Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular Crivello/Holden/Ragone - 19 September 2009 9:30pm


Twenty-One. That's a magic number in Las Vegas. It's the age you can legally partake of an alcoholic beverage while stumbling down the Las Vegas Strip. It's the winning hand at the blackjack table. And for me, it was the twenty-first time seeing the Phantom of the Opera. And what better way to celebrate than seeing it underneath the chandelier?


Seeing the show three times in as many nights can be taxing, even for a phan like me. And as I mentioned earlier in my Fans Week review, there is such a thing as a "Phantom hangover." Therefore, since many of the points I wanted to make regarding the show were addressed in my previous two, this landmark review will be kept short and sweet (yeah, right…).


That being said, this was the first show I'd see after Hal Prince gave his notes to the cast, so it would be interesting to see what was different this time around.


No changes here, so I guess they're all good for this scene. Although from halfway back in the auditorium, the scene looks a lot brighter than when I'm sitting up close.


I don't care what people say, the Overture experience in Las Vegas is unequaled anywhere in the world. Sure, the suspended parts of the chandelier (literally "in pieces") take some getting used to, but once you get past that, the dance they do above the audience's heads, coupled with the newly-revealed opulence of the re-created Opera Garnier auditorium, the lighting effects, and the sound of the Overture pounding through your entire body really is something. And in fact, the Vegas chandelier looks quite a bit like the actual Opera Garnier chandelier when seen in its entirety (albeit stretched taller and not as filled out as the real deal); it's even completely circular as opposed to the squashed oval that the Bjornson chandelier of the original production is. Here are all three of them for comparison:


Garnier chandelier
The REAL chandelier


bjornson chandelier
The original Bjornson chandelier


vegas chandelier
The Vegas chandelier


Not necessarily saying one's better than the other. Just saying there's a resemblance.


Again, everything basically was the same as I'd seen it Thursday evening. But I did take notice of moments I hadn't paid attention to previously. Like Carlotta swooning a bit during the Hannibal number when the Slave Master, who was poised at her feet, thrust his pelvis up in her direction before moving on with the rest of his choreography. Or Meg and another ballerina posing behind Firmin with coy expressions as if to say, "Care to patronize this, daddy?" despite the fact that he was completely ignoring them (I wouldn't if those eyes were cast in MY direction! Hubba hubba!).


I think Elena was playing Carlotta more at her wit's end than before -- the emotion was pushed a little further or took a slightly different track this time around. Also, much love for Bruce Ewing's ultra-rude Reyer. He's got to be my favorite.


Think of Me:
Kristi's voice was lovely, as usual, and for the first time I noticed the lack of attention her impromptu audition was getting from the rest of the cast (the Gollywog had his back turned and was reading a newspaper until Christine's voice began to blossom at, "when you are far away and free." Only then did everyone take notice.


The rest of the scene played out as usual. Kristi again bringing a great deal of energy to her role and Andrew infusing Raoul's introduction with a surfeit of boyish charm.


Angel of Music:
I'm not sure, but I got the feeling that all the female performers were putting a lot of breath into their voices that night. The gasps by the ballet chorus as this scene opened were particularly loud, for instance. And Kristi (like Kristen before her, come to think of it) sounded like she was on the other end of a 900 number:


Hi, I'm Kinky Christine. It's so lonely here in my big, secluded dressing room; so far away from prying eyes and listening ears. And it's so warm, too. I don’t know how long I can keep my clothes on… Oh poot, the lock on my door is broken. Some handsome, young nobleman could walk right in and catch me in my half-open negligee… Did I mention I'm Swedish?


Huh? Oh, right. The review. Uhh… I'll get back to you on that.


Kristi projected a very ethereal presence in this scene, in keeping with the way early Christines were, but it was an improvement over just seeming sleepy. I'd heard that the previous evening, when Madame Giry appears, Tina took a very long pause between the lines, "Meg Giry, are you a dancer? Well come and practice." So much so that it made Brianne squirm uncomfortably. This night it wasn't as long a pause, but longer than it had been the last time I'd seen it.


Little Lotte/The Mirror:
I guess Raoul was on the other end of that 900 number call because sure enough, he traipsed right into Christine's dressing room without knocking, cueing her breathy, "M'sieur?" that carried a subtext of: "Oh no! A handsome young nobleman has just entered my dressing room! Surely with a mind to take me in his strong, manly arms and ravish me with his enormous bank account (95¢ a minute, long distance charges apply)!"


