Phantom, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, book by Arthur Kopit, based on Gaston Leroux’s novel "The Phantom of the Opera." Directed by Doug Hodge.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"Melodie, melodie, melodie, melodie..."
John Saunders and Monica Wemitt
In this sixteen year old musical the refrain "Melodie, melodie, melodie, melodie..." is sung so often that you actually think there is a tune or two in this two and three quarter hour show written by the team that gave us "Nine." This show has never made it to Broadway but has seemingly played every whistlestop in America since 1992, blocked from the mainstem by the Andrew Lloyd Webber version which beat the Americans to the punch. Now it is on stage in Chatham, New York, at the Mac-Haydn Theatre. And you certainly remember how to sing that refrain beginning "melodie..."
With a sprightly young cast, peppered with a few more seasoned troupers, the Summer theater in the round is delivering a fine looking production with sumptuous costumes, a turntable set and more furniture than there is in a department store. There is so much, in fact, that the nimble double Kurzweil orchestra has to play themes over and over to fill the much needed time to change the sets and there are sixteen scenes in the Act One with seven more in Act Two.
Kopit and Yeston did not provide an easy show to produce. They did, however, produce a script that is different from any other version and songs that make you want to run right out and by a CD of something else. The first duet between the Phantom and Christine, "Home," is lovely but not hummable and the second act duet between the Phantom and Carriere, "You are my Own," is also a lovely song, just hard to remember.
Monica M. Wemitt as Carlotta and John Saunders as her husband Cholet, are quite lovely as the couple who purchase the opera house in Paris so that she will always have a place to sing. The pros really work hard to bring the level up to a higher professional standard, even when Saunders is mugging his way through a kissing scene or Wemitt is turning a tad too diabolical (read the witch in "Snow White...") in her plotting against the younger soprano about to make her debut. There is still something vital and real in their performances.
Crystal Mosser is Christine. A lovely girl, she moves beautifully and sings more then just passably, but she really has all of the most difficult music and not enough "melodie, melodie..." which she also sings at least twice if not more. She is being wooed, in this version, by the Count de Chandon - a champagne champion - played here by Robert Teasdale in quite a winning way.
As the former owner of the opera house, Carriere, the company has cast Johnnie Moore, a strikingly handsome man who has the elegance to pull off this role perfectly. His former paramour, Belladova, is played by Katerina Papacostas who can surely sing the notes, but not the interpretation of her songs. She proves that reaching the notes is not enough if the quality of the voice is thin, reedy and unformed.
The Phantom is played by Ben Jacoby who was recently seen as Corny Collins in Hairspray on this stage. He has a good voice, though he should learn to warm up before a performance. His quirky part, a mistreated, misshapen youth raised by an indulgent and loving mother in the sewer system in this version, gives him ample opportunity to emote, both in scene and song and he takes every opportunity to do so.
Jimm Halliday has designed sumptuous and heavy costumes festooned brilliantly for this show. Visually dazzling with his cloth constructions on a the big and technically fabulous sets by Bud Clark. Once again Andrew Gmoser provides the right lights for this show. There are several special effects in the show, like the chandelier crash, which work very well, but on Saturday night two of the company took major spills which may say something about overdressing your set.
Hodge has executed the perfect production of this complex show in the available space he has to work with at the Mac. People and props come from all directions in this show and even with two accidents, the company works well under Hodge’s direction. Choreography by Kelly Shook was perfectly appropriate.
As a non-fan of the Webber version of this show, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend its rival, the Yeston. The show is flawed with too much unmemorable music, too few memorable lyrics and a constant push of "Melodie, melodie, melodie, melodie..." until you just want to shout, "enough already!"
The "Phantom" company
Ben Jacoby and Crystal Mosser
Phantom plays at the Mac-Haydn Theater on route 203 in Chatham, New York through August 3. For tickets contact the box office at 518-392-9292.