Whether one refers to them as revivals, updatings, modernizations or revisals, few theatrical restagings ever improve upon the originals that inspired them. More often than not, these transformations employ the idea of change for change’s sake.
But an updated production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” which continues through Sunday at the Civic Center Music Hall, surely equals if not eclipses its predecessor. Producer Cameron Mackintosh’s new take on this musical theater classic will satisfy both diehard fans and those seeing it for the first time.
While the Gaston Leroux-inspired story hasn’t been tampered with, the physical production has been completely reconfigured, with enormous new set pieces that take advantage of striking advances in theatrical technology.
Paul Brown’s incredible set design provides a dramatic new way for the Phantom and Christine to descend into his murky lair, one of many innovations that gives audiences a fresh look at an all-too-familiar musical. Other improvements demand to be seen.
Director Laurence Connor has assembled a cast of mostly young performers whose broad strokes on this highly visual canvas are sufficiently compelling, although their carriage and gestures tend to be more suggestive of the 20th century than the 19th.
Vocally, the principals convey Lloyd Webber’s score with the necessary confidence to make his melodies soar. Only the most discriminating ear will be able to detect the missing nuances that make fine performances exceptional.
Jacquelynne Fontaine and Frank Viveros offer many comical touches as Carlotta and Ubaldo, the opera house’s featured stars. Brad Oscar and Edward Staudenmayer are no less adept as the humorous if befuddled managers Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur Andre.
Linda Balgord conveys a stern if less menacing than usual portrayal as ballet mistress Madame Giry, while Nick Cartell, as Raoul, possesses a well-focused tenor that elevates the duets “Think of Me” and “All I Ask of You.”
As the chorus girl who is transformed into opera house star overnight, Julia Udine creates a memorable portrayal as Christine Daae. The poignant “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is lovely although Udine’s voice tends to sound increasingly urgent the higher her voice climbs.
This production’s youthful casting is most evident in Cooper Grodin’s Phantom, a characterization that often appears more hurried than languorously seductive. He does, however, showcase his strong baritone in “The Music of the Night,” as well as in his duets “All I Ask of You” and “The Point of No Return.”
While Phantom Phans will flock to see this musical as often as possible, those who think they know this musical inside out should strongly consider seeing this new production. It’s a safe bet that they’ll fall in love with “The Phantom of the Opera” all over again.
If you go
‘The Phantom of the Opera’
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker
Information: (800) 869-1451 or www.celebrityattractions.com.