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Phantom: There's music in the night

'Phantom of the Opera' is a wonderful spectacle

Posted: January 30, 2009 11:57 a.m.
Updated: January 30, 2009 1:02 p.m.
Bruce Winant as Monsieur Firmin and D.C. Anderson as Monsieur Andre read notes from the "Phantom." Bruce Winant as Monsieur Firmin and D.C. Anderson as Monsieur Andre read notes from the "Phantom."
Bruce Winant as Monsieur Firmin and D.C. Anderson as Monsieur Andre read notes from the "Phantom."
The star of "Phantom of the Opera" at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood is not the cast of the national touring production parked in the venerable theater for a limited run through Feb. 21, but the theater itself.

If ever there was an appropriate venue for the story of the "Phantom of the Opera" then the Pantages is the theater. Gothic, ornate and spectacular, walking into the Pantages for the first time is enough to make your jaw drop at the splendor of it all.

I still remember the first time I saw "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. "Phantom" opened on May 31, 1989 starring Michael Crawford and Dale Kristien. My mother-in-law purchased tickets as a Christmas present for my husband and I to see what had become a "must-see" event in Los Angeles.

I was spellbound. I had never seen theater like this before. The music, the story, the set and the special effects redefined musical theater.

Only "Wicked" has touched me as profoundly as "Phantom." I returned again and again to see "Phantom." I racked up seven visits and experienced three different actors in the role of the Phantom - Crawford, Robert Guillaume and Davis Gaines.

In 1993 "Phantom" closed in Los Angeles and moved to San Francisco.

In true "theater-geek" fashion my husband and I flew to S.F. one weekend to see the "Phantom."
That was the last time I was moved by "The Music of the Night" until "Phantom" opened last week in Los Angeles.

John Cudia brings the sex appeal of Crawford, the anger of Guillaume and the passion of Gaines to his interpretation of the Phantom.

Trista Moldovan as Christine Daae is picture perfect as the young woman under the "Phantom's" spell.
Kim Stengel as opera diva Carlotta Giadicelli is perhaps the best Carlotta I've ever seen.

The theater managers, Bruce Winant as Monsieur Firmin and D.C. Anderson as Monsieur Andre are fun, witty and a joy to watch. Those are the high points of this production which remains faithful to the original in all but a few small, insignificant ways.

I was swept away by Phantom's signature number "The Music of the Night" and by the duet "All I Ask of You" by the two lovers, Christine and Raoul (Kyle Barisich). However, when all was said and done, I was left wanting more. More passion, emotion, heart and soul.

The cast of this production is accomplished and don't miss a note or a bit of business. Stagehands peeking out from the wings and a subtle sense of "hurry up and let's get this over with" marred what could have been a perfect production.

That said, "Phantom" is always worth the price of the ticket just for the special effects, the fog, the candles rising from the floor, the boat that skims across the stage and that magnificent chandelier!

The night I attended "Phantom" I was thrilled to run into other theater-goers from the Santa Clarita Valley.
That's the beauty of productions at the Pantages. It's only a 30-minute drive from the SCV (and truth be told, I made it from my house in Canyon Country to the parking lot of the Pantages in 26 minutes - and on a Friday night).

The Pantages can be reached from the SCV by taking the I-5 or highway 14 south from the SCV to the Hollywood Freeway over the Cahuenga Pass, exiting at Vine. The Pantages is only a few blocks away on Hollywood Boulevard.

After "Phantom" takes flight from the Pantages the theater will play host to "Rent" March 3-8; "Grease" March 10-22; "Rain" (a tribute to the Beatles) March 3-April 5; "Mama Mia" April 7-19; "Dirty Dancing" May 8-June 14; Topol starring in "Fiddler on the Roof" July 23-Aug. 9; "Legally Blonde" Aug. 12-Sept. 6 and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" Nov. 10-Jan. 3.
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