The Phantom of the Opera Is Bigger Than Ever. Better? Maybe.

Categories: Theater

Matthew Murphy
You should be running away, Christine.

When musicals make the trek from the Great White Way to the silver screen, it's likely they'll find a way back to the stage. There is no better publicity than a 21/2 hour blockbuster film. Currently in the Arts District, the Dallas Theater Center mounts a reinterpretation of Les Miserables - just years after Russell Crowe butchered the notes on film - and a tour of The Phantom of the Opera plays at the Winspear Opera House through August 24.

Of course, The Phantom never left the stage. At 26-years-old, Andrew Lloyd Webber's bombastic musical is the longest running show on Broadway. But the touring production you'll see at the Winspear Opera House has been lavishly reimagined - by some of the same designers - with costumes and a set to match the ostentatious music.

Everything's a little bit bigger in Cameron Mackintosh's new production. The costumes by Maria Björnson are flashier; the choreography more grandiose; and the set is impossibly large and intricate. It's been a decade since the film version hit theaters. This new stage production is comparably elaborate. And necessarily so. Certainly The Phantom wasn't in need of fixing, but Mackintosh would never be confused for a cheapskate. Although this Phantom may make the Broadway production -also a Mackintosh show - look chintzy.

The show itself is the same show it's always been. Sweet ballerina Christine Daae receiving mysterious voice lessons from her "Angel of Music," who just so happens to have multiple personality disorder, a deformed face and lives in the bowels of the Paris Opera. The Phantom wants his pupil to succeed so he spooks the company's lead soprano, Carlotta, giving Christine the chance to show off her newly polished pipes. The monster loves the ingenue, who also has a suitor named Raoul. The ingenue needs more time to decide. And so the Phantom kidnaps girl and breaks a chandelier. That's pretty much the entire musical.

And if you loved it the last time you saw it, or are just in to over-the-top 80's musicals, you'll love it this time too. The singing is beautiful and the set is a captivating merry-go-round of theatrics (there are even some explosions!). Cooper Grodin plays the Phantom as a bit of a basket case, which is a fair interpretation, but runs counter to Gerard Butler's hunky ghost.

But if you don't like musicals, this one won't be changing your mind (you'd best scoop up those last tickets to Les Miserables across the street). After all, Lloyd Webber was sued for plagiarism over songs in Phantom. And to save his ass, his lawyers pointed out that all of his music is just him plagiarizing himself. The Phantom of the Opera is completely unoriginal, wildly excessive, and a hit with audiences around the world. With this new production at the Winspear Opera House, popular taste predicts Mackintosh has yet another success on his hands...with a show that was still successful.

The Phantom of the Opera continues through August 24 at Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Tickets are $30-$125 at or the box office, 214.880.0202.

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I saw this last night.  I've seen P in 3 other venues, a total of 11 times since it began touring.  Some of this new version is interesting but for the most part its not as good as the original.  I give them an A for the interesting mechanical achievement of the circular set, but this is not 'theater in the grand scale' like the original P was.  Most everyone in the cast was hum drum, but Christine and Carlotta held their own.  The theater managers apparently forgot they were supposed to provide comic relief.  Maybe the part of Raoul is just written to be bland and this performance was no exception.  The worst acting/singing provided by the guy who played the P himself.  Worst I've seen.  Its not an easy role, I know that , but you should be at least passably competent and this guy was not.  He could not decide whether he was a tenor or a basso, so he sang every song as if he was both.  Sometimes he sang the same sentence as if he was both.   Just terrible.  He was awkward on stage and seemed lost at times.  There was no electricity between the P and Christine.

At the end, after the bows, the applause was lukewarm and as the curtain dropped with a thud I could tell from the look on some of the performer's faces that they knew they had stunk up the place.  

Oh, and unless you are sitting in the orchestra, if you go to Winspear be prepared to sweat it out.  The air conditioners in the mezzanines are totally inadequate.  A set of 2 couples in front of me left at the intermission due to the heat.  

Not to be totally negative, the orchestra did a fine job.  I wish I had watched with my eyes closed. 


It's funny how all the critics love this new version. I am perpetually scratching my head at this. The new version is awful. We walked out after the first act. The magic of the original show is gone...

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