Anyway, moving on to "The Mirror" I love how it is underlit once the Phantom makes his presence known - the visual definitely changes the mood of the scene. This also marked the one flub of the evening - most likely caused by how exhausted the cast must have been after the hectic few days of Fans Week. Here, Kristi forgot her opening lines in response to the Phantom's voiceover. It went something like this:


"Angel of Music --

…I hear you…

Angel of Music,
Hide no longer"


It was all of a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity before she worked her way out of that one. A teeth-gritting, ass-clenching eternity. And that was just my reaction. Not sure why I respond like that when an actor forgets a line or something technical goes wrong. It's not like there's some horrible penalty if they happen to make a mistake. But anyway, Kristi picked it up a few lines in and the scene proceeded from there.


Phantom of the Opera:
I think I mentioned it before, but it really struck me at this point that Anthony's singing style reminded me very much of Robert Guillaume's. The lines are delivered forcefully and commandingly, but not quite Tim Gleason shoutily. Also, when Christi lip-synched her line, "were both in you," she snapped her head back to look at the Phantom as if it was a surprising revelation - definitely a much more self-aware interpretation than I'm used to seeing. Once the transition was made to the lair, Anthony continued with his suave, self-assured interpretation of his character (i.e. no changes so far).


Question: Are all Christines restricted from using their arms during their cadenza at the end of this scene? I was just thinking of the Toronto PotO music video and how Rebecca Caine's arm gesticulations added something to that moment.


Music of the Night:
Anthony's "I Have Brought You" (or the Cooldown as I call it) that bridges the relentless beat of the title song and the slow, sensual MotN -- something the 2004 movie lacked, making the sudden, drastic change in mood between songs akin to falling asleep right after doing the dirty deed.


But I digress.


Anthony's "I Have Brought You" vacillated between forceful and gentle, almost line by line. And overall, his MotN was the same as I'd seen earlier in the week, but just a touch less on the romantic side, replaced by a touch more of that Svengali-like quality I'd seen early in the run. He tended to be very gentle with Christine - only using his fingertips to "turn (her) face away" and then bringing her face back to his in an intentional almost-kiss.


Kristi was also a little more self-aware than previously, running her hands over her torso as Anthony sang, "Hear it, feel it, closing in around you."


80s break in three, two, one…


"I don’t want anybody else
when I think about you
I touch myself"

</80s break>


Anthony also snapped into the next movement after "savor each sensation" very sharply. Doesn't really work for me, even if the Christine reacts strongly to the Phantom's hand running up her body, but whatev.


The rest of the song was fine. Lots of applause as the scene faded to black.


And the sound of Anthony's squeaky shoes as he moved to his next mark at the organ.




Wow, that really pulls you out of the show real quick.


Stranger than You Dreamt It:
Remember when I was saying that arm gesticulations can improve things? Not always the case. At the top of The Morning After scene, when the Phantom's through pounding on his organ, Anthony capped it with what essentially was a fist pump while mouthing "Yes!" over and over to himself. Granted, when I'm in the throes of reaction, I can get very excited too, but the gesture felt like it was a little too much here. Kristi also added a few more touches to her reaction to the Phantom during STYDI, scrambling backwards upon his getting closer to her.


Notes/Prima Donna:
I enjoyed how clueless John's Andre was throughout the show -- in this scene, he read the entire note in a very pleasant manner and only after he was done did his expression change to a "WTF?!?" look. Lawson's Firmin, on the other hand, had an attitude of not having the time or patience for all this opera drama. And Brianne was adorable as always when she got up en pointe to try to sneak a peek at the Phantom's notes.


John and Lawson really milked "Priiiiiiimmmmmmmaaaaaa Donna!" for all it was worth, and again there were definitely wheels turning off to the side with Raoul, Madame Giry, and Meg's little moment as Raoul began to suspect that the Angel and the Phantom were one in the same and perhaps Mme Giry knew more than she was letting on.


Il Muto:
Lawson acted particularly jovial that all the seats were sold and Kristi's Serafimo ass volcano was awesome -- so much so that it deserves a duet by Nelly and Sir Mix-A-Lot. This scene also noted a distinct change in Elena's performance. Instead of a croaking sound, she actually said the word "ribbit" in her low register -- much like Patricia Phillips did on Broadway. Thing is, Patricia's "ribbit" actually sounded like a real one. Unfortunately, Elena's wasn't quite there so the joke fell sort of flat.

