Entertainment » Theatre

’Phantom’ Gets a 21st Century Reboot for New Tour

by Joe Siegel
Contributor
Thursday Dec 5, 2013
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A scene from the new touring production of "Phantom of the Opera"
A scene from the new touring production of "Phantom of the Opera"  

"The Phantom of the Opera" is the longest-running show in Broadway history with more than 10,000 performances (and it is still going - running at 91% capacity over the recent Thanksgiving week.) But what becomes a legendary show most? A remounting. Instead of sending the current production out on another road trip, the producers decided to rethink the Andrew Lloyd Webber show and in 2012 mounted a sumptuous new version that successfully toured the UK.

Now the production, with new sets (by Paul Brown), abetted by the Tony-winning costumes of Maria Björnson and new lighting design by Paule Constable, new choreography by Scott Ambler, and a new staging by director Laurence Connor (supervised by producer Cameron Mackintosh and visionary choreographer Matthew Bourne), has arrived in the United States for an extended tour. It’s first stop is Providence, Rhode Island (Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC), where EDGE got to take a look at the show as it was being put up recently.

Of course, what we got to see first was that massive chandelier, which comes crashing to the stage in one of the most famous first act curtains in musical theater history. We also got to speak to the show’s principals, including actor Mark Campbell, who plays the man behind the mask, "The Phantom" and Julia Udine, who will portray ’Christine Daaé, the young soprano he chooses to mentor for stardom in the Paris Opera in the 1850s. Also on hand was Director Laurence Connor, and choreographer Scott Ambler, who sat down to answer questions about this revitalization of the long-running musical.


Left to right: Director Laurence Connor, actors Julia Udine and Mark Campbell, choreographer Scott Ambler  (Source:Joe Siegel)

This new version is performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America.

The cast also includes Ben Jacoby as ’Raoul,’ Jacquelynne Fontaine as ’Carlotta Giudicelli,’ Craig Bennett as ’Monsieur Firmin,’ Edward Staudenmayer as ’Monsieur André,’ Linda Balgord as ’Madame Giry,’ Frank Viveros as ’Ubaldo Piangi’ and Hannah Florence as ’Meg Giry’.

Based on the classic novel "Le Fantôme de L’Opéra" by Gaston Leroux, "The Phantom Of The Opera" tells the story of a masked figure that lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.

"The Phantom Of The Opera" has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

"I’ve been a huge fan of the show for many years," said Campbell, who has been seen across the country in the National Tours of "Mamma Mia!" and "Guys & Dolls."

Campbell told EDGE he is excited to be a part of the new production of the show, which he called a "much edgier, darker take on the story."


The chandelier arrives at the Providence Performing Arts Center  (Source:Joe Siegel)

Udine, who has starred as Maria in "West Side Story" and appeared on "Law and Order SVU," found it a challenge to take on what she calls "an iconic character."

Christine has "more spunk" in this incarnation of the story, Udine explained. "I enjoy the challenge of not only doing it justice, but bringing my own spin to it."

"I wanted to focus more on Christine as a character," Connor said. "Her story always fascinated me, such as the struggle in dealing with the loss of her father. I wanted to see how she coped with that."

Connor, who has directed productions of "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Oliver" and "Miss Saigon," promises to bring a different look and sound to the new production of "Phantom of the Opera."

"The set was a total redesign," Connor noted. "The orchestrations have a robust energy to them."

"Laurence felt (the show) needed new choreography," said Ambler. "The original production had brilliant choreography for its time. I had big shoes to fill."

Campbell feels audiences will be pleased with the new approach the creators and cast have taken with the production.

"The piece itself is so strong," Campbell said. "You can take it in any number of directions and it would still be brilliant."

Connor also has no reservations about tinkering with the details of a classic Broadway show.

"It stops being something to compare and becomes a living breathing production of its own," Connor said, adding: "It’s a great show. It’s an honor."

"The Phantom Of The Opera" continues at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC), 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI through Dec. 7, 2013. The remaining cities on the tour are Minneapolis; Chicago; Columbus, OH; Philadelphia; Rochester, NY; Cincinnati, OH; Greenville, SC; Schenectady, NY; Appleton, WI; Boston; Milwaukee, WI; Des Moines, IA. For more information, visit the show’s website,


Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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