I just finished a practice test for the GRE, and you know the saying "there's noplace to but up?" Yeah, erh, hehe, I have a lot of upping to do. aaargh.
Anyway, I wanted to write about a production of "Phantom" that I saw last Friday. This is the Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston version. I wanted to see it because I love "Nine" by the same authors, and because it's the Porchlight Theater Company again, the compmany that put on Ragtime, and I want to support anyone who does musical theatre. This version of it was very diferent from the one I'm sure you're all familiar with--it's much less gothick and much more, uh, musical-theater-y. As in, Christine Daae turns into Laurie from Oklahoma, and the Phantom could pretty much sweep her off her feet without any problems, except he's hung up on his face. The count in this version is even lamer than the other one--how he manages to fall in love with her after only a few haphazard scenes together defies even the laws of musicals. Even Carlotta gets a makeover--she's a villianess in this one, scheming to keep everyone else off "her" stage.
The biggest problem I have with this show is the problem I have with all Phantom interpretations, namely, that the Phantom's face can't be THAT bad. I mean, sure, having to face down stares day after day after day might get tiring and cause one to retire quietly under the Paris Opera, but if the woman who loved you truly loved you, wouldn't you have some dialogue about how "it's really bad, and I'll understand if you're scared, so we'll just go slowly" instead of this screaming and fainting? I was especially disappointed in this version, since Christine is so much more levelheaded and open-hearted. I mean, if a woman can stick by her man after his face has been eaten by flesh eating bacteria, how bad could Erik's face be? Seriously.
The Porchlight production was okay. I think there were too many problems with the pacing and the script for them to adequately cover it all gracefully. I also had a problem with the scenery and costumes--there were too many scene changes, and the costumes were ill-fitting and not period. Or, to use one of my vocab words, anachronistic. Everytime the phantom came stomping out in his pirate boots I wanted to stand up and say “am I the only one who’s bothered by this?!” Apparently. The theatre was also filled with a group of AP-high school students who obviously hadn’t been to the theatre that much. I sat in the front row with an elbow in my ribs most of the night, and at one point I was tempted to lean over and say “shut up—they can HEAR YOU” but I clenched my teeth and let the drama distract them.
The best part about the show was the singing. Really, I don’t know where the Porchlight finds these people. The woman who played Christine should be on Broadway, and the man who played the Phantom could hit the high notes with the best of them. (he could also enunciate more, but I digress) I think the Porchlight needs to spend less money on fancy sets that don’t really work anyway (the chandelier falling was just…hokey) and concentrate on tailoring costumes so their fantastic actors shine. Three days later I still have “You Are Music” stuck in my head, which isn’t bad considering I’ve never heard the score before. And I’m quite grateful the Phantom never took his mask off in this production—judging from his headshot he’s actually quite hot, and the suspension of disbelief only goes so far.