The Phantom of the Opera
In case you’re just joining us: Poor Christine Daaé can’t catch a break. The waify Parisian opera dancer was orphaned by her violist dad, separated from her childhood sweetheart and taught to sing by a mysterious tutor who refuses to reveal his face to her. And just when it seems like her luck’s about to turn around—her man is back and she’s been tapped to step in for a capital-D diva soprano—her jealous vocal coach starts terrorizing the management and dropping heavy ornaments on the patrons.
Webber and Hart’s Phantom is a lot like its leading lady for whom so many men carry a lifelong torch; if you loved her then, you’ll probably still love her now. On its fifth Chicago visit, almost two decades after its American premiere, this sturdily mounted tour reveals both that which was thrillingly right and that which was cringingly wrong with the original product. Prince’s shadowy staging is mostly luminous, even spectacular (the chandelier is famous for crashing, but its ascension during the overture is far more exciting), with the exception being poorly judged purple indulgences in the dungeon sequences. Meanwhile, Gaston Leroux’s original creepy novel is betrayed by Hart’s Cheez Whiz lyrics and Webber’s midcareer slouch toward treacle-pop.
Most shows that have been on the road this long tend to have bed head, but this one looks perfectly unmussed. Yet if there’s nothing particularly distinguished about these principal’s voices, consider the material they’re given.