Is the theatre a world within a world? Can the audience find themselves so enveloped in this experience that the outside world is happily forgotten or is it a secret trap? Where is the line between fantasy and reality?
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is a spectacular gothic powerhouse that brings the audience into the mysterious and dangerous world of the Paris Opera House in the late 19th century. Sexy, intense, at times scary, the action is non-stop, accentuated by special effects that surprise. But it enriches the experience of being drawn into this magical world filled with suspense, violence, and wonderful music.
The Opera is haunted by a “phantom” figure that is denied the life he desires: love, companionship, the chance to play his music. His disfigurement and isolation drives him to madness as he tries to control the life at the Opera as his domain. The Phantom (Derrick Davis) notices the talent of a young soprano, Christine (Eva Tavares). With threats and manipulation, he forces the Opera’s management to make her the star. He also tries to cajole Christine to see him beyond the mask and fall in love with him. The chaos that ensues is stunning and heartbreaking.
The songs, such as “All I Ask of You” and “Music of the Night”, become more poignant as the story circles back to the themes of longing, art, and love. The song “The Phantom of the Opera” becomes an ominous theme as the organ pipes in the Phantom’s arrival.
The cast is wonderful- great voices, very good acting. Mr. Davis and Ms. Tavares are outstanding. Mr. Davis captures the Phantom’s loneliness and lustful sexuality, humanizing him and heightening the tragedy. Ms. Tavares is lovely as the innocent and kind Christine. Their scenes together are a passionate mix of tenderness and fear.
The sets are magnificent: grand, opulent, part high- art and part haunted house. The lighting and effects are terrific as they reference the careful play and symbolism between the light and shadow, good and evil. The chandelier is practically a character in itself. The costumes are vibrant. The sound is excellent.
Going to the theatre can be a sensory experience that lights up the imagination. The trick is to close the door to the outside world, dim the lights, and feel the presence of something magical. If the presence is all around, like a phantom, a new world comes out of the shadows. It can be thrilling or terrifying. Worth the risk.
Photo credit (top): Alastair Muir
The Phantom of the Opera: presented by evenko and Broadway Across Canada, Cameron Mackintosh, The Really Useful Group, and NETworks Presentations. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Charles Hart; additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe. Book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Directed by Laurence Connor. Show runs until October 15, 2017 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts, 175 Ste.-Catherine Street West, Montreal. For tickets call the box office at 514-842-2112 (or 1-866-842-2112) or go to www.placedesarts.com