Yes, you’ve seen “Phantom.”
But not this “Phantom.”
The new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” is playing at the Schuster Center through April 22 as part of a North American tour.
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Based on the French novel “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra” by Gaston Leroux, the plot revolves around a deformed but gifted composer who lives beneath the Paris Opera house and becomes obsessed with a beautiful chorus girl, Christine Daaé. As a result of the Phantom’s threats, Christine replaces the opera company’s diva, Carlotta. Although Christine feels sorry for Eric (The Phantom), she falls in love with her childhood friend, Raoul, an opera patron.
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The last time Cameron Mackintosh’s production of “Phantom” came to Dayton was in 2010; this will be the first time the newly interpreted musical has been seen here. According to associate director Seth Sklar-Heyne, those who’ve seen the show over the past 30 years will find much of this new show familiar but will also be surprised by some dramatic changes.
“Cameron MacIntosh’s idea was to take the material and put it through a new lens,” he explains. “The premise for this version is that the Phantom is a real man and that’s what makes this version of the storytelling different than the original.”
Solar-Heyne shares thoughts about the three elements that have been preserved and those that may come as a surprise:
WHAT’S THE SAME?
1. THE COSTUMES. "The hundreds of iconic Victorian costumes designed by Maria Bjornson have been retained. The show is set in Paris in the mid- to late 1800s, so it's about silhouettes. The men have tailcoats, the women have bodices cinched at the waist and large skirts with bustles and have hair designs to match — large curls, stacked hair with hats. There's something very opulent about the dress, even the costumes that represent what they'd wear during the day are very stylized and ornate."
2. THE MUSIC. "The music by Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the things that makes this piece timeless. The music is still the foundation and the backbone to what we do on stage. You'll leave with a great sense of the melodies and part of that is the way Andrew has structured the musical motif repeatedly. A lot of the themes represent characters. So, for example, the Phantom sings the title song and whenever he is referred to you hear that theme and connect to both his character and the drama. In the way of an old-fashioned musical, a live orchestra fills the theater with a detailed and lush orchestral score."
3. THE STORY. "People have come to love the story and identify with these characters. There is something to be said for the classic beauty of it. The love triangle is the heart of the production. The message of the story is to love your fellow man no matter what. You can learn to love without judgment, without your eyes. You can see something in someone that may not be on the outside."
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WHAT’S NEW, DIFFERENT?
1. THE SET DESIGN. "There have been huge leaps in engineering and mechanics that allow us to achieve a lot with the physical production that we couldn't have done 30 years ago. The original was set in a black box and very stylized and minimal in terms of its elements. In this production, which tours in 20 trucks, we try to inhabit the nooks and crannies of the Paris Opera house in incredible detail. There's a chandelier but it does a lot more than it used to do. We don't have a staircase; we've relocated that scene in a mirrored, gilded ballroom. In the past, the manager's office scenes were suggested by a curtain and a table. Now we have a 10-ton cylindrical wall that cracks open to reveal the slice of a naturalistic office space. And when the Phantom takes Christine on the journey to his lair, we show him controlling and engineering the descent to the catacombs. So the Phantom spectacle still seems like magic but it's more grounded in the character's genius as an engineer."
2. NEW CHOREOGRAPHY. New choreography for this production is by Scott Ambler; new staging is by director Laurence Connor.
2. THE CHARACTERS. "This show is still filled with incredible illusions but at its core we're seeing a story of a real man who has suffered in life because of this deformity and been misunderstood. In the original production, we think of him as a Svengali existing on another level; he's able to control things and manipulate people in a way that's unexplained. In this production, we see a real man who pursues a girl because she's able to provide something to him that will heal him."
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WANT TO GO?
What: Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera"
When: April 11-22
Where: The Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, Second and Main streets in downtown Dayton.
Tickets: Prices range from $25 to $118 at Ticketcenterstage.com or (937) 228-3630
Presented by: Premier Health Broadway Series.