the precious music box, to the closing scene where the Phantom disappears leaving nothing but his mask with Meg Giry, The Phantom of The Opera is a non-stop mix of drama, intrigue, and humor, evenly blended with operatic and orchestral excellence as well as visual brilliance (think set design, a hangman’s noose, and a disappearing Phantom).
As many times as I’ve had the pleasure of viewing this production, Friday’s performance was the first time that I’d witnessed an African-American playing the role of The Phantom — as well as the role of Ubaldo Piangi. So, throughout the performance, not only did The Phantom strike, but so did diversity! Derrick Davis did a marvelous job in his role of The Phantom as did Katie Travis as Christine Daae; Phumzile Sojola and Anne Kanengeiser were wonderful in their respective roles as Ubaldo Piangi and Madame Giry; Trista Moldovan also held her own as the overly dramatic diva Carlotta Guidicelli; however I must say, that of the major roles, Jordan Craig as Raoul was probably the only chink in the armor of the cast. In my estimation, his voice just didn’t measure up to Davis’ or Travis’. It seemed that any duet that Craig participated in, his voice was always the weaker of the two. The beautiful ‘All I Ask of You’ is a duet that was, due to Craig’s less than powerful voice, overpowered by Travis’ character (Christine Daae); the same thing occurred when they paired up in ‘Why Have You Brought Me Here?’
Other than that Mrs. Lincoln the play was just fine.
Having been performed more than 65,000 times, for 140 million people in 35 countries and 160 cities, and in 15 languages, one would expect some updates or tweaks in the show at some point — and that was the case here in Atlanta. Most visible to me was the fact that the Phantom himself, seemed to have more ‘face time’ than in past performances (where often time you’d hear his voice, but not visibly see him); also, the ending was tweaked, in terms of how the Phantom exited; and finally, Act two which opens up with ‘Masquerade’ and ‘Why So Silent’, normally opens up in the Grand Ballroom at the Opera House with the cast singing while coming down a majestic staircase — not the case here. In the overall scheme of things these tweaks were mostly cosmetic and didn’t have any major bearing in the story-line.
While the Original Production of Phantom is still running at the Majestic Theatre in New York City and Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, UK, this National Tour is truly doing itself proud — and audiences at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA are being treated to its excellence.
Bravo. Bravo. Bravisimi.