Traveling Broadway productions can sometimes be hit-or-miss. These shows encompass a wide array of artists, technicians, sets, costumes, and props that have to be packed into semi-trucks and shuttled from city-to-city for months at a time. They have to be launched within a new theatre space every few weeks (which in and of itself is a huge undertaking), and the fatigue that artists understandably experience sometimes becomes evident on stage. I’ve seen some traveling Broadway productions that were exquisite, rivaling the quality and artistry of what you’d see on The Great White Way, and others that were sub-par and felt like an enormous waste of money. I’m happy to say that the production of “The Phantom of the Opera” currently running at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre squarely falls into the former category, as it was one of the most incredible nights I’ve ever had at the theatre.
. . .equal parts haunting, beautiful, sorrowful, and wildly entertaining.
Though Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical surely doesn’t need to be summarized, “The Phantom of the Opera” is the story of a young chorus girl Christine (Eva Tavares) – a talented singer at the Opera Populaire who captures the attention and the heart of The Phantom (Quentin Oliver Lee), or as the other Opera Populaire staff call him…The Opera Ghost. But he is no ghost – he is a disfigured musical genius who has hidden away for years to avoid the cruel stares of strangers. With the Phantom’s help, Christine becomes the venue’s leading lady, but tragedy awaits as the young soprano has fallen for the charms of handsome noble Viscount Raoul De Chagny (Jordan Craig), not realizing her Angel of Music (aka the Phantom) is deeply in love with her. Insane with jealousy and unable to see the object of his affection, and ultimately his obsession, in the arms of another man, The Phantom kidnaps Christine – unaware of the lengths Raoul is prepared to go to get her back.
The production value of this show was as good as I’ve ever seen, on-or-off Broadway. The lights, explosions, and pyrotechnics made the audience collectively gasp on more than one occasion, with the highlight being the moment when the chandelier—arguably the show’s most iconic piece of imagery—plummeted toward the audience only to stop at the last second, eliciting screams from everyone below. A state-of-the-art rotating set was used when switching between the Opera house and the sewer, where the Phantom lives. The opera scenes that begin and end the show (the show-within-a-show, if you will) were dazzling.
Phantom is a show that hinges on the strength of the orchestra, as it features iconic musical numbers driven by the folks in the pit. This production’s orchestra was astoundingly good, with the well-known organ numbers literally shaking the foundation of the theatre. It was all-encompassing and really really spooky.
And of course, enough good things cannot be said about the artists on stage. Quentin Oliver Lee was haunting as the Phantom, whose voice soared during “Music of the Night” and other big vocal numbers. He’s maybe the best actor to ever don the Phantom’s mask. Eva Tavares was equally magnificent as Christine, particularly in her duo on “The Point of No Return.” The large ensemble numbers, especially during the opera scenes, were gorgeous to see and hear.
“The Phantom of the Opera” is perhaps the most iconic and legendary piece of modern musical theatre, and there is no better production than the one currently running at Shea’s. It’s equal parts haunting, beautiful, sorrowful, and wildly entertaining. I wish I could relive the whole evening.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
“The Phantom of the Opera” is currently running at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre until May 6, 2018. For more information, click here.