PHANTOM

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2018 By: Michall Jeffers Source: TotalTheater.com

What splendid voices! Matthew Billman as the Eric, the Phantom, and Kayleen Seidl as the luminous ingenue Christine Daee fill the theater with their glorious singing. It’s enough to just sit back and enjoy the sound. After all, even in this alternative version to the Broadway smash, Phantom of the Opera, we all know the basic story. The horribly disfigured Eric hides out beneath the Paris Opera House (If we miss the locale, there’s a huge sign hanging above the stage). Young, impressionable Christine captivates him with her stunning voice. He gives her lessons and becomes more and more obsessed.

Here, the plot thickens. The manager of the theater, Gerard Carriere (James Van Treuren) has been fired so that the new owner, Carlotta (Sandy Rosenberg) can take charge and give herself all the plum roles. This is a difficult character to play; she’s bossy, shrill, and also comic. She must be able to make her voice unpleasant to the Phantom while singing well enough to please and audience. Rosenberg does an excellent job; we know she has evil on her mind when she pretends to take a shine to Christine, all the while plotting her sabotage of the young soprano. As she informs us, “a diva’s work is never done.” When she sings “This Place is Mine,” she’s not kidding, and she’ll use every trick in the book to keep it.

Christine has also caught the ear of Count Philippe de Chandon (Larry Luck), scion of the champagne dynasty, who has recommended several other young ladies for coaching, too. But this one’s different; she’s the real thing, both in talent and in his affection for her. Christine is smitten, too, and believes him when he sings “Who Could Ever Have Dreamed Up You.”

The climb from farm girl, to street seller of sheet music, to pupil of her brilliant but unknown teacher, to Tatiana in The Fairie Queen seems too good to be true, and of course, as it turns out, it is. Christine’s ascent turns very literally to a fall from grace. Can she be saved?

The ensemble is wonderfully capable, singing and dancing with great style, and looking just right in period costumes of lace, velvet, and plenty of sparkle. The setting is sparse, but thick red curtains and balconies give us the feel of a bygone time. But the main focus belongs to Matthew Billman and Kayleen Seidl; they leave no doubt that when they’re singing on stage, they are “Home,” and we in the audience are richer for the experience.