By Jacqueline McGarry
It may be unseasonably sweltering outside, but inside the Fox Theatre you’ll get such thrills and chills during the latest staging of “The Phantom of the Opera” that you’ll swear it’s October. There is a reason this is the longest-running Broadway show ever.
For those who are lifelong fans of the show, it may not seem terribly new or improved. The infamous chandelier of Lot 666 is slightly tweaked, for example.
For those like myself, who have waited a lifetime to see it, it is mind-boggling to behold how much talent and spectacle that is involved in “Phantom.”
Gaston Leroux’s dark novel was first adapted for the stage in 1988 by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Still packing houses and packing a punch, this show has all the bells and whistles audiences love, which is a testament to its popularity.
Like the novel and film before, “The Phantom” is about a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, and exercises a reign of terror. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine. He becomes obsessed with creating a new star and nurtures her extraordinary talents while employing all his devious methods.
Why do so many people adore this story? Is it simply a love of opera? Pyrotechnics? No. It is the pull of the dark that it captures in music, stagecraft, and, of course, its leading man.
The Phantom is ugliness and terror and the mystery of life itself in the form of a man. We see and hear him — we want to understand him. At times we want to hate and fear him, yet our hearts bleed for him. Quentin Oliver Lee is enticing in this role, exuding so much yearning and hatred. Without ever having to state it, we know that his life has held unspeakable pain.
Eva Tavares as Christine Daae is an excellent foil for him: Innocent, lovely, eager to please. Her voice alone is undeniably angelic, but her presence onstage is hard to describe. She is almost calming. She brings light to a story that’s so dark.
Something must be said for the work of set designer Paul Brown, and for the entire running crew. The incredible details of this set, from the third-dimensional turntables that literally break in half to the disappearing stairs, is nothing short of magical. (By the way, this show even brings in Paul Kieve, an award-winning professional illusion consultant. Expect to be scratching your head.)
And the famous chandelier? Well, it’s too grand to give much away about — you must see it for yourself.
“The Phantom of the Opera” needs little introduction now, but it deserves every piece of recognition it earns. At this point, the show is simply a spectacle of jaw-dropping musical theatre that demands to be taken in by any fan. Whether you’ve seen it 10 times or none at all, you will be haunted long after the last organ pipe hums.
“The Phantom of the Opera” has performances nightly through Sunday, May 20 at The Fabulous Fox Theatre, with two performances on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20. Tickets can be purchased at www.metrotix.com or at the Fox box office at 527 N Grand, St. Louis.