Theatre Review: “Phantom” @ The Venetian Resort, 02/20/10

It’s called Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular for a reason. Phantom in Las Vegas is spectacular. There’s really no other way to describe it. From the gorgeous 40-million dollar theatre (specifically built for this production), to the stunning costumes, amazing special effects, falling chandelier (in four parts) and incredible set design, Phantom does not dissapoint.

When I saw Phantom of the Opera, years ago, at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, it felt long-winded, a little boring and the love story didn’t resonate at all. Now, it’s been reworked, cut to 90 minutes and it couldn’t be a more precise production. There’s nothing extra in it, no long-winded reprises of songs you can’t understand the lyrics to there’s not even any unneeded dialogue. It’s short, to the point and yet somehow the story is much clearer than the recent movie adaptation or original musical. I finally walked out the theatre understanding the love connection between Christine (Kristi Holden) and the Phantom (Anthony Crivello) and also between Christine and Raoul (Andrew Ragone). Before I never understood any of the relationships so I didn’t care. Now, I do. And that makes all of the difference.

One of the best parts of the production is the sound design by Mick Potter. Obviously, Potter had state-of-the-art material to work with and a brand new theatre but even so, his sound design makes the show. It must have been a dream to design! No limitations. Because of that, he’s designed one of the best sounding productions I have ever seen. It’s very rare for me to walk out of a production thinking, “Damn, that sound design was fantastic.” The way the sound moves through the auditorium creates almost another sensory experience for the theatregoer. It comes at you at all angles, crescendoing and decrescendoing at all the right moments. The orchestra and voices sounded crystal clear. You almost have to see this production just for the sound design.

Now combine the sound design with an incredible set design and special effects and Phantom will blow your mind. There’s fire, fog and even nightly fireworks. The Phantom only appears in the chandelier (that cost $5 million to build), above the stage, in the box seats, through trapdoors and downstage only in his dungeon lair (surrounded by mist). He’s truly a ghost of the theatre. One of my favorite moments is when Christine and Phantom are on the boat, surrounded by fog and mist, with floating candles all around. It couldn’t be a more beautiful stage picture.

Christine Daae’s (Kristi Holden) beautiful voice soars throughout the entire production. Her voice against the Phantom and Raoul’s voice was a perfect match, especially in “All I Ask of You”. Everyone in the 40-person cast sounded amazing, especially up against the magnificent orchestra conducted by Jack Gaughan. The orchestra should be congratulated for making Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score fresh and modern (unlike the dismal movie). I absolutely think they should make a cast recording of the Las Vegas production. I would buy it in a heart beat.

Over a hundred million people have seen the stage version of Phantom of the Opera (and countless others the movie). They’ve created a smart, updated, stripped-down version that is ultimately better than the original. It’s quite hard to one-up a masterpiece, especially one as well-known as Phantom, but the Las Vegas production does that in spades.

Check out my twitter feed and learn all about my Las Vegas Broadway Weekend!

Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular

Venetian Resort – Hotel – Casino

Venetian Box office – (866) 641-SHOW (7469) or (702) 414-9000

Group Sales: For 10 or more – (702) 785-5394 or Groups@BASEentertainment.com
Tickets: Prices range from $72 – $160 + tax – VIP Experience Package is available
Website Address: www.phantomlasvegas.com or www.venetian.com

Check out Andrew Lloyd Weber’s new sequel to “Phantom of the Opera” entitled “Love Never Dies”. The Broadway Critic has a sneak peak to two of the songs.

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