PHANTOM Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2018 By: Gerry Falco Source: The Theatre Guide

The Westchester Broadway Theatre presents Phantom running through January 27th, 2019 (with a break for a holiday show). This is not the same play as the renowned Phantom of the Opera made famous by Andrew Lloyd Weber. The two plays, however, are based on the same classic novel by Gaston LeRoux and share similar storylines. Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston began writing Phantom in 1983, but their financial backing for the project disappeared when the successful Andrew Lloyd Weber presentation was announced a short time later and became the famous and long-running Broadway play that we are all familiar with. This play finally appeared later in 1991.

Don’t be fooled. The two plays essentially share the same characters, and both are excellently written. The storyline in this play begins when the Paris Opera Manager, Gerard Carriere, is removed from his position by the opera’s new owners, Carlotta and her husband Cholet. The removal of Gerard from the theatre eventually exposes the long-held secret that the opera is haunted by a phantom. While the plot is developing, a simple street singer with a beautiful voice, Christine, is hired as a costume girl by the new owners at the behest of a powerful opera patron, Count Philippe. The phantom discretely overhears Christine singing while performing her chores and decides to reveal himself to Christine and train her voice to perfection. Christine suddenly becomes the toast of the opera and thus the focus of Carlotta’s evil jealousy, as Carlotta purchased the opera house so that she could make her debut as a diva. The Phantom takes steps to protect Christine and avenge Carlotta’s malfeasance. This becomes the catalyst for the ensuing chaos that leads to the violent pursuit of the Phantom, who resides in the catacombs under the opera house, and the revelation of Gerard’s great secret.

This presentation at the Westchester Broadway Theatre is quite special. The production is directed byTom Polum with musical direction by Bob Bray. The Phantom is the same masked and caped villain/hero we are all familiar with. Matthew Bilman is an excellent choice for this role. His voice is one of exceptional power and expression. The voice of his counterpart, Christine, played by Kayleen Seidl, is also clear and bright with an almost ethereal quality. Their vocal exchange during the singing lessons scene is one to remember. The remaining cast is top notch. Sandy Rosenberg plays both sides of the evil and comedic role of Carlotta with exceptional skill. Think Cruella Deville with a tremendous singing voice. The excellent voice of James Van Treuren’s in the role of Gerard Carriere adds to the mix as do the many voices of the remaining cast and ensemble. When all these voices meld together in a chorus, the result is almost chilling. The play is traditional with a mix of theatric acting and singing. There is not much dance, but the overall choreographed action of the many characters is both intricate and interesting.

There is almost nothing to dislike about this play. In the first scene, the actors come right at you in this intimate theatre in an array of beautiful period costumes and wigs selected by Keith Neilson and Gerard Kelly. Your attention never wanders for a moment during the remaining portions of the first act. The music directed by Bob Bray is beautiful and clear and the lighting by Andrew Gmoser greatly amplifies the moods. The varied and dynamic sets and special effects created by Steve Loftus and technical director and Carl Tallent are creative and interesting. The first act is bright and flashy. The second act is much darker, and if there is any criticism to share, it is that the second act is too long. The dinner preceding the play had some choice entrees and the food was good. This production is very much worth seeing.