Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Phantom of the Opera (Lunchbox Theatrical)

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

An old man bids for items from the past, including a chandelier with a rather interesting history. As it comes to life and hovers back to the ceiling where it belongs, everyone is transported to an old opera, where one witnesses the rise of Christine Daaé (Claire Lyon) from chorus girl to prima donna, taking the place of the opera's aging soprano, Carlotta. This she achieves through the aid of a mysterious tutor which she refers to as the Angel of Music. Everyone else calls him the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ (Jonathan Roxmouth). With the arrival of her childhood sweetheart Raoul (Anthony Downing), she then faces a tough dilemma: how to escape the man to whom she owes her career so she could be with the man that she truly loves.

Roxmouth as the Phantom is perhaps this version’s best aspect. As the lead character, his singing style is peppered with subtle bravado that lets you get a glimpse of his tortured soul through his songs. I have never heard a rendition of The Music of the Night sung so beautifully without being overtly dramatic until tonight. His is a soothing melody that reflects the very emotion that the character hides inside. Although he shines in all the scenes that he is in, the tour de force of his performance is found towards the ending, in particular when he impressively lets go of a single tear after the rollercoaster of emotions that he puts you through by virtue of his singing. Just brilliant.

Not to be outdone, Lyon who plays Christine complements her powerful voice with her astounding beauty. She resembles a young Meryl Streep, if that young Meryl Streep were a 1940's Holywood screen siren. Her sweet soprano is just the perfect supplement for Roxmouth’s mildly intense tenor. I have also gained new appreciation for The Phantom of the Opera through her rendition. Listening to that song on MP3, there has always been this feeling that it did not fit in with the rest of the musical's repertoire, but hearing her sing it as the background for the unveiling of the Phantom's world gives the song’s intensity a whole new meaning which is just apt for the scenario.

The production design is plain awesome. The hovering chandelier in the opening sequence alone is already worth the admission price. As the audience is brought back in time, the remaining set pieces are unveiled, which is an awesome mix of several hues of red adorned by golden mythology-inspired figures that are as artsy as they are sinister, depending on the lighting used to serve the particular purpose. Some sets move by themselves, for example those piano keys, or the candelabras found in the Phantom’s dungeon. All these add to the already mysterious atmosphere prevalent throughout the musical.

The most visually arresting scene would be Masquerade, which marks the beginning of the second act, wherein the participants of the ball, dressed in full regalia, strike a statuesque pose on the wide staircase. The play of lights and costumes in this scene is pretty hard to ignore.

There is more to be said about this musical, but words do not really suffice to sum up an otherworldly theater experience, and so I would just leave you with this: The Phantom of the Opera is one of those musicals that will make you fall in love with theater over and over again.

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