Softly, deftly music shall caress you…Hear it, feel it secretly possess you…
Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ opened at the Paramount Theatre on August 8, and Mackintosh’s long-awaited new production was finally unveiled for the Seattle audiences, and it certainly has the audiences enchanted and under its spell.
The opening night had the excited audiences milling about in the lobby of the Paramount Theatre restlessly, and the energy level was only heightened once the doors into the theatre were opened. The famous Chandelier (this time designed by Howard Eaton) is held above the front row audiences’ heads, and a thin veil just made the stage set showing, but not showing everything. Mystery was well in the air, and everyone was ready for the prologue of the auction to begin.
To accommodate every theatre it is going to set foot in, and to create a new version of this over thirty-year-old classic, Mackintosh has succeeded in utilizing a main scenic wall that weighs 10 tons, and rotates on stage in order to display different scenes. The set overall could only be described as grand, clever and fresh. For audiences who have seen this musical on Broadway or West End, they are in for another treat, as the set alone could very well bring the story alive once again for them.
On Friday night, we had Quentin Oliver Lee as our Phantom, and Eva Tavares as our Christine. A Phantom who is versatile in showing his vulnerability and his anger, Lee brings us a Phantom that slowly crawls into our hearts and leaves a hook there. Both first time in these roles of the Phantom of the Opera, Lee and Tavares both expressed how being in this musical is a dream come true.
Watching this musical for the first time at the age of ten in her hometown, Tavares was instantly enchanted by this musical, and said to her mother afterward, ‘Ok, I think I’m going to do that’. Though Lee saw this musical more than two years ago for the first time, he also experienced the magic of it, and after he saw Norm Lewis in the role of the Phantom, he experienced ‘such a magic in his presence’, and believes that ‘it is always nice to go see someone different’.
As the fourth African American who has ever played the role of the Phantom, he hoped that his playing of this role can ‘transcend any thought of race’. He would love to see that the ‘Phantom (he plays) comes across as a person, not just black or white’. However, he also stressed the significance in having the audiences, especially those of the minority groups, to see that the door of this musical is open to them all.
Having wanted to play these roles as the Phantom and Christine, both Lee and Tavares have gone through many auditions and callbacks. In order to ‘get all of the show in his body’, Lee had five weeks of rehearsal time with the music director, and during the auditions, Lee had spent a lot of time on throwing himself into different nuances of what the character could be.
Besides the grand set that continues to awe the audiences, the attention to details also makes this brand new production a memorable one. Even though the broadway Phantom crosses between vulnerability and violence too, this verson’s Phantom has a few scenes that beautifully and smoothly plants the seed of the Phantom being just a human in our hearts.
The Phantom taking off his mask in the Lair scene, and him trying to pick up all the music sheets that Christine tore and threw on the floor are just two examples of him being vulnerable, and thus a human. We see him commit many violence, but we too watch him as ‘a person who has a lot of extraordinary gifts, wants to share those experiences but he has been shunned by the society’. His desire to share, and his desire to be finally loved and accepted remind us of something that is in everyone of us, and warns us to never shun or not accept someone based on how he or she looks like.
Tavares also commented on how she enjoys this version treating the characters as real humans; ‘we were really pushed to make sure these are real humans going through real stuffs’. Many other characters such as Monsieur Firmin (David Benoit), Monsieur André (Rob Lindley) and Carlotta Giudicelli (Jacquelynne Fontaine) are also essential in dramatically decreasing the distance between audiences and performers by wittily portraying these characters who are full of personalities. All these scenes where characters experience what everyone could experience and the characters being expressive on emotions help make this version into one in which it is abound with wit and mystery.
Till this point of the North American Tour, both Lee and Tavares have experienced how much the audiences adore ‘the Phantom of the Opera’. Tavares finds the shows to be similar to rock concerts where ‘they (audiences) are screaming’ and ’they are on their feet’, and Lee commented that the performance almost always gets a standing ovation. Thrilled and grateful to their loving audiences, Lee expressed that ’one of his favorite experiences of being a performer’ is to meet the fans at the stage door after a show.
Article | Tracy Wang