Sunday, April 19, 2009

Can Phantom Leave No Traces? I Hope So!

There is good theatre, there is mediocre theatre, and there is bad theatre.  On Wednesday night, I experienced bad theater. Actually, to be fair, it wasn’t the production itself; the acting was decent, the set was good, the singing was great. But the material left a lot to be desired. And some of the important characters were miscast.

A friend from work had free tickets to Hale Center Theatre’s production of Phantom and so she invited a few of us from work to go. For those who don’t know, Phantom is basically the story of Phantom of the Opera, except with boring music and terrible writing. Okay, so it really can’t even be compared to Phantom of the Opera.

It was painful.

I knew it was going to be a struggle when the first three songs all sounded the same.  Oh, the actors could sing, but none of the music was memorable, except for some annoying “fa la la las” and a meaningful ditty that included shrill repetitions of “melody, melody, melody.” While this song played, I closed my eyes and prayed for the “melody” to stop. It didn’t.

But it wasn’t until the Phantom came out that the play became laughable. With the dark organ music playing (milk chocolate compared to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bittersweet dark chocolate version), I expected the Phantom to fit the part of the mysterious and dark tortured soul clad in black. Instead, out pops a short, slightly chubby blond in a white peasant shirt and black pants.  He looked like Seminary Phantom, or Casper the Friendly Phantom. And even when he did get angry at the characters, I half expected him to suggest that they all discuss their issues over milk and cookies.

They even named him. Erik. When I think of the name Erik (spelled with a k), I think of burley Vikings conquering territories, not some prissy guy wearing a mask over half of his face inviting beautiful young women on picnics (yes, the Phantom takes Christine on a picnic and sings about the trees. It was charming).

And the guy who plays Christine’s lover looked like he’d just gotten home from his mission the night before. There was nothing debonair about him. In fact, the whole production looked like BYU Phantom of the Opera.  And it wasn’t pretty.

The lines were laughable. At one point, Christine’s missionary-esque lover tries to woo her with a night out in Paris. He brings champagne and asks her if she likes it. When she says yes, he says, “Well maybe I shouldn’t give you any.” Of course, she asks “Why not?” to which he replies, “How can you give champagne to champagne?” Wow. What a line. How can she choose between he and the Phantom? Suddenly I understood her tough choice.

The director’s commentary in the program explained why he thinks Phantom is the greatest musical ever. I would share his exact words with you, but unfortunately I stuck my gum in the program and threw it away. Basically, he wanted to show that evil is misunderstood and so he chose to portray the Phantom as a mostly nice guy with low self-esteem. Oh, and sometimes he kills people, but it’s okay. He’s been abused. I could appreciate the different interpretation, but it ended up being flatter than Jennifer Aniston’s stomach.

To sum it up, as my friend put it, there was definitely no music in the night.

On Friday I see Wicked. I am expecting that to be much, MUCH better.






tammyfaye22 said...

Oh Jamie Lyn, I have been waiting in anticipation for this entry, and you definitely didn't disappoint! Bravo! Marvelous, fantastique! I wish I could say the same about the production, but alas, such is not the case. Oh well! Such is life! Anyway, steller review of a mediocre to horrible show!

Emily Wing Smith said...

"How can you choose between champagne and champagne?"