Confession: I flippin' love The Phantom of the Opera. The sets, the costumes, the story, and - most importantly - the music. It might be a little cheesy and some songs sound like a product of their time (the eighties in all their electric guitar and synthesizer glory), but man, I love a good production of Phantom like no other.
I was delighted when I found out the new touring production was making a short stop in Toronto (making it my fifth live viewing, sixth overall, if you count the 2004 movie), and got a chance to see it last week.
I knew going in that things had changed, and for the most part, it was a good thing. The sets and costumes have been updated and feel more contemporary while still staying true to the time period of the show itself (Paris in 1881). The managers' office in particular was really well done, the chandelier was even more explosive than it used to be, and the sets for the shows-within-the show (Hannibal, Il Muto, and Don Juan Triumphant) were sumptuous and realistic.
However, they changed the set for "Masquerade" - and since that's my absolute favourite scene, I was a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong: the set is still gorgeous, but I miss the grand staircase and elaborate costumes (especially the Phantom's "Red Death" ensemble which was toned down quite a bit).
The Phantom is one of those characters that you almost feel bad about liking. He's obsessive and borderline abusive (this updated Phantom seemed even more aggressive than previous incarnations), but at the same time, he's so tragic and misunderstood. My heart breaks for him a little bit during the rooftop scene and don't even get me started on how emotional it is to hear him cry "Christine, I love you".
Eric Ruiz, the Phantom we saw (who is technically an understudy) did a good job embodying the masked man, if a bit flaily, but I have to admit that I prefer my Phantoms to have a rich baritone, something deep and booming so that you end up with shivers. Still, I liked the way they gave the character a little more depth, including a side-stage moment that gives him a darker edge.
I could go on about the changes I did and didn't like, but I'll wrap it up by saying that if you, like me, are a phan of the Phantom, this show will either completely delight you in its modernity, or will leave you wishing the old production was somehow here again. As long as they don't change the music (of the night), I'll always be willing to give a new version a shot.