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Theater review: ‘Phantom of the Opera’ still has the power to thrill

UPDATED: Sat., July 1, 2017, 10:54 p.m.

When it comes to big musicals, “Phantom of the Opera” is among the biggest. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic epic, based on the Gothic novel by Gaston LeRoux, has it all: romance, mystery, dueling divas, moments of comedy, and – most importantly – thrills.

It’s also three decades old. So it’s important to note that the national touring production now on stage at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane is billed as a “re-imagined” “Phantom,” with updated costumes, props, staging and choreography.

Friday marked the first time I saw “Phantom,” so I can’t draw a comparison between the current touring show and the award-winning megahit now in its 31st year in London and 29th on Broadway. But judging from the comments from patrons exiting the auditorium, there were other changes as well – some appreciated, others not so much.

What I can tell you is that “Phantom of the Opera” provides plenty of spectacle. The famous chandelier sways and pops above the crowd as promised. There are pyrotechnics galore. Also impressive is the set, with a massive rotating cylinder that is quite clever – becoming an office in one moment, and a treacherous looking set of stairs the next before opening up to the Phantom’s lair.

And the singing is divine.

For those not familiar with the story, the Phantom is a musical genius with a deformed face who lives below the Paris Opera House. He becomes obsessed with a young soprano, Christine, and orchestrates her rise within the company over the diva Carlotta. A childhood friend of Christine’s, Raoul, enters the picture, sparking even more rage from the Phantom, who wants Christine for his own.

Most of the show is sung, with only occasional spoken lines, and, as such, it requires a tremendously talented cast of singers. Thankfully, that’s what we have at the INB. The voices from top to bottom are very good.

As the Phantom, Derrick Davis puts his beautiful tenor voice to good use, bringing emotion and power to his duets with Christine, including “The Phantom of the Opera,” “I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It,” and “The Point of No Return.” Suffice to say, Davis nailed the Phantom’s iconic solo, “The Music of the Night.” It was gorgeous.

As Christine, Katie Travis is a knockout. She exudes innocence and makes Christine’s emotions seem real. When given an opportunity to audition for a singing role at the opera company, she begins tentatively. She’s so quiet she can barely be heard. Soon, she gains confidence and, feet firmly beneath her, begins to sing beautifully. I especially loved “All I Ask of You,” her duet with Raoul – played by Jordan Craig – and the solo “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”

There were a few technical issues Friday night. In the big scene near the end in the Phantom’s lair, Davis’ microphone cut out a few times. And there were times I struggled to hear the singers over the live music from the orchestra pit.

That said, the live orchestration was spot on, but I admit I chuckled a bit at times at the music – the electronic stuff. What sounded so cool and modern in 1986 sounds, well, not so cool and modern in 2017. For a few moments here and there, it was like I was back in college listening to my boyfriend’s Tangerine Dream albums.

But that’s OK. For the most part, “Phantom of the Opera” is aging pretty well. Those big themes continue to resonate with audiences around the world. And for those of us in Spokane who are experiencing it for the first time, “The Phantom of the Opera” is an entertainment event like few others.


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