The Vegas Il Muto ballet still is, I believe, the only one that you can still see the ballerina's react in a significant manner to what's going on behind them. And would wardrobe please strap Jordan Ashley down? She looks like she's in constant danger of popping out of that costume throughout the entire scene.


All I Ask of You/Reprise:
Is Raoul wearing a black scarf in this scene? Is this something new that I haven't noticed until now? Other than that, nothing new to add here.


Anthony's angel reprise was closer to his earlier one that I'd seen previously at Fans Week. Mournful but not overly so, crushing the brim of his poor fedora with his hands, and bursting into a rage at the end. Nice job!


HIP SWISH FOR THE WIN!!!!! Mmmmm… yeah… Daddy like…


Giry's Confession/Notes II/Twisted Every Way:
The only note I have here is that in the brief pause during the line, "and yet… I wish I could," Kristi had this hopeful look on her face, which I thought quite nice.


Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again/Wandering Child:
Yay "fatherly gaze"! Boo Zombie!Christine!


Before the Premiere:
I noted a little extra action that I hadn't seen before between the Fire Chief and Raoul as they looked up at the corner of the proscenium arch where the Phantom suddenly appeared before Quick Draw McGraw opened fire on him.


DJT/Point of No Return:
It seems all that all the sexiness of The Apple has been redirected into Brianne's little moment at the beginning of the scene. Rawr… purr…


Speaking of The Apple, Kristi had it on full display for the majority of the song, but used it in a very subdued manner. The only other comment on this scene was that Anthony forced the ring onto Christine's finger. I think this makes the most sense, having seen Christines sometimes take the ring and put it on themselves, seems to me that she should be surprised by this (as well as his mimicking Raoul's word so of love from the rooftop scene) and that should trigger her to unmask him then and there.


Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer:
I liked how Anthony sang his "Hounded out by everyone," lines as if his chest was so tight that he could barely breathe. It brought a lot of angst and emotion to the scene.


Final Lair:
Anthony kept his panicky entrance into the Lair (looking back the way they came and up at the portcullis) which I felt added something to the scene; that things weren't quite going according to plan and he was barely keeping himself in check. But a new little addition to Anthony's performance came when Raoul emerged from the lake. As Anthony reacted to his appearance, he took a cue from the Red Death and condescendingly flicked his fingertip beneath Christine's chin as he sang, "I think my dear, we have a guest!" His Phantom was equal parts bitter, sarcastic and angry throughout the bulk of the scene.  At the end, he did pause briefly between his lines, "You try my patience. Make your choice!" instead of running through them immediately. A slight improvement, although I really like how old school Phantoms tend to draw that out to an almost extreme degree.


The kiss was now sans embrace on the Phantom's part, back to just trembling arms that start to go around her but then fall limp at his sides. I still wish having the Phantom pull out of the second kiss (a la Brent Barrett) should be standard choreography, but that's just me. After chasing Christine and Raoul out of the Lair, the Phantom made his way to the monkey music box, Anthony's voice breaking as he sang, "… so the world will never find you." The return of the ring found Anthony standing up in surprise and smoothing his clothes down hastily until Kristi held it out to him. Taking her extended hand in one, then both hands, he held her there until she slowly pulled free from his grasp and ran off. It was very moving.


Then Anthony started slapping the ring against his chest and it kinda broke the mood for me. Oh and hey, I could also see Andrew kneel down on the boat and kiss Kristi just before they sailed into the wings. Usually they vanish from site as Raoul's starting to kneel down. Never saw that before. Then Meg and the mob climb down the portcullis, there's the traditional yanking off of the cloak and spotlight out on the mask.


The End.


Curtain Call:
Again, 9:30pm audiences suck, even if they have us die-hard phans to help boost things. I expect a lot of them (most likely the fellas) thought a second show meant a Vegas "second show" and were disappointed that Christine, Meg and the other girls weren't parading around in more revealing outfits. The applause nearly died out entirely before the curtain came up for the cast to take their bows. But once they did, the applause ramped up a bit and built until the very end. And despite the mediocrity of the rest of the audience that night, it was a great finale for Fans Week.