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Monday, August 8, 2016

Kennedy Center's 'Phantom' draws ovation

The company sings "Masquerade" to open the second act of "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Kennedy Center/Photo by Alastair Muir

At the end theatergoers stood and cheered the performers who came out on stage to receive the accolades, to bob up and down like puppets, holding hands and moving in rows to a replay of "Masquerade" which they had sung moments earlier in Cameron MacIntosh's remake of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" now at the Kennedy Center.

A great show, enjoyable in every respect. And I could see it and hear "The Music of the Night" again. Tonight!
The Phantom (Chris Mann) leads Christine (Katie Travis) to his den in the Kennedy Center's "The Phantom of the Opera"/Photo by Matthew Murphy

Give the people what they want:  exciting melodrama, unforgettable music (lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe), soaring sets, dazzling costumes, voices you wish would echo at every play you ever attend, and that, my friend, explains the endurance and haunting allure of "Phantom," the longest running show on Broadway where it opened in 1988, and in London where it still plays after 30 years.

Storm Lineberger is Raoul in the Kennedy Center's "The Phantom of the Opera" /Photo by Matthew Murphy

From the get-go, before the announcement to shush your phones, you knew this show was set to be another smashing "Phantom" as you gazed upon the large, opening scene with its high, very high ceiling, shrouding a dark, black and shadowy stage, where single cascading strands of light outlined stark statues and forecast the eerie presentation about to unfold. 


I've seen "Phantom" in Nashville, New York, and twice at the Kennedy Center, and it does not become tiresome (like "West Side Story") since it's enlivened by new actors, sets, and magnificent costumes. (Maria Björnson a "designer's designer" says Wikipedia, was the costume designer and Tony winner who died in 2002. Her most famous creation, the show's chandelier, treated a bit differently in this production, is named after her.)


That a strong, melodious voice emanates from the dainty, minute body of Kaitlyn Davis starring as the heroine, Christine Daaé, in "this dream come true" role is unanticipated, Ms. Davis being the understudy for Julia Udine.  (Is it ironic that understudies are part of the script?)
  
Chris Mann, a forceful, credible Phantom in Mann's "dream role," competes against Christine's childhood friend, the handsome, Raoul (Storm Lineberger) whose rich voice matches his appearance.

Other notable cast members are Jacquelynne Fontaine as the talented, strong-willed star of the opera house, Carlotta, (and one can easily understand why she was the main attraction until upended by a little upstart), and the opera house's new owners, Monsieur Firmin (David Benoit) and Monsieur André (Price Waldman) who elicit much-needed noteworthy, lighter moments and audience snickers.


Edgar Degas ballerinas danced and frequently fluttered across the stage and relieved serious undertones (choreography by Scott Ambler).
Not to be overlooked are the musicians under the direction of Dale Rieling and members of the Kennedy Center Opera House, directed by Philippe Auguin.  


"Phantom" is a heartbreaking triangle romance with a not-so-happy ending. Ahhh, whom to choose? The ugly, the banished, the forlorn and forgotten? Or, the handsome knight come to save the poor lass.  You decide.  


Laurence Olivier and Tony awards winner Paule Constable designed the spectacular lighting.

Paul Brown's frequent set changes add to the effectiveness with seamless transitions into offices, dungeons, and behind-the-scenes perspectives on the opera's stage.
Laurence Connor directs, Mick Potter is sound designer, and Nina Dunn, video and production designer.

All I ask of the Kennedy Center is to think of me and seat latecomers (wishing they were somewhere not here again) only at intermission and prohibit candy sales to inhibit the crinkling of little wrappers

A phreakish Phantom phan, I am


What: Carmen MacIntosh's North American tour, "The Phantom of the Opera"

When:  Now through August 20, 2016 at 7 p.m., weekend matinees at 1 p.m., and a Wednesday matinee, August 17 at 1 p.m.

Where:   John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F. Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20566

Tickets:  $25 - $209 

Duration:  About 2.5 hours with one intermission 

patricialesli@gmail.com 

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