On Stage: The Phantom Of The Opera

According to my archives (which could be wrong), the last time “The Phantom of the Opera” played The Fox in St. Louis was 2009. That’s a long hiatus for a production that used to seemingly show up every six months.

Taking a break was probably a good thing. Anyone who really wanted to see “Phantom” has probably done so by now, either on stage or the 2004 movie version. So if you’re bringing it back, do you keep it the same or shake it up a bit?

Cameron Mackintosh has gone the latter route. But you can’t really change the music, which means you can’t really change the story, so what’s left? Staging and set design, of course. Advertisements for this latest “Phantom” production promise a whole new look for the show.

Sadly, given my inability to remember anything past yesterday, I don’t recall much about the look of previous “Phantom” shows. I remember the boat scene but that’s about it. That’s OK, because The Wife remembers everything. I’m not a big “Phantom” fan, but my wife is, which is another good reason for bringing her along.

Chris Mann and Katie Travis in "The Phantom of the Opera." Matthew Murphy photo

Chris Mann and Katie Travis in “The Phantom of the Opera.” Matthew Murphy photo

The story, based on a novel by Gaston Leruox and transformed into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, is the same as it ever was. A mysterious, disfigured man calling himself “The Phantom” (Chris Mann) torments the owners and players of the Paris Opera House. He’s particularly keen on a young singer named Christine (Katie Travis). While she appreciates the vocal lessons, she’s more interested in her old friend Raoul (Storm Lineberger).

This is a pretty first-rate production of “Phantom.” The actors and musicians are in top form. Travis makes a very good Christine while Mann is a decent Phantom (The Wife and I agree that we’ve seen better Phantoms). The costumes were colorful and striking. There were a lot more pyrotechnics than I recall from previous versions.

On the negative side I will never stop being annoyed at multiple people singing different things at the same time.

Which brings us to the big new draw — the set design. For the most part I liked it. It’s basically one large, rotating cylinder that opens up into different sets. At intermission The Wife informed me of all the differences that I had indeed forgotten. She wasn’t too crazy about the changes at first but by the end of the show she had come to appreciate them.

The one change I didn’t care for involved the “Masquerade” sequence. The new version takes place in a mirrored room that feels claustrophobic as opposed to the open staircase of the original.

“The Phantom of the Opera” runs through March 15 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/

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