As a spoiler alert I am going to discuss the differences between the Vegas production and the regular production, so be warned I may be giving away some of the "surprises" of the show! Since many people have seen the show or the film I do not feel there is a need to discuss the plot of the show.
I was first nervous about the Las Vegas production of The Phantom of the Opera. How could one of my favorite shows be condensed into a 90-minute production? Housed at the Venetian, the Phantom theatre is extraordinary. Walking into the theatre three pieces of the famous chandelier are hovering in random places above the orchestra section. The walls around where the box seats exist are all covered, as is most of the stage.
The auction that Phantom begins with contains one less item than the full version. The first item is a poster, followed by the monkey musical box and finally the scary lot 666 chandelier. The overture was quite loud and began with a huge explosion from the chandelier as the four pieces hovered in the air, assembling and rising into the beautiful blue ceiling of the theatre as the coverings over the box seats ascended revealing dozens of mannequins looking onto the stage as well as a beautifully decorated proscenium arch full of statues and lots of gold plating. The rehearsal scene from the Hannibal opera where Piangi messes up the "Rome/Roma" line has been cut, it goes directly from Carlotta's number holding the bloody head to Hannibal's entrance on the elephant.
Phantom continues on in regular succession with a wonderful performance of Think of Me to Angel of Music. The scenes of Raoul visiting Christine seemed a bit rushed. The title song was visually stunning. Unlike other productions of the show were a few candles come rolling in off stage, dozens of candles came rising out from the stage and some clever stagecraft gave an effect of an endless underground lake. Like every other production there was plenty of fog and a long high note to finish the title song.
Perhaps it was the hot air or the smoke from the casino got piped into the actor's dressing room because Anthony Crivello seemed to struggle with his Music of the Night. The usual scene of beyond the lake followed, as did a slightly shortened scene in the managers' office with a delightful performance of Prima Donna. During the production of Il Muto where Carlotta's voice croaks like a frog, the Phantom actually swings on the chandelier while delivering his menacing laughter.
The roof of the Paris Opera house was beautiful, there were twinkling stars and plenty of set built to give the feeling of a full roof and building, not just a pretty painted backdrop. When the Phantom descends in the statute in the middle of the proscenium arch, usually he sings from a lowered statue. However in this production not only does the statue lower, it hovers forward to the audience. He was singing the "I gave you my music" line right above the stage lip! The show takes a huge diversion from the regular production, as the chandelier does not fall at the end of what would be act 1, a huge bolt of lighting flashes and the theatre goes dark.
A miniature entr'acte plays, similar to the one in the movie, as the façade of the Paris Opera House rises out of the stage and a display of indoor fireworks go off (I love indoor fireworks!). Masquerade was its usual fun costume filled number. The rehearsal scene from Don Juan Triumphant was completely cut as the graveyard scene leading into Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again came immediately after Masquerade. I was a little disappointed they cut out a verse from Wishing, as it is one of my favorite songs from the show.
The famous chandelier crash comes at the end of the song "The Point of No Return" where the phantom weakly says bring down the chandelier. The chandelier freefalls about 3 feet from the audience, the theatre goes completely black and then the chandelier goes zooming up into some space above the ceiling where it disappears. I felt the deliver of the chandelier falling was weak as was the placement. They could have omitted the chandelier falling and it would not have made a difference. If they were to ever retool the show I would suggest having it fall at what would be the end of act 1 it is much more dramatic to have it happen at the end of the Phantoms song of anguish (I gave you my music).
One part of the regular production that was completely absent from the Vegas show is the omission of all of the " Hand at the Level of Your Eye" numbers. The beyond the lake scene was also rushed/shortened. Several verses of Track Down This Murderer were omitted.
Overall I enjoyed the Vegas production of Phantom. Kristi Holden was an outstanding Christine. I was a bit disappointed I did not get to see Sierra perform (I had heard wonderful things about her performance). Most people do not know that many parts of Phantom are prerecorded. I felt like Crivello's voice on these parts were superior to his live singing, perhaps he was ill. Some of the long notes the Phantom sings such as the "night" at the end of the show where he says "You alone can make my song take flight, it's over now the music of the night" was spoken as one word. The understudy for Raoul Benjamin Hale was on and he was terrific! All of the rest of the cast were quite satisfactory. The Phantom theatre is quite a work of art; I cannot imagine a nicer theatre to see the show in. I often judge a show by if I would see it again; this is a show I definitely would see again, any "phan" or first timer to the show will enjoy it.
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